Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Crocheted lacy dress scarf - free pattern

I've made this lightweight dress scarf for my mum as a Christmas present (don't worry, she won't see it before the big day, she's not on the internet!)

I like it so much, I thought I would make one for myself as well and if I like it, others may as well so I'm sharing how I made it as a free pattern.

The stitch is a modified version of one I found in a book. The original is a kind of diamond lace but it was more solid, I've used dtrs (UK terms) instead of trs and opened it out using more chains. Here's a chart of how the modified stitch is worked along with top and bottom finishing rows.

EDIT: As of 15 July, there is now a written pattern (click here)

I used Drops Baby Alpaca Silk (yarn group A, it's a three ply yarn) and a 2.5mm hook. I did around 70 rows (I've wrapped it up now so I can't double check that, sorry!) I used two 50g balls of colour 6235. Starting chain is 8 plus multiples of 7 so you can made it as wide (or as narrow) as you like. Skinny scarves are very "in" at the moment, I've noticed. I started with 43 chain for mum's which has 5 pattern repeats.

Work the foundation row first and then repeat rows 1 and 2 until the scarf is as long as you want. The top finishing row is worked after you've done all your repeats. Fasten off, turn your work upside down and work the other finishing row to match. 

The scarf is fully reversible so no side is right or wrong.

I was going to add a simple fringe to it, there was just enough yarn left over after I got the length I thought mum would like but I have been meaning to use a fun bobble stitch border I found on Pinterest using Once Upon a Pink Moon's blog's instructions.  I did four bobbles on both ends. The pattern on Once Upon a Pink Moon's blog uses US terms so I made trs instead of dcs and I made my chains a little longer, 9 inially to make it drape nicer on my project.  Obviously you can do whatever border you like to personalise yours or you can leave it plain with the finishing rows. Either way looks nice.

The scarf will benefit from blocking. Drop it in a bowl of tepid water and then very gently squeeze the excess water out (do not wring!) Roll it up in a dry towel to blot out some more. Lay the scarf on fresh dry towels (I needed two laid end to end) over carpet or your usual blocking board and then pin it out gently, stretching it a little as you go using rustless stainless steel pins. Leave to dry overnight. 

If you've got any questions about how to make it, don't hesitate to ask in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them. If there's enough demand, I may do a written version of the pattern as well for those who find following charts difficult..

Before I wrapped the scarf with her other present, I've been running around the house and garden taking photographs of it.

I can envisage it being worn loose around the collar of a jacket or knotted at the throat, there are lots of different ways to wear it. I chose the colour because I think it will go nicely with a jacket that mum's got. It’s lightweight and airy so might not work well in the winter, it IS long enough to be wrapped around the neck twice for warmth but it’s meant to be more for decoration; it'll look really nice in the Spring with her blue jacket. Fingers crossed, I hope she likes it!

Happy Christmas to all my blog readers.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Happy birthday, Bongo - ten years old today

Many Happy Returns to Bongo who is 10 years old today. He’s been our family dog for the last 5 months. 

Back in June, he was about to be surrendered to the Dogs Trust by his former owners. A change of circumstances meant they could no longer look after him. The Dogs Trust got in touch with the Manchester Terrier Club. They knew we had lost Missy and asked us if we would be interested in a 9 year old dog.

I was a little reluctant initially. It was hard to think of losing another dog after only a few years. After talking it over, we decided to go ahead and meet him at his foster carer’s home down in Surrey one Sunday. Well of course he came home with us, we couldn’t bear to think of him going into kennels and maybe being there for a long time due to his age. 

Mostly Manchester Terriers are generally quite wary of strangers, it’s a known trait but it’s almost like he knew we were there for him. He took to MTM straight away during our visit. He was a little unsure during his first few days at home with us. MTM was out site visiting every day for Bongo’s first week. As I went about my business in the outdoor studio, around the house or on the computer, I got used to having a little shadow literally everywhere I went. He is more relaxed now and isn’t under my feet as much as he used to be now he has more confidence around us.

He folded into our lives very easily as we had a Manchester Terrier shaped hole to fill. He’d been extremely well cared for and had no behavioural issues beyond that which is normal for a Manchester Terrier. We feel extremely fortunate to have him in our lives.

People who saw us around the village those first few days thought they were seeing things as he is physically very similar to Missy. We can see the differences, his snout is a little longer, his back end is sootier and he’s a trifle taller.

Here he is with the BONGO car. We spotted this registration on a car the very first time we took him out to explore our village. We took it as a sign that he’s meant to be here with us. 

He loves being fussed and nudges you to continue if you stop. He has great recall (if he knows you have food), walks very nicely on the lead and is a great little character. He loves to play shakey when I’m trying to get the log burner started. Because I’m sitting on the floor to do that he thinks I want to play and I never say no.

His appetite is so good to see, his food obsession has meant he’s very trainable hence he’s now quieter when chasing his ball (which is his most favourite thing to do!).

He has been my confidante and friend, always listening without judgement and gives absolute unconditional love. I don’t like to think about being without him. He’s integral to our family and I feel privileged to be a part of this lovely little dog’s retirement.

Happy birthday, Bongo, may you have many more.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Desdemona’s Presence

Mist on the still fields' early dawn.
Pregnant with false perception, 
I fall below the horizon.

On occasion clouds obscure me,
Sometimes I am so thin you look right through me,
Or you don’t even raise your eyes.
Cast down at the floor or to your hand,
Oblivious days distend to weeks.

Yet I am still here, constant, stalking 
An incipient tiptoeing presence then a sudden ambush!
A spiked bright sickle jagged in your eye
I am eternally present, where were you. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

David Cassidy ... goodbye my Midnight Man

midnight man David Cassidy book Cmon get happy

You never forget your first love and though he hasn’t always been present in my life, years went by and I wouldn’t think of him at all but every so often he would pop up and that part of my heart where I tucked him away would melt once again and I would relive my teenage years.

If you were a pre teen in the early 70s at my school, all the girls I knew were either into Donny Osmond or David Cassidy. One of my younger sisters was Donny; David was all mine.

I vividly remember my friend, Lauren, ringing me one Saturday lunchtime to tell me she had just got back from town where she’d bought the single How Can I Be Sure. It had only just been released not even in the charts yet so I hadn’t had chance to tape it from the Top 40. I ran all the way to hers and we sat cross legged on the floor of her bedroom playing it over and over all afternoon.

I’m sure at first I only liked him because of his looks, posters from Jackie were plastered over three walls of my bedroom but as I grew older and had proper relationships, the infatuation faded but I never stopped loving his voice. MTM has often come home from work to find me cooking dinner singing along to some of his songs. Mostly, I listen to them on my own, I’m not ashamed of them, it’s in no way a guilty pleasure; I just know my other half doesn’t really feel the same about him. :-) 

But once, around the late 80s, a group of friends got together for a party. We each had to take a cassette with our top 10 songs on it, the idea being we would listen and talk about them whilst slowly getting sloshed. I insisted on having a David Cassidy track on mine. It was a great night and we should do it again.

A few years later, I was given a copy of C’mon Get Happy, a book he co-wrote when he was in his forties about his life up to that point. And yes, I couldn’t stop myself falling in love with him all over again as I read through how it was at his end of the adulation.

I watched the first series of the Patridge Family on DVD more recently, as soon as I got a LoveFilm account. I don’t have an account any more but it’s available to stream now on Amazon. 

Taking us into the present is David Cassidy’s official Facebook page where I Liked the good stuff, sympathised with the bad and so I knew he was ill, gravely ill in fact. I hoped for a liver transplant. Walter Trout got one in time, maybe David would be the same. 

Today I’m having a David Cassidy day. I’ve been listening to his songs this morning whilst making beads in the studio. I’m word perfect on them all.

This afternoon, I’ll be watching some Partridge Family episodes whilst sorting beads into sets for my Etsy Shop.

This evening I’ll try to find some You Tube tracks from his concerts.

My favourite David Cassidy tracks:

“The worst part is the knowing
That my castle in the sky
Fell apart and it's too late”
The fourth wall in my bedroom during my teenage years had a castle painted on it, right on the top of a high hill as a black silhouette. I did it myself but I can’t remember what inspired it. Possibly this song. It was painted over many years ago after I moved out to get married but I can see it in my mind’s eye quite clearly. We’re in the process of selling the old family home now. Many a day spent in that bedroom daydreaming. I’ll miss it when it goes to another family, I hope they will love it as much as we did. 

JUST WANNA MAKE YOU HAPPY. I always call this one Tambourine Man, not cos of the Dylan song but from the opening line. It’s about a busker “I’m just a Tambourine man, a lonely one man street band, so many people near me, won’t someone stop and hear me, street light, shine bright, you are my only spotlight”. Magic. 

SOME KIND OF A SUMMER written by the Midnight Man, David Cassidy himself. (Midnight Man is a line from Rock Me Baby). I was always writing stories when I was growing up. If there was a male lead, David was always the hero. I fantasised about being the one singing with him in that gospel choir, watching the northern lights in Minnesota and hitchhiking to California with our wheels on fire. 

I WRITE THE SONGS from The Higher they Climb. This is the first song I listened to today when I heard David had died. Not as well known perhaps as Barry Manilow’s version but David’s vocal performance is much better. With a lump in my throat, I listened to the first few bars. By the time the chord change kicks in, I’m sobbing. 

All those wonderful singers and pop stars we’ve lost in the last couple of years, dammit, David, none of them made me cry.  But today you also made me young again, even though I’m very old, thank you. Rest in Peace. x

Saturday, 28 October 2017

To Nottingjam

I’m woken at 3.30am by a painful muscle spasm. That’s the trouble with getting older, nothing works as well as it used to. I wonder if any of the other people attending tonight’s concert are awake. Later we will be headed for the Rescue Rooms to see Justin Currie. In this way we are all connected, the threads of our lives will, by tonight, be collectively interwoven into a blanket of heads and cameras for our lord and master to strut and fret over.

The torment in my leg subsides as quickly as its arrival but the muscle nervously remembers. Other parts of my body are tensed, poised for a repetition. It seems hours before slumber returns.

The day passes. I check Facebreak every so often for Justin’s latest blog entry, he’s put one up nearly every day of this tour. “To Preston” hasn’t put in an appearance yet. 

I do some exercises the physio gave me to try to stop the muscle spasms. From the bedroom floor, I notice a ceiling beam looks like a guillotine threateningly pointed straight at my neck. I shift out of its way to get on with some ironing. As the creases are exterminated, I listen forlornly to Lower Reaches. When we saw JC and the Pallbearers in May, they only did one song from it. A recent interview reveals his friends didn’t like it. Fools. It is dark and deep, savage and furious. Recorded out of his usual comfort zone, the percussion sounds crisper; perhaps his friends are all drummers. I edit each song against my own life story, metaphors dodge out of reach, signifying everything and nothing. 

Last time MTM and I travelled the hour’s drive to Nottingjam, we had tickets to see a band at the Bodega. The city’s roads have been abused and bullied into one way systems to make way for trams. Everything we thought we knew about the place was gone, routes blocked by No Entry signs. Our usual car park was full. Unable to find our way to a car park near the venue and running out of time and patience, a fourth ride around the merry go round we were squeezed into broke our resolve; with a howl of frustration we retreated with our tickets unused. 

It will be worse this time, yet more redevelopment has permanently closed the Broadmarsh car park. Failure to make the venue this time Is . Not . An . Option.  This is Justin Currie and I must see him.

This time we have a strategy, car parking has been identified close to the venue and advance parking buys our peace of mind. Middle aged couple with a plan, make way you there, we have a VIP reservation. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Last of the tomatoes as Autumn closes in

Tomorrow I'm thinking I will mainly be making pasta arrabiata sauce for freezing and green tomato chutney.

We had loads of cherry tomatoes out of the greenhouse from July onwards, a fair few of the middling sized ones, not so many of the beefsteak ones but I will sow them (even) earlier next year so they ripen before summer's end. Today, I've taken the day off to clear the plants away ready for winter and these are all the leftovers.

Cucumbers were a bust, I only got three or four thanks to red spider mite decimating the plants. I have a new strategy planned against them for next year.

Autumn makes me restless, if you look at my CV over my adult lifetime and I always change jobs between now and Christmas. Must be all the windy weather blowing the old summer away.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Crocheted shadow blanket

Hand crochet shadow blanket

This year's big blanket project has been to devise a shadow blanket. I saw some really lovely sewn quilts made out of coloured squares that had the illusion of floating above a neutral background. This inspired me to to see if I could make a crocheted version. This is what I ended up with. I made loads of granny square style squares with a dark grey shadow line along two of the sides. On the flat bits of the bed, the squares do appear to be floating above the silver base colour. I love it when a plan comes together!

Here's a close up of the border.

And another showing the join. The way I joined meant it was a trifle off centre in the middle of each intersection. This slightly irks the obsessive perfectionist bit of my brain. On the other hand, overall the effect works and I have a splendid blanket. B-u-u-u-ut ... I think it could be even better without the ridge of the joining stitch.

The above used Stylecraft Special DK in a variety of colours, just leave a message if you'd like to know which colours; I wrote them down somewhere so I will dig it out. I also know how much yarn each stage took so I can give the amount of yarn needed, I just have to get round to doing the maths. Overall it weighs 2,200g. 

I have decided to make another one with a different join and with a restricted colour pallet. I will be sharing how to make all the various bits here on my blog as I go so if anyone else would like the pattern, just follow along!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Missing Missy

I started writing about losing Missy so many times since she died. I wrote a detailed account of how we took her to the emergency vet on Easter Monday, our hope that maybe just maybe it wouldn't be the last vet visit, what her last moments were like and how it felt for her to go limp on my lap and leave her spent little body there to be cremated.

I compiled a collection of the dozens of things every day that would jar my heart with longing for her.

There were lists of all the "remember when" things we comforted ourselves with by talking about in the days and weeks after and how it made us laugh and cry. I considered how in some ways it was worse than losing my dad last year almost to the day. I'm sure some people will be shocked when I compare losing a father with losing "just a dog". I know I can justify it, I rationalised it all out in detail but I won't foist my rambling verbiage on you. It all got rather personal and I'd rather keep it to myself.

But none of the handful of blog entries I started got finished, I couldn't actually see the screen for crying and none were really right, they became too mawkish or I knew nothing I could write would be good enough and so the effort was abandoned ... time and time again.

Today I almost abandoned it again but I have got to a position where I feel I cannot continue with my blog unless I address her loss. It was such a big thing to me that I can't tell my blog all the other things that are happening until her absence is addressed. So deep breath and here's the latest effort.

Today I almost wrote that you can replace a dog. As I continued, I came to realise that is incorrect - replacement is impossible but you can welcome another dog into your home and it will help - that's what we've done but it still reams out the jaggy edged hole in my heart whenever something reminds me of her. A few weeks after Missy left us, we couldn't bear not having a dog any more and we now have another Manchester Terrier called Bongo. Bongo has a different personality and some of his little ways are very different to Missy. He has done a lot to heal us but I will write more about Bongo soon. Today is about Missy and my dad.

I can't welcome another dad into my life to help ease that pain, I still miss him so much and that's the big difference between the two and why it's worse when you lose a parent than a pet. When a parent is gone, all the things you relied on them for, shared and enjoyed with them, there's just no-one else that will do.

My dad was very ill with stomach cancer at the end of his life. In his final days he asked me if there was a way of speeding it up "I wish there was a way we could hurry it along". He also asked his GP and the McMillan nurse if there was an off switch. But there wasn't. He had had enough when he was too weak to get out of bed and there was nothing I could do except be there.

Missy was also very poorly with kidney failure and a heart murmur. When she'd had enough, almost to the same day a year later, she couldn't ask me in words but I knew she too had had enough. At the emergency vets, we all knew. There was a way I could help her that I couldn't help my dad. When I was murmuring in her ear what a good dog she was and how glad we were to have her in our lives as the injection took effect, many of my tears were for my dad too. I was able to help my dog in a way I couldn't help my dad and I felt guilty I didn't do more for him. I am so sorry for that dad.

I miss you both.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Why is it so difficult to get a GP appointment these days?

I did some kind of muscular damage to my lower back on the right hand side last Sunday. I have no idea how I did it or when. I planted some shrubs in the morning and in the afternoon MTM and I drove out to Aubourne Hall's garden near to Lincoln that was open to the public in aid of the Red Cross. We spent a very pleasant afternoon admiring the roses and having a cream tea. If some incident caused me to injure myself, I cannot recall it.

A vague ache in bed that night made it difficult to get comfy. I took some Anadin Extra and got off to sleep. In the afternoon on Monday, the ache came back and a little worse so I took some more painkillers and forgot about it. On Tuesday three doses were required to keep the pain away, one in the night when it was rude enough to wake me up.

By Wednesday, the painkillers were only lasting two hours before they wore off. I tried to get a GP appointment ... three weeks away on 27th June was what I was offered. Nothing sooner? I need some stronger painkillers sooner than that. The receptionist invited me to ring at 8am on Thursday for an emergency appointment.

I didn't get much sleep because I'd taken the maximum dose of painkillers during the day. Hot water bottles placed on it provided some comfort but sleep was very difficult.

I was on the phone at 8am on Thursday but the line was permanently engaged. When I finally got through, the five emergency appointments for the surgery in the village had all gone, I was offered one in a village a few miles away but MTM had gone to work so I had no way to get there. She invited me to try again at 2pm when more appointments would be released. No way to book one now or even to book me in for tomorrow. If you're "unlucky" (as she described it) with the emergency appointments, it's three weeks to see the GP.

Ok, so try again at 2pm ... I took a dose of Anadin Extra just past noon, it kicked in about an hour later and unfortunately I was fast asleep with a cold cup of tea at the time I should've rung!

I resorted to Doctor Googling to see if I could self-diagnose, I was alarmed to find the first thing that came up for lower back pain on right hand side was appendicitus! Beeping heck! When I read on, after pain starts there would be vomiting within 24 hours and the area would hurt more when pressure applied. Big X in both those boxes, plus uncommon in people my age, so ... not appendicitis ... phew!

Next thing was ligament sprain. Surely I would've noticed when I did it if it was that, sprains are usually the result of over stretching in a dramatic manner, like turning your ankle. Everyone has heard the adage a sprain can be worse than a break but I would remember and it would hurt straight away wouldn't it? I'm not sure where ligaments are round the area that's hurting, the pain seems to be just above my hip at the back. Hmmm ... not sure it's that.

Arthritis ... I'm far too young for that! How very dare you suggest it!, It would hurt more when I use it wouldn't it? I find walking around when pain is at it's worse actually makes it feel slightly better.

Kidney stones ... oooooh, that's an interesting one, that might explain why it's come on gradually. I had a work colleague tell me it's very painful but I have no problems with urinating so I counted that out.

Muscle strain? Well again I can't remember doing it but maybe i overdid it when digging one of the holes, it's on a slope so I recall struggling a bit with balance. There's no swelling that I can tell .... but due to middle aged spread and a bit of a tyre, how could I really tell ... hmm, muscle strain seems most likely.

I rationed out the rest of the day's painkillers to try and time it so I got a good night's sleep but I was still up for around 3 hours in order to not disturb MTM who is about as fed up as I am at this point. He's working from home on Friday so we go to Boots in Oakham at lunchtime after he's met a tender deadline. I explain my problem to a lovely trainee pharmacist. She sells me a pack of the strongest painkillers that are available over the counter, a mixture of codeine and paracetamol. I also buy some Voltarol to rub into the area.

I take one dose of the painkillers but they don't even last as long as the Anadin Extra so I rub in some Voltarol, all that does is smell a little and kills zero pain. I go back to the Anadin Extra. The leaflet say you shouldn't use Voltarol if taking other aspirin based medicine so that was a waste of money.

After having to get up twice on Friday night for two hours waiting for painkillers to take effect or waiting for next safe time to take a dose, I am pathologically irritable and very tired. This cannot be a pulled muscle, I've pulled muscles before, they don't hurt this much!

At 5am on Saturday morning, I google walk-in centres close to where we live. There are three close to us, one in Peterborough, one in Rutland - both are closed on Saturdays - but the one attached to Grantham hospital opens at 6.30am. I wake MTM at 6am and ask him to drive me to the walk-in centre at Grantham Hospital. It's a 20 minute drive with no traffic.

At 6.30am I try to walk into the walk-in centre. There isn't one at the hospital which is the same address for the walk-in centre I found on-line. There is an Out of Hours GP department, that must be it. I press a buzzer and make enquiries. It isn't a walk-in centre, I can only be seen if I've been referred by the non-emergency 111 NHS Direct number or A&E (which doesn't open til 8.00am). Their earliest appointment is 8.30am, the info on-line is incorrect. We may as well go home, I apologise to a yawning MTM.

111 is "experiencing unusually high demand" but I get through after a couple of attempts. I answer all the questions and get an appointment at 8.45am. Hey, a result! She advises me they might want a urine sample, if I have a clean container, it would save time if I take one with me. I have one for Missy so I use that and off we go back to the man with the buzzer who this time lets us in.

There is some mix up with the computer, the details I gave on the phone haven't come through but I'm definitely booked in. I am seen by a lovely doctor we have a chat about everything, what medications I am taking and then he examines me. Nothing to be worried about, muscular damage it will get better. Ice packs, not heat for first two weeks, avoid bending. Why does it hurt so much? He doesn't really answer that but says he will give me stronger painkillers and tells me to see my own GP if it still hurts when they're all gone. If I need to, I can also take paracetamol (up to 8 a day) or the paracetamol/codeine tablets but my beloved Anadin Extra (which has been my best friend all week) cannot be taken with this new painkiller. He doesn't want my wee sample, ungrateful or what?!

We go to a pharmacy and get the prescription filled. It's one tablet twice a day with food. Back at home (again) we have bacon butties for breakfast as a treat and I take my first dose of Naproxen at around 10am. My back has been hurting for several hours now but I wait for it to take effect. By 12.30 I'm climbing the walls. I take some paracetamol and soon after that, the pain subsides.

I'm pretty much pain free for the rest of the day, I take the second dose with my dinner in the evening and keep up with paracetamol every six hours. I have to get up once on Saturday night, fortunately I wake up at a time when it's ok for me to have more paracetamol. I order some ice packs you put in the fridge from the Internet, they will arrive on Monday. After an hour, I go back to bed, that's the best night's rest I've had for days!

On Sunday morning, the pain is back seemingly worse than ever. Geoff tells me maybe I should rest it more rather than rushing round doing jobs when the painkillers are working. The doctor didn't say anything about resting it up, just to avoid bending. I get up, have some cereal, a dose of Naproxen and some paracetamol and codeine. It takes a couple of hours to ease but I'm pain-free til dinner time. I go easier on my jobs and watch the tennis in the afternoon, congratulations to Nadal on his tenth Roland Garros win!

Just before dinner, it starts to hurt again. Big big sigh, this new stronger painkiller is no more effective than Anadin Extra. I take another dose with dinner and some paracetamol/codeine. There's a new series of Poldark starting tonight, looking forward to that. Our Sainsbury delivery has been so I get out the frozen peas, wrap it in a towel, apply to my back and wait for the pain to go. Except it doesn't this time. The pain is dulled a bit, but never goes away completely.

I fall asleep on the sofa for half an hour after the news and wake up around 11pm, the peas are warm. I put them back in the freezer in case I need to use them again. MUST remember to throw them away when the ice packs are delivered. Don't want to be eating them now they've been used medicinally!

I went to bed but couldn't sleep, the pain is back up to full strength now so I'm up and am typing this up to try to distract myself until I can take another dose of painkiller at 2am. This has taken me an hour to write so far, sorry there's so much poor-me-poor-me in it. I've tried to add a bit of humour to make it more interesting. You're a really good listener, did you know that? Only half an hour to go now so you've been a big help, thank you for trying to take my mind off it. I know I'm being such a big baby over a pulled muscle, I clearly have a very low tolerance to pain.

I could really do with some painkillers that are going to work but not a clue how to go about that as it's so impossible to get to see my GP. I suppose I just have to suffer until it gets better or the 27th June, whichever is the sooner.

Now, I wonder if my peas have refrozen?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Bottles under the recycling hammer!

Recycling Bombay Sapphire bottle into beads

I'm planning to have a smashing time today!

These Bombay Sapphire bottles have been expertly and efficiently emptied by my sister's petit ami, big thanks to my hero, Jon!

I haven't made any recycled beads for ages. Once the bottles have been broken up into shards small enough to handle in the flame, I will be turning them into beads like these I made a couple of years ago.

I may even make some earrings too!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Feeding a dog with renal problems - part 2

We went to see the vet yesterday for a medication review for our dog, Missy. We're continuing with her heart tablet which we do believe has made a difference. I've explained the difficulties of getting Missy to eat the prescription diet for dogs with renal problems. She's explained to us that Missy has 25% functionality, if we support her kidneys by feeding the prescription diet, she could have a good quality of life for several months, a year even. So it's better if she eats the prescription food which I agree with but what if that's not possible? Missy turns her nose up at it, I do keep trying to reintroduce it but so far no luck.

I felt like such a bad owner for not being able to get her to eat the prescription food, I didn't have the courage to admit for the last few days I can only get her to eat freshly cooked items such as sausages, chicken, cold haslet or fishfingers (though I had to take the breadcrumbs off at first and then she has the breadcrumbs after she's got started).

Our vet isn't a fan of home cooked recipes. We ran through the ingredients of the ones I've tried, she wanted me to omit the calcium carbonate for Missy. Her blood work indicates her calcium levels are fine; excessive calcium risks bladder stones. In the end, she's agreed if Missy rejects the prescription diet, we can't force feed her, we have to work with the hand we're dealt. She's suggested another brand of prescription food for us to try and we're picking some up tomorrow. Fingers crossed she will eat it for longer than 2-3 days!

I've described in an earlier blog entry on 21 February how I managed to feed our dog, Missy, with a home cooked low protein diet using a variety of tricks but she has started picking out the bits of meat to eat and leaving the rest. My latest deception is to put it in the food processor to make the pieces smaller so she can't selectively eat it; it still smells like mince or whatever other meat she fancies that particular day. This worked for a few more days but now she rejects anything that has rice/egg/bread/pasta in it.

She seems to crave protein, even though it's bad for her.

The way I see it is there's a choice. 
  • Keep trying to feed low protein foodstuffs and she starves to death; that's option one.
  • Feed her anything that she will eat, even if it's protein and bad for her and then her kidneys pack up at some point in the future. That's option two.
  • Option three is to give up and euthanise.
Bit of a Hobson's Choice. I don't like any of them. As the least awful of a bad bunch, I'm going for option two while she still has a quality of life. 

With sausages. I have to vary the brands every day or two, she will just stop eating a particular brand. It's like she thinks to herself "oh, I had that yesterday and it made me feel poorly so I'm not having that again". She takes a really good sniff at it and if it smells like something that made her feel poorly, she rejects it. She does seem to forget over the course of time so something that she rejects time and time again on the trot, doesn't mean she won't eat it again several days later.

The key to her eating is to just get her started, once she has taken a first mouthful, she will eat quite a bit. Sometimes, a mouthful of food I've freshly cooked for her will get her started, sometimes I have to try something else even more tempting and go back to the main food item.

I have had quite a bit of luck with small pieces of Hobnob biscuits and then give her something else. Sometimes when she was eating the low protein food, I could get her going with cold sausage roll and then she would eat the main meal. Sometimes I have to try lots of different things before she got started. Sometimes I have to thrown whole meals away (or have them in sandwiches cold myself).

Who knows, she may even go back on the prescription food and/or low protein diets, I will keep trying.

Most days I'm constantly cooking and washing up the grill pan and food processor pretty much all morning. As a consequence, I'm not getting much work done. It's too cold for her to join me in the shed when I'm beadmaking but I don't like to leave her on her own in the house. Her diet is so varied and her mealtimes can be any time I can get her to feed, she's not as predictable as she used to  be about when she needs to go out. Sometimes she needs to go quite suddenly, bless her. When MTM is working from home, he can keep an eye on her and I maybe get a couple of hours in my studio beadmaking. Fortunately, MTM earns enough for both of us so I'm really just dedicating the vast majority of my time to the care of Missy, my business can wait for the time being.

We have good days and bad days. She's better when it's sunny and both of us can walk her together. She seems to really enjoy the whole "pack" going out and about patrolling the village. Rides in the car if we're going somewhere perk her up as well so we take her even if it's just popping to a shop in town. She spends the evenings with us on the sofa, her head in one of laps enjoying being stroked. When either or both of us are working in the study on our computers, she will take the stairs one at a time to be with us. If I hear her starting up the stairs, I go down and carry her up as it tires her out. Sometimes she wants to get on my lap while I type, other times she settles down on the study futon under one of my crocheted blankets.

Here's what she's doing right now whilst I'm typing this blog entry!

She still keeps an eye out for the postman every morning so she can give him a hard time for daring to come to the door. I have noticed her bark has lost quite a bit of its power, it's like half as loud as it used to be, bless her.

We had a lovely day on Wednesday, MTM was working from home and I got two good meals into her. Her afternoon walk with her daddy was a real treat because the sun was out and she walked part way with Archie, a gorgeous springer spaniel owned by another couple in the village. Archie and Missy are great friends, it's the one dog in the village she really enjoys socialising with. She can be very stand-offish with many other dogs but Archie is her favourite. It gave her (and us) such a lift, her owners invited us to take Missy round any time we liked if we thought it would help her. Aren't they lovely?!

One cloudy, overcast day last week when rain was constantly threatening, we were halfway round quite a short walk, she was getting slower and slower, I'm patient with her and just let her sniff at the ground til she's ready to move on but at one point, she just sat down and looked round bewildered. I couldn't cajole her into going any further. Her look said "I'm too tired, I used to be able to do this but today I can't". It was upsetting for both of us, I picked her up and walked on.

Missy has the same colouring as a Doberman and as she's quite a little dog, people often mistake her for a Doby puppy. Because I was carrying her, I think people thought she was waiting for her injections before she could go on the ground. An elderly lady smiled at me, I smiled back, a couple of other people too. When we got to the play area, some kids on the swings came running over. They asked me if they could stroke her. I knelt down "One at a time so you don't overwhelm her". They took turns petting her, Missy enjoyed the attention and even took some dried chicken strip treats from them. I didn't have the heart to tell them "Actually, she's not a puppy, I think she's dying". I walked the rest of the way home sobbing with Missy licking my face, making my glasses go all blurry. 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Finished crocheted temperature blanket and cushion

My granny stripes temperature blanket is finished. It has taken me a while! 1 January's row is at the bottom of the bed with 31 October just tucked in under the pillows.

The main reason for the delay was it was just big enough for my double bed when we needed a blanket on top of our quilt at the end of October 2016. If I added November and December's daily temperatures, it would be too long for my double bed because of the wooden footboard.

Originally, it wasn't ever going to go on my double bed, the size was determined by my calculations of fitting over a single bed (and quilt) with generous overspills on both sides and the bottom going virtually down to the floor. However, the refurbishments we planned last year didn't get done and so I still don't have any single beds in the house yet. Scaffolding is going up very soon for that, internal plaster removal of two upstairs rooms will begin once the external wall rendering is sorted so maybe NEXT year I will have some guest accommodation and a single bed to put such a blanket upon!

In December, wondering how I was going to finish it all off and get in two more months of temperature rows, I had a sudden brainwave to make a separate cushion incorporating the final two months of the year. Hence it is done in the cooler colours but it ties the bottom of the blanket in rather nicely, I think!

The photograph shows it on the bed just over the mattress and pillows, when the quilt is on, it JUST covers the edge of the quilt with a few inches to tuck in top and bottom.

For the border, I did groups of 3 tr (UK terminology) in each "holey bit" for the first row, then a row of dcs, another row of tr and for the final scalloped edge, I worked 7 tr inbetween two sts, skip 3 sts, 1 dc inbetween next 2 sts, repeated all round with more in the corners.  I used colours that corresponded and related to the rows, changing them as and when I fancied it according to whether the temperature was going up (or down!)

There's more about the concept of the temperature blanket, the pattern and colours I used, in some earlier blog enties:

6 January, 2016
16 January, 2016

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Feeding a dog with renal problems

Three different doggy meals, all destined for the bin.

Missy has been doing pretty well up to today, she's been taking up a lot of my time cooking and feeding her but I really don't mind that. She was even starting to feel a little heavier when I lift her onto the bed (bless her, she still hasn't got the hang of using the useless pouffe).

Initially we got two different types of renal food from the vet. From day one, she wouldn't eat the wet pouch type food but for three days, she could be persuaded to eat the dried version, provided I rolled it around a bit in a few slices of cooked chicken.

Chicken is too high in protein to be fed on its own to a dog with renal problems so we were really pleased to be getting quite a bit of the dried food into her. With it being so low in protein, it doesn't overload her kidneys.

On day four, she won't eat the dried renal food. I tried rolling it in scrambled eggs, pressing slivers of cheese into it, wetting it with water, wetting it with chicken stock, covering it in gravy. Nothing worked, except she would still eat the chicken - but only its own. Finally I scrabbled around in the cupboard to find the lowest protein pouch food I could find. When her appetite first started getting iffy, we bought loads of different brands to try to get her to eat. I am not exaggerating when I say my cupboards have more dog food in them than human foods, they're even spilling out onto the work surfaces. There is no food we won't buy if we think she would eat it.

Encore in jelly food is relatively low in protein, quite a high percentage is just moisture from the jelly and mixing the dried renal food in that worked quite nicely.

On day five she wouldn't eat Encore in jelly or the dried renal food. I turned to the internet for low protein dog food recipes and found this homemade one which is cooked mince, hard boiled eggs, cooked rice and breadcrumbs, the recipe recommends a chemical to be added to it too, I didn't have it so I missed that off. I remember when Guinness was ill with kidney and liver problems, our vet told me all of these foods were fine for dogs with renal failure to have. So I cooked a big batch up with high hopes and Missy loved it, she was even making her cute little equivalent of "nom nom" noises which she used to do when eating her favourite foods. I was so glad.

The next day, she had it again but then, nope, don't want that any more. Encore in jelly came to the rescue again when I mixed the home made food half and half. For a couple more days all was well but today nothing is working.

This morning I have made up my own recipe of mashed potatoes with a small quantity of cheese grated into it and then mixed it with canned tuna. This is the type of food she would've thought was brilliant before she got ill, she had a mouthful or two and now she just resolutely turns her head away when I try to give it to her.

She wouldn't even eat chicken. I tried cooking some fresh to see if the smell of would get her appetite going and it did but but that is all she has had today (some this morning and another freshly cooked one this evening) along with a couple of dried venison treat sticks, these are both high protein foods and so neither are good for her kidneys.

I was daring to hope we could stabilise her with a low protein diet and she would be OK but on days like today, when all she wants to eat is protein, I feel very close to losing her. She's next to me now on the sofa, her head on my lap. I stroke her side trying to imbue my hands with healing powers, bathing her kidneys in rejuvenating light. Please be well, Missy.


Since writing the above, I have looked at many, many different low protein home cooked diets on-line. What most have in common is to dilute the amount of protein (meat) with other items such as grains, pasta, vegetables, eggs and small amounts of liver and kidney.

With Missy I have had success by varying the recipe I linked to above by replacing beef mince with pork mince, including 2-3 oz of cooked liver and substituting cooked macaroni for the rice.

I have acquired some calcium carbonate which some recipes recommend, however I wanted to ask the vet about it so I waited til we went to see her on 2 March. She said Missy's blood work showed her calcium levels were fine and she would get calcium from the meat in the home made recipe. Adding more calcium risked bladder stones so she wouldn't recommend its inclusion; I'm glad I went with my instincts on that one and omitted it.

Link to Feeding a dog with renal problems - part 2

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Rare lampwork rainbow spankle set

It's quite rare for me to have a set of rainbow spankle beads available in my Etsy shop as I don't always have all the colours in stock. I just listed them for sale so if you want them, better grab them quick, they usually go pretty quick when I do!

Better news on Missy, our dog. Following diagnosis and her new tablet, her appetite and energy levels are much improved. She still likes to spend alot of time on her bed by the radiator but I think that's also because the weather is so cold. She's always been a fair weather dog so I think when the temperature improves, she will be out on her garden cushion again keeping me company when I'm making beads in my shed!

She's been with me this afternoon whilst I was sowing seeds in the greenhouse for a couple of hours. The sun was warming us up through the glass and bubble wrap insulation. The weather was so bad on Sunday here (sleety rain all morning, cloudy coldness in the afternoon), I did some work so I could play hooky on a day when the weather was nicer and today was the day! All the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are sown as well as some annual bedding plants. My propagator is full, lots of others waiting to be sown as and when they germinate. Missy and I are really looking forward to the Spring gettting going properly. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Diagnosis and treatment

We have a plan for Missy's treatment with the vet. Her kidneys aren't working as they should, they aren't processing protein very well. She's going onto a heart tablet which will increase the blood flow to the kidneys to help them be more efficient. Hopefully that will improve her appetite. She's also going onto a special diet food (if we can get her to eat it) to ease the load on her kidneys.

She's coming off the propalin syrup which she has been taking since the summer for occasional incontinence. The increased blood flow will help with that too but if it doesn't, it's easily managed with protective bedding and lots of washing machine action. I don't mind that in the slightest.

We lost our previous dog, Guinness, to kidney disease. After diagnosis, we had him with us for another five months with a reasonable quality of life. Treatments and diets are better now than they were in Guinness's day. There is another urine test we could do to tell us how advanced the disease is but with her present symptoms, that wouldn't affect her treatment so we've decided we'd rather not know.

Those are the practicalities, MTM will pick up the tablets and new food today. I can write this in a matter of fact manner but underneath, everyone who has ever loved and lost a much loved pet will know exactly how we are feeling right now.

She has good days and we will be making the most of them with her for as long as we can.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The useless pouffe

Missy, our little Manchester Terrier is getting on a bit now. She's a grand old lady of eleven and a half, that's close to 80 in doggy years. In the last few months she's found it harder to jump up onto the sofa as she used to. Her "spring" has gone a bit. She hasn't been able to get into the car unaided for some time, so we've been lifting her up onto the seat whenever we have to go anywhere.

To avoid her hurting herself by falling back down when her jump up goes a bit wrong in the house we bought this pouffe and placed it inbetween the chair where she quite often settles down when she's on her own and the sofa where she joins me if I'm in the lounge. We've shown her how to get up onto it encouraging her up and down it with treats. Does she use it?  Of course not!

Even though we've shown her the way, she still struggles up on her own, if I notice her about to jump, I lift her up onto the pouffe by way of further encouragement but she still isn't getting it, bless her.

At the same time as we got the useless pouffe, we realised she was also struggling with getting back up onto the last step down onto the grass, it's a little higher than the ones further up so we bought a non-slip outdoor ramp (which can also be used for the car - it folds up). Does she use it? Of course not!

We've got this lovely safe, stable, smart black ramp especially designed to make it easy for her. Again with the training and treats ... but she was still bewildered and struggling. So alongside the ramp, we've piled up these tatty old paving and coping stones which were waiting for us to hire a skip to thrown them out. Does she use it? Of course she does!

The last couple of weeks her health has been declining in other more worrying ways. When she had her jabs last year the vet detected a slight heart murmur. It wasn't necesarry to treat it as she wasn't symptomatic. But lately, her appetite has been very hit and miss, last week she was vomiting and she wasn't keen to go out on her walks. The most alarming day was Wednesday when she coughed up some blood.

The vet has taken some blood and sent it off for testing, yesterday we took a sample of urine in. We should have all the results back on Monday.

In the meantime, the pouffe is being used as a footstool and we're hoping whatever is wrong is something that's easily fixable perhaps with tablets. Would anyone reading this please send positive thoughts and prayers for Missy to have a happy outcome. We don't want to lose her just yet.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Two eyes good, one eye bad

When I went for an eye check up about three years ago, the optician showed me the photo they take of the back of your eyes and pointed out an area of the macula on my right eye. Whilst it wasn't causing any problems at that time, we needed to monitor it so annual eye appointments were recommended; the importance of keeping them was stressed.

I assumed it was age related maculata like my mum has and hoped it would be many years before it started to affect my sight.

I also developed a PVD in that eye a while ago which I wrote about here, it manifests itself as an oval transparent, colourless outline which i can see floating about. I only really notice it in very bright light conditions and it doesn't interfere with my sight. They're very common but having a PVD makes me more prone to a retinal tear - a far more serious eye condition, I have a list of symptoms to look out for.

Just before Christmas I noticed I wasn't seeing nearly so well out of my right eye and it seemed quite sudden but I had none of the other alarming symptoms. I rang the optician, at first he wanted me to come in right away but after I told him I thought I just needed another prescription and discussed what I was experiencing, he agreed I could leave it a few days.

Yesterday he put some tropicamide eye drops in. This dilates the pupils so he can see inside my eyes more easily. You're not allowed to drive as it makes everything seem very bright and blurs your vision for a few hours so MTM accompanied me. It takes half an hour for the drops to take effect, we went for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake to pass the time. With the size of my pupils, I joked the staff would think I was on drugs but without any of the pleasanter effects.

The good news: no retinal tear. As a bonus, there's absolutely no age related macular degeneration in either eye. So what were we (pardon the pun) keeping our eye on?

The bad news: an epiretinal membrane which started to grow over my right eye has now stopped growing and was crinkling up as it shrunk. "It looks like a piece of cling film" is how he described it. Apparently it's just bad luck if you get one and can happen at any age.

If I look at straight lines through my right eye, they don't look straight any more, there's a little blurry curved downward jog in each line. So I have been referred to to see a specialist eye consultant at Leicester Royal. As it's slap bang in the middle of my eye and significantly affecting how I see through that eye, the optician thinks the Consultant will recommend an operation to remove it.

Apparently an appointment will arrive through the post. In the meantime, if I need to see anything very clearly, I'm just shutting my right eye .... if you notice me winking at you, it's nothing personal!