Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Last Post of the Year

Wow, I just realised that this will be my 10th blog update this month, and the 42nd one of this year - this must be some kind of a record for me: maybe I am finally getting the hang of this blogging thing.

The most important news is first....Oscar is doing SO well! His third round of blood tests has come back and shows a big improvement. He still isn't 100% by any means but there are good signs of things going in the right direction, which is the crucial thing. His white blood cell count is normal (yay!), his red blood cell count is still very low but it's better than it was and his liver enzyme level is still very elevated -- it's 5 times what it should be (but on the previous test it was 10 times what it should be!)

It's really reassuring to know clinically that there is an improvement as we had been noticing that he was more lively and energetic again but we weren't sure if it was just a blip in his illness. Because the test results are so good we know now that it was some kind of infection and thankfully it wasn't bone marrow disease -- we are certain that he's used up at least one of his nine lives with this illness, I really believe that he wouldn't have made it through without the care and medication from the vets.

I've started to work with some of the yarns I bought in Germany! These three hats are made in different shades of the same yarn - it's a 90/10 blend of acrylic and mohair and we bought it in the department store in Munich.

 I've only made one of these wrist warmers so far but loved it so much that I had to take a photo before I started to work on the second one :) This is made using wool that I bought in the wool-shop in Nuremberg and it's GORGEOUS! I bought it in three different shades (as far as I can remember) - it's 100% pure wool and is made like a ribbon yarn but in a ribbon of felt! I found it a bit strange to work with at first and was using the wrong hook -- I thought a 4mm hook would be right but it was coming up too stiffly so I switched to a 5mm one and treated it like aran weight yarn and it's much better now. The ball-band says to use a 5-6mm hook, I think a 6mm would make it too loose but I haven't tried it so I can't really say!

These ones are more familiar to me - when we were in the wool shop in Nuremberg I noticed that they had a 10-pack of my one of my favourites so I splurged and bought it (along with everything else!) You can't ever have too much Lang Mille Colori- I love using it for wrist warmers and really adore this shade because the colours come up just so randomly. It's so much fun to work with and they always seem to sell well for me on my Etsy shop and at craft markets etc.
...and I've started working with some of the cottons I bought in Germany too - this hot pink was from the department store in Nuremberg.

I really need to concentrate on making some new wrist warmers for my Etsy shop right now; it's the same thing every year --- I say to myself that I have 'too many' in stock and then most of them sell over the busy pre-Christmas season and I'm left with very few for people to choose from. At one stage I just had 13 pairs (that's including three pairs of the little short wristlets) - I'm up to 16 pairs now but ideally I'd like to have lots more, so this is what I'm going to concentrate on for the time being...hopefully by the time I write my next blog update I'll have lots more to share..

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Oscar - Update!

Good news! Oscar is back to his normal cheeky self; we're still giving him pouches of his food as he's finding it more palatable than the dried stuff, but we're trying to wean him back onto his normal, dried food.

His gums are back to normal pinky colour - thanks to the jaundice they were a Simpsons shade of yellow for a while - they still look pale but it must be a good sign that they aren't yellow any longer.

We're still waiting for the results of the third round of blood tests, but as he's made such a huge improvement I'm thinking that they will have the good news that we've been waiting for: that it was an infection of the blood rather than a serious disease of the bone marrow.

I'm not sure if they will want to run a fourth round of tests or not, but I'm really hoping that the third round will show a big improvement in his levels of red and white blood cells, and improved liver function too.

Even if the news is bad, at least he's happy and comfortable again; having him so very poorly was such a huge worry, and especially so soon after we lost dear Friday.

In Etsy news, I'm up to 680 sales now so I doubt very very much that I will manage 700 before the end of the year - things really slowed down for me, and going away on holiday for a week in the middle of December would have really affected my sales figures (but I'm so glad that we did go on holiday!)

I've got four pairs of wrist warmers, a headband and some new scrubbies to photograph one of the days - if it ever stops raining...and I'm making a start on trying some of my German wools (watch this space...)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

He's Home!

Oscar is back home with us! Peter went to get him yesterday - I was so excited to see him back safe and sound!! It did take him a long while to settle down - he wanted to check out the whole house and was just wandering about for the longest time, before finally settling down on top of his tub of food in the kitchen (one of his favourite spots)

 Poor love, he's had his neck shaved repeatedly - it looks awful but they had to put a drip in the first time he was staying there and then had to take yet more blood yesterday (and they had already shaved his two front legs so they took it from his neck instead) - it's only superficial and will soon grow back but it looks awful and must feel strange for him.

On the plus-side he is eating! Actually, he's eating like a horse!! We had to really coax him to get him to eat the pouches last week but he is loving them now - it's great to see him with an appetite; we are really hoping that this is a sign of improvement which would point towards it being an infection rather than the bone marrow disease.

They took the third lot of blood for testing yesterday and said that we might have the results by tomorrow - I really hope so: not knowing is doing my head in...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas!

 I thought I'd post some photos of our Christmas decorations - I love all the really traditional ornaments, made from wood or glass: and especially love tea-light holders!

 And a few photos of our tree - it HAS to be a real tree! Pretty much all of our decorations mean something special to me: either given to us as presents in the past, or ones that we've bought together.

 We have a brand new 'tree topper' this year - it's a handblown glass one which we bought in Germany - very traditional/retro looking :)
these two clay love hearts are new decorations and have a very special meaning - the little one (right by the top of the tree) is in memory of Friday (it has her name on the back of the heart) and the bigger one (in the second photo) is in memory of Henry.

This is our very first Christmas in this house without Henry :( Our home feels so empty without him, without Friday and now without Oscar (hopefully he will be back home from the vets on Monday though).

I may add some more photos to this post later - I love all my Christmas decorations/lights etc etc...

Photos from our holiday in Germany

I just can't stand to fill my blog with all negative posts so I'm going to try and post something positive for every negative one...

Here are just a few of my photos from Germany - I took over 250 photos in total!!

the ones above are from Nuremberg :)

these ones (below) are from Munich :)

It's hard to sift through them to just find a few to post - it was a lovely holiday and it was great to get away and have a break from all the day to day stuff here.

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans...

We seem to be going through a spell of really bad luck lately, with just too much heart break and worry.

While we were away on holiday we had put Oscar in to board at the vets in Killaney as he's always been a sickly cat and needs a special diet - if he eats regular food he gets a really bad stomach ache and is sick (he has chronic colitis)

I wasn't able to access my voicemail while we were away but when we got home there were two messages from the vet to say that Oscar had been poorly and they were running blood tests. He was very jaundiced (the levels of one of his liver enzymes were 10+ times what they should be) and also very, very anemic, with very low levels of both red and white blood cells; they had to put him on a drip and keep him under close observation.

He was well enough to come home with us after our holiday but was being sick so I took him back up yesterday and they've kept him in over the weekend - hopefully he will be allowed back home on Monday but we will be getting another phone update tomorrow and we'll see then.

They're run two rounds of blood tests, with another one to follow on Monday - basically he either has bone marrow disease or some kind of internal infection -- right now he is on antibiotics to treat the infection -- if he responds to them then it's good news and if not then it means that it's bone marrow disease, which is just about as bad news as you can get.

In the couple of days that he was home and on the antibiotics he did seem to be improving and was starting to eat and be brighter and more like his old chirpy self, but the sickness was preventing him from getting the nutrition that he vitally needs. They've been able to stop the vomiting at the vets now (fingers crossed) so he can have the very best chance. The vet yesterday was saying that he might need to go back on a drip, but in the update phone call this morning he said that he was doing quite well on his own now so they've decided against putting him on an IV unless he takes a turn for the worse again.

We'll get another phone update tomorrow and hopefully it will continued progress for him - if he's ok, we will be able to bring him home on Monday. We should hopefully get the third round of test results back before Christmas - and hopefully they will show an improvement in his blood count, which will mean that his body is responding to the antibiotics and is recovering from the infection...if there's no improvement then it means that he has a disease of the bone marrow and that isn't good news at all.

We just have to wait and see and hope for the best right now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More Wool Shopping in Germany

Big important discovery of the decade --- department stores in Germany have a huge haberdashery department, including a large selection of wools!

We went to 'Karstadt' in Nuremberg just to see what they have for sale

!!!! ~~~ this is just SOME of the wools they sell!  Basically they have a really good choice in yarns; mostly what I'd kind of call 'day to day' yarns rather than some of the really special stuff, and all quite reasonably priced.

These are my purchases from the store in Nuremberg - as always I could have bought a LOT more but I'd spent so much money on wool in Tolle Wolle (the independent wool shop) that I couldn't really justify having a splurge in this store too.

The yarns on the bottom row will be for hats and the cottons on the top will all be for scrubbies! I love making scrubbies, and especially when I can get hold of a new colour of cotton :)

Then, when we were staying in Munich we found another department store - this was in Galeria (I forgot to take a photo of the outside of the building, but never mind!)

Like the one we went to in Nuremberg the yarns are generally all arranged by colour rather than by brand or thickness - I found it a bit confusing as I'm used to seeing them grouped together based on the brand or category (baby yarn/chunky/dk etc)

 I feel like I missed a lot of what they had for sale because of the way it was all arranged - I'm sure Peter would say that that was a good thing though...

My purchases from the department store in Munich! Again I think I was very restrained really - again, due to feeling guilty for spending so much of my selkie-money on the first wool shop (Tolle Wolle, I love you!)

These ones will all be hats eventually. At the moment my 'stock' is at the fullest I think it's ever been - but that's a good thing really as it will encourage me to use it all up; and for the time being I'm sworn off purchasing any more yarns ;)

Something more cheerful - wool shopping in Germany TOLLE WOLLE

Peter and I have just returned home from a week long holiday in Germany, taking in Nuremberg and Munich (and very briefly, Frankfurt) - it was amazing: I took over 250 photos, mostly of all the stalls and their wares in the assorted Christmas markets in these cities.

Since I became so obsessed with my crochet and all things wooly a few years ago, I always try to find a couple of wool shops whenever we are abroad on holiday. It's a great chance to discover new brands or fibres to try - and so many shops also sell online nowadays so it can be handy for future purchases too ;)

The first one I visited on this holiday, and by far the best, was Tolle Wolle in Nuremberg - they have a great website too - well worth a visit online if you can't make it there in person.

A couple of photos taken from the street -- I knew it was looking like a great place to visit when I could see all the baskets full of yarns outside the shop! I took the second photo later, when I'd realised that I had been so excited and eager to get exploring the inside that I hadn't really taken a proper photo of the outside of that's what it looks like early in the morning before they put the wool outside!

It's what I'd call a 'proper' wool shop - loads and loads of choice, with wool on shelves pretty much right up to the ceiling...every inch of the space is filled with wooly loveliness

The colours of everything were kind of overwhelming - to have so much choice! I could have spent the whole day in there, working my way around...

how do you choose from all this?! (and this was only part of the shop!) I really liked how the staff had already knitted/crochet items for sale too - which meant that you could see how some of the yarns worked out when you work with them; it's a really clever idea.

These are my purchases from this wonderful shop...I could have easily spent twice or three times as much in there.

 Look! the ladies behind the counter gave me this amazing shoulder bag and a gorgeous felted flower too! (I think they were surprised by how much I bought from them)
And we got this wonderful great big shopping bag to hold it all!

It was a really great little shop, full of quality yarns (I just can't abide cheap scratchy stuff) - I would have been happy to have come home with the whole shopful in my bags but we had to be conscious of the weight of it all (flying back home with RyanAir)

We did go to a couple of department stores while we were in Germany - they have the most amazing haberdashery departments, which are full of wools too: but I will put them in a separate blog post ;)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Another Update...

Oh good grief, so much has happened since I last posted on here less than two weeks ago.

First, and most sadly of all, our lovely Friday was killed on the road just outside our house on the day before my birthday. Peter and I had come out of our drive to get in our car and she was lying there in the middle of the road - it is an image that I just can't get out of my head no matter how hard I try.

She came into our lives in September this year and even though she hadn't been with us for three full months she made SUCH a huge impression in our lives - she was such a sparky little thing, always zooming around the house and living life at full pelt. We are both devastated and I feel responsible as I was the one who had let her out that morning. She was just so full of life, so bright and full of energy and love...such a cuddly little thing and always up to no good.
This is the very last photo I took of her (on the 28th November) and it just sums her up perfectly - that innocent ''who, me?!'' look with the little ball of wool all unwound and tangled at her feet.

She was the naughtiest, cutest, most adorable little ball of pure energy and love of life; I'm trying so hard to remember her this way instead of how she was the last time I saw her.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Update

Another month and it's time for another update on my life and crochet...

I've had three craft fairs in the last 8 days! The first was the one in Portmagee and it was ok - not brilliant but I did pretty ok (looking back, I did about the same as I did there last year at their Christmas market so I can't grumble), next up was the one in Waterville Tech (which was a great success) and finally I had the one in Foilmore Community Centre on Sunday (which was kind of so-so -- my first time going there so hopefully next year will be better)

The one at the Tech is always my favourite out of the whole year -- it's ALL handmade items and all lovely lovely bits and pieces for sale. I took ever so slightly less money there than last year (I think it was about €8 less) but I'm not complaining at all. (I'm borrowing Susan Walsh's photo of the market so you can see - if you look very carefully you might make me out)

My crocodile wrist warmers seem to be a big hit in the Tech Market - I know they make nice presents but people were also buying them for themselves too, which is great. Last year I sold six pairs of them there and was thrilled with myself - well this year I sold NINE pairs of them there!!  It's a good job that I enjoy making them :)

I'm still toeing the 'no wool buying' line but I know that won't last long when we are on holiday in Germany -- I'm so looking forward to getting some bits and pieces that I can't get easily over here; I loved all the Italian wools I brought back with me from Florence and Venice last year so I'm hoping for the same this holiday too.

Over in my Etsy shop I'm running a sale til the end of the week -- everything has 30% off. It's more than I can really afford to discount by but I'm hoping it will help bring in some extra money and I like to run a sale around about this time of year anyway as a kind of thank you to my customers and to give them a chance to get a bargain (if they want to). I was 30 sales away from 700 Etsy sales so I thought 30% would be a fun figure to discount by :)

Looking back over my blog entries from this time last year, I was hoping to make 500 sales on Etsy by the end of the year - and now 12 months later I'm hoping for 700! If I can keep up 200 sales a year over there I'll be thrilled but I'm happy enough to take things however they come.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Winter Work

I thought I'd write a blog post about what else I get up to during the winter months - my job on the ferry is only seasonal (April to the start of October) so I have to keep myself occupied for the rest of the year. There are very, very few year round paid jobs here (as tourism is really our main 'industry') so through the winter I try and find some voluntary/community work to keep me busy.

I've been a beach comber for as long as I can remember - always looking out for the interesting and unusual things on the beach, and part of that includes trying to leave the beach a better place than you found it. So for the past few years I've undertaken 'beach cleaning' through the winter months. It gets me out in the fresh air and working in an environment that I adore and where I feel comfortable and at home :)

I've been concentrating on just one beach so far this season - and today I finally am able to say that virtually ALL the rubbish down there is now bagged up! The total of bags filled is approximately fifty - but there also are all the things that are too big/awkward/heavy to put in rubbish sacks. This morning my lovely friend Jana went down there with me to bring all the sacks of rubbish, broken up lobster pots etc to one place on the beach, ready for collection.

It has taken me several weeks to get to this stage, working on my own up until this morning - having Jana's help for this last stage was amazing -- it would have taken me so much longer to lug the bags etc back to 'base' -- as there were two of us, we were able to use an old fish-box that had washed in on the tide and were able to load it up with two bags each time and carry them (and other pieces) back to 'base'.

Here are a few 'before' and 'after' photos to record the difference!!

you really need to click on the photos to properly see the difference my work has made.

 Jana took a couple of photos of all the rubbish together in the one place so I will put them on here when she uploads them to her computer - it was shocking to see it all together like that though - but hopefully we will get the local community together to get it up the side of the cliff and taken away.

Now that I've finished working on this beach (apart from going down maybe once a month to keep on top of whatever has washed in on the tide) I can move on to work on another beach! Our coastline is just so amazingly, breathtakingly beautiful and the least I can do is to collect the rubbish and try and do my bit to preserve that beauty.