Thursday, May 31, 2012

Young Frankenstein the Musical

Last night we went to see Young Frankenstein The Musical. We were excited about seeing it because we love the movie and wanted to see how well the adaptation worked.

It turns out that the Young Frankenstein story adapts very well to the musical format. In fact, I'd say that the musical was better in some ways than the movie, at least in my opinion. The songs were punny and catchy and the music was upbeat. The story moved along quickly and was very entertaining; even though the show was almost three hours, I didn't notice how much time had passed.

I especially loved the way Igor was played in the musical over the way he was played in the movie. He was really the star of the show and definitely added (more) comic relief. The actor playing Frederick Frankenstein, our protagonist, was very good and sang very well.

The production wasn't perfect, of course. We didn't love the actress playing Elizabeth, Frederick's fiance, or the character herself but she was unfortunately an integral part of the story. The dancers in the chorus weren't very crisp in their movements and they all seemed to interpret their steps slightly differently. That's ok; this was a touring production, after all, and no one expects them to be perfect.

Overall, we very much enjoyed the show and were thrilled that we got a chance to see it. If you like Mel Brooks' work, Young Frankenstein the movie, or musicals in general, this show is for you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Backyard landscaping

Earlier this month we signed a contract for a company to do some landscaping in our backyard. We wanted steps added going up the hill as well as new perennial beds created between the steps and the waterfall. The contractor we picked showed up yesterday morning, much to our surprise. He'd said that he thought the work would start this week but he didn't confirm that with us so imagine our surprise when the workers showed up yesterday morning at 8:20am!

Of course I hadn't ordered the plants yet because they needed to know when the contractor wanted them and he hadn't told us that. It turns out that he really wanted them yesterday which wasn't going to happen but I think they were able to get them ready for him today. They won't need the plants until at least tomorrow anyways because planting is just about the last thing to be done.

Those guys work fast! Yesterday they took out the sod where the steps and bed are going, destumped all of the huge birch stumps left over from when we cut them down, placed a few large rocks, and dug out the trench for the french drain weeping tile. Today they built and covered the french drain, placed more rocks, and got most of the steps in place. At the rate they're going, we can most likely decide where the plants are all going tomorrow and they'll be done by Friday at the latest. The workers are also careful to keep things tidy when they leave for the day which is something we appreciate. Had we hired our contractor neighbour to do it, it would have taken ages for his guys to finish the job and they would have left a mess.

We're very excited to see that it isn't going to take long to get all this work done because we're going to get to enjoy our new landscaping all summer long. How amazing is that?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Creating and organizing

A little while ago I went on a spending spree, buying cabochons and faceted gems in lots of different colours. I'm not very good at planning out what I want to make and then finding the stones I want to use in those designs; I like to be inspired by different stones. Of course I can design something and then find stones to fit but it can be hard to find a stone of a particular size and colour. I buy on eBay and etsy; I don't buy the volume of good stones to be able to place an order at one of the big gem supply places. I also don't want to pay those prices!

Anyways, I bought all those stones and have been carrying them around in their original packaging. This has made it difficult to look at the stones and be inspired by them. I bought some watchcases a couple of weeks ago and this weekend I finally put all the stones in the watchcases. I haven't yet finished putting all of the information on the cases about the stone (in particular, not every case has the price I paid for the stone), and I haven't organized the stones aside from separating faceted stones from cabochons, but now I can open up the cases and see all my beautiful stones.

Hopefully I'll start being inspired soon. My niece and one of my nephews are graduating from high school this year and I'm making each of them something to celebrate. I actually have ideas about what I want to make for each of them and now that I can see my stones, I can look at them and make these ideas into drawings into actual things.

Each one already knows they're getting something so I don't mind saying that but I'm not going to tell you about my ideas. After all, I might change them and even if I don't, I want the final products to be a surprise. :) I'm very excited about making these gifts.

Speaking of making things, my instructor loved the sample apron I made. I need to adjust the neck strap slightly but she loves it otherwise... as do two of the other students. They're buying aprons, too, which is kind of cool. I won't make money on these but I'm happy that I can make something useful for the studio and my classmates.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Doctor's appointments

I spent the last two days driving to and from doctor's appointments. Ian finally convinced me to see our family doctor about the changes in the one breast. There's a ring of red, raised skin just outside the aerola which makes my breast look like a big bullseye. Above that ring there's a recessed red area with white spots in it. I'm fairly certain that both areas are sarcoidosis.

I saw my family doctor yesterday. He took a look at the breast and immediately said that while it doesn't look like cancer, he doesn't know what it is so he wants a biopsy (which I also wanted). He got me an appointment with my surgeon this morning: he looked at it and will biopsy it next Thursday at the hospital. I guess the plan is to freeze it, take a sample, and put a stitch in it so it shouldn't be too traumatic.

The reason Ian convinced me to see our family doctor was that I've started feeling pain in the affected breast. It almost feels like whatever is going on in the skin is spreading inward, if that makes sense. If the thickening and redness is sarcoidosis then it's possible that the sarcoidosis is starting to affect the scar tissue inside the breast. We're not going to do a mammogram to see what's going on in there because we can see and feel that the breast skin is affected.

As I say, I expect that the problem is sarcoidosis and if we confirm that, I hope that we can treat it somehow. The usual treatment is steroids and of course they're not good for the body. At this point I'd rather not leave it alone because it's so ugly and it's becoming painful. Besides, if we don't treat it, it could show up on my next mammogram - and if it does, I can imagine we'd have to do a more involved biopsy. I don't want to have to go through that, you know?

I found driving back and forth each day to be very tiring. I didn't sleep well the night before last or yesterday afternoon but last night and this afternoon I slept like a baby who sleeps through the night. I'd hoped to do some dishes and get my sample apron done (I was able to work out a way to make the apron the way I wanted) but both will have to wait for tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mostly restful weekend

I'm still tired so I didn't do much this weekend. Plus, it was crazy warm out there with temperatures reaching near 30C and we decided that hiding in the basement was a better choice that working outside.

We did manage to get out and do some stuff. Today, for example, we sprayed nematodes on the lawn. Our lawn is looking patchy in part because of the grubs and we'd wanted to try getting rid of them. Applying nematodes is faith-based lawn care, in a way, because the nematodes are microscopically small so we can't see them and it's hard to tell if the application is working. I guess I could take a look at them under a microscope and see them if I wanted to do that. I could also, I suppose, try to estimate the number of grubs under  the grass both before and after the treatment. However, I'm much too lazy to do that so I'm going to assume that we didn't apply the lawn care equivalent of snake-oil to our lawn.

My lupins are starting to bloom and wow, do they look great! Well, one of them does: it has nearly 30 blooms coming up right now and every leaf stalk is standing straight up. There are two little ones that are growing from last year's seed and they're doing fine as well.

The other large one has only about 15 blooms coming up and many of its stalks are bent over. It's got aphids and it doesn't get quite as much sun as the other big one gets so the aphids have affected it to a huge extent. Thankfully, there aren't nearly as many aphids on the plant as there were last year because I've been killing them. Now that the flowers are out I'll have to keep a very close eye on the aphids because they love the flowers most of all. At least the lupins will look good for a couple of weeks.

I've made some progress on the aprons as well. I decided to use a good-quality cotton broadcloth for the neck and waist straps: I'll just make a one-inch wide bias strap for the neck and make one-inch wide straight-grain straps for the waist. I'd like to extend the neck straps down to the waist as well because I think it would look awesome but I need to cost it out and make sure it doesn't take too much fabric or time to make. I thought I had everything figured out and I was good to go but then I realized that I'd made a mistake in my calculations (an apron needs two waist straps, not one). I think I can still make it work but I need to do some figuring.

The rest of the weekend we spent watching tv or playing video games. It was very relaxing and I'm feeling a bit more well-rested - just in time for a busy week.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Overdoing it

I think I might have been overdoing it lately. I've been getting up a little bit earlier than usual and working outside in the garden for a couple of hours every day or every other day and on top of that I've been walking Gozer. I was obviously tired and so Ian told me to be sure to nap today: to not do too much and to nap.

So I did. I went to sleep around 11am, thinking I'd lie down for a half-hour or an hour and I sort of half woke up around 1pm and woke up more fully around 4pm. I wanted to go back to sleep because I was so very tired but I dragged myself out of bed and took Gozer for her afternoon walk. I felt so weak and so tired and short of breath that the walk was a huge ordeal for me. I'd really, really wanted to go to metalsmithing class tonight but there was no way I could make it since I was so tired.

I hope that I'm feeling better for the long weekend because it's supposed to be so nice and I want to enjoy the beautiful weather. My previous plan for tomorrow had been to go out and do some weeding but now I think I'm going to sleep and rest as much as possible.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Oh, Gozer

Gozer is an adorable dog most of the time but she can go a little overboard. Did you know that dogs can get grass stains on their fur? No? Me, either. I know that clothes get grass stains but those clothes are made of things like cotton, not dog fur. I guess Gozer wasn't satisfied with her her cow-spot markings and wanted to add a little colour to her look. She's got a new greenish yellow spot in the middle of her back and smaller spots on her shoulders and chest.

I think she got the grass stains on her shoulders and chest from bracing herself while rubbing her face on the ground. I used to think her eyes were itchy but now I wonder whether it's her sinuses or nose that are itchy. Either way, bracing her shoulder or chest against the grass while rubbing her face gives her grass stains. I have no idea how she got the grass stain on her back, however. Sure, she's a dog and she rolls around like all dogs do... but I didn't think it was possible for her to roll hard enough to grind her back into the ground.

I'm sure I should be grateful that she's not adding poo or rotten vegetable stains (and smells) to her formerly lovely coat. Funny, though, I don't feel grateful. While I love that she's comfortable being a dog, I also feel a bit annoyed that she's so determined to make herself look and smell as awful as possible. Is staying away from the grass too much to ask?

Edited to add: it's hard to stay mad at her when she's licking my feet. That's one doggy behaviour of hers that I'd like her to keep. :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Working in the garden

We spent last night and part of today in at Ian's parent's house to celebrate Mother's Day and Ian's mom's birthday. We went out for dinner last night and had a lovely, if huge, meal and then this morning we ate a very delicious baked spiced apple pancake thing. The rest of the time we hung out and watched tv, just enjoying each other's company. Ian's dad stole Gozer again, of course, but since she loves spending time with him, I figure it was as good a weekend for her as it was for us.

Ian's mom gave me some more seedlings to plant in our garden. She gave us a total of 54 impatiens plants - half shorter ones that will cascade over rock and half taller ones - that we planted in our front garden. Somehow we found room for all of them! Next year we hope to put in a flower bed on the other side of the path in the front yard but we can't do that this year so having the impatiens in the main bed will add some colour to the front yard.

She also gave us a whole bunch of plants that will attract hummingbirds. I put some of them - red salvias - up at the top of the waterfall and planted another type of plant in a pot for the patio. She also gave us some climbing plants that we planted on the kitchen side of the house where we get the morning sun. Hopefully they'll do well there and add some colour.

Ian's mom also gave us some vines for the gates on the side of the property. I love the way they look on her gate and I've been wanting the plants on our gates to add some interest and softness to ours. The fact that they'll add a bit of a visual barrier just adds to their appeal :) I'll be planting those in the next couple of days.

I've been looking at the lupin in the lower bed. It's got some aphids and it's not doing nearly as well as the lupin up by the waterfall. I've been thinking that I'd like to pull it out and put something else in there because it just doesn't get quite enough sun to thrive in that spot. I'll give that lupin one more season and if it's destroyed by aphids, out it comes.

Having such a huge garden is a lot of work but I'm finding that I love the work. I find it very satisfying to take care of the garden and to add more colour and variety to the different planting beds. I'm very excited to see how everything looks when it all takes hold and really starts growing.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Working on a project

I'm working on a project and I feel like I'm stuck at the moment. I'd promised my metalsmithing instructor that I'd make a dozen or so aprons for the studio at $15 each (including my sewing time). She wants the aprons to be black with turquoise or red straps. It sounds simple, right?

Somehow I'm making this a bit more complicated than perhaps it needs to be. Finding the fabric is fairly easy because she wants something like a black denim that isn't too stiff or heavy or that feels harsh. A 100% cotton bottomweight twill fabric will do nicely for the aprons: the fabric is soft and smooth to the touch, isn't too heavy, and is woven tightly enough to provide some fire protection. Since these aprons are for the studio they need to provide some protection against fire and this twill should do the trick.

The more difficult part is the straps. My instructor and the students want straps that are soft against the neck and not too stiff or crinkly or plasticky. I'd thought about using 1" wide cotton twill tape for the straps - well, the neck strap, at least - but the only red and turquoise twill tape I can find anywhere is 3/4" wide, which I think might be a bit too narrow. As well so far I can only find it online and I don't really want to pay extra for shipping as I'm trying to keep costs down.

I could buy 1" twill tape and dye it the right colours. But then the thought occurred to me today that the soft twill tape might be a bit too soft and flimsy for the waist straps. I'm not sure what would be the best choice  for those straps - maybe bias tape of some kind?

If you have any advice about what would work for the straps for these aprons that is soft on the neck and strong enough for the waist ties and is available in red and turquoise... and is fairly cheap, I'd love to hear it. I'm open to pretty much anything that would work.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Pretty Gozer

We had Gozer groomed today because she was looking quite scruffy. After grooming she looks so little! Her little spindly legs barely even look strong enough to hold up her body. Her hair is so soft now: it looks and feels just like velvet.

It's actually amazing that she looks as good as she does, considering that the grooming didn't go well. She was a little fussy while her face was being trimmed but that's totally normal. What was abnormal was that while she was being dried under the dryer she was screaming and screaming and screaming. I didn't know that dogs could scream but it seems that they can - there are videos out there, apparently, although I didn't watch or listen to them because I didn't want to freak out my dog.

I know that Gozer doesn't like the hairdryer at home or the sound of the dryer at the groomers but she's never screamed like that before. We're going to work on getting her comfortable with the sound of our hairdryer with treats. We'll start by just turning on the hairdryer and giving her a treat and we'll work up to actually blowing the dryer on her for a while before she gets groomed next. I don't want my furbaby so scared that she's screaming at the groomer's.

Fortunately, even though she obviously had a trying time at the groomer's, Gozer is doing just fine. She was quite cuddly today (or maybe that was me?) and also quite playful. She had a great time running around the yard while chasing her outside ball. She also saw one of the neighbourhood's black cats and wanted to chase it or play with it. In other words, she behaved just like she normally does - and she looked great while doing normal dog-like things.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Gardening all weekend

The weather was absolutely gorgeous this past weekend: highs of about 18C or so with a light wind and sunny with only wispy clouds in the sky. It was the perfect weather to be outside working in the yard so that's what we did.

I spent quite a bit of time pulling out weeds. There seem to be an infinite number in the yard: I can think that I've finished a particular area only to discover more and more weeds. I'm not even pulling out all of the weeds because there are so many! The low-to-the-ground weeds with pretty, small flowers are staying until I've got all of the dandelions and thistles and others (I don't know their names) out.

I also spent some time dealing with that damn vetch. I'm not sure it's an actual vetch plant - it's most likely Everlasting Pea, which isn't technically vetch - but it's certainly invasive, just like vetch, so I just call it "that damn vetch". Whatever it's called, I trimmed it back and trimmed the roots of the bigger plant so that it (hopefully) wouldn't grow more up than out. I tried to pull out the smaller plant by trimming it right down and digging out its root. I was only able to dig about five inches down where the plant's taproot was still a full inch in diameter. I cut it off there and I hope that it won't grow back. We'll see.

In addition to all that weeding, we finally planted all the plants that Ian's mom gave us. There were a ton of them and we used them to fill in the beds where the previous owner had put annuals. We started by putting a few of the hostas in the bed that's just in front of our front porch after reshaping that bed a bit. It looks like it was originally a corner bed which was then extended the length of the porch. Ian pulled out the stones defining the previous corner bed and used them to make a short retaining wall thingy. Between that change and the added hostas, our front yard looks so much better than it did before.

In the backyard we planted all the different plants where we thought they'd thrive and look good. If it turns out that they don't look as good as we think they will then we'll move them next year. We did realize that we missed one spot that we had wanted to fill in at the top of the waterfall. It gets full sun all day long and there's a hosta up there that just doesn't thrive. Hostas are shade plants, after all, and there's no shade up there. Next spring (or this fall) we'll divide one of our tall sedum plants that has grown quite large and put a clump at the top of the waterfall; it'll go nicely with the large lupin and small bush that are already there.

Speaking of lupins, one of mine has aphids. Sigh. I spent some time killing as many as possible but I suspect that it'll be a losing battle. I love lupins, I do, but I really don't love the aphids that feed on them. They deform the plant's stem, leaves, and flowers, and make it ugly. And once they've overrun one plant they head straight for another one. Hopefully the aphids will stay confined to the one plant and won't be as bad as they were last year. If the aphids take over again I'll have to get rid of those beautiful lupins.

After all that work in the yard and a couple of long Gozer walks, I was (and still am) physically tired but quite content. I love puttering around the yard when it's warm - but not too warm - and sunny. I can hardly wait to see how much better our backyard will look with all these additional plants.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Oncologist appointment

I saw my oncologist this morning for my bone and CT scan results. They're all clean, as usual: my mets are still visible and they're about the same size they were before, which is good news. The bone scan will show any area of bone that's active for any reason, so it'll show where the person has arthritis and other bone things in addition to cancerous areas. My bone scan showed activity in my big toes, knees, various spots in my spine, and some other places I don't remember, which would point to arthritis in those areas.

Interestingly, I met with my home care case manager yesterday and after I told her that I had this sarcoidosis which is an auto-immune disease, she said that many people with auto-immune diseases also develop arthritis in places like their big toes. I've had pain there and in other places that I thought could be arthritis and it was interesting to have that confirmed, along with a possible reason for it appearing there (other than getting older, of course!).

I talked to my oncologist about what I think is the sarcodosis that's going on with my left breast. It's still spreading and it looks rather ugly. It looks like a purplish rash, mostly, but it's raised and flat and hard to the touch. My oncologist looked at it, said it wasn't cancer, and when I suggested that it might be a good idea to confirm that it is sardcoidosis, she said that it would be good to get a biopsy done for peace of mind. I'd kind of hoped that she would refer me to someone to help me deal with this but she's not from the area so I guess she doesn't know anyone.

I did some research online and it seems that even though sarcoidosis is an auto-immune disease, there's no one primary specialist that deals with the disorder: when symptoms come up a specialist treats those specific symptoms and that's it. I guess that means that I'll need to see my family doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist (unless my surgeon, who I hope can do the biopsy, can refer me to someone) and that my sarcoidosis specialist care will be in Mississauga.

While I'm not thrilled that the sarcoidosis is going nuts on that one breast, at least my cancer is stable. This is some kind of great news, right? :)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Home again

I got home last night after an uneventful day spent traveling. Ian and Gozer picked me up from the airport so I had a chance to get lots of hugs and kissies from Ian and Gozer right away. Even though I had a wonderful time in Edmonton - and one of, if not the, best trip I've ever had there - I was very happy to come home because I missed home. It seems Gozer missed me, too, given that she's been cuddling up to me a lot since I got home.

I didn't do all that much while I was there: everything was kept fairly low-key this time around. I'd been a little nervous about being there for the first time in a year, especially since the last few times I'd been there had been so stressful. Being able to spend time with my sisters without freaking out or getting upset or hearing that darn voice tell me I was unworthy was something my psychologist and I had been working on and I'm pleased to say that all that work paid off because I had a great time with my sisters.

I visited with my sisters individually and with all three of us together and each visit went really well - better than I could ever have imagined. The atmosphere during each visit felt relaxed and easy-going and I found myself truly enjoying the time I spent with my sisters. Sure, sometimes we got quiet or tired or whatever and where before that might have turned into some kind of argument, this time things stayed calm. It was wonderful and I can hardly wait to go back there.

The main events I was in Edmonton to see were my niece's IB art show and her dance recital. The art show was amazing! The students, including my niece, are so talented. There were paintings, sculptures, murals, and interactive art pieces all done in different media and I could have spent quite a lot of time looking at each piece. Well, I did spend a lot of time there with my niece and one sister but I could have spent even more. I especially loved my niece's art which was unique and very much her style. I am buying one of the smaller pictures she did because it inspired me.

My niece danced in a bellydance recital and she was very good! I was thrilled to see how well she danced: she's a beginner bellydancer and her movements were quite good. I was so proud of her, too, for getting up and dancing on-stage because I know how hard it is to do that. I enjoyed the rest of the show as well because I do love bellydancing! I especially liked a burlesque/tribal/bellydance troupe and one of the soloists. This recital included two performances by Dr. George Sawa playing the Qanun, a traditional instrument. He's very good and it was a pleasure to listen to him.

When not doing something with other people (I got to see some friends of mine, too), I spent some time wandering around the university campus and area. I was staying right on the edge of campus and I wanted to revisit areas I remembered and to see how things had changed. On one lovely day I did a huge walk over a route that I used to take late at night one summer. I did the walk during the day, of course!

Being able to retrace my steps, revisit old haunts, and visit new places turned out to be a good thing for me. I'd had a couple of really bad years back around the time I finished my first degree and somehow seeing all of the changes and things that were the same let me see and remember all these things with new eyes and to think about them in a different way. There's a lot more work to do around those years throughout the city but I feel like I've made a start.

The best thing about this last trip is that I don't dread going to Edmonton the way I did before. I'll be going back there at the end of June because my niece and one nephew are graduating high school and I want to celebrate that by doing something yet to be determined. I know I'll miss home with Ian and Gozer and my bed and all my stuff but having such a happy time in Edmonton will be worth it.