Sunday, 22 July 2012

Dishwasher Blues

This is by way of being AN AWFUL WARNING – at least it is if you are new to dishwashers, as we were.

Last summer we had our kitchen redone, and for the first time, found ourselves with a dishwasher. The Man of the House [TMH] was reluctant, as washing-up was his daily pleasure, watching people going past on the pavement outside each morning as he worked his way through the previous day’s detritus – and besides, it would use too much water…
A ‘slimline’ model, with A* ratings for energy and water use was given grudging approval, however, so about a year ago, when the workmen departed, we had to get used to our new ‘toy’. Naturally, for the first few days, everything went into it. Well, everything that wasn’t old and precious, anyway. And if it came through that OK, it went in next time…

And then I began to have terrible heartburn. TMH also got a touch of indigestion, but not as badly as I did. We thought it might be the olives – we have a wonderful Olive Man who comes to the local market, and we had got into the habit of eating a few – well, sometimes more than a few! – before dinner every evening, And it seemed I wasn’t getting such bad indigestion when we were away from home. So I stopped eating olives for a bit, but it didn’t really help…and then I looked at the dish we’d been serving the olives in, and realised that it was only glazed on the top, so that the terracotta back was probably absorbing the dishwasher water and holding it. So we started using a different dish for olives, and that sorted TMH out completely. But I was still suffering. Alerted by this, we stopped putting a few other items through the dishwasher, and incidentally changed the detergent we were using as well. The artificial lemon smell seemed to permeate everything, so we switched to an ‘ecologically friendly’ one which at least got rid of the smell.

By this time I was almost afraid to lie down at night, for as soon as I did the pain and the racing heart-beat would start, and I was losing sleep. I’d been put on omeprazole and was lined up for an endoscopy. And we went away again on holiday and I was fine. Two weeks before the endoscopy was due I stopped taking the omeprazole as instructed. Coincidentally, TMH had started hand-washing the dishes I have my morning porridge in, since as we only normally use the dishwasher on alternate days, and porridge is notorious for sticking when it dries, I was putting the dish into the sink to soak rather than straight into the dishwasher, and TMH was just dealing with it. After a week of no medication, no porridge bowls going through the dishwasher, and NO SYMPTOMS, I rang the GP. “I’m quite prepared to go through with the endoscopy if you think it will show anything useful,” I said, after I’d told her of the lack of symptoms, and the explanation I had come up with. She agreed it probably wouldn’t be necessary, and that if the symptoms returned I could always be put up for one again.

As a – rather painful! – experiment I used one of the porridge bowls that had last been put through the dishwasher rather than washed up by TMH. That night – heartburn. So all four porridge bowls have now been soaked in plain water, and then washed up by hand – and will not be put in the dishwasher again. We googled aluminium poisoning – some dishwasher detergent contains aluminium salts. Among the first things mentioned are increased heart rate, heartburn and indigestion.

So I am no longer poisoning myself. But it seems there are other irreversible consequences. I went for my annual sight test, and was telling the optometrist an abbreviated version of the tale as she was checking various things. Then she looked in my left eye.
“Ah, well, we’re in a whole different ball game now,” said she. "The cataract I saw just a tiny sign of last year has grown. No wonder you've lost two lines on the chart."

Later she was expressing surprise at the speed with which the cataract had developed, and then checked herself. Our eyes met, and in unison we said:

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Some of the things I've been doing with my hands recently

1 - Rabbits!

Gunner Bunny - rear view
When my new cousin was on the way [first cousin twice removed, for those who are particular about such things ... my first cousin's grandchild] I decided to make a knitted toy. I knew he was going to be a boy ... at least, I knew that's what the scan said - more on this later - so as his father is an Arsenal fan, and I had some suitable stash, Gunner Bunny was born.

Gunner is, as befits a footballer, a fairly tough character - if you tackle him you'll know about it ...


Gunner - from the front

I knitted the main part of his shirt in red, then crocheted the white parts and embroidered the various logos. Then the shorts were crocheted in white with red embroidery, and the boots/socks were done as per the pattern for the legs but on larger needles, and changing to white and stocking stitch for the socks.


When a work colleague had a little girl, I thought I'd make a more feminine version - Bella Bunny. Now the original pattern was for a 'ballerina bunny' and it had a little dress included.

Bella Bunny
... So when I made Bella, I thought I'd just do the dress as per pattern ... Mistake. What I missed in my haste to get her done, was that the [very slightly] larger needle size shown at the head of the pattern was only meant to be used for the dress; I'd used it for the rabbit. So of course when I came to make the dress, it was immediately apparent that it wasn't going to fit. I'm sure some people would have just kept trying with larger needles until theirs did fit, but I tried one size up, and again it was obviously not going to be large enough, so I got out a crochet hook. made a chain long enough to go round her waist, worked upwards in half-trebles to make a bodice, then went back to the chain foundation and worked downwards in trebles, increasing on some rows to make a ruffled skirt.
Then I added an Irish crochet flower. 

Belinda Bunny
Now I was well away, and when a cousin on the other side of the family said her son was expecting a little girl, I knew exactly what I was going to do.

I made the rabbit on the right size needles as per pattern, but decided do do another crochet dress, as the 'official' one was garter stitch [same as the rabbit] and looked decided UN-pretty! I couldn't get on with the proper pattern for the ballet shoes either, though they had converted well into football socks and boots so both Bella and Belinda have crocheted shoes, and crochet cross-ties too, rather than the ribbons the pattern specified.

I took Belinda to the Sherborne book fair about a month before the baby was due. She was much admired, and I found myself agreeing to make another one 'exactly the same' for the grandchild of another exhibitor.

My cousin, who lives in Yeovil, came to meet me, and we caught up on various family matters. A month later she rang me.
'The baby has arrived safely ... but it's a boy!'

Despite the scan saying all along it was a girl, something vital had been missed. This was not the first time I had known that to happen. Two previous 'boys' I had heard about turned out to be girls, so I wasn't unduly surprised.

All the knitted pieces awaiting assembly
'Don't worry,' I said. 'Just send me back Belinda - I know where she'll have a good home!'

I had already started making the pieces for the rabbit 'exactly the same' as Belinda, so I was able to send Belinda herself to the exhibitor's grandchild, and start putting the pieces together for a boy bunny.

Robin Rabbit - front view

It's all in the stuffing. You can make muscles and bulges in the right place to make the rabbits more masculine-looking, and to get the set of the arms to look as if they are ready for action.

Robin - rear view

So Robin Rabbit emerged - the new baby's dad was a Notts Forest fan, their mascot is Robin Hood, and after a bit of research I was able to make something that looks enough like their kit to be recognisable, whilst, as with Arsenal, not [I hope] breaking any copyright or sponsorship rules.

Next time, Elephants ...

To blog or not to blog?

...Well several friends are at it, so maybe I should put a toe in the water. I'm a book collector, a knitter, a quondam bookseller, writer, and librarian [does one ever stop being a librarian? I still get asked the way to places, even when I'm hundreds of miles from home ... my sister-in-law, also retired librarian, reckons we have a big rubber stamp on our foreheads, invisible to ourselves and our friends, that glows bright red when approached by a stranger, saying 'REFERENCE LIBRARIAN - ASK HERE!']
So I'm sitting at my keyboard thinking of all the things I should be doing, and not actully doing any of them because I've been inveigled into this blogging lark, and looking at the knitting I've just started - the third thing I've tried to make with this wool - which is actually beginning to look like something I might want to wear, whereas the previous attempts with it were just - wrong!

diamond jumper - the first attempt
The first attempt - in the round, with diamond pattern
[that attracted me to the pattern in the first place] nearly complete.

I had got about as much length again as shown in the picture of attempt #1 done before I saw a mistake - I was knitting in the round, but turning at the underarm 'seam' - and I'd taken it on the train,  so had obviously started again in the wrong direction without realising it. So I put it away for a year or two while I did some other stuff, and after 4 rabbits and 5 elephants and one cardigan of a sort either side of these [pictures later] I came back to this and decided as I had to pull it back anyway, I'd try something else with the yarn. So for attempt #2, I found this really pretty pattern of a jumper, shown in cream, and as I hadn't done much in the way of lace, I thought I'd give it a go. And it was successful, in that I didn't make a mess of the lace-work. But I didn't even try and photograph it - it just didn't look RIGHT! So that was 2 things unpicked. Then the new month's knitting mag arrived, and there was an intriguing pattern, so I'm about 4cm into attempt #3 ... I'll keep you posted!