Friday, June 28, 2013

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Summer Vacation

I wish I could remember how that book ends.  I'm sure there is a useful lesson in it for me, because my last week was indeed no good.  I've documented a little bit of it here, but needed to give it some distance before fully chronicling the series of events that occurred during what was supposed to be a week of rest, relaxation and fun at the end of a demanding span of time at work and home.  For your enjoyment and my future reference, I shall now tell you the story of my vacation week.  Please do keep in mind that I am able to laugh at it all now.  Also keep in mind that everything will work out OK in the end, but man was this an unfortunate series of events (that was a good book, too!).

Oh, and you might want to grab a snack.  This is a long post.

The week began with us getting stormed out of our much anticipated patio lunch and barred from entry at the lighthouse.  It then quickly proceeded into the breaking-our-dog part of the week, which I fully explained in this post.

What I didn't mention there was that the glorious bask in the sun with our tea on our last morning at camp seems to have set off some sort of horrible reaction in my system.

Partway through the drive home on Tuesday, my eyes and face started to swell up.  I didn't pay it much attention because we were really concerned about Tchazo and I thought it was just a little sunburn.  Well, when I woke up Wednesday morning, my face and eyes were extremely swollen and red and I had rashes on my hands, arms, neck and back.  I've mentioned here before that my skin is really sensitive (eczema and other sensitivities) and a variety of things can set it off, but it usually doesn't get anywhere near this bad.  I tried antihistamines and a variety of other approaches including a visit to the acupuncturist.  My acupuncturist linked that time in the sun with my body's freak out and she is usually pretty right on, so that is the theory I am going with.

In order to give my skin time out of the sun to heal, I had to back out of my fun plans for another rooftop American Craft Council party.  I was really looking forward to the planned Craft Cage Match but being that I looked like I had just come out of a cage match myself and remembering that there was little to no shade on the roof, I knew I needed to skip it.

So, at this point in the week there is me, at home, on "vacation", feeling like crap, looking like crap and not able to be exposed to the sun.  Fun times!  Whenever I am feeling down, I am always pretty quick to recognize that things could be worse.  In this case, it came true!  It got worse!  Let me continue...

I woke up Friday morning still a physical mess but at least my swelling was residing a bit and I was starting to look like myself again.  We had a storm roll through town overnight and when I went out to my alley, I was stunned to see that a very large tree had split at the base and fallen down on a neighbor's garage, taking power lines down with it.

I didn't know trees did that sort of thing!  It seemed like it was a solid, healthy tree.  I guess the winds must have been really, really strong and the tree had some sort of hidden weakness.  We have a really large silver maple tree in our back yard that has proven its weakness in past storms by dropping limbs freely.  I was grateful that our tree had only dropped small limbs in fairly inconsequential locations during the storm.  I was also grateful that we had it pretty aggressively trimmed when we bought the house 4 years ago as I think that has helped it be as strong as a weak tree can be. Anyway, I counted my lucky stars that we didn't have any damage and hoped the neighbor's had good insurance.

By Friday night, I was feeling well enough to go through with my plans.  My sister had taken the night off because there was an outdoor concert we were both interested in seeing.  We invited other friends and had a nice little group of us at the show.  We found a table in a great location under an event tent.  The tent was serving double duty as it provided shade and also was good for the group as we had heard rain was in the forecast.

Sure enough!  The rain started during the first of 3 acts.  At first, it was cute.  The staff were able to squeegee the water off of the stage so the musicians could keep playing.  A few people pulled out their umbrellas and some fun loving souls danced in the rain.

The scene quickly changed when the storm became super aggressive.  In a matter of seconds the innocent rain turned into torrential downpours with winds that threatened to lift up the giant cement blocks that were anchoring down the tent.  We made a run for the nearby parking garage and on the way, a tree branch whipped out in front of Paul, found its way inside his lip and gouged his gums!  Yep.  That really happened.  By the time we got to shelter Paul was REALLY unhappy, his lip was swelling up and his mouth was bleeding.  He wasn't that excited about the show in the first place, was going along to be a good sport and then all of that happened.  When a tree punches you in the mouth, it is easy to get a little cranky.

So, we were in the entrance of the parking garage, watching the torrential rain coming down sideways, the trees bending and whipping around, listening to the emergency sirens wail and witnessing musicians coming in and dumping water out of their guitars.  One girl had a very nice camera that had gotten drenched.  We hope the dry blanket we lent her helped save it!  In the midst all of this Paul says something to the effect of, "Let's just go home."  And, my sister Jessy says something to the effect of, "Are you guys sure this isn't going to pass and they'll be able to finish the show?"  And I am thinking, "This storm is SERIOUS.  I am not going anywhere until it chills out.  This is not one that is just passing through and letting us get on with our evening."

We waited until the winds and rain returned to a non-threatening level and we got in the car to go home.  A few minutes later, we passed our first bad omen:

As we ventured on, we kept encountering flooded streets and having to turn around and zig zag our way home.  The closer we got to our house, the more and more tree damage I saw.  After plowing through some water, our car started to make a bad noise.  "Oh, its just the wet brakes", we told ourselves.  Except the sound was happening when there were no brakes on.  With thoughts of our giant, weak tree (it isn't anything special to our tree, I hear all silver maples have this tendency), we were really anxious to get home and see if our pets and our house were ok.  We figured we'd deal with the car later.

We pulled into the alley, I see such a mess that I have to jump out of the car to clear branches out of the way so we can drive down the alley.  When we get to the tree that had fallen the previous night, we see that it rolled off the garage and smashed a truck.

I then look over to where I can usually see the tallest part of our tree and I see nothing.  Pit. In. Stomach.

We move a little farther down the alley and that is when we see limbs of our tree covering our parking pad and our garage.  Fearing the worst, I get a better look at the house and see that there are lots of limbs around and hanging from wires, but the house seems to be ok.  Big. Exhale.

We reverse out of the alley and park in front of the house because the fallen limbs of our tree are blocking the alley.  When we come up to the front door, we can hear Tchazo barking like a maniac.  Stunned, we head to the backyard not knowing what to do, taking in all of the details.  We notice a heavy limb has crushed our back fence and is resting on it.

limb on fence after we sawed off part of it

We notice the light and motion detector have been smashed clear off of the garage, the roof has branches wedged underneath the shingles and the fascia, gutter apron and siding is banged up.

But, most of all, we notice how those tree limbs rammed into our garage door.

Since we couldn't tell in the dark which lines were power lines and which ones were not, we attempted to call the electric company.  After 30 minutes waiting on hold, we gave up.  We also got the claim going with our insurance company and counted our blessings that we could still be in our home and that we still had functioning utilities.

Even though our house wasn't damaged, besides the gutters, more storms were expected overnight and I wasn't feeling lucky. We moved the car 2 blocks away to where the trees were tiny and freshly planted. We also made the decision not to sleep in bedroom, which is located in range of tree limbs.  With all of the bedrooms being on the second floor, I felt safest sleeping in the living room.  I may have been freaked out enough that I prepared an emergency bag containing: dog leash, dog meds, cat carrier, toiletries, change of clothes, water, wallet and phone.  And, if I am being honest, I threw my knitting project in the bag, too.  What can I say?  It made me feel safer to sleep next to it!  Although, I only slept a few minutes at a time since I felt as if the other shoe might drop at any moment.

We made it through the night!  Breakfast plans with a friend cancelled and evenings plans no longer a priority, we set to work breaking down the tree mess.  Literally with the branches and figuratively with insurance.  Oh yeah, and I was still covered with terrible rashes and trying to avoid the sun.  Yay, vacation!

All it took was a little walk through the neighborhood to realize it could have been so much worse (see me, tempting fate again!).  I only went a block or so in each direction and saw more trees down than I could count.

downed power lines

I also took a stab at fixing the noise the car was making.  The lining in the wheel well had gotten bent and was rubbing the tire.  I muscled it back into place...success!  This might be a coincidence or maybe not, but ever since that night, the control panel on the door seems to be floating, unsecured.  We still have to figure that one out.

So, the icing on this cake that was this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad vacation week was that I was planning to host a Crafternoon gathering on my back deck on Sunday to wrap up what was to have been a wonderful week.  Earlier in the week, our beautiful chairs demonstrated a weakness in their design and had to be brought back to the maker for repairs (not his fault).  At the time I was really bummed out that my fantasy of the event that included my pretty chairs and my friends in them wasn't going to happen and I was going to have to dig out the stupid old folding chairs.  I knew it was silly, but I was a little bummed.  And, then this whole mess with the tree happened and made my chair disappointment seem so silly and small in comparison.

By Sunday, I definitely needed some time with friends and to get the heck away from my house.  We moved our gathering to a nearby cafe that had power (so many residences and businesses in the Twin Cities area didn't have power for days).  It was a great stress reliever to laugh with friends about how ridiculous my week had been.  I think I carried my luck (or lack thereof) with me to the gathering, though.  Our waiter kept taking our order and then a really long time later coming by and apologizing for not having taken our order yet and letting us know he would be back to get our order soon.  He did that more than once!

Now that I have had a little more distance from the week, I am mulling it over looking for the silver lining and the lessons I might find in this.  Since you've made it this far into my insanely long story of my week, I don't think you'll mind if I get a little more share-y than usual.  I have been struggling with perfectionism lately, feeling like it is guiding what I do and how I do it in an unhealthy way.  It is causing me to carry stress that is totally unnecessary and rather pointless.  I've also developed more of a worrying habit than I would like. I am realizing that this is diverting my energy from where it could be better spent. 

So if I were to try to make sense of all of this crap, I could find the messages pretty easily.  What I think this week told me, in no subtle way, is that I ultimately have very little to NO control over my world.  It is telling me to let go and just roll with it.  Preparing and planning are ok to some degree, but in the end it'll all probably work out differently than I planned and I may or may not be prepared for the outcome.  If I can accept that, I don't need to spend nearly as much of my time and energy in the way that I have been.  I have received the message that trying to make everything perfect and/or worrying about stuff too much gets you a rash covered body, a husband with a wounded mouth and a garage that was beat up by a tree.

But, you know what?  Even though this week brought me to that crazy place where I could laugh and cry at the same time, I never lost sight of the good stuff that was sprinkled in there, too.  That hike was beautiful.  I read a great book.  My friends and family were quick to offer help. Paul and I know how to support each other when the shit hits the fan.   I met more of my neighbors.  We now have a lot of firewood.  We have savings we can draw from to help us through this and insurance.  I am thankful.

So, Universe, I appreciate the lessons and I will work on what you've taught me.  Now, please go help somebody else because I have had enough.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sew FO: Cambie Dress

Hello!  I sewed something! It took almost a year, but it is done!  It has actually been done a few times.  I've gone back and adjusted a few things to improve it.  Now, I think it is done for real so I am ready to share it with you!

This is the Cambie dress by Sewaholic.  I sewed the full skirt version in a lightweight voile fabric.  The dress is fully lined in a thin cotton fabric, which helps the full skirt version have a little less volume in the end.

Invisible zipper!

 Gathered sleeves!  Bust darts!

An interfacing supported waist band and some more gathering!

I haven't ever sewn a garment from a pattern, so this was a challenge.  I took a class at a shop to help me work through it and am now encouraged to sew more clothes.

I'd like to walk you through some more features:

It is curtsy friendly.

 Ready for modest spinning.

Enjoys being paired with bright colors.

All in all, this is a really comfortable and cute dress.  It is so far on the cute scale that I won't wear this as an everyday dress, but it is a fun one to have around.  I am thinking of making this again in a slightly heavier fabric in the fitted version.  Maybe I will even pick a color outside of the turquoise family :)

Oh, and since I plan to sew more clothes, I've joined My Sewing Circle to keep track of my projects.  The site is a little rough around the edges, but I am hopeful it will keep improving.  It has the potential to be a Ravelry for sewing!  Feel free to connect with me there (My username is TrinKnitty)!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tettegouche State Park - The Hike

When looking for a place to camp, we always look to see what the hiking trails are like.  If there is an extensive set of trails with some points of interest like waterfalls, shorelines or vistas, we are in!  Tettegouche definitely hits the mark on those points.  By late Monday morning, we decided to ignore the cold and rain and get out on the trails.

We know Tchazo is limited in strength these days, so we choose what we thought would be a doable route up to High Falls and back with a detour to Two Step Falls on the way back down.

The hike was beautiful.

At High Falls, there is a suspension bridge that you need to go over to continue on the trail.  The grates were large enough that Tchazo would not be able to navigate them safely, so Paul and I took turns on it to see the view.  Since we were not crossing over, it was fine for Tchazo to wait on the side.  Man!  He did not like us being out on the bridge.  When Tchazo saw that bridge he stopped short in his tracks, recognizing that it wasn't safe for him.  When we went out on it, he barked at us as if to say, "No! No! Come back!  That is a dangerous place!"  He didn't stop until we were all back on the side with him.

photo by Paul

We were watching Tchazo along the way, looking for clues that he was getting fatigued, but he stayed out in front of us through the whole hike.  At one point, he swooped his head down to the side of the trail and came up with this bone!  We let him carry it for about 20 minutes until he finally dropped it.  While he had it in his mouth, he was a dog with a mission!

After we got back from the hike, we fed Tchazo and gave him his medicine (he is on steroids for ataxia).  He then settled into the tent and slept for a long, long time.  Paul said he could feel him shivering in the night, so he covered him up to get him warmer.  When we got up in the morning, he was so sore, shaky and weak that he couldn't stand up without help from us.  We felt terrible.  In our 11 years with him, we have never once seen him refuse food, but that morning he did.  He only ate about 2/3 of his breakfast.  We let him go back to sleep for a few more hours in the tent.

photo by Paul

After that, he was less shaky and was able to finish his breakfast.  We knew we had pushed him too far.  It was a sad thing for us to see our dog who loves hiking so much to experience the consequences of his new limitations.  We now know that he won't tell us when we are taking him past his limits.  We learned the hard way that we need to set those limits for him.  He was in such a sorry state, that we wanted to do what we could to give him some comfort, so we decided to pack up and head home.  On the way home, we checked in with our vet to find out if there was anything we could give him that would bring some relief.  Unfortunately, with the steroids, he can't take any fast acting pain medicine, so he had to tough it out.  We gave him a cold bath when we got home to help reduce the swelling in his joints.

With some rest and very limited activity, he recovered by the next day and was begging for a walk.  He has a spirit that is still so full of life!  We will be sure to keep giving him walks around the neighborhood and the occasional short visit to the dog park, but we have decided his days of hiking to waterfalls are over.  Paul and I are excited for future camping trips, but know we'll be doing our next few without a dog.

Having just gone through the loss of Jack and the scare with Fanny, we are no strangers to ailing pets.  The silver lining is that the medicine Tchazo is on has dramatically increased his quality of life and given him (and us) the opportunity to have many experiences in the past year and a half since his symptoms started.  Even though he paid the price afterwards, we are guessing if he could talk, he would have told us the hike was worth it!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tettegouche State Park - Cart-In Experience

Tettegouche!  We knew this year that we wanted to have a slightly different camping experience, so we booked at a park that has cart-in sites.  These sites provide a little distance between you and your car while cutting down on traffic from cars driving the loop and proximity to other campers.  We really enjoyed the experience!

Our site was right beside the water, which meant we could hear the waves hitting the shore and had a beautiful view.  Sadly, we could also hear the traffic on route 61.  It was especially loud when we got there, because the storm that we experienced in Duluth was present at the park and made the roadway wet.  As we carted our things to the site in the drizzle, we saw the remnants of the hail storm that had just swept through.  Out of the cart-in sites, we had chosen pretty well for reduced traffic noise, but it is still a factor to be aware of should you decide to camp here.

I don't have any pictures from that first day because setting up camp in the rain when the bugs are biting you doesn't make for good photo inspiration.  Luckily we have a good tent!  With our bellies full of soup cooked during a break in the rain, we slept well while it rained through the night.  We have a new set-up for camping, which means Tchazo gets to sleep cuddled up next to us.  He liked it.

I think I've got this knitting in the tent thing down, too!

Part of the challenge with getting away from car based camping is food.  In the past we have brought a cooler and have not been concerned about the size and weight of our food and cooking supplies.  We still want to eat well, so we are playing around with lighter foods that don't require refrigeration and can be cooked over the fire or on a small camping stove.

Paul wanted to see if he could make a pizza from scratch at camp.  He prepared well with dehydrated sauce and pre-measured ingredients.

He rehydrated apples, sundried tomatoes, garlic and onions over the fire.

The crust was mixed in a bag and left to rise a bit.

The one perishable item was cheese, but the temps were cold enough that we felt fine eating it on our 2nd day at camp. Shredding cheese with a knife is a bit labor intensive, but in most cases, we've got nothing but time when we are cooking at the site.  If we were really serious about making this with non-perishable foods, we could use dehydrated cheese.

Pizza ready to be cooked!

Paul using his fry/bake pan, utilizing heat from the top and bottom.

Pizza!  It tasted good!  Paul already has plans for modifications to yield a more perfect crust.

Smores for dessert!  I finally wizened up and brought fancy chocolate for the smores.  Our smores this time were made with dark chocolate that had bits of cherry and almond in it.  Wayyyy better than Hershey's.  Did you know marshmallows have gone the way of Hummers?

We bummed some smores ingredients from my dad and the marshmallows he had were twice the size of regular marshmallows.  Totally unnecessary and way too big for smores!  My solution was to roast it, eat the outside layer and then roast it again for use on the smores.  Taking one for the team, I am.

Paul was not as interested in smores as he was in his "vitamin water".

We ended up having to cut our trip short (more on that tomorrow), so we didn't get to cook all of the meals we had planned.  This fancy, nutty rice was a hit, though. It had instant brown rice, pecans, pine nuts, currants, saffron threads, vegetable broth, garlic, onion and parsley in it.  I think the saffron really made it shine.

Our second morning at camp was picture perfect, so we climbed down from our site to the water's edge to have our tea.  All of my senses were satisfied by our time on the rocks.  I paid the price with a sunburn, though!

We had a little friend join us or maybe we joined him?  You can see the face of a woodchuck peaking out from the rocks in the upper right of this picture.  He was sunbathing, too.

Tomorrow I will share our hike with you and explain why we had to come home early.
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