Wednesday, January 25, 2012

sometimes life give you bad days

Last Friday, I found a pair of small lumps on Curzon's ribcage, midline between his armpit and his keelbone.  The icy weather kept me from taking him into the vet immediately, so his appointment was Monday afternoon to have them assessed.  Our vet looked at the lumps, checked his X-rays that were taken back in August, and sampled both lumps to send to the lab.  Yesterday afternoon I received the call with the results.

It's likely to be anaplastic osteosarcoma - bone cancer.

This cancer is not common in small/medium sized dogs, although it usually hits between ages 7-9 and as Curzon is 8 now he's right in the range.  Presentation as a tumor on the rib bones is also uncommon, though not unheard of, as this cancer usually affects the long bones of the legs.  I am hopeful that I caught it early enough that we can treat it before it metastasizes, and currently Curzon does not appear to be in pain so that is a good sign.  The lump is clearly tender since it was poked with a needle, but he's still romping around and playing and being his normal goofy self, so that is promising.

Today I will talk to the specialists at SVS and get him an appointment for x-rays, labwork, and assessment as soon as possible and hopefully today.  Once we know what we are dealing with we will move forward with our options to keep him as healthy and happy as possible.  If surgery is likely to give us a good shot at remission, then we will do our best to make that option happen; but if it is too late for that to be helpful then we will not put him through the experience.

There are many unknowns at this point, and that is the hardest part of all.  What I do know is this - I love my boyo with all my heart, and I will fight this cancer with him as long as he wants to be with us.  There are too many beaches to swim, frisbees to chase, and flyball heats to run to give up now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

from snowmageddon to icepocalypse

Despite the best predictions of the meteorologists, the winter weather continued throughout yesterday with both freezing rain/ice and additional snow.  We got a layer of ice early in the morning, followed by steady snow that put down another 4-5" or so throughout the day on Thursday.  This led to some interesting results, with all that wet heavy snow then encased in ice...

View out the back porch late yesterday afternoon, showing the (nearly) final extent of the snow. My estimate is that from Saturday through to Thursday night, we got over a foot of snow here at our house.  Certainly enough to keep us housebound for most of the week!

This is one of the crummy ugly semi-dead trees from the ravine, which started leaning threateningly over the driveway in the morning.  Usually you can barely see it behind the evergreens in the ravine, so it was way out of its comfort zone at this point!  We moved the truck out of the driveway just in case, and that turned out to be a good move because the tree came down around 8pm last night.

That's going to take some quality time with a chainsaw and a few trips to the dump to solve.  Thanks to Chris and our friend Brian, the driveway is passable on one side now (so we can probably get the Subaru out) and they're planning to take out as much as they safely can tomorrow.  I've already got a call in to the tree service we've used in the past to come take down the rest, as there's another small tree tied to this one which is beyond our skill to remove safely.  Additionally we lost a maple on the side of the house, though thankfully not the beautiful Japanese maple that grows next to and over our deck.  And of course, plenty of branches dropped throughout the night last night - nothing says "sweet dreams lullaby" like the gunshot sounds of branches snapping and falling to the ground below.

We also got some absolutely awesome icicles out of the storm.  Some of them were pushing 2' long or larger before they came down in the (relative) warmth and rain today.

I took some pictures from the laundry/cat room yesterday, and Onyx was very curious as to what I was looking at outside the window.  She is not impressed by snow, or really much of anything.

Both Chris and I have been working from home most of this week, and I'm very thankful we have the jobs, equipment, and managers to allow us to do so.  I'm not a fan of trying to drive in winter weather in Seattle, and I personally think it's prudent to just stay put and wait until it's gone unless there's a true need for me to go somewhere.  After I finished work today, I spent some time working on a baby quilt for a much-wanted little baby boy who was just born this week.  It's made from a fabric collection called Deep Deep Sea (with a few additions), and came with a panel of sea monsters that I've cut up to use as the centerpieces with strips framing each one individually.  I've completed 2 of the 7 panels, and done most of the work on a third so far.

 Completed and in-progress panels.

 Additional panels, cut strips, and uncut fabric.

And today I finished the second ball of yarn on my first knitting project, my simple garter stitch scarf.  I had to learn how to unknit to take out the last row I originally put in, as what seemed to be plenty of yarn only left a 3" tail which is not enough to weave in, or so I understand since I haven't done that yet.  I'm pretty happy that the knitting is nice and even, with another 9" of length gained from the second ball to match that obtained from the first.  I'm now halfway done!

I've also made biscuits for the first time this week, as well as a version of pain de mie, but I will save those for another post.  Dinner is just about ready - black forest ham and mashed potatoes - and I'm ready for it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snowmageddon in Seattle

Seattle isn't meant to get snow.  Between the steep hills, sharp turns, and sea-level elevation, the city is not equipped to deal with snow or ice and so when it happens every few years, things generally shut down.  Both Chris and I are lucky enough to have jobs where we can work from home (or vacation/sick time if we can't work for some reason), so neither of us have gone anywhere for the past few days.  I did go to work on Tuesday morning but came home around lunchtime to avoid any issues with the additional snow.

We got about 4-5" of snow on Sunday, followed by another 4" or so on Tuesday morning.  On Tuesday, Chris built a snowman - it has chuckits for arms and a tennis ball for a nose.
Ezri discovered the tennis ball nose and found that insulting, so she tried very hard to reach up and get it.

 Trying to play fetch with tennis balls in the snow doesn't work very well, so we threw snowballs at the dogs instead.  You can see the ball heading for Curzon's head just above and to the right of him in the photograph above.

Ezri also catches snowballs, then lies down and eats the snow.

 All the trees look like they've been dipped in confectioner's sugar.

This is the branch of the tree out in the kennel, visible outside my office window.  We got another 4-5" of snow yesterday, and it's been pretty sticky stuff so the trees are hanging onto it tightly.

I got tired of throwing snowballs, so I brought out a basketball to kick around in the snow.  Curzon loves this game!

Ezri will play too, if you can get her attention away from stalking Phoebe's tennis ball.

They're trying to tug on the basketball here...that didn't quite work according to plan.

Jadzia didn't like the snow very much this time - she seemed grumpy and cold the entire time I had her outside and didn't even want to look at the camera.  So I sent her back inside with Phoebe after just 15-20 minutes or so, and kept the other two out for a while longer.

Curzon, however, LOVES the snow and it sure does make it easy to take good photographs of him!

Phoebe spent her entire time outside playing with a tennis ball, as she drops it, digs it back out, chews the snow off of it, runs to a new location, and repeats the whole sequence.  I tossed her up into the wheelbarrow for more entertainment for me.

Picture of our snowy house and truck!  Of course Ezri had to shake right as I took the photo, so she looks weird.

Today will be more of the same, as we are both working from home again as the snow melted slightly yesterday afternoon and then froze solid, and the city is under a Ice Storm Warning until about lunch time.  The dogs are not very happy about having to punch through an ice crust when they walk outside!  Even all of the runways are shut down at SeaTac airport, which is pretty impressive as I don't recall that happening in the time I've been here.  So today we will stay home, work on our laptops remotely, and I will probably play with my buckyballs and knitting again.  I made a hexagon-based snowflake yesterday in honor of the snowstorm - pretty!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

comfort++ - a custom motorcycle seat!

It's been almost four years since I bought my motorcycle, a 2007 BMW F800ST which we got slightly used in early February of 2008.  In order to ride the bike safely and comfortably, I have been using the stock BMW "extra-low" seat, shown in the picture below.  While it is fine for my commutes, which are generally only 25-45 minutes at a time, longer rides are very uncomfortable because the padding available is quite limited due to the thinness of the seat, as you can see in this picture.

I've been looking at custom seats for quite some time, especially those from Rich's Custom Seats which is local to us in Kingston, but it was not until very recently that it was financially feasible to get one made. I called before Christmas and made the appointment for Saturday, January 14th - it's an all-day affair where I show up with my bike and leave with my custom seat at the end of the day.  So yesterday morning I got up way too early for a Saturday, hopped the ferry over to Kingston, and spent the day watching my new seat get made.

Since I can't ride an F800 (S or ST) without the extra-low seat, I took my original stock height seat with me to be converted to my new custom seat.  That way I still have the extra-low one available to swap out when I get a loaner bike if need be, as depending on how I wire the heating pad in the new seat it might be non-trivial to swap it around from bike to bike.  The first step along the way was for the craftsman working on my seat to strip off the cover and then Rich took a look at how it fit me - not well, as you can tell that from the picture below that I can't even get my feet down to the ground!  I can't even get the bike off the kickstand with a regular seat height...

The craftsman carved out a lot of the foam, added some better foam for shaping purposes, and there were two more short sessions with me on the bike to determine the fit that was required.

Once all of the measurements were complete and the seat fit was where it needed to be, the next step was to put in the gel pad and the heated insert.

After all of the modifications to the seat were complete, it was covered in a glued-down fabric, and was finally ready for the leather covering to be made.

While waiting between fittings, I looked through the leather options available with the help of another one of the craftsmen working there, and picked out a lovely purple leather.  It's a rich plummy sort of color, not quite the bright royal purple that is my favorite shade, but I think it looks great on the bike.

Yay for purple leather!

The shop has quite a few industrial sewing machines around, as a location that does custom upholstery would be expected to have, and it was very cool to see them being used.  This one was used by Rich himself (and is off-limits to everyone else!) to sew my seat cover from the purple leather shown above.  The craftsmen make patterns for each seat and then cut the pieces from the hide to match, but I won't describe it any further in case it is a trade secret.  It's pretty cool though!

Sewing the seat cover together - he used a dark grey thread to match my bike and French seams as the construction method.

Adding the vinyl edging for attaching the cover to the seat itself.  The vinyl has a cloth backing that helps the staples hang on to the seat much more strongly than if the leather was just stapled directly onto the seat backing.  No vinyl is visible on the finished seat.

View of the underside of the cover, showing the French seams and the pretty suede side of the leather - it wouldn't wear very well, but it sure would be pretty to have that as the outer surface!  They also had several options for piping available, but Rich steered me away from them since piping can add another way for water to wick into the inside of the seat (or be directed in an annoying way).  Given that I ride year-round in all weather, that would be bad!

I didn't watch the final seat construction, when the cover is stretched over the seat form and then stapled in place, but here is the finished seat in the shop!  I only took these two pictures at the shop because I wanted to make the next ferry back home in hopes of getting home before dark and before the snow got any worse.

When I got to the ferry I ended up riding over with a group of Harley riders from a motorcycle club, and that was pretty entertaining.  They were pretty enthused that I'd just gotten a custom seat from Rich and had to check it out while we were waiting on the ferry.

The snow during the day was not too bad on the roads, though there was some slush on the ramp between I-5 N and I-405 S, so I was doing fine until I got home.  I kept it very slow down the last street to my house, but our driveway had a good 2" of wet heavy slushy snow covering it.  I did not even try to back in the bike, but instead kept my feet down and let gravity move me a tiny bit at a time while riding the brakes - and I still almost dumped it twice as the wheels skidded.   Those are not good tracks to leave behind...though it's better than a sideways skid on the side of the fairing, I suppose!

Once the bike was safely inside the garage, I took a few more pictures showing the seat against the bike, and a close-up of some of the seaming.

I'm really happy with my seat so far, it was very comfortable for my short ride home from Kingston although my seating position is a little different that what I'm used to.  I am looking forward to getting a chance to do some longer fun rides this year - and hopefully now I won't want to cut them short like I did last year!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

end of holiday wrapup

Since I did not post in December, I never posted any pictures of our Christmas decorations.  This year I decided to go completely LED for outside lights, which caused a minor kerfuffle as it turns out that there were three different types of LED icicle lights, and finding enough sets of my chosen color took several hours and three stores.  We persevered, however, and now all lights outside except the rope lights outlining the sidewalk are LED, which gives a very pretty and "icy" effect.  This picture was taken the night we put up the Christmas lights, just after Thanksgiving was over.

We went to get a tree the second Friday in December, as we're always gone the first weekend to a flyball tournament.  This year we chose to go to a cut-your-own tree place in Woodinville, which is much closer than the farm out on I-90 we've used in the past.  The tree we got was very pretty, and the back of the truck still smells like fresh pine needles, which is a welcome change from the smell of stale tennis balls!

I did not buy any new ornaments this year, but we got two cute ones that are clear globes filled with "snow," tennis balls, and bones from the Christmas tournament.  And my best friend bought me the 2011 Swarovski ornament for my present - I am so thrilled, as I've always wanted to get one of these.  It's so pretty that I decided not to pack it away with the rest of the ornaments, but instead got a suction cup hook and hung it on the window in my office so I can enjoy it for the entire year.

The Christmas/holiday cards that we received this year were taped on the fridge, where they were easy to see and enjoy for the holiday.  They're still up there, as a matter of fact, although I will probably take them down this weekend.  The furthest-traveled card was from my college roommate who lives in Finland!  I do like sending out cards and letters every year, but this year we sent out about 60 cards and only received about 1, so that does make me a little sad.  I may trim down the list that we use next year to those who reciprocate or at least indicate that they have received and enjoy the cards.  There's quite a few families that I send cards to every year that we haven't heard from in several years, so maybe it's time for us to stop sending them cards as well.

Random question of the day - what on earth is causing my new(ish) smartwool socks to not only fade in the wash,  but to turn PURPLE??  The three pairs below all started the same color, the pale spring green of the top pair (anklets, so I haven't worn them since it's cold outside).  The second pair is showing some fading, but the third pair came out of the laundry purple this week!  Nothing else in the laundry was purple, and nothing is showing any sort of dye effect, so I think this is some weird chemical reaction with the dye.  I'm not particularly thrilled about it, though, it's not even a particularly nice shade of purple.

I made another egg pie this week, using up the last of the broccoli from the holiday food stash, along with some thick-cut bacon, local heavy cream, Tillamook cheese, and various seasonings.  This was the first time I'd tried broiling bacon in the oven, and it worked surprisingly well, although the cooking seems to speed up at the end so I ended up with some burned bits on my bacon.  No worries, however, as I had plenty for the pie and the dogs got to have burned bacon bits with their own dinner, so really everyone was happy.

Finally, there have been some really lovely sunrises the past few days, which I see every morning at work since I'm here before dawn pretty much all year.  The colors yesterday were especially pretty, although my cell phone isn't the greatest at trying to zoom in to frame a good shot.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

early January miscellany

Last night was the first fancy-ish sort of wing-it dinner I've made this year.  I took two pork chops (excellent meat from Skagit River Ranch that's been in the freezer for a while), and some carrots and baby potatoes that I also had in the fridge (the latter from the farmers' market as well).  I seared the chops on high heat in the Dutch oven with a little canola oil, and then set them aside (this made somewhat of a mess...glad I used the oven for that!).  Next I turned down the heat, added some olive oil, and sauteed a yellow onion and some garlic (also from the farmers' market), adding a bit of white wine that was in the fridge to deglaze a bit.  When the onions/garlic mix was done, I turned off the heat and set aside most of the mix to use on top of the pork chops.  Then it was just a simple layering of the chopped potatoes and carrots, already mixed with olive oil, salt basil, rosemary, sage, and garlic powder, followed by the pork chops on top (seasoned with salt) that were then covered with the onion/garlic mix.  I popped the whole thing in the oven at 350F for 45 minutes, and it came out great - the pork was a bit dry, but not bad, and that could be minimized by adding it in 15 minutes after the potatoes were started.  Plus there was only one pot and two cutting boards to use for cleanup!
On Sunday I finished knitting the first ball of yarn for my first knitting project - a scarf made from some lovely purple merino wool.  The dimensions at this point are 9" wide by 9" long, so that points to a finished length of 36" which is fine with me.  Last night I started knitting with the second ball of yarn, and after a mis-start where I was knitting with the tail and not the new ball (necessitating quickly learning how to un-knit!), it's moving along nicely again.  I loosely knotted the two tails for now, as I'll need to get someone to teach me how to weave in the ends, although it seems odd that will work since I have to pull on the ends pretty hard to get the knit stitches on the ends to tighten up properly.  Presumably whoever I find to teach me this skill will be able to explain it!

Last week Windstone put up a very small limited production run of silver Spectral Dragons, and after looking at my plans for my current bit of stock option money, I bought one.  He arrived yesterday, and he's gorgeous - just look at that reflective eye!  It looks purple in this picture with the camera flash, but it shows green, blue, purple, and other colors depending on the angle and the lighting.  I think he's absolutely gorgeous and I'm thrilled to add him to my collection!

And speaking of dragons, one of my friends put this up on my Facebook wall the other day.  I am highly amused, and totally in agreement with the awesomeist.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

new year, new stuff

So anyone who knows me for more than a few days knows that I collect dragons.  My husband gave me two lovely display cases for my 30th birthday, and they are both very full at this point with a few sculptures too large for them sitting on a small filing cabinet.  The other day, as I ordered a new Windstone dragon, it occurred to me that those sculptures are heavy and that I was starting to acquire a lot of them.  So I looked up the weight limitation on my cabinet - only 13lbs per shelf!  I was already over that for sure, let alone when my new one arrived, so off to IKEA I went on Saturday to pick up a new display case.  It is much sturdier than my original ones, has one more shelf (two if you count the wire shelf below the glass case), has a lock, and has a weight limit of 55lbs per shelf.  Excellent.

You can see the new case on the left and one of the original cases on the right in this picture, with my filing cabinet in the middle.  I'm very pleased with how nice it looks, and the bonus feature of having a lock is wonderful.  And it's definitely sturdier - nothing is moving when the dogs run in/out of the room, as opposed to the original case where I was about to start taping things down to avoid movement from vibrations.  The case that this one replaced will go downstairs to hold glassware for the bar, allowing my husband to put more booze in the built-in cabinets.

Close-up view of the top two shelves, showing my Windstone collection on the top shelf, and my smaller collections of Harmony Kingdom dragons and Pocket Dragons on the second shelf.  Also on the second shelf is a dragon bust made for me by a forum friend, a Welsh dragon sent to me as part of a sekrit santa exchange on that same forum a few years back, my Onyxia whelpling FigurePrint from WoW, and my Chinese chop dragon that my best friend brought back from China for me.

Also on the new front is a new shock for my motorcycle, which was installed Friday night and I was able to pick up the bike on Saturday afternoon.  Even better, the shop washed my bike for me while it was in for the service!  The bright purple coil just amuses me to no end, especially since I'll be getting a new seat for the bike (also in purple) next weekend.  And obviously the ride is much nicer, especially given that the old shock lost all of its oil when it was in for service in November, so I'm really looking forward to better rides now!

Another new thing is eggs!  My best friend and I have communal chickens, a tiny flock of three hens that live in a coop in her yard and that we got from a friend of hers who is leaving to join the Peace Corps.  We moved them back in December, and we weren't expecting eggs for at least another month or two...but yesterday when she opened the henhouse to clean it out, she found eggs!  Luckily it's been cool the last few days, and the sink/float test showed they were all good, so we are super excited.  And there was one more egg this morning, so it's not just a fluke!  I just got a dozen eggs at the farmer's market yesterday, but now I'm hopeful that we'll both have our "own" eggs from now on.

Finally, while I was at IKEA yesterday I found these duvet/pillowcase sets on clearance for less than $30.  I picked up this one in blue dots and set it up in my guest room - much more cheerful than the unrelieved plain black that was in there previously!  Perhaps I will get new curtains to match...we'll see!