Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress


Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:54 pm on Monday, September 28, 2009

Hello again!

It’s been a rough few weeks here. I’ve had some big changes forced upon me recently, and they’ve included being sick and still recovering.

We’d been fostering a pair of mature, intact male rats for a few weeks. Their names are William and Carlyle. They weren’t housed together, because Carlyle, while a sweet rat, was much younger and somewhat aggressive with 18-month old William.

William was an absolute cuddle-bug. A black berkshire with unusually long hair, and a speckling of white hairs throughout his coat, his favorite thing was just to hang out on my shoulders, neck, and chest, laying down and getting skritched.

We were, in fact, very close to adopting William. But then something came up.

Over the weeks that these boys were with us, I was having worse than usual problems with coughing and allergic reactions. With my new/old laptop, I was even spending much of some days in my bedroom all day to rest and recover.

I think that the bedroom time cleared my allergies enough that I was finally able to identify a distinct exposure/reaction pairing. After being in my bedroom for the day, I went and collected William for snuggle time.

Within minutes, I began coughing, my eyes were puffy and watery, and my nose was running. I was having an allergic reaction to William, with all his grown-up hormones and the buck grease of a un-neutered male rat.

This was an unexpected and startling turn of events. We conducted experiments. Exposure to Carlyle, a 7-month old un-neutered boy, did the same.

Then the heart-breaking moment. I took Trixie out of the colony cage. A moment later, the cough began.

I’ve obviously lived with our rats for some time without noticing a problem. Apparently William and Carlyle, who were surrendered to Mainely Rat Rescue because of severe allergies in the owner’s family, were causing the same issue for me. And they’d tipped my allergic reaction to rats (which I never suspected before) over the edge into critical and highly sensitive ranges on the allergen scale. Gryphon tells me he was even afraid I was going to have an anaphalactic reaction if we couldn’t curb the problem soon.

We contacted MRR immediately, and the other foster home here in Wilton was fortunately able to take the boys in the same day. A decision was made that we would discontinue fostering as well, since our health issues were clearly interfering with our ability to take in more rats.

We have ten of our own rats: Marbles, Mia, and Bailey in their cage; Leonardo, Isabella, Laurel, Laura, Trixie, Dusty, and Toby in the colony cage.* At this point, we’ll be allowing the colony to downsize through natural attrition over time. It’s my hope that by then, I’ll be “de-toxed” enough from the allergies to be able to comfortably live with a few select rats at a time.

In the meantime, I am staying out of the living room as much as possible to avoid exposure to all ten of them for any extended periods of time. I am making a point of having one or two brought into the bedroom for me to socialize with every day. They clearly miss their Mom, but this way I can play and snuggle with them without becoming seriously ill.

This problem has inspired us to do a little rearranging in the house. Since I’m spending my days in the bedroom, we removed a small, but un-used, crafting table from the corner across from my bed. An easy chair from the living room was brought in, along with the Table-mate table that I can slide up to it for a working surface.

My bedroom has become a very Victorian-sounding “bed-sitting room”. I can now spend my days comfortably sitting in a good chair, with my laptop in front of me, a television at a comfortable viewing distance, and my knitting at hand.

Concurrent with all this, I discovered an interesting group on Ravelry that resonated with me. Called “the cave”, it’s for people who, like me, have always considered themselves something of a hermit. We get along well enough with the outside world when we need to, and even seem very outgoing at times. But our highest and best happiness comes from being able to completely cocoon ourselves, isolated from outside distractions and having to interact with people.

I’d already been coming to grips with the fact that Gryphon and I are now, for all purposes, retired from working. It was a struggle for me to feel like it was okay to do nothing meaningful to the outside world all day, not to do work that produces an income. I was accepting that this is how our life is now, I don’t need to produce an income (though we are still pursuing a disability declaration and subsequent benefits for me), and it’s okay for me to spend my day doing whatever I want.

Then I found “the cave”, and added an extra dimension to my new reality – I accepted and embraced the fact that, all my life, my true nature has been to be the hermit, to spend my time alone at home doing things that please me, and to avoid having to go out and interact with people. Being officially retired, it was now okay for me to do this, too.

I’m not cutting myself off altogether. I have balanced my hermitude by making more contact with friends. I phone just to talk, and I am making a point of getting together with one or more for lunch every week. But it’s been immensely pleasurable and relaxing to sit in my room, fiddling with the computer, or knitting and watching a program.

More than ever, I am daily achieving that immersive state where you are totally involved in what you’re doing. You know it – when you finally look up and notice the clock, you are startled by how much time has passed without you even realizing it. This is a level of relaxation that I haven’t felt in years, and it feels good!

So, no more foster rats, but we still have our own. There is some hope that I won’t have to give up rats completely. I’m embracing a new paradigm where I am achieving more relaxation, and better personal progress on knitting and other crafts.

The blog will stay “Of Rats and Jen”, but obviously, the focus may shift a bit. A little more back to the knitting and crafts, perhaps. Just wait until I tell you about the new, elaborate, challenging  KnitPicks kit I started working on last week!

Don’t worry about me, friends; I’ll be okay. Change is stressful, but this change is leading to a new, less-stress reality. I hope you’ll stick with me for the ride!

*Dusty and Toby are new additions as of a couple of months ago. They were surrendered by a friend in Manchester who realized that, due to health reasons, she needed to downsize her colony to a single cage. Dusty is a petite, sweet, Pink-Eyed White (PEW) girl, and Toby is her burly PEW (neutered) boyfriend. They were introduced to our colony the day they arrived, and got along great right from the start. Though Toby and Laura tend to squabble like an old married couple…<g>

I Think I’m Turning Japanese

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Ravelry,Second Life — folkcat at 5:20 pm on Monday, October 1, 2007

Many thanks to everyone who offered their good wishes for my migraine recovery. I hope you’ll understand why I didn’t respond to everyone individually. It wasn’t for lack of appreciation of your thoughts, that’s for sure, because I truly am grateful that you all care.

As I said, I really don’t get much of a headache – mostly the visual symptoms and some mental fogginess, along with fatigue and some nausea. Recovery from this doesn’t require a very dark room and silence as much as it does for other migraine sufferers – it can be enough to reduce my mental input by not trying to do too many different things in a given day. That gives me the rest I need to get over the neurological symptoms and clear my vision.

So, I spent the weekend watching television, and playing on Second Life. More of the latter than the former, actually. And it was good, I got a lot of things done in SL, and enjoyed the time I spent there.

In fact, I made significant advances – Genna Lunasea now rents a nice piece of land on the island of Ex Nihilo. I’ve got an ocean-front, corner-of-the-sim lot, so I’ve only got neighbors on two sides. I’ve put up a house, and am starting to work on the garden. Lots of my weekend was actually spent shopping – trying to find the perfect garden plants, an appropriate new outfit, and more.

Japanese Genna
Genna in the Garden

Yes, Genna is turning Japanese. Sort of. I actually like how her very non-Japanese hair looks here. Long time readers will remember that I have a fondness for all things Japanese. That turns out to be a craving that’s easy to satisfy in Second Life. There are many Japanophiles – and actual Japanese – in this virtual world, and they’ve created gorgeous Japanese objects for every purpose you can imagine.

That’s my house you see behind me. It’s a two-story bushido style dwelling, with decorated screens, and a balcony. I’ll get some pictures of the interior once I’ve furnished the place.

In this photo, I’m standing in the zen garden that I installed for Gryphon. I went to a lot of trouble to terraform the yard to fit, lay out the stones and cushions, and do a little planting around the other side. Then Gryphon decided he need property of his own, and bought the two lots on the other side of my house! He’s now setting up a nice little zendo with a meditation garden there.

So, all that work for naught, but then, now I get to have the garden the way I want it. Which so far, includes the first object I’ve built for myself – a koi pond, complete with animated fish swimming around under the water lilies.

Second Life is down for what they call “rolling restarts” today, so pictures of some of these things will have to wait until I have a chance to go in again. I’ll be sure to share some images when I can, though!


Not a stitch since Thursday night. The migraine Friday, plus all the Second Life activity this weekend, kept me away from the needles.

Luckily, I did make progress on Thursday night that’s worth showing!

WIP - Desert-themed Entrelac Bag for Christmas 2007, Side 1WIP - Desert-themed Entrelac Bag for Christmas 2007, Side 2

For the first time, it seemed worth showing the bag with the top edge at the top, the way it will be viewed in the final, felted piece. And now that I’ve gotten this far, you can really start to see this abstract desert landscape come together.

I’m currently on the ever-decreasing rounds of squares that make up the bottom of the bag. Then I need to knit the two long I-cords for the handles. I think I need to get more yarn for that, though. I used every scrap (well, except for a 14 inch piece) of the blue, and I think that’s the color the handles must be.


I got a message on Ravelry from a reader who had stumbled across me there while looking for patterns, and it made me realize that I haven’t mentioned my Ravelry account here on the blog since, well…practically since getting it.

Yes, I’m on Ravelry – you can find me there as CraftingJen (That link will only work if you’re a Ravelry member). I’m not logging my stash there, but I am occasionally queuing something for future knitting. And I am tracking progress on current projects. Don’t worry that you’re missing anything if you’re not on Ravelry, though – except for one or two gifts for people who read this blog, there’s nothing shown at Ravelry that you aren’t seeing here.

Other than that, I’ve wound up joining 10 different groups, from entrelac fans to rat lovers to Panera Bread knitters. There’s even one for knitters who play Second Life – and I think we may be snagging a few new SL’ers there.

My one big disappointment is that it isn’t easier yet to add books to the library section of my notebook. I see organizing my knitting books as one of the biggest advantages I’ll get from Ravelry, but so far, you can’t add a book unless it’s already in the system. And it seems to be very hit or miss whether, even if the book is in the system, you’ll strike on the exact version of the title or the author that will call it up. I look forward to this feature getting some attention down the road.

If you’re not on Ravelry yet, but want to be, do go sign up – www.ravelry.com . They’ve got their new servers up and running, and they’re adding new members at record speeds, so it shouldn’t take terribly long now. And once you’re in, be sure to look me up!

Coming Tomorrow to both Crafting and Shopping Jen:

My review of the new Fiona Ellis book, Inspired Fair Isle Knits.

Ravelry…Maybe Yes

Filed under: Ravelry — folkcat at 3:46 pm on Wednesday, August 8, 2007

As promised (are you here, Casey?), I’ve continued looking around Ravelry. And I think I’m starting to see things that could be useful to me.

Organizing books, for instance. It’s a relatively undeveloped feature thus far, but you can add books that are already entered in the Ravelry system into your Library. Other tabs on the page suggest that one day, you’ll be able to indicate which books you’ve actually used, and which are needed for projects in your “queue”.

ETA: Further study – I realize now that the “Used” and “Needed for Queue” tabs will actually list books based on their being associated with projects you’ve done. Or plan to do. So it’s an automatic thing. Okay!

This feature will help me a great deal, at least once it’s fully functional. I probably don’t have as many knitting books as others among you, but they’re still a lot to keep track of.

I tend to acquire a lot of books at yard sales and thrift shops, so I often have out-of-print titles. Being able to add any book to the Ravelry library (let us upload our own cover image, for instance, and add all the publication info from the title pages) would go a long way towards making this feature truly useful to me.

I’ve also been browsing both the yarn and patterns sections. And was quite surprised to find that they could be helpful to me as well. I know I said I don’t like to take my ideas from what others are doing, but you know what? I realized I could sort, say, all the Shawl/Wrap patterns by “Favorites” (or “Popularity”, or whatever they call it), then go to the last page of the results, and browse backwards. Sure, many of the least favorite patterns are at that end of the list for a reason. But many of them are very nice projects that simply haven’t been knit very often.

I love it when I can knit something that appeals to me, but which hasn’t already exploded all over blogland. Finding a less popular pattern that I find attractive feels like discovering a hidden treasure. Score another point for Ravelry!

Looking at the patterns, too, I realized that I have sometimes rejected a pattern at, for instance, Knitty, because the photos with the pattern page didn’t appeal to me. But looking around Ravelry, I could see 20 or 30 examples of what others have done with the same pattern – and often, they look much better than the photos at the source did. At least one pattern has gone into my Queue this way already.

So, see? There really is hope for Ravelry after all.

I can think of one other thing that would really turn things around for me, for certain. Except that I don’t expect it can happen for a long, long time: open Ravelry to other crafts besides knitting and crochet. That’s part of the problem for me – Ravelry is so focused on two crafts, but I’m a multi-crafter who does so many other things. Knitting is only a fraction of the crafting time I spend in any given week. If I could use these same organizational tools for all my crafts – cross-stitch, needlepoint, weaving, quilting, beadwork, and more – I guarantee you, I’d be on Ravelry every day.

Given that the development of the Ravelry project is still so young, I don’t expect to see such an expansion until at least Phase Two – or even Three or Four. But I can dream, can’t I?

Revelry, But Maybe Not Ravelry; Done Pixelating, Still Socking

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Daily Life,Knitting,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:49 pm on Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It’s my birthday! I turn 47 today. No, I don’t mind saying that – the fact that I’ve lived another year on this planet doesn’t bother me.

Birthday presents so far:

  1. The nice, big, new cage for the Rattie Sisters. I wanted to do right by them so badly that I considered it a birthday present that we put money into that purchase.
  2. Two books from Amazon: More Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, and World of Knitted Toys by Kath Dalmeny. Browsing these two titles has been a delight, and I can’t wait to actually try them out.
  3. A nice, take-out dinner from Wok-Wok, our favorite local Chinese restaurant.
  4. Spider SpudMr. Potato Head: Spider Man Spud. Found this on a clearance table at the local supermarket, actually. I found the concept amusing enough, but was going to pass on it. Until I saw these words on the front of the box: “Includes Peter Parker Parts!” For some reason, that just sent me into a fit of giggles!

    Gryphon still thought it was a whimsy that would just gather dust. But then, I showed him this image on the side of the box:

Spider Spud Storage Compartment

That’s right – Spider Spud can pull his web, his costume, even his Peter Parker Parts, out of his butt! Well, it was a done deal at that point. Spider Spud came home with us, Peter Parker Parts, Butt Compartment, and all!

Online Knitting?

The jury is still way out on Ravelry. I know everyone out there loves it. But now that I’ve had a chance to look around, I just don’t think it does anything I need. I don’t have a need or desire to hyper-organize my stash. I can find what needles I have without having to go to my computer, log onto a website, and click through menu options until I get to the needle chart.

I keep track of my WIPs and FOs on my blog, fully documenting them there. I have plenty of online social interaction with knitters and other crafters through the blog as well, and I have several real world gatherings I go to every week.

If I’m planning a new project, I’m not much influenced by what other people have done with the pattern. Same thing if I’m trying to decide what pattern to use with a yarn – it doesn’t matter to me what other knitters have done with it. I’m not a follower, I think outside the box and make up my own route.

There’s a message system – okay, fine, but what if I don’t log in to Ravelry for weeks? I realize that may seem impossible to fans of the site, but if Ravelry isn’t offering anything I have a need for, I’m not likely to log in every day just to see if anyone message’d me. And I have yet to see a means for e-mail notification that you have messages.

So, I just don’t know. It doesn’t appear to be worth my setting up any of my own data there, I just don’t have a desire for that type of organization.

Ravelry is good and useful for the sort of people who thrive on online social networking sites. I just don’t think I’m one of them. I’m not going to close my account, but I may not use it much.

ETA: Just want to make it clear, while the above doesn’t sound very promising, I still haven’t given up on Ravelry. I may yet find something there that works for me, you never know. It’s just that most of what I see so far hasn’t given me an “Aha! I’ve been needing this!” reaction. But then, not all sites can be all things to all people, right?

Weekend Crafting

I finished it!

FO Pixel Hobby: Native American Dreamcatcher
Native American Dreamcatcher, from PixelHobby-USA

The last pixels were put in place on Sunday night. Next step is to use clear packing tape on the back to bind all these baseplates – there are twelve altogether – into a single panel. Then we’ll back that with foamboard, and put it in a frame.

Dimensions on the image are 12 inches high, by 20 inches long. This will make a striking centerpiece on one of our walls.

Having pixelated to a conclusion, I picked up the current pair of socks again. Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3, Sock 2 (SG:P3S2). Only did a couple of inches – I was watching some distracting shows (Design Star, Hell’s Kitchen, Who Wants To Be A Superhero?), and kept putting the knitting down. It didn’t help that I found a knot in the yarn, either (Regia Brasil). It didn’t break the color sequence, just shortened one of the segments, but I’ll have to remember to go back and weave in those ends later.

SG:P3S2, Half the Foot

Now that the Pixel Hobby picture is done, I’ll be picking up the mini-hexagon quilt again. Stay tuned for progress on that front!

How to Occupy A Hyperactive Rat for (Almost) Four Minutes

Filed under: How To,Rats!,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:39 pm on Monday, August 6, 2007

Hello, everyone! I got my Ravelry invitation this morning, so I’m going to be exploring that site today. I’m still a little unsure what parts I’ll use, so I need to think this over some.

For instance, I have a flickr account, but I don’t really use it because I have more than sufficient capacity for uploaded photos at the server that hosts my blog. Connecting photos to my information at Ravelry will require a duplication of effort on my part – upload photo to blog, then also upload it to flickr so I can link it at Ravelry.

And no, I’m not going to start just uploading to flickr and putting the photos into my blog posts from there. I actually don’t like the way flickr photos present themselves in blog posts. If I want to click through to see the image larger, flickr loads way too slow for my taste.

Plus, there’s a good chance that, given the limitations on a free flickr account, I’ll have to upgrade to the pro level account ($24.95/year) if I do Ravelry right, too. I know that may not seem like a lot to many of you, but there are no savings to pull it from, and cash flow could keep it from happening for a long time.

So I’ve got some thinking to do, with regards to how I want to use Ravelry. Meanwhile, you can find me there as CraftingJen.

Being so occupied myself for now, let me distract you from the lack of other crafting content with a quick tutorial!

How to Occupy a Hyperactive Rat for (Almost) Four Minutes

The following took place between 8:48 p.m. and 8:51 p.m.

1. Allow rat to crawl into empty tissue box through opening on top.

Tissue Box with Rat Inside

2. Place tissue box on table, with opening on bottom.

Lola Escaping Box 1

3. Watch as rat escapes through an opening of their own creation.

Lola Escaping Box 2
Okay, a little off this edge down here…

Lola Escaping Box 3
Gonna have to clean up this top edge a bit…

Lola Escaping Box 4
Still a little too tight…

Lola Escaping Box 5
Ah! There we go!