The Saturday Update: Week 27

I know, I know, it really is Monday. Whew. What a week. There was a serious wildfire just south of me early in the week and the smoke came my way. I HATE SMOKE!! To be more specific, I go into a flare of my autoimmune diseases every stinking single time there is air pollution due to wildfire smoke. I have trouble breathing, my joints swell, I hurt all over, rashes appear.… you get the picture, huh. By the next day the fire was out, I was drugged up, and by the end of the week I was better. I cleaned the house, worked on projects, and looked forward to a little (I do mean very little) barbeque dinner on the 4th with one of my sons. This was a big deal as I haven’t seen my children since this whole pandemic started since every single one of us is high risk.

It poured rain. Ugh. Refusing to be daunted by a little rain we grilled the steaks in the garage with me carefully sitting upwind. Dinner was wonderful anyway and I was so happy to hang out with my son. He took off right before dark to head home as he had to work the next day and I began to clean up.

Then all hell broke loose! My neighbors, lots of my neighbors, began to set off fireworks. These weren’t innocent little firecrackers, but huge, booming, highly illegal skyrockets, that were being launched from homes all over my neighborhood and my poor little house was kind of in the eye of the storm. After the house was hit by falling debris I went outside to watch for fire. There I was, ash raining down on me, sitting on the driveway, shrouded in smoke, stunned by the deafening booms. Unbelievable. My son texted me later that his drive across the Denver Metro area through the fireworks barrage was an incredible, once in a lifetime, experience.

By midnight a few fireworks were still going off and I was already feeling dizzy and sick. Yesterday I was unable to get up, but today, after prolonged kitten attacks, I’m back on my feet slowly getting some chores done. Hopefully, by this evening I will be able to knit again as the swelling goes down in my arms. Happy Birthday, America. I’m kind of ashamed of you right now… and while I’m wagging my finger at you, let me just add… WEAR A MASK!!! Seriously, you might kill one of my children!! Stop with this “my rights are being violated” nonsense!

There. I feel much better.

Knitting

The accomplishment of the week was getting knitted Maya all fluffed up and finished.

Look at that face! Maya the knitted cat is now almost as fluffy as the original.
I gave her a total body fluff job that left her with a tail almost as fluffy as the original. This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland, and my Ravelry notes are here.

I was going to put more fluff on the back legs that went a little bit into the white socks, but I ran out of yarn and energy as I got down to the tail. Still, this final version looks much, much more like the original cat. My son took this knitted version home with him for the wild ride home under the skyrocket sky. Have a nice life, knitted Maya!

I’m also working on making some fingertipless gloves by adapting my little fingerless mitts pattern that I use to churn out mitts every winter.

I’m trying to write out what I’m doing while I knit, but I had to redo one of the fingers THREE times and then realized that I should have been smarter when picking up the stitches for the fingers. Hey, it is a process.

Isn’t that yarn cute? It’s from the stash and I started out with 50 gram of it. It remains to be seen if I will have enough yarn to make the second glove, though, but that’s okay. This whole thing is an adventure; when I’m done I’ll have a pattern that fits my hand like… ahem… a glove! The base pattern that I’m adapting is my sweet & simple vanilla mitt pattern, and this yarn is Baah Yarns La Jolla in the January 2018 colorway.

Garden

It’s hot outside. Thunderstorms have blown the petals off most of the roses. Life is hard in the garden right now, but the mini-roses that wintered in the house under grow lights are starting to bloom again.

It’s a little crispy around the edges, but it is trying! That rosebush is at least three years old and has survived its transition from outside to inside and back again over three winters. Pretty good for a $4.99 grocery store rose, huh!
Books
I read this for the book club this week.

One thing about taking it easy this week, I got some reading done. I finished another science fiction book and then started Never Have I Ever for the book club (Zoom) meeting this week. If you’re looking for a book with lots of twists and turns that will hold your attention, then this is the book for you! The book is about the members of (get ready for this…) a book club that picks up a new member from a rental home on the block. The new woman in the group is a flaming sociopath who seizes control of the club, starts a game designed to learn secrets and develop leverage that can be used against the other ladies of the group. Not nice! Especially if you have secrets that you need to keep secret!! Thus launches the cat and mouse game between our heroine and this evil interloper as the two women maneuver to secure their advantage over the other.  Our girl has to keep her family safe,  figure out who this evil monster-of-the-block is, confront her own past, make restitution, deliver retribution, and somehow disarm the monster while saving the day. This really was a twisty book that I devoured in one day.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

The Saturday Update: Week 26

Week 26?! Do you realize that we are now at the halfway point for the year? I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been just horrendous so far. I do hope that it decides to straighten up and fly right for the second part of the year…

There has been a lot going on for me this week, but I think that I will just start out with the Hannah update. Hannah, who is almost certainly the last kitten that I will raise, is turning out to be the perfect mix of all the cats I have loved in the past. She is affectionate and attached to me, easy to distract and train, smart, talkative, and fearless. She ignores the plants and hasn’t gone after my knitting all week!!

She is particularly fond of little stuffed toys that she can fling around and carry from room to room in her mouth. 

Okay, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. She climbs into the refrigerator and dishwasher every time I open them.  She started climbing the screen door and curtains today. She pestered me to wake up this morning because she wanted me to turn off the oxygen machine so she could play downstairs… I’m hoping that that doesn’t turn into a thing! Still, I am so happy to have my little buddy now that it appears that Covid-19 won’t be going away any time soon in my part of the world.

Knitting

I’m making some progress on my socks! The first sock is done, and now I’m cruising through the second sock. I’m focusing on small projects that I can quickly stuff into a project bag because… kitten!!

Look at how much progress I’ve made!
I really like the way the knitted fabic looks!

I love the stripes so much that I’ve been daydreaming and trying to work out how to knit tipless gloves by adapting my usual fingerless mitt pattern to put on the half fingers. Wanting to maximize the amount of leftover yarn I dug through the stash and located the purple yarn that I’m using for the heel and toe portions of the socks. I’m pretty pleased with the look, and now I’m wondering how to incorporate the purple into the gloves. My Ravelry notes are here.

Garden

The week has been one of gloomy afternoons and thunderstorms. Luckily I haven’t had damaging wind or hail, and the roses continue to strut their stuff. My Princess Alexandra of Kent rose in particular continues to shine.

This rose is a David Austin English rose and I keep thinking that I should get some more. My neighbors and I fixed the fences this summer, so maybe those new fences should have some climbing roses planted near them. Something to think about. I really like yellow roses…
Books

I finished The Mirror & The Light this week. I hardly know what to say. This is a rich, rich book that will continue to haunt me in the weeks to come and I may need to read the entire Wolf Hall trilogy again. Maybe it is because I am entering my fourth month of isolation, and I have lots of time on my hands to reflect on things, but the richness of the characters and the subtle connections of the past to the present as the story plays out, but never really ends, are just astounding. Cromwell ponders on how images painted in the past bleed through new paint to show in the present as he remembers violent actions in his past.  Memories of his years as a soldier rise as he marches into meetings and dinners. Near the end of his life, imprisoned in the Tower of London, he recaptures that transformative moment, broken and bloodied in the street, when he abandoned his childhood to launch on the path to who he was now. At the start of this book one of the standout lines is, “if you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?” At Cromwell’s own beheading there is a sense of truth and transition again; I was dreading the end of the book, but you know what, it was actually hopeful and a befitting closure to a great life.

After a book like that, what next? Science fiction, of course! I launched right into a fun little space military opera that is a three book series and I’m happily working my way through it.

There are a number of characters who are slowly being developed and connected as the story line progresses. There was a war. One planet lost. The losers are suffering under harsh peace treaty stipulations. There is some type of rebellion brewing. I sniff corporate greed and political machinations on the horizon. Must keep reading…
Quilting

Look at this! A new category just appeared again. This week has been kind of tough on me joint-wise, and I have finally made myself admit that I need to lay off the knitting for a while. Okay, my joints are really kicking up a fuss, and my shoulder is the biggest complainer. Sigh. It’s like all of the tendons and ligaments are under attack at once, and my drugs aren’t keeping up any more. I’m already on a lot of drugs, and in the world of Covid I’m fearful of getting steroid injections into the worse joint complainers because it increases my immunosuppressive load. Scleroderma, you need to behave yourself!! Anyway, I need to lay off the knitting, so I dived into my endless stash of “projects that I want to make someday” and…. pulled out a really cute art quilt!

This is the first block of an eight block quilt. 

This is the first block to build “Calling Me Home” by McKenna Ryan. The picture is built by tracing the pattern onto little bits of fabric that are then fused together. No sewing at all until I get the whole quite top put together. I’m thinking that my shoulder can handle this…

All of these little bits of fabric, to be exact.

It’s like an adventure! All I have to do is figure out which little fabric bit goes with what. Luckily I have that picture to help guide me. This is going to be a little like building a jigsaw puzzle! I hope that Hannah behaves herself while I’m cutting all of the pieces out.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

The Saturday Update: Week 25

What a week this has been. I have a new kitten, we broke a heat record this week, and then there were a couple of days of cold and rain. The garden came through all of it in good shape. The kitten has already wrapped me around her little paw. The Covid-19 pandemic is calming down in my state, but the states around us are experiencing skyrocketing numbers, making me feel like we are in the eye of the storm. This is the  evening of the summer solstice; the shortest night of the year. Momentous days continue.

Knitting

During the cold days last week I struggled to stay warm, especially my arms. I cleaned out the yarn room and kept looking at the left over yarn from the Sweet & Tartan socks that I made. Gee, I really liked those yarns while knitting the socks. You know that I had to make arm warmers…

I decided to just stripe the yarns instead of making the tartan pattern using the two main colors of the socks. I added the bright pink I-cord to the socks after casting off. My Ravelry notes are here.

The pattern for these arm warmers is Armelitas  by knitcats Designs. I have to be honest: I didn’t hunt up the pattern this time but just went with the general memory of the pattern and kept making adjustments as I went. I tried to write what I did into the notes on my Ravelry page.

The finished arm warmers are a big hit with Hannah…
These arm warmers are longer then others that I have made. I can pull them up above my elbow or just let them bunch up around my wrists. Either way, these will be warm and really handy later on when I’m cold.

Do you see the knitted Maya cat that I’m holding in my arms? She was there for the picture because I’ve been working on her adding fluffy fur to her the last couple of days while listening to my audiobook.

She needs her new fur brushed out, but I’m trying to not handle it too much until I’m done so that I don’t pull too much of the mohair out. She is getting really furry, don’t you think? The original cat is extremely fluffy!!
Garden

Things are exploding into bloom all over my garden!! A couple of years ago I bought a few 6-packs of some bedding plants to put into the front flower bed along the walk up to the front door. They bloomed, and were okay, but amazingly they survived the winter and came back looking bigger and better last summer. This year they are back again looking just stupendous!! Ladies and gentlemen, let me present this year’s Dianthus and Dusty Miller combo.

Obviously these are perennial plants!

My roses are looking pretty good, too. I’m so happy that they are making such a good come back after the late hard freeze and high wind events of this spring.

My Cinco de Mayo rose is looking great. I just love this color.
The rose that is just thriving and covered with blooms is my Princess of Alexandra of Kent rose. Look at how many buds are surrounding this bloom. I usually don’t like pink roses, but this one is the perfect color.

The front roses are also blooming like champs, but how many roses can go into one post? I have to save some for next week. 🙂

Books

I am back to reading The Mirror & The Light. I’m not done yet, but I am entranced by the language and the building story. It is finally dawning on me that this book is about a great transition and upheaval in the power and social structures of England through the machinations of King Henry VIII and his right hand man, Thomas Cromwell.

I am finally at the heart of the story: Henry is the Mirror and the Light above all other princes, and Cromwell draws some power by existing in the reflected light. The corrupt practices of the medieval church are being overturned and the bible is being translated into English. The new churches will provide registries of all births, marriages, and deaths so that common people will have a recorded history. The roads will be improved as jobs are given to the needy. A comprehensive plan for the defense of England is being set in place. There is a big, over-reaching plan in motion here, and Cromwell is very aware of his limits. He feels the history of his time all around him, is burdened by ghosts everywhere he goes, and he is deliberately building the infrastructure, human and physical, that will need to be in place after his passing.  The past, present and future are continually coming together as Cromwell reflects and acts in the service of his and Henry’s vision for the nation. This is bigger, much  bigger, than I expected. I’ve been avoiding the end of the book because, well, things don’t end well for Cromwell, but now I’m kind of thinking that maybe they do…

 

Were you wondering how Hannah is doing? She follows me from room to room, and when I’m working downstairs she has found a little niche for herself on the bookshelf.

Hannah is turning into the easiest kitten ever to raise. She wants to be with me as much as she can, and just now is starting to play with toys in another room as long as she knows where I’m at. She sleeps through the night. She already has a favorite toy and rockets around the house with it in her mouth or tosses it around while she’s playing. She calls for me if she doesn’t know where I am. She is a huge chowhound and I have to be very careful when opening the refrigerator because she wants to climb in.  So far she hasn’t caused much destruction, but I have discovered that she can sever yarn with one chomp of her little kitten teeth, so knitting is happening really carefully. Luckily she naps a lot!

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

 

A Little Wednesday Sunshine

Actually, I am staying out of the sunshine today because it is pretty darn hot outside and smoky from wildfires to boot! Inside, Hannah and I are hanging out; I’m knitting and she is playing with a new toy on her cat pillar. I just want to mention that I can knit because there is a new toy hung from her cat pillar…

Five days after coming home from the shelter Hannah pretty much owns the house. 

There. Doesn’t that make you feel happy?

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: June is Scleroderma Awareness Month

Five years ago the course of my life altered forever when some blood test results ordered by my doctor arrived: the results showed that I definitely had two autoimmune diseases. Specifically, I was producing antibodies that were diagnostic for scleroderma and Sjogren’s disease. I was expecting lupus, so this was kind of a surprise shock. After a quick trip to Google to establish what type of scleroderma was associated with my positive test results I burst into tears. It was worse, much worse, then I expected.

The scleroderma diagnosis was the problem. Through an unbelievable sequence of serendipitous life events I was more knowledgeable then the average newly diagnosed patient, and I knew that scleroderma was a disease that impacted connective tissue, that it was progressive, disabling, and that there was no cure. This was a life-altering diagnosis, and I was in for a long fight that would last the rest of my life.

You see, I used to work in a rheumatology research lab, and I did research in scleroderma. I was a member of the research team that found the first identified antigen associated with scleroderma. I had visited scleroderma patients in the hospital. Later in my life I taught AP Biology and spent years trying to explain connective tissue to students.  It’s a type of tissue that we just never think of, but it is critical in organizing and operating our bodies. Connective tissue makes your skin elastic and strong. It organizes your muscles and makes up your tendons and ligaments. It is a critical layer in your blood vessels, and is part of the essential structure of all of your organs.  In scleroderma all or parts of this connective tissue is under attack by your immune system.

As white blood cells invade my tissues and attack this connective tissue it produces too much collagen in response. The built up collagen produces thick layers of tissue and scarring. My fingers look really swollen, but it is actually very thick hard skin. My skin is also getting really shiny which means that the collagen is hardening up and losing flexibility. Must knit faster!!

You can perhaps see that same thickness on my face, especially on my cheeks. It means that I don’t have wrinkles, but it is also hard to open my mouth, my smile is mostly gone, and I can’t turn my neck well. Crazy, huh.

That is the most ironic aspect of scleroderma: you look pretty darn good, especially if you are a senior citizen like myself, but you actually struggle daily with your illness. For many scleroderma patients their disease just  involves the skin, but for others, the disease is more than skin deep.

As it turns out, my skin is the least of my worries. The rare type of scleroderma that I have, systemic sclerosis, also causes scarring of internal organs. The muscles of my stomach and esophagus have lost function. My kidneys are damaged and I have chronic kidney disease (stage 3). My lungs are scarred and my diaphragm isn’t exactly happy any more. Part of my stomach herniated up into my chest this year… whatever was it thinking of?! My tendons are getting calcified due to inflammation and at least one has partially ruptured. My muscles are sore to the touch and I have bruises everywhere. I have nerve damage and trouble controlling my body temperature. It’s hard to walk. Blood vessel damage affects circulation to my hands and feet and I’m starting to develop open sores (ulcers)… There is a long list of diagnosed conditions linked to my scleroderma, but you get the idea. Pretty much I’m a walking limping train wreck. Well, a knitting train wreck for sure!

There is no cure for systemic sclerosis, but there are treatments that really help a lot. I am taking four different drugs to crush my immune system into submission; it’s a balancing act as I need my white blood cell count to stay high enough to protect me, but low enough to control my symptoms and prevent more damage. I take a drug to shut off the acid produced in my stomach so I won’t accidently inhale it in my sleep since the muscle barrier that usually keeps it in my stomach is now gone. I take a couple more drugs that help control inflammation, and some supplements that help with nerve damage. I’m on oxygen at night. All of these drugs/supplements have made a huge difference for me: my last lung scan showed improvement and my high heart pressure, the most concerning complication that I had, has returned to normal ranges. My kidney damage continues, but it has slowed way down. There is something funky going on with my red blood cell count, but you can’t win them all, right? The main point is that I continue to manage and live independently.

MacKenzie and I last year when I posted this online as part of the “Face of Scleroderma” campaign.

In short, I am a mess. And yet, to the joy of my doctors, I continue to do really well. Okay, I have blue lips, am short of breath, and struggle with tissue damage, but I also continue to thrive compared to other scleroderma patients that they treat. I have had to make many changes to my life, but I have found work-arounds and I still do things that I love. Attitude is all!

Well, knitting, the cat, and the garden are pretty darn essential, too!

So, there it is. What an annoying disease, right? How dare it make you look younger while shortening your life? How dare it do all of this invisible internal damage that makes people think that you are lazy or an attention-seeking hypochondriac when actually you view each day that you are able to leave the house as a personal victory? I’m in several online support groups and there are people dealing with crushing negativity like that. I can see how it can happen; it is so hard to understand something beyond your own experience that is hidden from view.

That’s why there is Scleroderma Awareness Month. It is hard to have a rare disease, especially when it is one that is hard to pronounce (Sclero… what?!). It’s harder still to have one that has no cure and a pretty high fatality rate (hey, with all of the drugs that I’m on my 10 year survival rate is now up to 80%!!). It makes you learn to laugh in the face of terminal complications while forcing you to take every possible precaution to avoid contracting Covid-19. It messes with your head; it gives you power, but it’s also strange and a little lonely.

That’s why we scleroderma patients share our journey with all of you every year so you can get a glimpse of our lives.

 

If you look harder you will see the signs of my scleroderma on my face. The small red spots are called telangiectasia and are symptomatic of my form of systemic sclerosis. The skin of my forehead is tight and shiny, my hair is falling out,  and my dimples are now buried under my thick skin. My upper lip is trying to decide if it wants to turn blue… 

I am the Face of Scleroderma.

Footnote: In addition to scleroderma I also have Sjogren’s Disease and fibromyalgia. The symptoms from these three diagnosed conditions overlap and always make things interesting in sorting out my treatment plan. You can learn more about any of these autoimmune disease by checking out the links in my post.

The Saturday Update: Week 24

Did I say that this was the Saturday update? No, no, no. This is the Caturday update!! As in, after weeks of submitting applications and trying to make the arrangements to get a kitten (with friends, neighbors, and family helping out) today I met my kitten and brought her home!

This is Hannah!

I actually scored a kitten earlier in the week, but decided to pass because the exchange had to be made in a PetSmart across the metro area that did not have mandatory mask requirements. I called the store to ask if the customers work masks there, and the man in charge of adoptions laughed at me. The employees don’t even wear masks in this store! Yep. It was a nice looking kitty, but not worth the risk. The Cat Care Society takes these things much more seriously, and they set up an appointment with me to come view kittens this afternoon. The experience was perfect and completely non contact!! Hannah is exactly what I wanted, too. She trills! She makes sure she knows where I am at all times, and she wants to sleep on the bed with me. She is playful, but not manic. She ignored the monster orchid. It remains to be seen how she acts around knitting, but so far she is 100% the perfect pet for me!

And she catches moths! Believe me, in Colorado this is a perfect cat attribute!

So, let’s see. What else happened this week? The weather was difficult with days of wild wind and thunderstorms. My symptoms flared and I spent a couple of days in bed. There was some knitting, but not that much as I mostly stayed in bed listening to my audiobook. Every time I start listening to an audiobook I fall asleep… It was quite the week, all in all.

Knitting
My Garter Snake Cowl is done!! I just love this piece! It is so long that you can just wrap it around your neck and secure with a shawl pin if you don’t want it way up your neck, or…
you can defend yourself from the cold by pulling it up over your ears and nose! I actually had a doctor tell me to never go out into the cold with my nose uncovered, and now is the time of masks, so this cowl is going to be double purpose as I use it to keep me and my mask warm in the winter! My project notes on Ravelry are here.

.Not only does this cowl go perfectly with my new V-Neck Boxy sweater, but it matches both of my winter coats. I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of this cowl!! The only other knitting was this: I got so cold this week that I cast on some new armwarmers that I am kind of inventing as I go along. Next week I’ll show them off.

Garden

The poor garden! The wind was so wild and the rain was so violent that there aren’t any petals on my roses that managed to bloom. The rose bushes took damage and I had to stake several branches and prune away others. I suspect that there might be some bug actions going on, too. Ugh. I noticed this afternoon that there is some recovery happening in the back so maybe by the middle of the week I’ll have something to show off. There is an English rose that I have high hopes for…

Let me offer instead this simple dress that I sewed using some batik fabric that I found in the stash. This pattern is Style Arc’s Montana Midi Dress. I’ll be lounging out in my swinging garden chair in this baby!

Style Arc is new to me, but I’m so glad that I found them on Amazon. I bought some other patterns that I will use to make simple summer capris and tops using more fabric that I have stashed away. Hey, if ever there was someone ready to stay home FOR MONTHS, that person was me!!

Oh, yeah. I killed an orchid this week too. I don’t want to talk about it, but it was one of my favorites, the rose gold orchid. 😦 It just goes to show that when a week decides to misbehave, it really misbehaves!!

Books

Sigh. Still reading. Nothing is finished. I had some trouble staying awake this week… Still, the weather has improved the last two days, I’m feeling much better, and there is a kitten who wants to hang out with me now. I’m sure to finish a book eventually.

This is where I usually close out and say…

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

but I feel like I should add that this is Scleroderma Awareness Month and I am racking my (scleroderma addled) brains trying to explain about this autoimmune disease that has turned my life upside down. It’s the reason (besides Covid-19) that I can’t just walk into a PetSmart to adopt a cat right now. Stay tuned. That post and one showing off a rose or two should happen in a couple of days.  In the meantime,

Have a great week, everyone!!!

The Saturday Update: Week 23

The heat arrived with a vengeance this week, and with it a lot of my energy went on out the window. Still, I made some progress on projects and it was a good week.

Knitting

I knitted like crazy at the start of the week on my Breathe and Hope shawl. If you missed it, I showed off a picture in my last post here. Then, after writing that post, I suddenly wanted to go back to the brighter colors of my Garter Snake Cowl and thought about how to add some fluff to my knitted Maya cat, so I shifted on over to those projects.

Maya

Do you remember my son’s cat Maya? She is an incredible fluffy tuxedo patterned Maine coon cat with lots of presence and even more attitude. I have been working on her knitted version for several weeks now. Last week I finished knitting her and showed off the pictures of the final knitted cat in my post last Saturday. I’ve been posing her around the house all week and kind of thinking about how I could add fluff to the knitted cat to make her look more realistic. I had moments of laziness when I would decide that she was just fine as a short haired cat. Then I would look at the cat again, posed on my bookshelf with MacKnitzie, and decide that I should enter into round 2 of cat creation with added fluff. Finally, today, I woke up energized to take the project on.

I cut lengths of mohair/silk yarn into three inch lengths, folded them into half, and then used a crochet hook to attach the loops to the knitted cat.
What do you think?

The work is going much faster then I thought it would, but there is a lot of cat that needs these little lengths of yarn attached. The final effect is so much more like the actual cat, however, that I am glad that I am doing it. I have the work arranged on a comfortable arm chair with good light in the front room and the plan is to work on Maya a hour or so every day until  have her done. Maybe by next week!

I am through all of the brioche in my Garter Snake Cowl and it is just garter stitch all the way now until I bind off. There is a trick to knitting this cowl that keeps it simple and the yarns tidy; you leave one yarn always in front of the work when you drop it to change yarns, and the other always goes in the back. It works perfectly, and the color changes are absolutely seamless.

Between the simple knitting of the cowl and the mindless attachment of the yarn to knitted Maya I’m finding that I have time to listen to some books on tape. Yay. I’m finally making some progress on my reading again.

Garden

The plants in the gardens are starting to look really good now. Perennials are in bloom, the roses are looking great, and my grass is looking mighty fine. I was looking forward to taking pictures today to show everything off… and then there was a high wind event and a thunderstorm that drenched everything and convinced me that I should take shelter in the downstairs bathroom for awhile.

My wooden bear was flung off the deck into the yard!

That bear is heavy! A wheelbarrow with rocks in it tipped over and my lawn furniture, even the wooden chairs for my outdoor table, went flying across the yard! I had been warned that the wind was coming so I did batten things down ahead of time, and for me the damage was minor. I do have a fence that needs to be fixed…

I can show off this pot of flowers that I bought this week. I had taken it safely inside before the wind came, so it is undamaged. 
Books

My book club met via Zoom this week, and it was kind of fun. We usually meet at a local restaurant, which is out of the question for me right now, but we all had drinks or food with us for the meeting and it almost felt the same. The book that we had selected was Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas.

Our June book club selection.

Catherine House was an immensely readable book that I just blew through in two days flat. It’s about an exclusive college with unusual rules: students can’t leave campus, have any personal possessions, or have contact with their parents and friends. Everything is provided, there are little limits on behavior, but the academic expectations are high.  There are strange traditions and weekly rituals that make team building exercises look like duck walks. The students have unlimited access to alcohol and lack social limits. Banishment to a reeducation center happens if you aren’t doing well.. Yeah. Things are not what they seem to be, and as you read what seems to be an endless account of student life that reminds you of Harry Potter without the fun magic, you realize that there is more, much more, going on than meets the eye. Something is really wrong with Catherine House, and our heroine is in danger… I just have to say that there are lots of characters that flit in and out of the story, and the plot is somewhat loosely constructed, so I think it was good that I was able to read this quickly; otherwise I might have been disgusted by endless academic life with little plot development and would have quit.

So what am I reading/listening to while knitting now?

I’ve started on the latest in a series of science fiction books that I like. I’m just a few chapters into this, so I won’t talk about it. I do have to say, however, that this audible performer, R. C. Bray, is excellent! 

I will mention that this series of books, Expeditionary Force, has gotten a little silly and formulaic, but the off shoot series, Mavericks, has captured my interest and I’m enjoying this book. 🙂

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Your Wednesday Sunshine: Breathe and Hope

I am an American. I live in an integrated neighborhood in a diverse city: we are in an uproar right now.

I am a biologist. We are in an uncontrolled outbreak of a new, highly contagious virus with a high fatality rate.

I am the daughter of parents who were raised in the Great Depression.

I am an autoimmune disease patient. My latest blood results just came in, and I am losing ground.

I can see the storm clouds on the horizon, but right now I am maintaining my peace and making plans for my future as I knit in the garden, surrounded by shafts of sunlight coming through the leaves of the tree above me.

There is a single, perfect, dandelion seed puff in the lawn…
and this leaf was on the ground beside my swinging garden chair…
as I knitted away on my current knitting project, Breathe and Hope by Casapinka.
Out in front of my house there are baby squirrels frolicking in the grass and my brand new Apricot Drift roses are starting to bloom. 

In the eye of a perfect storm, I am outdoors seeking peace in my garden with the sunshine all around me. In a little while I’m going to head into the house and do what I can to address the issues swirling around me.

In the meantime,

Get some sunshine for yourself, and

Breathe and Hope, people!!

The Saturday Update: Week 22

I’m going to just come right out and say that things are crazy, scary, and full of grief here in America. It’s hard for me to focus because there is a sense of history that compels me to keep checking the news. Where to start? At this point I am almost beyond words. Maybe I won’t even go there. Instead, let me offer you the good moments and snippets of joy that came to me this week. The leaves are out on the tree over my garden swing, and I can finally sit outside and read listening to birdsong. Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day, and all of my neighbors were out in their front yards working; I sat in the grass and “talked” to all of them as we shared our latest news. My neighbor next door and I call to each other over the fence these days… This week I tossed her a can of baking powder and a packet of “no contact” cookies arrived on my front porch later on. Instacart delivered all of my groceries to me and I discovered that 25 pounds of rice is a lot more than I thought it was! (Feel free to PM me if you need some…) My neighbor mowed and trimmed my lawn when I wasn’t looking and I snuck over and weeded out all of the weeds in the rocks along his house two days later. (Stealth yard work! I highly recommend it.) I applied for 3 more kittens this week, and SpaceX safely launched Crew Dragon into space this afternoon. See, no matter how bad things sound in the news, there are small moments of joy everywhere.

Knitting

Do you see what got done this week?

Knitted Maya is done!!

This is my last knitted cat for awhile. Maya, my sons Maine coon cat with attitude to spare and undisputed princess status in the home, is finally knitted up. Maya is excessively fluffy… I finally just settled on creating a cat with the correct coloration (using purple with the black for fun) and hoping that time will fluff her up if we brush her. Who am I kidding… the real Maya is too fluffy for words. She does love hanging out draped across the back of my son’s chair at his desk, so this knitted Maya took to the tree for her photoshoot.

Doesn’t she look great? This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland and you can find the project notes, such as they are, here.

The rest of my knitting energy has been going to the Garter Snake Cowl. I think that I am about half way done, and you can see that I am now in the middle of the transition from brioche stitch to garter stitch as I knit up the cowl. I love how these two yarns are looking together!

Looking good!! My Ravelry notes are here.
Garden

Flowers are popping out all over and the roses are right on the verge of blooming. The catmint has just gone crazy with the blooms and the bees are working overtime right now.

See what I mean? I’m pretty sure that this is a honey bee. Yay! So happy I could help out, little guy!
Here’s another shot because, seriously, what are the chances that I will get another picture like this while using a cell phone?
Books

Sigh. Still reading The Mirror & The Light. I can’t seem to concentrate on reading at the moment with all that is going on, but has that stopped me from buying more books to read? Nope!! I just keep adding them to my Kindle with the hopeful expectation that I will snap out of my inability to read and race right through them in a few days. My book club is meeting by Zoom in a few days so I have to get Catherine House finished before Tuesday. It’s 314 pages. I probably should start it, huh. After I water the plants, prune the roses, and maybe knit awhile…

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

The Saturday Update: Week 21

It was a really nice week. It was a warm and sunny week. It was a work in the garden week. It was a baking cookies week. It was, especially, a knitting week!

Knitting
I’ve made a lot of progress on the latest knitted cat project. This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland. My Ravelry notes are here.

Last night I got Maya’s ears and her eyes done. Now I have the white knitting of her tummy, neck and chin to do and then it will be time to sew her up! I have some idea of adding snippets of black yarn to make her have a longer coat, but we’ll see how that goes… I plan to start with her tail which is immensely fluffy. Do you remember Maya the cat? Here’s my first post about her.

I’m still fussing over yarns to knit a Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka. I finally decided to cast on with these two yarns to make a first shawl that I can use to learn the pattern. These colors are ones that I like a lot and will go with most of my wardrobe.
Here’s the problem: reading over the pattern I didn’t have a clear idea of how the yarns display in the shawl. I’m using these two yarns that I like but don’t desperately love to learn the pattern before I cast on again with the yarns that I love immensely…
These guys!! The plan is to double fade these guys as I work on down the shawl. Now that I’m working it I’m wondering if I can break the color changes by sections in the shawl. Stay tuned… I just realzed that I need to be weighing the balls of yarn while knitting the practice shawl…
I’m also making some good progress on my Garter Snake Cowl. I’m almost to the point where the garter stitch begins. My Ravelry notes are here.
Garden

Lots of weeding is going on and babying of plants that are considering whether they would like to bloom soon, or maybe just grow some more for awhile. Those darn plants! I try to convince them to do both at once but they just do whatever they want no matter how much food and fertilizer they get.

Today the first  bloom on my ice plant in the front flower bed opened. Yay! Soon there will be 5 feet of this blooming happiness along my front walk.
This snapdragon plant, a runaway from a flower bed, is now blooming like its life depends on it. Which kind of is the situation as this guy just appeared in a rocked section of the front yard. I’m watering and feeding it anyway because… well… just look at it! This one little plant is almost the size of the big tub behind it!
Finally, I am happy to report that my rose bushes, which were heavily frost damaged a few weeks ago, have all rebounded and are putting out new growth. This bush, a Home Run rose, was a big one covered with blooms all last summer. Last year’s canes are mostly lost, but there is an abundance of new growth coming up from the roots.. Yay!! I won’t be completely sure about what I have until this plant blooms, but I’m pretty sure it was not a grafted plant, so I should be getting the rose blooms that I want.

I’ve deep watered those roses every week using a big bucket and a tube to slowly siphon water over to the roots, and two weeks ago gave them a nice dose of fertilizer by the same method. Success!! Can’t wait to see the blooms.

Books

I’m still reading the treasuring The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. It is such a rich book with precise text and reflective sequences that I am reading it slowly. Also, did I mention that there are 784 pages? Every morning I make a latte and take the book outside with me to read while I enjoy the morning traffic in the back yard. Today there was a blue jay! Did I get a picture? No. I did not. I’ll see what I can do if he come back…

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.