FO: Marettimo Sweater

The last few weeks have been full of air alert days; smoke from the fires in the western states and Canada has given Colorado breathtaking sunsets and trouble for people with lung issues like mine. The cats and I have hunkered down inside and surrendered to good books and great knitting. Okay, that’s me; the cats have settled for demanding salmon and lots of attention. Thankfully there are some naps, too. Seriously, this isn’t really a hardship when you consider how devastating these fires are for the communities and agencies battling them. I hope that things improve soon for all those impacted by the fires, and in the meantime I’m staying busy inside. Just look at the sweater I finished yesterday!!

Marettimo Sweater.
Isn’t this just a perfect sweater for summer? Cute, but fast and easy knitting for warm indoor summer days.

This is Marettimo by Caitlin Hunter. The minute I saw it I knew that I needed to make it! I was just finishing up a Tegna sweater (also by Caitlin Hunter) so I knew I would like the comfy shaping of this sweater too. Bam! Before I had finished the Tegna I was stash diving and hunting for yarn that I could use for a Marettimo.

Yarn for sweater.
Look at what I found! All of these were already in the stash (left to right): Indigo (Chasing Rabbits), Solis (Malabrigo), and Marina (Kim Dyes Yarn). I had to buy one more skein of the Chasing Rabbits yarn, but for the most part this was a stash buster.
Lace detail.
You can see haw all three yarns are used in this lace detail at the bottom of the sweater.

I had just bought a new tablet from Amazon and enrolled in Audible books, so I listened to a couple of books while I stitched away, and in two quick weeks I had finished another couple of Maggie Hope mysteries (by Susan Elia MacNeal) and the sweater. I like Maggie Hope: intrepid British spy and math-loving code breaker in WWII settings; right now she is undercover in Berlin carrying out a dangerous mission… see why I’m knitting at a blistering pace? In case you are wondering, the titles that I’ve been reading are Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy, and now I’m sailing through His Majesty’s Hope. I’ve already scored the rest of the books in the series from the library…

Yesterday I finished weaving all of the ends in and popped the sweater on over my clothes. Not a bad fit, considering…

Finished sweater.
It will look so much better when not layered over another shirt. Still, pretty darn nice! My project notes for the sweater are here.

This afternoon smoke is filling the sky again and I have been digging through the stash with the ever helpful MacKenzie. I have more yarn out and have cast on the next sweater, and would you believe that it is ANOTHER Caitlin Hunter design? I can’t wait to show it off!

Have a great weekend everyone.

Evening edit: Look at what I found after watching the evening news which had an article about the air alerts from smoke and ozone. This interactive map from AirNow has lots of info about air quality and how to stay safe.

Fires: Current Conditions

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Mixology Mayhem and Two Good Books

I’ve been wanting to make a Mixology (by Casapinka) for quite a while. One night I printed out the pattern, shopped the stash, gathered up some yarn, and casted on with a sense of reckless abandon. Great yarns, great colors, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would look as I mixed them up in the shawl.

Yarns for shawl.
Look at these happy colors. Won’t these be a lot of fun in the mash-up of Mixology

Okay, I have to be honest here; I just don’t do any swatching. Ever. I’m lazy. Maybe I need instant gratification. Anyway, I like to just throw the yarn onto my needles and launch into the project. Besides, how could these colors not work out?

Knitting
The knitting has a lot of colors changes at the beginning. So far, looking good! MacKenzie: cat toy!! 
Knitting.
As I kept knitting I began to question my choices. Gee, the pink is awfully bright and the yellow variegated yarn isn’t really pulling its weight. Where did all of that green come from and where did the blue go? What can I actually wear this thing with in my closet? I should have asked myself that sooner, but in my defense, I was seduced by the yarn…

I ripped it off the needles and recycled all of the yarn. I was pretty cheerful about it. I had just bought a few new items for my wardrobe in indigo blue and thought that I should build a Mixology that would go with them. Back into the stash I dived…

Yarn for shawl.
There. Don’t these look like they would like to play with my new denim jacket and dress?
Knitting.
Here it is. Mixology 2.0. I love the colors. My best friend said something about it being dark, but I had faith in the colors to come. I went out to look at the shop sample to see how the whole color sequence would work out.

The shop sample was a lot smaller than mine. Like 6 inches smaller across then my knitting. Oh, oh. I was first drawn to the shawl/scarf because of the size of this sample. If it is too big it won’t work right. I checked my needle size and the pattern again. Yep. I was using the right needle. Then I checked the gauge. Holy smokes, who ever checks the gauge on a shawl? Well, it might have been nice if I had…

My best friend Deb helped me rip it all out. She’s fearless that way, and is know for her ripping (and cutting) episodes. Hmmm… what a good opportunity to make some yarn color changes. Since I just happened to be in a yarn shop…

Yarns for shawl.
Behold: Mixology 3.0. I added a couple of Baah! La Jolla yarns that added more variation and bridged the red and blue a little better.
Knitting
I went down a needle size and I’m exactly at the gauge that I want. I just love how the colors are working together. It’s a keeper!

I’m approaching the half-way mark on the shawl now and the colors are working out great. I’m going to get a lot of use out of this, and I learned a lot while going through the process. As you can guess, it has taken several weeks to work my way through the different iterations of the Mixology, and there were some big breaks where I just lost myself into a book for an evening and let the knitting sit in a corner to think about what it had done for awhile.

Books
Meet the knitting break books.

I read a lot, and I’m doing a reading challenge at Goodreads. With a sense of optimism I committed to reading 50 books this year. Book after book, week after week, I have been chomping my way through mysteries, science fiction and popular novels. I rate all of the books at Goodreads, and they almost always get 3 or 4 stars (out of a possible 5). I usually like all of the books that I read, and they certainly keep me entertained, but I long for a book that is well written, with characters of real depth, and a sense of magic. I don’t want to know where the book is going before I get there. I want to feel impacted by the book. I want 5 stars!

Well, during the various Mixology melt-downs and knitting breaks I found two treasures lurking in my Nook and on the bookshelf. Two remarkable books that deal with death and loss, family dysfunction, grief, crisis, and the eventual coming into their own of the young people who make their way through the emotional storms in each book. Seriously, I’ve been up half the night with each of these. I had no idea that they would deal with similar  subjects, but somehow I launched into them back to back, and will treasure each book for quite some time. Here they are: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  I highly recommend both of these books.

You know, I did all of that knitting with yarns from the stash (until I got to the last version of Mixology), and both of those books have been with me for months. I need to toss the house to look for other treasures. I wonder what is in the fridge, although things abandoned there are usually dangerous. Still, I’m feeling really hopeful as I write this. I’m going to poke around in the kitchen as soon as I finish this. Chocolate. I bet there is chocolate down there.

Cat peaking from under blanket.
Yellow Boy: and maybe you could find us some cat cookies while you’re own there!!

Have a good rest of the week everyone.

Good-bye 2016: The Year in Review

Good grief! Where did the time go to? Just a few minutes ago I was trying to remember to write 2016 on things, and now it’s gone? Why is it the days fly faster the older I get? Anyway, it appears that 2016 has gone out the door and I need to pack up the memories… Struggling to cope with this evident reality I flipped through the pages of my notebook, looked at some stats, flipped through the picture gallery, and discovered that actually 2016 was a fairly productive (but politically horrifying) year. Let’s look at what was accomplished:

  • I completed 28 knitting projects this year!

    2016 Knitting Projects
    It was a good year for shawls, mitts, sweaters and cowls. Very few socks were produced. Sorry feet!
  • 55 books were read! Now, you don’t want to see all those books, right? That’s what I thought. My favorite, however, was Babylon’s Ashes. What can I say? I’m a geek.
  • I wrote 56 posts that received 6,705 views. The post that was most popular this year (sorry MacKenzie) was Farewell Summer, Hello Drachenfels, a post that I wrote towards the end of 2015.  Actually, I posted three times about my Drachenfels shawl in 2015 and all three posts continue to draw regular traffic. Hey, this is one yummy piece of shawl wrap-me-in-your-wings heaven. Here’s the completed item.

    Shawl
    I’m in love!
  • I started several sewing projects, bought fabric for more, and finished ONE quilt. Oops. Guess I have some finishing up to do in 2017.
  • I ended up the year with several knitting WIPs, 83 items in my Ravelry shopping cart, and 20 projects in my Ravelry queue. Must knit faster!!
WIPs
The year ended with these WIPs. I finished the socks already, but I am still working on a cowl, a small shawl, some more socks (the pink cuties at the top middle) and the second black mitt. Piece of cake, right? Should be done by the end of the week… You can probably tell that I have trouble judging time when knitting.

Last night I cast on my first new project for 2017. Sorry little WIPs. I promise that I’ll get you done in time, but I HAD to start a new sweater. It’s cold outside. I crave new yarn and I must have it.

Happy 2017 everyone.

 

Update: Knits, Quilts, a New Book and Cold Cats

It has been just crazy hectic here the last two weeks. I have been driving to doctor appointments, cleaning the house, running errands, and staying pretty darn busy getting stuff ready for Christmas. This week I’ve been chipping away on several Christmas makes (with lots of cat help), and while the list of things I’m making seems endless, I finally got several things done all at once in the last couple of days. Finally, some progress! Check it out.

Shawl
I finished the Jujuy Shawl that I’m making for a cousin. I was told to use bright colors; this should definitely fit the bill. Ravelry notes here.
Mitts and Book
I also got these Akiko mitts done while I was reading a book. These babies are made with Anzula Cricket yarn and the cashmere blend makes them feel really yummy. This is the second pair of these mitts that I’ve made. I wasn’t happy with the thumbs on the first pair so this time I moved them over onto the palm of the mitt. Ravelry notes here. Looking at the tops of the mitts they look misshapen and thumbless, but if you turn them over…
Back of mitts
…there they are, tucked away on the back of the mitt. I moved the gusset over 6 stitches on these; I’m still fussing about these thumbs and may do a third pair with the thumb moved 4 stitches… This is a illness, but I prefer to call it a mitt study. 🙂
Table Runner.
I also got this table runner pieced and ready to quilt. The pattern, Waffle Time,  is really fast and easy to make. I bought the fabric last year and finally got going on the stitching this month. Did I mention that I have another table runner and a quilt to get done too?
Fabric close-up
See how cute these fabrics are?

I just want to say that all this crafting wasn’t easy at all since the weather turned dangerously cold for kitties this week and I couldn’t let them go out for more than a couple of minutes at a time. MacKenzie has been especially crabby about the turn of weather events. This morning when I got up it was -10 degrees F and the ground was covered in snow! Yikes! No way could the cats go out in that!

Annoyed cat
MacKenzie: Do I look annoyed? Yes! I would like to speak with whoever is in charge of the weather. This is completely unacceptable.
cat on shawl
MacKenzie: If I can’t go outside I should be able to help with the knitting, right? Yarn chomping time!! I mean, what do you expect a bored cat to do?
Cat
Yellow Boy: Yarn chomping is so yesterday. I prefer to sit on the pattern and stare at the Mother of Cats until she gets me some chicken to eat. If I can’t chase bugs I should have chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken!! Did I mention that I can stare for a LONG time?

When they aren’t yarn chomping and staring at me (sitting on the pattern, of course) the cats have insisted on sleeping on top of me. These are big cats! The little one is over 15 pounds, and MacKenzie is a whopping 18 pounds of dead cat weight.

Book
Luckily this new book was published this week so I can read while serving as a cat bed. Oh, my goodness. This is the latest book in my most favorite series ever, The Expanse. I watched the first season of the television show made from the books last week to warm up for the release date, and as soon as the book was available in the early hours of Tuesday morning I downloaded it to my NOOK. 

I really do love these books. I even blogged about them. I like the characters, the political/social situations created as people move onto other planets and into space, the science is good, the pacing of the plots is excellent, and did I mention that it is SPACE OPERA?!! Hello, Science Geek! Here’s the previous posts about these books:

This new book is the 6th in the series. I didn’t feel compelled to blog about the 5th book, but this latest book has really hooked me back into the story. All my favorite characters are back, the story is moving right along, and there has got to be a space battle coming soon.

Thank heavens it is cold out. What a wonderful excuse to stay inside to craft and read. I may get all of my Christmas makes done on time this year. The cats will get more attention. I will get my book finished lickety-split.

Cat
…and I will get more chicken!! 

Thanks Polar Express.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Darwin’s Garden

Over the last two weeks I have had a crazy case of synchronicity going on. Several random events, totally unrelated, unsolicited, but absolutely linking to a theme of… genetics! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. If you are a total geek of the biology type (me!!) it has been a couple of fun weeks. Here’s what went down.

The Gene
One of my favorite authors published his new book. Hello summer reading!!

I’ve been spending my mornings outside in my garden swing reading and drinking a latte with the cats. It has just become the best part of the day for me. Two weeks ago the book of the mornings was this one, and I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying the narrative that weaves genes, history, evolution and personal experiences linked to the author’s genetic heritage together. A wonderful book. A topic that is close to my heart after years of teaching cells, genes and evolution to many, many students. Everyone, in my mind, should know enough genetics to navigate safely through life. While I was reading this picture arrived in my phone:

White squirrel
Yep. That is a white squirrel for sure!

I sometimes get calls from friends and neighbors who have biology tales to share. This picture came from someone who was excited about the “albino” squirrel hanging around his home. It has been running through the trees and chasing another squirrel along the fence so I told him it was probably not an albino, but a white squirrel as it seemed to have good eyesight. He didn’t understand that there is a difference, and therefore sent a picture to provide proof. We got on the phone and finally ironed it out with a little Wikipedia help and some genetics review. Now he’s waiting to see what color the pups will be. It’s an urban experiment!!

After the call I put the book away to start on a little gardening. What garden was next on my list? The one that I call Darwin’s Garden!

Overgrown Garden
That poor little rose bush that is getting swarmed by other plants is my Charles Darwin rose. 

As coincidence would have it, I had just read about Darwin in the book. Time to start weeding! Looks to me like survival of the fittest is a little out of control at the moment…

Plant
I call this Darwin’s Garden because of the rose, but also because there is a lot of natural selection going on. I move plants from other locations to this one and basically let them fight it out. The clear winner is this plant, and I have no clue what it is!! It is spreading everywhere, has tall spikes and little purple flowers that will emerge soon. When I started weeding a lot of this plant got ripped out!
Groundcover
Well, look at this. This ground cover type plant has been growing underneath the spiky plant; I don’t like it all that much, but the plant said “whatever… this is Darwin’s Garden, bitch!” I let it stay; with an attitude like that it deserves a chance. I also found snapdragons, columbines, roses, and some iris. There is a butterfly bush that is swarming some rose plants, but I decided to let them just fight it out for now. 
Johnny Jump-ups
These Johnny Jump-ups have been growing in the rock border by my driveway out front. Since they are escapees from the flower container they belong in I decided to dig them out and move them.
Rooting Hormone
I dipped the roots into this rooting hormone and then popped them into Darwin’s Garden. Let’s see if they can take on the purple spike plant! Maybe they can slap the ground cover plant while they are at it…
Flower in new location
Here they are a week later in the garden. Transplant was successful.

Here’s the next crazy coincidence: that rooting hormone is a type of auxin, which was first discovered by none other than Charles Darwin!! No wonder the transplant to Darwin’s Garden went off without a hitch. Every single one of the plants I moved made it.

Rose
This week things are looking a lot better in the garden. The Charles Darwin rose even bloomed.

Last week I worked at Camp Macusani (which is a whole other post) so the garden suffered a little. Tomorrow morning I will return to the garden swing, my book, and Darwin’s Garden. I’m thinking of moving some angelica that is out of control in there too… Maybe the purple spike plants will be blooming so I can post a picture. If anyone recognizes them, please let me know what they are… Right now I’m calling them Darwin’s Bane.

I’m finally up to the part of the book where we’re getting ready to start genetic engineering. For a biogeek with a molecular biology degree, this is heaven. I can’t wait to see what Dr. Mukherjee is going to say next.

Summer is for geeks!

 

Outdoor operations

The weather has really warmed up and stabilized this week; sun, heat and no thunderstorms; just what I needed to make my aching muscles and joints behave themselves. This week has been a good one and I took to the backyard for most of the afternoons. There’s a lot that can be accomplished outside. Let me take you on a little tour of my days.

That's right!
MacKenzie: when she says that she took operations outside what she really means is that I was forced to share the swinging garden chair with her. Does she not understand, June is for cats?!!

The shade of my locust tree covers the lawn swing and a couple of the gardens. What could be better for a person with a latte and an incredibly good book?

The City of MIrrors
The aforementioned book…

I’ve been consumed with the Justin Cronin novel, The City of Mirrors. Oh, my goodness. What a well-written, tightly-crafted book to spend the summer afternoons with. I read the first two books in this series and I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to dive into a book of over 700 pages to learn the fate of mankind in their battle against the Zombie apocalypse, but the reviews made me take the leap and I pushed the “buy” button on my NOOK. Good decision. I keep highlighting passages that are just so wonderful I want to savor them later. I usually race through good books but this is one that I am stretching out so the experience will continue. The perfect June book.

After an hour of reading the knitting begins. Check out my progress on the Solaris shawl (by Melanie Berg).

 

Shawl
I’ve gotten through the first two color inserts in the shawl. To get a different color in the short row section I pulled off some yarn until I was at a new section. Fast, easy, simple.
Colors in ball of yarn
and I still have some great (crazy) colors in the ball to use. Project details are here.

I’ve also taken some weeding breaks. The little roses in my tea rose garden are now blooming, and I have gotten the weeds pulled out of another couple of patches. There are a lot of weeds, but everything is getting ready to bloom so I’m pretty motivated to keep at it.

Rose
The bloom on this tea rose is just great; really big for such a small plant.  This was one of those little roses that are sold at the grocery store. I put them out in the garden when they look a little worn out and they winter just fine here in the Denver area.
Mess
Here was today’s project. Do you see the rose plant in there?
Rose
Oh, there it is!!

Towards the late afternoon as things really warm up I water the flowers and gardens and head inside for food, the news and more knitting (bet that was a shock, huh!) Even the cats are ready to come in by that point. OK, they get kitty treats for coming in, but they would probably come in anyway… especially since I just watered all of their favorite plant nests. 🙂

Outdoor operations have ended for the day.

Tomorrow I am going to attack another garden!

Have a great weekend everyone!!

 

Rocking the Week #6

Here is my crazy week with a lot of picture support.

Bee on blooms.
Last Thursday I went to the first appointment with palliative care. On the way in from the parking lot I had to walk under blooming trees. Look! The first bee of the season. 🙂 You know, it was hard to get this shot with the phone camera… I think that I entertained some of the other visitors to the clinic while I chased this little guy around.

I’m pretty sure I’ve flunked out of palliative care. Here’s the problem: I need someone to help me manage my overall medical care (since I have six different doctors at this point…) but they don’t really do that. They do help people with serious end of life decisions and provide medical options to ensure their comfort; I got some great advice and then they kind of turned me loose back into the health care stream. I’m kind of a catch and release palliative care patient: they will call every three months to check on me, but basically I’m doing pretty well. I have a serious illness, but I’m not yet seriously ill enough to really justify taking up their time. I’m already doing a lot of the things that they encourage patients to do (and so do all of you, too.) It’s really important to do something that helps with stress like meditation (or knitting, spinning, and weaving!) and they told me to start keeping a journal (Oh, you blog? Never mind! Just carry on with that, they said.) Really, it was encouraging. They told me to use the inhaler as much as I want and to go to more frequent appointments with my primary care doctor. Check. I can do that. 🙂

It is good to think about end of life decisions, though. Here’s how I reacted: I called my kids (and grandson) and told them that we need to all go to Walt Disney World for a fun vacation. We will ride the Monorail, buy Micky Mouse ear hats, go to the Star Wars attractions, and it will be wonderful. I’m also systematically cleaning out all of my junk from cupboards and the garage. Does anyone want my Great-Aunt Alice’s set of crystal platters? How about a classroom set of homemade DNA models? A well-used heavy duty 3-hole punch? Right. All those things are out of here!!

Hummus
Friday I decided to go wild and made homemade chickpea hummus using the recipe from fellow blogger Ros (Cooking Up The Pantry). I cooked the chickpeas in my crock pot for 6 hours on low, and then everything went into the food processor. Oh, my goodness! Several days later I am still eating it with veggies and warmed flat bread. Yumm!! All of the food Ros has in her blog is to die for. Seriously. I would knit for her for food.
Weaving
I’m still weaving on the dishtowels. I’m getting towards the end of the warp: this is the fifth towel in the set. Weaving is really quality time for me. I worry about the plot of the book I’m reading, come up with my grocery shopping list, and dream up new patterns for fingerless mitts. Once I’m in the zone it is like magic.
Pansies.
The last two days have been warm and I’ve started clearing out the flower beds. Look! Pansies that survived the winter!
Phlox
and of course the Phlox has started blooming. I have a big bed of this and it keeps sending out satellite colonies of phlox all over the yard.
Shawl
Not only did the phlox start blooming, I got the Waiting for Rain (by Sylvia Bo Bilvia) shawl finished. The colors in this yarn look just like the phlox to me. This is a perfect springtime shawl! Here are my project notes on Ravelry.
Edge of shawl.
Isn’t the yarn yummy? this is LYDIA sock yarn in the colorway Garden Party. I added a picot edge to the bind off. 
Book and knitting
Tonight I’m working on my Snowfling Mitts again and reading my current book. The suspense in the book is just killing me. Every few chapters I have to take a little knitting break. 🙂 If you can’t read the title that is Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline.

It has been really nice this week; warm and sunny with blooms and bees. However, this is Colorado; we have a winter storm warning posted for tomorrow because a humongous storm is roaring in to dump huge amounts of moisture for the next 5 days. Seriously. I’m wondering how many inches of snow is made by four inches of water. The storm is the big story on the news and each update reports it to be building in intensity from the last report. Yikes! Maybe I should pick up speed on the mitten knitting.

That’s OK. I have hummus, books and yarn. I am all good.

Have a great weekend everyone. If you should happen to see a snow shovel, think of me.