The Saturday Update: Week 31

August. The eighth month of an unbelievably historic year. This has been the longest year imaginable, hasn’t it?! I have now reached the point where I check the phone before I get out of bed to see what happened overnight; I mean, what else is there? Alien invasion? An explosion of hurricanes? Horrific solar flare? I’m not sure that surreal is enough to describe current events anymore… I saw a tee shirt on Facebook that had a review of the year 2020 with only one star and the words: Very bad. Would not recommend.

Yeah. 2020, we still have 5 months to go. Behave yourself!!

Thank heavens I have Hannah to keep me anchored. You know how kittens are: feed me, play with me, pet me, party time!!

For me in my little world, however, things were pretty good. I’m still out of the flare and I’m getting lots done. The weather has remained cooler and there have been rain showers, so the garden continues to recover. Hannah is growing like a weed and is the best little companion. I’m pretty hopeful about this month. Please, August, be good!

Quilting

I’m cranking away on the new quilt and got another block done this week. May I present to you, bears!

This was a faster block to do then the one with the fisherman. This coming week I’m going to tackle a block with a moose walking through a forest.

This is an art quilt designed to hang on a wall. The name is Calling Me Home and the design (and kit) is from Pine Needles.

Knitting

All of a sudden I am getting projects done. Last week I finished my Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka, and this week I blocked it and did the finishing work.

It is blocked!

As it turns out this shawl is long and not deep at the point so it is challenging to photograph if the colors are subtle and the day is overcast. Please accept this indoor picture that kind of shows off the textures. I’m looking forward to using this as a serious layering piece in the fall and winter.

I also finished the Willow Cowl this week. You can see in this photo the picot hemmed edges and the alternating lace and stockinette sections; cleverly it also decreases as you knit up towards the neck.
The changing textures makes the cowl fall into nice layers when you put it on. My notes on Ravelry are here.

Are you loving my pandemic hair? I don’t know when I will ever get a nice hair cut again. 2020, you can start behaving yourself any time now.

Garden

The garden is recovering in the cooler weather and plants are growing like crazy (well, I did give everyone fertilizer…), but there is very little blooming going on. I can see buds on the plants, but there are some tiny beetles so I dosed the plants with soapy insecticide to protect the growing flower buds.  Maybe next week I’ll have something nice to show off…

Let me instead offer a picture of Hannah trolling for trouble among the orchids. Now that I’ve taken the ribbons off she isn’t using them for toys anymore, but she’s not above batting the roots and stems.
Books
The book picked by my book club this month.

I did finish off Mexican Gothic this week. I’m kind of conflicted about this book. There wasn’t too much about Mexico, but there sure was a lot of gothic in this book. You know, a plot where a young woman  travels to a strange, old and creepy house with silent servants and a graveyard for the backyard. That’s pretty gothic, wouldn’t you agree? The hosts are less than welcoming and the rules of the house are stifling. There is mold everywhere, the food is icky, and the cousin that our heroine has been sent to check on is strangely dysfunctional and hard to access. Along with the house there is also an old silver mine that has been the scene of numerous tragedies; many of the dead are in the convenient backyard graveyard. Did I mention that the family has a history of violent deaths? The sense of menace keeps building in the book until, unexpectedly, the book transforms into a full blown horror novel! Seriously, this was not what I expected, but the plot did hold together and I did finish the book. Not sure I’m recommending it unless you are a fan of the gross horror genre.

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 30

Are you ready for this? I’M OUT OF THE FLARE!!! Whew. I was starting to get a little depressed with the whole flare experience when suddenly I turned the corner and I was finally on the mend. I’m crediting the improvement to the change in weather here in Colorado: the monsoon started and we have had days of cooler weather with rain and absolutely no smoke. I’m up getting things done again, I’m eating real food, and life is good. Just in time, too, because this week has totally been the Hannah show.

You’re talking about me?

Suddenly Hannah is brave and exploring; getting into trouble everywhere. She climbed into the refrigerator. She attacked the orchids. She pulled my knitting out of a bag and ran through the house with it. She rushes through the door into the backyard each time I open it. She ambushes me from hidden locations as I walk by… and she helps me with all of my projects, of course. She’s pretty sure that I just exist to play with her, which is kind of accurate.

Quilting

Hannah and I have returned to the craft room where I’m working on a quilt and listening to audiobooks while Hannah bats at everything that she can and tortures the orchids.

I’m almost done with the first block of the Calling Me Home quilt by Pine Needles. This is the detail work on the left side of the block.

This is an art quilt that is created by fusing little pieces of fabric down and then stitching around each little piece when you do the final quilting. I still have to build a little log cabin and an eagle on this block, and then it is on to one with bear cubs climbing up a tree. This is so much fun! Hannah is having the time of her life and I have developed new levels of materials management.

Knitting

I am just rolling in knitting projects at the moment with 4 different WIPs going at once: two shawls, a cowl and a pair of tipless gloves. I buckled down and focused on one project this week; I finished the Breathe and Hope shawl today. It’s not blocked yet, but it is done!

Here it is, an unblocked heap. Still, you can get an idea of the colors and different textures that make up this shawl.

I was first drawn to the shawl by the corrugated sections which are actually mosaic knitting as you knit only one color at a time and slip the other colored stitches as you knit along. Between the mosaic sections there are blocks of knitting that are built on variations of garter and stockinette that feature knit below stitches. I kind of knew about “knit below” but this is the first time I’ve actually created something using them. They kind of mimic brioche, and I’m now a fan!

Sections of garter separated by K1, K1B sequences which build the lacy look of the variegated yarn.
Now that I’m done with the shawl I have to say that my absolute favorite part is this bind off with the knots inserted into the purl stitches of the K2, P2 ribbing. So cute!!

I still have those three other knitting projects to work on in the coming week, but I have to admit that I am champing at the bit to cast on another Breathe and Hope. Maybe one with brighter colors?

Garden

After weeks of hot dryness the garden had been struggling, but this week the cooler days and rain really turned things around. Plants are growing again and I think that there are some buds appearing on plants. I’m very hopeful of blooms to come! In the meanwhile, let me show off the bunny that has brazenly taken over the back yard and teases Hannah at the back window.

As you can see, this bunny is being pretty brave and has been cruising the back yard eating all of the plants that I have been nurturing for Miss Pitty-Pat’s snacks. Hannah is a fan of these visits, however, so it’s all good. Sorry the window is dirty… as you can see, it is at ground level and the rain splashes up dirt. On the other hand, if it wasn’t at ground level the bunny wouldn’t be looking in at Hannah!
Books

I’m still working my way through the science fiction series from last week, but last night I switched over to a new book for my book club. I’m not too far into it, but it is starting out strong.

I’m back in Mexico!

I lived for years in a city located right at the border with Mexico along the edge of the Pacific Ocean; reading this book makes me long for good Mexican food and the colors, smells, and sounds of the city I came to age in. I want a good taco!! Is it too much to ask for fresh fruit and ocean spray? Maybe a little barbacoa? Anyway, starting this book makes me remember the abandoned American Dirt sitting on my shelf. Guess I’m going to be in Mexico instead of outer space for the next week.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Footnote:

Where is this city that I’m waxing nostalgic about? It would be Imperial Beach, California. Here’s a shot I stole off Facebook of the street I used to live on…

Doesn’t this make you long for tacos, salty air, and the call of seagulls? Of course, classmates who had gone to Mexico City told me that our version of tacos was pathetic compared to the authentic, street cart versions they discovered there.

The Saturday Update: Week 29

Ugh. I’m still struggling with the heat and I’m STILL in a flare. I spent another couple days in bed, talked to my rheumatologist, and really didn’t get too much done. The nightly news is just awful (seriously, how much worse can 2020 get? Don’t ask!), Hannah has decided that all of the best toys are KNITTED, Covid-19 cases are surging in my state, and my doctor has re-emphasized that I am totally on lockdown. No visitors. None. Well, if they stay outside, keep their mask on, and stay 10 feet away maybe one of my sons can come… Sigh. My joints are not getting better, and it is still too risky for a joint injection. I have to admit to some sadness here… what good are doctors if they can’t just wave a magic wand to make you feel better??! There was, however, some good news this week.

My governor has ordered everyone to wear masks in this state. At last!! I went to the grocery store late this evening (which I am not supposed to do, but the kitten needed more food, and I absolutely needed cheesecake…), and every single person in the store had a mask on. People made obvious efforts to give each other space. Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone!! Don’t tell my doctor you saw me, okay, and thank you so much for being kind to me.

Also, the store had some cute orchid plants for sale, but more about that later.

Knitting

I started out the week working on my Breath and Hope shawl, but as the heat outside built and my flare intensified, I just wasn’t able to keep my attention on it. I decided that I didn’t have the brain power to work on my other glove either, so Hannah and I headed up to the yarn stash to see what I could find to knit some simple, mindless projects.

I forgot all about this yarn! I bought it to use with my latest V-Neck Boxy sweater. I decided to make a simple little cowl that would be small and easy to stuff into a Hannah-proof project bag.
I decided to make a Willow cowl. I always wanted to make one, and it would be simple to do as it uses a very simple lace with no chart. My project notes are here.

I has also found a great shawl pattern, Far Away Dreams by Joji Locatelli,  that starts out with lots of simple garter stitching. I had some yarn left over from a sweater that I knitted last winter, so I dragged it out and wound it up too. Hannah helped.

Yarn to knit Far Away Dreams shawl.
Yarns to knit Far Away Dreams shawl by Joji Locatelli. The pink will be the garter stitch interior of the shawl and the lace border will be knit using the pink and the gray.
It doesn’t look all that appealing in the indoor light this evening, but this pink garter is easy, soothing knitting that I’m cranking out with a little help from Hannah.
Garden

Yeah, I’m not going outside in this heat. Poor garden. It got some water and I’m pretty sure that it’s still alive, but that’s it. Let me offer up a poorly shot photo of my new orchid. 🙂

The light for this photo is just awful, but you can sort of see it. It’s a creamy white with beautiful purple and rose highlights. 
I was taking the picture really fast because Miss Hannah was all over the new orchids. They had tissue paper and ribbons on them… “new toys,” thought Hannah. I have those ribbons off the plants now!

By the way, I did notice that my potato plant in flourishing in spite of the neglect that happened this week. Figures. It’s growing taller than the dead rose twig coming up through the plant. I think that it’s growing to just spite me now.

Books
I’m back in Outremer learning all about King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Footnote:

What is this flare that I am whining complaining about? A flare is a surge of symptoms in both number and severity. In my case my constant fatigue gets a lot worse, my joints and muscles become pretty painful, eczema eruptions appear, and my gastrointestinal symptoms intensify. If I walk into the hot air outside I can’t breathe. Bad scleroderma, bad!! I’m on more drugs at the moment, staying on oxygen through the day, and surviving on yogurt and simple carbs. Next week has a better forecast and I’m looking forward to eating some great green chili!!

The Saturday Update: Week 28

My mom once had a year that was just horrible. She was in a car wreck that totaled her car. She took a terrible fall, broke her pelvis, and had to use a cane for a couple of months. Okay, she took the fall while roller skating: she was that type of mom! 🙂 While still using the cane she was struck by a rattlesnake that was napping under her car when she put her key into the car door to open it. The only good luck in this was that she had the cane to beat off the snake after it bit her. “Some years you should just stay in bed,” we teased her. What can I say… we kids were brats!

My goodness, but 2020 is really turning out to be one of those years! We all know about the pandemic, the lockdowns, the resulting economic downturn, and the protests against police brutality and racial inequality that are churning through our cities here in the US. Then there’s the murder hornets,  and the methamphetamine-crazed alligators (AKA Meth-Gators) in the American south. How crazy is this? I mean, I kind of expect earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters (seriously, at this point I am kind of nervous about the volcano in Yellowstone National Park…), but how much more crazy can there be in one year? I mean it: what would be the most outrageous thing that you could ever imagine on the 2020 Bingo card?

Did you guess Bunny Ebola? Bunny Ebola!!!

That’s right. There was a news alert that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, V2, AKA Bunny Ebola, was spreading through rabbit populations in Colorado on my phone this week. It’s highly contagious and fatal to rabbits; the alert had a lot of warnings for rabbit owners and people who might come in contact with rabbits… The bunnies above are the ones that live on my block and hang out daily in my yard…

2020, KNOCK IT OFF!!!!

Some years should just be spent in bed…

Knitting

It was hot this week, so I really stayed indoors and got some knitting done.

I finished the first tipless glove this week and am pretty happy with it, but I want to move the thumb gusset over a few more stitches into the palm on the left glove.

I had about 50 grams of yarn from the stash to make these gloves, and this finished one with all of the scraps of yarn attached weighs 23 grams, and there is still 27 grams on the ball. It’s going to be close! My Ravelry notes are here.

I also made some good progress on the Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka.

The Breathe and Hope shawl is designed with textured sections, each different, between the corrugated stripes sections. I’m getting better knitting the textured stitch sections; they feature knit-below stitches which are new to me so I need to pay attention to what I’m doing. Now that I’ve mastered the new hand motion I’m getting much faster and hope to get the shawl finished this coming week. My Ravelry notes are here.

Garden

It has been really hot this week with no rain. I mean, crispy leaf hot! The plants are all feeling pretty surly and there isn’t much blooming going on, and even less growing. Poor plants. The only thing that is even halfway interesting going on in the garden is the appearance of a potato plant.

What a sad little potato plant, right?! At least the bugs are getting a meal from it…

I didn’t want a potato plant. What I wanted was a new rose bush!! I tried to get a new Charles Darwin rose plant from cuttings in potatoes using this technique that I found online. Right. I now have two potato plants and not a rose in sight. Sigh. Still, they might be interesting in the fall… I think that these are Yukon Gold potatoes, which I like. The way the world is going I might be happy for these potatoes…

Books

I am reading the most wonderful, thought-provoking book this week!

This is the sequel to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, which was a good book that I just loved.

I hardly know how to describe this book. It’s clever and tech-oriented in a way that people much younger than I am relate to better, but I think I’m keeping up okay. Here’s the plot: there is a battle for the future of our species being waged between two envoys sent to Earth to save us; our team of heroes are working through social media, online cryptomining, and virtual reality with one of the envoys, the robot we met in the first book known as Carl, in an effort to secure the future that Carl is constructing for us. The alternative envoy has launched his own effort to mold the future of humankind while destroying the good guys. What’s in the balance? Free will. Carl would preserve it for humankind, and the other guy…  not so much. There is lots of action, and twisty turns, as we are told this story through the voices of the different participants of “Team Carl”. This book is very imaginative while also being timely; as the online war swirls around me over Covid-related issues (open the schools, wear a mask, testing, etc.) in my own community, I can completely imagine the path of humanity being determined through constructed alternative realities and directed messaging; in other words, you can transform behaviors through culture shifts instead of policy. What a thought provoking book!

Oh yeah, there is also a potato plant in the book. How weird is that?!

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Footnotes:
Hannah is 4 months old today! I’m just having so much fun with her. She really is turning out to be the perfect kitten for me. She mostly ignores my knitting, but does she do damage to the paper patterns!

My city went under a mandatory mask mandate this week. Finally! Yay! Am I now safe to move around in the larger community? Nope. Not so much. The culture hasn’t yet shifted… See why that book is timely? Several states near my own are experiencing huge upticks in cases, and as our hospitals continue to fill (with patients from these other states) I’m thinking that the shift will eventually come. In the meantime I’m happily home knitting with Hannah.

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.

 

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.

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 20

Twenty weeks into the year I’m now in a place that I never could have imagined a year ago.  Let’s be honest, if you read science fiction books you know all about pandemics, but who thought we’d be living that scenario now? A year ago I was facing down some very scary possible diagnoses and pressing for medical interventions to help me; I was forced to self-isolate as my doctors doubled down on my immunosuppressant drugs to get my systemic sclerosis symptoms under control. I’m tolerating the additional drugs, but my risk of infection remains high. Then I self-isolated when flu season erupted late in the fall; in spite of my best efforts I caught the flu anyway. Sigh. Who could have imagined that there would then be a pandemic, a chaotic and ineffective response by my government, and then social bullying against people who wear facemasks and who comply with public health protocols? Yep, That is happening in my community right now.  There is no place I can go that will be safe for me if other people refuse to wear masks and maintain a safe distance. I’m pretty much in stunned disbelief these days. I have no choice but to continue to self-isolate.

This is my new shirt that I plan to wear while grocery shopping, which I do carefully during the special “at-risk” shopping hour at my grocery store.

Whatever, the joke is on those rude anti-social idiots who have forced me to remain home with my yarn stash, books, and garden! I’m good.

Knitting

Look at what got done this week!!

My V-Neck Boxy sweater is ready to enter service.

I loved this color yarn so much that I bought an extra skein of yarn to use for socks, or something. I didn’t quite know what I would do with it, but I wanted options. I also bought a skein of contrasting yarn at the same time thinking that I could maybe put together a nice piece to go with the sweater. I was thinking Fair Isle armwarmers at the time, but this week I decided that this yarn wanted to be a cowl.

A Garter Snake cowl, to be specific. The cowl begins with 50 rounds of brioche, and then will move into garter stitch while the brioche forms a peak in the garter stitch background. This is going to be so perfect with my new sweater!!

I also pulled out a pair of simple socks that have been hibernating in a project bag for a few weeks while I focused on the sweater. How cute will these be?

My local yarn store got these intriguing little balls of yarn to make self-striping socks. Hey. I had to try that out!! The yarn is from Lollipop Yarn, and the sock is my own usual 64 stitch vanilla sock recipe.

Finally, I am ready to return to my latest knitted cat project. Poor Maya has been waiting and waiting for her knitted twin to arrive. Now that the sweater is off the needles I am ready to focus on that project and should get it done in the coming week.

Garden

Nothing spectacular is going on in the garden… plants are slowly adjusting to the outside, perennials are emerging from the ground, and my frost-damaged rose bushes are slowly putting out new shoots and leaves. Since I can’t go to the local nursery these days I put the seeds from old plants into cleared garden soil. I have a bag of old flowers (with their seed pods) in the garage that was given to me years ago by a cousin… I think that those seeds will end up in the back garden. Some ancient allysium seeds actually sprouted in the front rose garden so I’m hopeful about the other seeds that I just planted from old, dried flower pods. See, lots of work is going on, but not much to show off in pictures.

Except for this… Painted Lady butterflies have descended on my flowering plants. Yay!! Happy times!
Books

I tend to watch news channels during the day while I knit and quilt on my current projects. It is kind of background noise that won’t interfere with my counting of stitches or my focus while sewing a nice, straight seam. I do watch enough to become amused by the backgrounds that people have chosen for their video commentary. You know, some are in the living room and we see furniture and neutral walls with maybe some prints on them. Others choose to speak in front of a shelf with a few carefully arranged plants, pots, pictures, and some token books. Some of the backgrounds are just sadly vacant of evidence of life. Then there are the people who speak in front of a bookshelf stuffed full of books…

Oh my gosh!! I love those people!! Some of them have books that are crammed into the shelves with books on top of other books, scraps of paper marking places poking out, and the chaos of a dedicated bibliophile. Others have nice tidy bookshelves with a few pictures of family and mementos included. I ignore what these people are saying as I search the bookshelves to find books that I have too. Yes! Stacey Abrams has a copy of The Night Tiger on her shelf!! Beto O’Rourke has all of the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian on his shelf. The mayor of Dallas, Texas (Eric Johnson) has the same copy of Einstein: His Life and Universe on his shelf that is on mine! I can’t help it… I am thrilled to see evidence of my connection and shared interests with these other people. I love it!

My downstairs bookshelf. I used to have 4 bookshelves in my house, and over the last few years I’ve slowly pruned them down to just two. In the era of digital books I’ve really cut back on hardbound book buying.

This bookshelf has all of my sock knitting books and some smaller knitting books. It also has most of my science geeky books, and all of my hardbound historical novels by Sharon Kay Penman, and several science fiction books. My favorite two books in the world, Floating Worlds and Great Maria, both by Cecelia Holland, are also on this shelf. And on the bookshelf upstairs. When a book is your favorite it’s important to have several copies just in case…

My upstairs bookshelf. Do you see all of those books on the shelf above MacKnitzie? That’s my collecion of the Aubrey-Maturin books. Out of sight at the bottom of the shelf are piles of more knitting and weaving books.

So, what am I reading this week? I have settled down and am finally able to read complicated books again. I’m reading the latest historical novel by Sharon Kay Penman about the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th century.

King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jeruselum. Hundred of pages. I’m in book heaven.
I’m also deep in the 16th century as I’m reading this book about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

Both of these are huge books with lots of convoluted interactions and political maneuverings. Perfect for long spring days at home in our time.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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