The Saturday Update: Weeks 39 and 40, 2021

The days are still warm, dry and sunny, but the nights are finally getting a little cooler. I spend my afternoons in the swinging garden chair on the deck, reading and knitting in the strange silence that has now descended on the garden: no more crickets, cicadas, migrating geese, or even the pit bull next door. All are now gone, and the only sounds I hear are the squirrels racing through the trees and the occasional drifting fall of leaves. The maple tree out back, usually a blaze of red color by now, is slowly turning a golden brown with a few flashes of red. Seriously? This is how you are going to finish up the year? Figures.

This is as good as it is going to get this year I guess.

The ground is covered with dead leaves as these sorry examples of autumn glory drift off the tree. We never had a freeze, and I think that these brown leaves coming down are the result.

The baby bunny of the summer has found a mate.

Over the last weekend I noticed lots of digging in the yard from the bunny, and then one night the flood lights revealed that there were two bunnies in my yard! My little guy was not all alone any more! Now my bunny, all grown up, is gone.

Next week we will finally get colder weather and perhaps some rain. There will be snow in our mountains and all of my leaves will be gone off the tree.

Summer, truly, is finally over.

Knitting

I finished the second Rock It Tee this week!

Can you see how I blended the three skeins of yarn from light to dark as I alternated them through the sweater? The lightest is at the top.

I am now down to only one knitting project left, the second Snark-O-Meter that I am rapidly finishing off with lots of cat help.

I finished up clue 4 last night and will start clue 5 today. This baby should be done in just a few more days of knitting.

Yesterday I cleaned out my little project bags, sorted yarn in the stash, and organized myself for a prolonged sweater knitting campaign. I’m tempted to start the Stephen West MKAL (Shawlography), but as I sorted I realized that I had the yarn to make several sweaters all stocked up and waiting to go. It isn’t all that cold yet, but eventually sweater weather will get here and it is time for me to switch over to sweaters and to start working my way through the stash again.

I also, through great serendipity, located a community knitting group last week that makes hats for patients going through chemo at the infusion center where I used to go to my (old, kicked to the curb) rheumatologist’s office. I know that center, located between oncology and rheumatology, as I used to sit in that waiting room every rheumatologist appointment. Why is the infusion center next to rheumatology? Because, little known fact, many rheumatology patients (along with other people struggling with autoimmune disease), receive chemo and infusions of biologic drugs. I know, only too well, what a struggle it is to control Reynaud’s Phenomenon while hooked up to an IV in air conditioning. I’m joining the knitting group and will be knitting as many little fingerless mitts and arm warmers as I can for drop off to the center along with the chemo hats.

There. Knitting plans for the rest of the year all worked out. 🙂

Garden

This is ridiculous, but all of my mental energy is focused on planting all the potted plants into the gardens (Where should I put them? This is a big decision.) and making an indoor home for the jade plants that have been outdoors all summer.

This plant tripled in size over the summer. I moved it to this large pot, but now it is… large.

I recently discovered that jade plants are poisonous for cats. Oh, no. I have had jade plants in the house for years with my cats, and never had an issue, but now that I know I’m worried about a cat/plant interaction. I have an indoor garden shelf system established to keep the plants indoors over the winter, but this pot won’t fit now. I’ve decided to use chicken wire to keep the cats away from the shelf with the smaller jades, but this one plant is going to be challenging. Ugh. I can move shelves to create more space, or I can build a cage to put over the plant, or… these are the days when I miss the greenhouse I had in my biology classroom.

Books

This is an amazing book!!

I loved, loved, loved All the Light We Cannot See, so when I saw this book was coming out I preordered it right away. When it dropped into my Kindle library I forced myself to take a break from The Murderbot Diaries to read this. Holy, Moly! Best decision ever. Cloud Cuckoo Land is a book to read and savor.

So you probably have already guessed that I am really enjoying this book. It is the tale of a ridiculous comedy written by an ancient Greek author that is preserved over time and that connects people separated by centuries who are caught up in the jaws of history. Sounds improbable when I write it down, but this works and it is really good! I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but the story moves right along at a perfect pace, going back and forth between the characters and the Greek tale in a way that links them together and brings meaning to their lives and the Greek comedy in an unforeseen manner that eerily connects to my life also. Owls are a recurring element of the stories in the book: as I read in the night it is to the sound of booming “who-who’s” from the Great Horned owls in my neighborhood. (Bunnies: make good choices tonight!!) I read on in this book that is essentially about the power and of legacy of books as I consider which of my books to leave in one of the community Little Free Libraries next week. The power of books, the legacy of lives, the preservation of who we are: a big message contained in a book that immerses you in a powerful story.

Have a good week, everyone.

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

Mateo the CoalBear: and hug a cat!

Hannah and the CoalBear: The Snark-O-Meter is done!

Hi. I’m Hannah.

Do you see how big my kitten has gotten? He’s hard to share a platform on the cat tree with now because of that… tail! His tail is absolutely out of control.

The kitten and I have been helping the Mother of Cats knit her latest shawl for weeks now. It has been lots of hard work, especially since the kitten forgets to behave himself and starts carrying off the balls of yarn. I have talked to him about this, but he is just too crazy wild to really settle down. The proper etiquette is to sit on top of the knitting, purr like crazy, and to snag any moving yarn in your claws when you can… If the Mother of Cats accidently leaves the knitting downstairs you can drag it up the stairs to return to her, but not the balls of yarn. Especially if you forget what you are doing and leave the yarn balls in some strange place. Sigh. It is so hard to raise a kitten.

Umm… that’s because I’m a little CoalBear.

Anyway, the shawl is called the Snark-O-Meter and it is designed by another cat!!! This cat, Sharon from Security, is the employee of Casapinka and seems to be a little tiny bit hard to work with. She is always complaining and dealing with the misbehavior of her fellow employees and never has enough sushi. Also she keeps losing her squad car… and her subordinate Finn (who has a shady background and multiple passports) is also gone. You wouldn’t believe how she talks to the knitters, too! Talk about snark!!

Oh. I guess that is why it is called the Snark-O-Meter.

The Mother of Cats finished the Snark-O-Meter this week and left me alone with the kitten to go buy some blocking mats and more pins to use. Oh, my goodness, the blocking mats are the most fun ever!! The kitten and I were so excited to see them. The kitten chewed as many corners as he could get his little chompers onto while I rolled around and did a little cat yoga.

Aren’t these the best cat yoga mats ever?

Then the Mother of Cats and we got serious and worked on blocking the shawl. She had made a little test sample to make sure the colors wouldn’t run when wet and tried to lay it out on the mat.

Tried. Yep. The minute the kitten saw the loose strings of that sample he began swapping at them. Then I grabbed the sample to groom it a little… did I mention that I just love wet yarn? Besides, it needs to get smoothed down and dried a little… The Mother of Cats tried to pin it and the kitten pulled out the pins to drag off and play with. The Mother of Cats decided that the yarns weren’t going to run (this is true… I never saw them move at all) and put the sample away in a cupboard. That was okay, because then she started putting the shawl out on the cat yoga mats.

Helping with the shawl. I’m such a good girl!! I only groomed the shawl a little bit while the Mother of Cats was laying it out.

The Mother of Cats didn’t like how saggy the yarns in the sample were when wet so she decided to spray the shawl really well with water and then lightly steam it. This was not funny!!! She put in some pins, sprayed water everywhere, and then put in even more pins all around the shawl. Then she hovered the steam iron all around the shawl to make the lace look nice.

I moved to a safe place and the kitten played with his toys on the floor while all this was going on!
Doesn’t it look nice now?

Then the Mother of Cats layered towels on top of the wet shawl and sprinkled some yoga mats on top of that so we wouldn’t sleep on top of the shawl. I slept on top of everything anyway. Did I mention that I love the smell of wet wool?

The next day the Mother of Cats took all the mats and towels off the shawl and the kitten and I helped her take all of the pins off and the mats apart. You would not believe how fast the kitten can pull out the pins to take away as toys. Sigh. I’m going to have a little talk with him again. I do have to say that the little corners of the mats are fun to chew on, though. The kitten is a lot of work, but he is fun too and sometimes has some really good ideas.

Last night the Mother of Cats took the shawl over to her son’s for a visit and the kitten and I got to chase each other around like crazy all night. The shawl looked really nice as she packed it up to take to the car. Of course. This was a cat written and cat produced knitted item of beauty.

My work here is done. Except for the kitten. He’s still work…

Note from the Mother of Cats:

The kitten Mateo is growing at an alarming clip and is now filling out and growing a longer coat than I expected. He is a really good natured little guy and makes little chirping noises as he runs around the house, and of course he is a great playmate for Hannah. He is now 6 months old and will certainly be a bigger cat than Hannah.

Don’t you think he looks a little like a bear?

Here is the finished shawl modeled by one of my son’s cats.

Jonesy and the Snark-O-Meter.

I have another one of these shawls to finish up. The cats can’t wait for me to pull it out and get going again because blocking the last one was so much fun!!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 37 and 38, 2021

Finally, finally the leaves are starting to turn in earnest and there is a rustling sound when they move in the breeze. The sky is now a gentle blue in the afternoon and there is a subtle change in the quality of sunlight as the sun edges further to the south each day; thunderstorms are a distant memory as the clouds adopt more benign shapes. I’ve taken to sitting outside in evenings to work on the computer listening to crickets while the cats romp in the house. The potted plants continue to show off late blooms but there isn’t much new growth appearing in the gardens. The baby bunny of the summer now looks all grown up, and there are low-flying flocks of geese passing over my house daily.

Fall has finally arrived!

Cats love fall! These two are rolling in personality these days.

Knitting

I’ve been knitting like crazy lately. Sharon from Security (Casapinka) took a week off from the Snark-O-Meter and I was left at loose ends: I cast on a new Rock It Tee and started knitting on that. I was really making great headway until… somewhere halfway down the body… I got bored. All that stockinette. Ugh. I began to day dream about other things that I could knit and somehow I decided that I needed to knit another little kitty to keep my knitted MacKenzie doppelganger company. You remember, my MacKnitzie that was created to look just like my personality (ahem… attitude) loaded cat that died just as Covid-19 appeared on the horizon. I still miss MacKenzie, and while I was waiting for the next clues of the Snark-O-Meter to drop, I couldn’t help looking at MacKnitzie on my shelf and wanting to make him a little friend.

Doesn’t MacKnitzie look like he is smiling?

I knitted up an Itty Bitty Kitty to sit with MacKnitzie on the shelf in my bedroom. I was thinking that the project would only take a day or two, but I had forgotten how fiddly the work could be if you wanted the final knitted cat to look realistic. I also was struggling with my old friend fatigue all last week so only a little got done at a time, but I’m really happy with the final product.

This little kitty is so fun when completed. It is designed to stand up balanced on the tail and two hind feet.

Now that I am done with the kitty for MacKnitzie I’ve gone back to knitting on the Snark-O-Meter shawl and I’m really anxious to get it done. Look at how well those classic colors go with the cats! (snark, people!!) Seriously, the cats are all over me while I’m knitting these days. Maybe they think that I should be making them cat toys or little itty bitty versions of them? Hmm… maybe I should be making little itty versions of Hannah and Mateo… or maybe a knitted mouse.

I’m now in clue 5, and since clue 6 dropped this morning I should be finishing up in just a few days. I can’t wait to show this finished project off as it just keeps getting better and better as I knit along.

Books

I am seriously reading lots of science fiction these days.

Through the fatigue of the last week I have just holed up and read lots of space opera. Today, while watering the lawns, I started to reflect on why I’m so immersed in space opera of all things.

I was in a book group that read lots of books that were suspenseful, gothic creations about women trapped in situations that were not of their own making, menaced by outside forces and individuals, and abandoned or betrayed by the individuals and/or agencies that should have protected them. Sometimes the women manage to escape their menacing entrapment, but just as often they come to a bad end. It’s a whole genre, and these books can be really popular, but I suddenly had an epiphany; these are not good books for a person struggling with a chronic, progressive disease. Okay, I’m not sure that these books are good for anyone, but they certainly weren’t good for me as I was struggling to get a diagnosis and help with my whole blue-lipped, panting for air, trying to not faint deal that I had going on. Doctors just kept reassuring me that I was fine; I was being dismissed, subjected to gaslighting, and unable to control my own situation just like some of the women in these books.

Oops. Time for a change in reading matter, I decided. I quit the reading group.

This month I am somewhere in the process of having my heart issues defined and a plan of action created. Things aren’t clear: I definitely have a pretty significant cardiac shunt, but they haven’t found it yet. They have a really good understanding of the direction of disruptive blood flow while I’m at rest, but they are trying to determine exactly what is happening while I’m up and active. I did a walk test last week (um… not sure I passed that with flying colors…) and will need to do a exercise/stress/echocardiogram test next week. This is all big stakes for me as it will determine my treatment plan going down the road…

Which brings me back to space opera. These books are all about desperate times and a scrappy group of individuals led by a strong and determined woman who is going to figure out what is happening and will eventually put things right!! The crews deal with every single emergency with creative, reality-based responses (well, using science fiction reality, that is) and refuse to ever, ever give up. They lose space ships, battles, body parts, and sometimes the future that they had envisioned, but they always, always make it through to the end with grit, determination, the support of their team, and the innovative use of technology. They are action-oriented and fearless. What ever is coming their way, they face it down, make decisions, and get to work with what they have. They are pretty much my heroes these days.

Be like Murderbot, I tell myself. If it gets bad, don’t forget to bring your blaster to the appointment. In this case, my blaster is a good understanding of my past test results and the diagnosis that they are considering, but you get the idea.

Space opera. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking resiliency in the face of an oncoming challenge of epic proportion.

Have a good week, everyone.

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

The Saturday Update: Weeks 35 and 36, 2021

The heat is hanging on and the cats and I are totally over it at this point. Yesterday we set a new heat record in my state: 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun is a sullen red ball in the sky and the sky is slate white with smoke from the west. The heat is unrelenting, there has been almost no rain, and fire season is still going on, and on, and on… Should summer be ending soon?

“Not yet!”, say the plants and wildlife in the yard. The cats have been busy chasing late season houseflies and the trees are abuzz with pulsing cicada sounds. There seems to be wildlife everywhere all of a sudden as the lawn and garden recover from the intense sun (but not the heat) of July and August. I even had to chase a little garter snake out of my garage yesterday! Summer is being especially tenacious, but I am seeing some hints of fall as flocks of geese fly over my house and the first leaves on the trees are turning.

The baby bunny is now hanging out in the front yard entertaining the cats as they watch from the front door. Do you see all of that debris on the sidewalk and street in the picture of the bunny? That is the mess being left by the squirrels as they harvest the Russian olives off of my neighbor’s tree. There is a really cute squirrel with an exceptionally fluffy tail digging holes under my trees to stash food for later… not nice, little squirrel!! Speaking of fluffy tails, look at what is happening to Mateo’s tail!! This kitten is getting a lot fluffier than I thought he would…

Garden

Everything that is pink is just flourishing at the moment.

My Autumn Joy Stonecrop is just covered with bees and other plants in containers on the deck have decided that they want to bloom too. Even the roses by my driveway have decided to get a last bloom in. For some crazy reason it is all of the pink plants… even the hydrangea is putting out some new blooms with pink edges. It makes me happy to see all that color coming back even if it will be drowned out by all the fall colors in the trees and shrubs in a week or two.

Knitting

I had several quiet days following my right heart catherization procedure last week (okay, I also slept a couple of days afterwards) and I ripped right through the next clue on the Snark-O-Meter. If you haven’t been keeping up with all of the snark, the Snark-O-Meter is the latest MKAL shawl by Sharon from Security (Casapinka) and I am having a blast this time.

It is getting too big to show off the fun stitches in this project in one picture so I settled for shots of each clue. The top left is clues 1 and 2, the bottom left shows clue 3, and the picture on the right is clue 4. Look at all of those great and interesting stitches and use of color!! I’m going to get a ton of use out of this shawl.

Since I finished the shawl in just a couple of days after the clue was released, and because Sharon is taking a week off to let people catch up on their knitting, and since I was admiring all things pink in the garden, I pulled out my new Rock It Tee that is being knit in a pinky/rusty colorway called Cinnasizzle. The actual yarn isn’t quite as hot pink as it appears in the pictures, but it is full of clay, pink, and rust colors that are just too fun to ignore. I’ve been binge watching Billions on Amazon Prime and knitting like crazy this last week with a nebulous thought that if I really apply myself I can get this sweater done before Sharon releases the next Snark-O-Meter clue in another week. Ha! This is clearly impossible, but that never stopped me before! To try is all. I’m below the armholes now and it is just knitting in the round for the next 15 inches or so…

Mateo is now 5 and a half months old. Isn’t he getting handsome?

I’m still waiting for my cardiologist to contact me with the next steps in the ongoing Blue-Lipped Zebra project. Things are really slammed right now in the health field as there are lots of Covid-19 patients and Covid long-haulers who need help, and my cardiologist is pretty overwhelmed with the case load at the moment. (How do I know? My pulmonologist, who is also slammed, told me. I feel so bad for them.) It is a little hard to be patient and to wait my turn, especially since some of those people who are bumping me back in the health-care line are the unvaccinated.

Last week I was mocked in public by someone for wearing a mask. Umm… retired high school teacher here. I called him out on it and he immediately stopped.

But still, it’s a little shocking that it even happened.

This is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. What a sad, horrible day that led to unpredictable outcomes that were far beyond my imagination at that time. How sad it is to reflect on all that has happened, and continues to happen, in America.

I plan to knit my way though the reflection, waiting, and sadness this week. You all be safe out there!

Have a great week everyone.

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

The Scleroderma Chronicles: A Trip to the Cath Lab

The BLZ has been waiting a long time for this…

Five years ago I came down with the flu and ended up in Urgent Care struggling to breathe. I scored some antibiotics, steroids, and cough medicine. To fight the virus I was told to go off my immunosuppressant drugs for a few weeks until I got better, stay in bed, and load up on chicken soup: it took a couple of months but eventually I got back on my meds. Except… things weren’t quite right. I panted for air every time I came up the stairs and I noticed that my lips were turning blue. My blood pressure was too low and I had to stop taking my hypertension medicine. I felt dizzy and light headed sometimes.

I was a newly diagnosed systemic sclerosis patient and my doctors began running tests to see if my disease was impacting my lungs. Nope. Not my lungs. Tests were run to see if scleroderma was attacking my heart. Nope: my heart seemed to be normal. There were some anomalies, but my doctors decided to just monitor me through routine testing and see if things changed down the road. My red blood cell counts were way too high, and I had nocturnal hypoxia, so I was started on overnight oxygen. I was tested for various conditions that could account for the weird test results, but I always had a normal result.

I struggled on, battling for more testing, as my doctors kept reassuring me that I was okay. Hey, I had a blue face and panted for air when I climbed stairs; vacuuming could put me on the floor. How could this be “normal”? Ugh. Welcome to scleroderma, I thought.

I began to think of myself as the Blue-Lipped Zebra (BLZ). If I didn’t have a rare disease confusing the issue I would be getting better health care, it seemed. If doctors didn’t tend to apply most-common-cause thinking to my condition they might get to the bottom of things faster. It was, in my mind, a huge complicated mess as my doctors applied best practice (and rigid) diagnostic parameters to my symptoms or zeroed in on specific complications of my scleroderma and ignored other possible (and to be fair, rare) causes for my symptoms. I worried that my doctors had just parked me in a holding pattern as I slowly got worse; it is hard to advocate for yourself when you are sick and dependent on your doctors for help, even if you think that they are dismissive and borderline disparaging.

I struggled on as my face became more blue, my red blood cell count higher, my panting for air more common, and the occasional near-fainting event left me collapsed on the floor. I began to ask for a right heart catherization procedure to directly measure the pressure in the right side of my heart. “Oh. You don’t want that,” I was told. “That is really invasive testing.” Umm… I think I do, I would reply. Nope. Nope, nope, nope!! “Not even on the table,” one pulmonologist said.

During lockdown last year I got much worse; ironically lockdown also gave me the opportunity to reboot, fire my old doctors and acquire new ones. My new team of doctors this spring ordered up testing that showed definite issues with my heart and lungs. I am now a heart failure patient (the wall of my left ventricle are too stiff and scarred to beat well) and there were concerning findings that suggested that I had developed pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH): there are areas of cell death in my lungs and my pulmonary artery is too big. There is too much fluid around my heart, a suggestion of ongoing inflammation. I have a hole in my heart between the atriums (a cardiac shunt) that is impacting blood flow. I was gently prepared for the PAH diagnosis, assured that there were great drugs that could help me, and a right heart catherization was ordered by my new cardiologist.

Yay!! About time!!!

Finally, after 5 years of struggle, I was yesterday wheeled into a procedure room to a waiting team of specialists who hooked me up to equipment and took me though testing to get a better look at my heart: I learned in recovery that this team calls themselves “the pit crew”, and that is exactly what it was like. Within 5 minutes I had completed a breathing test, was on oxygen, wired up to a heart monitor, hooked up to an IV, medicated, prepared with surgical drapes, and swathed in warm blankets with a heater by my feet. There was music playing and the crew was cracking jokes as they darted in and out from the table getting me ready. I was knocked out for the echocardiogram imaging of the back of my heart that was done using a probe in my esophagus, but they woke me up for the main event: the right heart catherization. My cardiologist inserted a probe into the carotid vein in my neck and threaded it into my heart by way of the superior vena cava (blue side of the heart diagram above). People, this was the most amazing experience ever! There was a huge screen showing the progress of the probe and I could watch and ask questions as the line snaked through my heart; there was absolutely no pain. “Well, this is interesting,” said my cardiologist at one point, and there were more measurements happening and a flurry of new activity from the team. The BLZ felt a surge of elation: they had found something, and it was NOT what they expected.

Back in recovery my cardiologist caught up with me again. I had done great, he said, and he just beamed as he told me that I absolutely did not have PAH. This is great news, he assured me, great news!! There is another circulation problem in the lower part of my heart, between the ventricles. There is blood coming in from the left side of my heart and mixing with the blood on the right, disrupting the flow through the heart and robbing me of oxygen to my body. I have a second, more serious, cardiac shunt, and now it is a question of locating that pesky little guy and doing something to fix the problem.

It has been FIVE YEARS, people. If I hadn’t had my trip into the cath lab yesterday my doctors would still be nagging me to get more exercise (the BLZ just barks in laughter), offering me antidepressants, or insisting that I must have sleep apnea. I feel so validated!

My cardiologist is now going over my previous imaging to find the hole now that he knows what to look for. I was told that I may need to go through more testing to definitively characterize the opening, but this is huge forward progress. I suspect that I am facing open heart surgery down the road, but I am elated that the progressive and eventually fatal diagnosis of PAH is now off the table. Things are looking up since my heart failure will now be much easier to treat.

I am reminded of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s admonishment: “Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crisis.” Also, when the going gets tough, get a kitten!

Today I am waiting to hear back from my cardiologist who is going to email me with follow up instructions after he has finished going through the data and past test results. I’m on oxygen, knitting, and feeling pretty calm about all the new developments.

Almost exactly 7 years ago (August 28th was the anniversary day) I was diagnosed with Limited Systemic Sclerosis and Sjogren’s Disease. I have learned a lot along the way, but the best, most important lessons have been about self-advocacy, facing down the worst case scenarios, communicating with your doctors, and maintaining a good attitude.

Yesterday this all paid off for me big time.

Note: The fabulous BLZ graphic was made for me by my exceptionally knitworthy niece Melissa and her beautiful and talented daughter Eleanor.

The Saturday Update: Weeks 31 and 32, 2021

Life has been rushed. I created a lot of internal deadlines for myself and I have been rushing along every day trying to meet them. After weeks of waiting I finally got the installation date for my new fences; that meant that I needed to do some major yardwork to prepare for all that construction and hauling away of stuff. Whew. I handled it. My flower beds are cleaned up, plants are pruned, and my new fence and gate look great!

The bunny survived the invasion of fence-related chaos and is back to entertaining the cats every evening and morning.

Sharon from Security (Casapinka’s very snarky cat) released her latest pattern last Saturday. I decided that I need to get my current knitting project finished before the first clue dropped.

I started a new series of books that I needed to finish up quickly so that I could get other books, checked out electronically from my library and getting ready to vanish into the ether in two weeks, read on time.

I’m doing major cleaning and dragging bags of stuff out to the trash every week. That trash pick-up day is another deadline every week as I clean out drawers and closets and let old belongings, not used in at least a decade, head off to a new home or the land fill…

Whew. Busy times!

Garden

The gardens are kind of bare of blooms right now, but the potted flowers are flourishing.
My bougainvillea is blooming like crazy!! By the way, can you see the pretty new fence in the background?

I am putting my energies now into moving and installing some new bricks and then planting several of the potted shrubs (like the mini-roses and my hydrangea) into the ground before winter. Next year they can bloom in the cleared garden in the background!

Knitting

It was quite the drive, but I did get my new sweater finished with a few hours to spare before the Snark-O-Meter from Sharon from Security (Casapinka) dropped.

This is my second little layering piece that is knit loose enough for summer wear (well, cooler summer wear) and then will serve as layering pieces in the fall and winter. This loose little V-neck top, The Rock It is just perfect!!

Well, let’s talk about Snark-O-Meter. I have been dreaming about colors and digging in the stash for weeks. I would decide on a combo, but then the next morning I would remember a different skein of yarn in the stash and the amended quartet of yarn would suddenly become my new favorite. I finally settled on a color combo that I know will go with almost everything that I wear.

I know, I know… it is conservative, but very wearable. Can you see that there are little flecks of black in the red yarn? The gray has a slight sheen from silk which makes the drape really nice and shines around the other colors. Snark-O-Meter is a mystery knit-along (MKAL) and the other knitters are already showing off their beautiful color combinations on Facebook. People are worried about being too slow, and others are asking for help from other knitters. Encouragement is everywhere, Sharon is shoveling out the snark while hunting for her stolen squad car (again?! Sharon, you need to take better care of your things…) and threatening to busticate knitters who don’t read the directions. I love this group!!!

I still have those other sets of yarn waiting to become something. I may cast on a second shawl in some crazy colors that I will also be able to wear. Also, they are colors that I just simply love!!

The last couple of years have been hard, to say the least. Some of the knitters in the Sharon Show group on Facebook have been giving away their extra sets of yarn to other knitters who are struggling right now. I look at my unused sets and wonder how many I can put together for the next MKAL. I’m going to bag the yarn and as soon as Sharon/Casapinka put together their next project I think that I should offer them up. Seriously, who better deserves my extra yarn then these supportive, cheerful, cat loving knitters. I wish I had thought of it sooner. I’m trying to clean out a lot of stuff… this is one way to do it.

Quilts

I really focused and worked steadily on a quilt that has been languishing for the last several months.

It is done! There was some help from the cats…

It is a huge relief to finally have this done. I cleaned up the sewing room and put everything away this weekend, and noticed that I have a really cute quilt kit just waiting for me to start it in the cupboard…

By the way, this quilt is an art quilt by Pine Needles called “Calling Me Home“. I used about half of the blocks in the entire quilt to make my wall hanging.

Books

I just raced through this series. The setting is hundreds of years in the future in England. There has been a terrible war, all the life has mutated dramatically in a race for survival and all the world is dangerous. People survive in small enclaves, their history and old skills lost, and the remaining technology is like magic to them. Because contact between surviving groups of people is restricted by the extreme hostile environment mankind is slowly fading away.

Koli is a young man who breaks the rules and gets banned from his small village. He begins a long journey with a thought of saving humanity; his companions are few, and not all of them are still alive. They face danger, fight battles, make choices, and in the end, reach their goals. It’s hard to convey, but the voices of the characters, their insight into the human condition, made this series extremely engaging. These people are primitive, but they are not unsophisticated. I love the books and raced right through them. 🙂

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, 2021

It was so hot this week! Today it is raining and we are under a watch for flash flooding. Bugs have descended on my garden and are munching on my flowers. The grass was in distress and the back yard bunny was no where to be seen in the heat of the day. I went to my cardiologist appointment in triple digit heat and Mateo went on his first trip to the vet for vaccinations and a check up.

Mateo: It was my 4th Month Birthday and all I got was a scary road trip and an ouchy shot in my arm and leg!

Poor Mateo has spent the last two days hanging out on the bookshelf sleeping off the effects of his vaccinations and while he has run around chasing Hannah in the wee hours of the morning (did you notice the time on that clock in the picture on the left? That’s prime kitten run around time!), mostly they have just been trying to stay cool and sleeping all day. At 4 months old Mateo is already half of Hannah’s weight and he looks about half her size too. I’m pretty sure that he is going to be bigger than her when he finishes growing.

Knitting

I’ve been making steady progress on the Rock It Tee that I am knitting, but it is pretty boring to look at right now. Basically, it looks just the same as it did a week ago but a little longer. How about some socks?

I finished my assigned pooling socks using some Chasing Rabbits yarn from the stash with hot pink yarn for the toes and heels. I just purled the yarn when I came to the rainbow sections and threw in some random texture stitches (PSS) that I learned how to do while I was knitting The Sharon Show shawl last year. The section of the shawl where the stitches appeared was #21, the Catnip Garden, so obviously these are the Rainbow Catnip Garden socks. I just found some more Chasing Rabbit sock yarn that will work for assigned pooling. Yay! I’m down to only one knitting project at the moment so it is time to cast on more socks.

Except… there is another Sharon from Security MKAL coming up in a couple of weeks and I just bought the pattern and have been diving into the stash to find possible yarns to use (I’ve have recently learned that shopping the stash is actually to be referred to as “stash surfing” in Sharon land. I love this community of snarky, supportive, cat loving knitters. This new MKAL is the Snark-O-Meter and I can’t wait to get the first clue. I need 4 skeins of yarn to make this thing and here are the possible candidates right now:

I just love all of these! Should I go with the wild and crazy colors (far right) or play it more safe and knit the blue, gold and rust combination in the middle? Then there is the pink and purple combo… I love pink and purple!! In a perfect world I would be able to knit all of these, but I have a lot of sweater projects also lined up. So much yarn, so little time…

Garden

My grass in the back lawn is struggling in the heat but the backyard bunny is finding plenty to snack on. My roses made it through the heat better than the grass did: look at the pink bloom that appeared today! Some of the flowers in my front planters also died to I visited a garden center this week to pick up some on-sale annuals to spruce things up. I got the pink snapdragons cheap and they are a nice color to go with all of the volunteer snapdragons that are already appearing in my front gardens. All of a sudden snapdragons are a big fave with me.

Books

I was all over the place with my reading this week as I started two different audible books and continued reading a couple of science fiction books. Nothing is done and I’m sure not wanting to talk about them at the moment. Somehow these books actually go together, but I haven’t figured it all out yet.

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 29, 2021

It was a lovely week last week; hot and sunny with cooling afternoon thundershowers. Perfect. I rested up the entire week recovering from the exceptionally busy week I had the week before that and got lots done outdoors.

The new kitten, Mateo, continues to grow at an accelerated rate and is eating like a bottomless pit. He is now 3 months, 3 weeks old and is much less clumsy but still unable to jump up onto counters. Whew. No rush there. By the way, do those front paws look kind of big to you?

Hannah has recovered from her visit to the vet and all the vaccinations and is returning to her playful self. There is a little problem here, though… she wants to play with the kitten all the time and me or her toys… not so much. I’ve been giving her more attention during the kitten’s naps and she is slowly rebounding to her previous endearing interactions with me and her toys. This has been a big month for her, after all, and she is coming through it like a trooper.

Garden

The garden continues to flourish in the good weather but I have some concerns for it as there is another heat dome building and this time it will be much closer to Colorado. I took pictures of the flowers this afternoon as I’m not too sure what they will look like in another week…

There is a lot of blooming going on with the roses and for some reason the insects haven’t been munching on them as much as usual. Look at how happy and fresh these blooms look! This is the second blooming of the season and I am feeding the roses again this week in the hopes that I can get a third blooming next month.

The garden is full of volunteer plants that are popping up from things I put in the garden in years past. The big winners are snapdragons… they are everywhere! I put in a picture showing all the new buds that are emerging on the plants (2nd from left) and one with dried seed pods that already dropping seeds on the same plants (3rd from left). I am moving some of the seeds to gardens in the back flower beds as I work clearing out weeds and I’m hoping that there will be a new crop of snapdragons back there next year. I’m also seeing cute little Johnny-Jump-Ups appearing in the gardens like the little purple flower in the last picture. It’s becoming kind of a Darwinian garden in this flower bed over time as the plants that are more successful are taking over my flower bed and other places in the yards.

Knitting

I haven’t said too much about it, but I’ve been battling tendonitis in my right shoulder that was putting a huge crimp in my knitting activities for the last six weeks… the pain radiated down my arm and I lost all feeling in my fingers and some function. The concern, of course, was that my knitting days were coming to an end due to joint and nerve damage from my systemic sclerosis. My rheumatologist started me on a new drug and sent me to physical therapy and I am finally, finally, recovering the use of my arm and can knit more than a half hour at a time again. Whew! People, I am back!! Am I buying any more yarn right now… no. Sadly, no.

I got busy on a new sweater and made some good progress this week. I am making the Rock It Tee using some great speckled yarn from the stash and I am so pleased with how it is working out.

The tee is constructed from the top down and you knit back and forth while shaping the raglan sleeves and the V neck in the front. In the picture on the left you can see that I have just joined the knitting below the V neck to allow me to knit in the round (so much easier on my hand) and the picture on the left shows the raglan sleeve shaping. I am almost at the point where the sleeves will be taken off and placed on holders and then it will be simple knitting in the round to the bottom of the sweater. Yay! My next ball of yarn looks a little darker so I am going to start blending it into the current fabric as soon as I’m below the sleeves.

Books

I finished this in just a few days!

The Ten Thousand Books of January was great! I had just finished a book about books, doors, keys, and some crazy-ass magic associated with them, so I was a little worried about this one too. Nope. This was a straight forward book within a book that told a great story. I really enjoyed it and loved every minute of the books, doors, keys, words, and crazy-ass magic.

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 28, 2021

The weekend was busy and I am running late, but there is so much going on I thought that I should get my update entry out there so that next week’s edition doesn’t grow to completely unmanageable proportions. It’s a plan, anyway.

I had appointments every single day last week, and two on Friday. I ran lots of errands while out of the house and by the time the weekend arrived I needed to do a little recovery. So what all happened? I bought a new refrigerator (!), made the arrangements for new fencing and a gate into my back yard along the side of the house, went to physical therapy, and met with my primary care physician. Whew! The Blue Lipped Zebra needs to write an update, but that’s another post. I also took Hannah in to visit the vet and get caught up on all of her shots.

Hannah: I don’t like adventures!

Hannah was so good at the vet. She took her shots like a champ and purred while they drew blood to test her for FIV. I insisted that I needed to stay with her during the blood draw and we got through it all with the minimum of upset for my girl. Whew! Then the pain and stiffness arrived. She growled if I tried to pick her up and wouldn’t even put weight on her front (vaccinated) paw for two days. Mateo, fully loaded with kitten energy and dying to rough house with his big sister, had to be distracted all weekend as Hannah hid out recovering from her vaccination reactions. Today Hannah is back up and the two cats are again chasing each other. Yay! Mateo goes for his shots next week…

Hannah wasn’t too sore to miss watching her baby bunny every day through the garden window. Mateo hung out with her when he was sleepy and is turning out to be the best little Hannah-companion ever. Except I’m pretty sure that he is going to be a lot bigger then Hannah when he is done growing!

Knitting

I finished Ranunculus!!

I am so, so, so happy with the final project!!

This is a pattern that is shockingly easy to modify and the pattern overtly support this. I tried to record what I did in my Ravelry notes as I’m pretty sure that I will be making another one of these. I’m exceptionally happy with the edging that I used on the bottom of the sweater and on the sleeves. I had cast off the sleeves while knitting (following the directions) and then decided that I wanted a better behaved edging that wouldn’t roll up my arm. I considered knitting Icord, but ended up stealing using the edging from a previous sweater, Misurina. I picked up stitches along the bound off sleeve edge and immediately launched into the edging: twisted stitch ribbing and then three rounds of stockinette before binding off to create the neatly rolled edging. The edging on the sleeve is stable and well behaved. I knitted a matching edging along the bottom of the sweater with a few more rows of the ribbing. Pretty awesome little sweater, don’t you think?

Today I wound the yarn to cast on my next little summer sweater. I’m getting into these little layering pieces that I can use on cooler summer days now and layered over long sleeved tops and under cardigans in the winter.

Garden

The weather has been exceptionally kind to the garden and the roses are just now starting to bust out with their second blooming of the season. This is kind of early and means that I may get a third blooming before the first hard freeze of the fall. I’m so pleased with the gardens in general. I always plant little bedding flowers hoping that they will reseed to create more plants in the coming years, but it doesn’t always work out for me. Except this year! I had planted miniature snapdragons two years ago that put out a couple of little volunteers last year that I took good care of. This year the garden, soaked every few days with another rainstorm, produced dozens of new snapdragons. Okay, these plants are all over the place and not just in the garden, but I’m going with Mother Nature and taking good care of them because I am now just plain charmed by the abundance of color.

The original snapdragons were a light orange/pink in color, but the second generation of offspring are in a whole range of colors from yellow to hot pink with all the shades of orange in between.

I pruned the roses in front last week and gave the plants a good feeding so there should be new growth coming in the days ahead. The roses in the back, fed a couple of weeks ago, are already blooming again. Stay away from the rose, baby bunny, you hear me?!

Books

I spent a lot of time reading this weekend recovering from the adventures out of the house last week (and protecting poor Hannah from the wild kitten!). I finished The Starless Sea, blazed right through The Last Thing He Told Me, and then jumped into The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

The Starless Sea is a rich, complicated book with multiple story threads that slowly emerge from other related stories. It relies on metaphors and imagination an awful lot, and I would have quit on it more than once expect for… it was so well written that I kept wanting to memorize little phrases to keep them with me always, or maybe rip out some pages to fold into little stars to hang somewhere, or buy some clothes with bees on them, or go dig through the pantry to find some clover honey… Truthfully, the author almost killed the book with her endless creativity, but in the end the story lines pulled together, things almost made sense, and I stayed up way too late to get to the end. I liked the end. Then I went online to look for some bee jewelry, but then I am a sucker for bees and stories.

The Last Thing He Told Me rolled right along in a simple, well-constructed story that kept me completely entertained throughout. The twists and turns in the story’s plot were plausible and not obvious, the connections to the characters were perfect, and I quite frankly loved it. Perfect book to read following the brain-frying twists of The Starless Sea.

Then I picked up The Ten Thousand Doors of January. Hey, can you see how beautiful that cover is? It has hanging keys and doors: these are big elements of The Starless Sea. I’m only a few chapters in, but already I’m captured by the story…

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 27, 2021

May I present to you Mateo the CoalBear.

He’s a matte black fluffy ball of cuteness that comes to life at night. I wanted to call him Bear, but that is too doggy-like. Coal is so… obvious. Therefore he is a CoalBear.

Mateo is a really laid back kitten with a cute trill, a peeping meow, and a big purr. He is eating his kitten food like a bottomless pit, ignores the plants, is not at all interested in my knitting, uses the scratching posts like a good boy, sleeps under the bed at night, and meows when he wants to be fed. Oh, and he loves Hannah.

In other words, he is perfect!!

The week has gone really well between the two felines. Hannah is now very attached to the kitten and calls for him to come play with her. They wrestle and chase each other endlessly with few problems. Each cat has zones where they can escape from the other and so far things are going smoothly, but I am still keeping part of the house closed off and kitten proofing-like crazy. Right now Hannah has the upper hand but the way the kitten is eating the tide will be turning soon.

Knitting

I’ve been steadily knitting along on my Ranunculus and it is now below my waist. I’m considering options for how to finish the bottom at this point as I knit. The pattern calls for several inches of ribbing, but I want to continue the stockinette until the last couple of inches and then maybe add I-cord or a combination of twisted rib and then a few rows of stockinette to create a clean rolled edge. The sleeves were bound off earlier but I may cast on and replicate the finish on the bottom. I-cord will be easy, but I kind of like the idea of twisted ribbing…

This pattern is very adaptable and easy to knit. I am knitting with fingering yarn on size 8 needles and have chosen the smaller neck opening and short sleeved options.

Garden

Things are looking good in the garden this week! I still have the baby bunny and he is slowly cleaning me out of dandelions. Yay!

Books

I have totally gone down the rabbit hole with this book!

This is a book that makes you think of a lot of other books while you are chasing stories that seem to be interconnected to other stories that are books inside of books. I love this book, but I am still hoping to understand what it going on. There are keys, swords, bees, characters who knit, magic, and stories that are kind of magical. There are lots of doors to open and pass through to get to the stories, and of course there are books, books, books! I want to highlight lines in this book and hunt down other people to talk about it with. Lucky for me my niece in California (that knitworthy one!) is also reading the book.

Did I mention that some of the characters are knitters? And that the first line in the book is… “There is a pirate in the basement.” I keep remembering little snippets of The Princess Bride, and the Harry Potter books, and The Game of Thrones books as I read. I want a necklace with a little bee on it… and a key… but I want a star instead of the sword. I’m having fun with the book and it certainly is enchanting to read.

Have a great week everyone.

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