The Saturday Update: Week 24

June continues to misbehave: we had three days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit this week and several severe thunderstorms with tornados! My arm is still swollen and painful but the numbness is starting to improve; as if in solidarity one of my knees started to complain just today. Sigh. Knock it off, you guys! My new refrigerator came today and I am so happy to have dependable food storage again. Besides, it is just beautiful and shiney! The flowers in the garden are starting to bloom and the roses in particular are looking mighty fine. I have started to knit again every night and I also found some interesting books to read. I bought new glasses and ordered a bunch of fun stuff from Amazon. (Do I need purple and gold washi tape for my journal? Why yes, yes I do. I also got pink and gold replacement bands for my Fitbit and a pair of pink/grey comfy pants.) I went to the yarn store and bought more yarn… that may have not been wise, but I want to believe that I will return to full knitting capacity soon. 🙂 Okay, June isn’t being all bad… it was Hannah’s one year adoption anniversary this week.

Hannah on the 15th (her adoption anniversary date) and little kitten Hannah on the day I brought her home last year. I tried to recreate the picture from her first day home but she wasn’t all that interested and I was lucky to get the shot that I did. To celebrate her anniversary she got crispy pink paper to play in (that is always a big hit with her) and some bows to drag around. Last night I applied to adopt a kitten companion for her from the Cat Care Society and today they called me to approve the request and put us on the list for kitten alerts. Hannah was adopted from this shelter and they consider it a priority to get her a little friend. Yay!

I’ve requested a male, orange tabby kitten. We’ll see what happens. Hannah can’t wait.

Knitting

I’m working steadily on the mitts for my knitworthy niece who is a huge fan of all things Mandalorian. I am now up to the fingers of the second mitt.

Aren’t these the cutest things ever?

I need to do some duplicate stitch detail work and then there are all of the ends to weave in, but the end is definitely in sight now. I’m almost tempted to make a second pair but I have soooo many sweaters and other projects that I need to get done. This pattern is Mando (Natela Astakhova).

Garden

The roses are blooming! The roses are blooming! The roses are blooming!

From left to right, these roses are Hot Cocoa, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Cinco de Mayo, and Home Run. We had lots of rain this spring and I have been watering every day since then; this is the best crop of roses I’ve had in quite a while. I really was responsible this time with the roses as I covered them with frost clothes if there was even a chance of a hard freeze and I fertilized them early in the spring. This week they got more fertilizer and they are all looking good with lots of buds on the plants still waiting to bloom. Yay, garden!!

Books

I have two books going right now; one is text and the other is an audiobook. They both are really holding my interest and curiously they even look similar.

How crazy is it to be reading icy blue books when trapped in an heat wave. I’m only half way through The Doors of Eden and even less with The Cold Millions, but both books are thought provoking and really interesting.

And that’s all I’m going to say about them right now. 🙂

Have a great week everyone.

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

Scleroderma Update: My rheumatologist had my hands x-rayed this week and I have severe arthritis in both of them, but especially the one that is now acting up. I was kind of surprised and I’m hoping that they can do something to help with the swelling and numbness. My echocardiogram results also came back and I do have a hole in my heart, but an email came from my pulmonologist yesterday saying that it isn’t big enough to account for the whole panting/blue lips thing and he wants to do some more testing. Fun. We have an appointment next week.

The Saturday Update: Weeks 22 and 23

I’m going to be honest here: June has been really challenging so far. My entire right arm is numb and in pain and there isn’t much knitting going on. My appointment book is completely filled up with medical appointments and the bruises are collecting at an alarming rate; did I mention that June is Scleroderma Awareness Month? Yep. I’m aware. Scleroderma has gone into overdrive this month. Gee, if it wanted more attention it should have just asked!

In solidarity with scleroderma there have been other disasters this month. The car that was bringing me home from GI testing this week developed engine trouble (I ended up in an Uber, hopped up on drugs, leaking fluids from an unmentionable part of my nether region… best ride across town ever!) My refrigerator started shrieking in the night as one of the fans failed putting my stash of cheese at risk (yes, I have seriously cornered the market in… cheese). Oh, did I mention that I also had a scary close encounter with my neighbor’s pit bull? Seriously, it has been challenging to do anything except deal with all of this stuff. On the other hand, I have handled things; a new refrigerator is coming (I must save the cheese!), my neighbor has implemented more safeguards to contain her dog, and I have learned how to use Uber!! I’ve completed physical therapy and am walking much better. The car that broke down was repaired at little cost. My arm is in a brace but I am rocking voice-to-text on my phone. I’m knitting again… slowly.

Still, I am warning you, June, knock it off!! I have knitting and stuff to do.

Hannah: June would be a great time to get me a little kitten companion!!

Knitting

I finished my Noncho (Sharon from Security and Casapinka) this week. What a nice, versatile addition to my wardrobe this will be. I also made some progress on a sock but really the big accomplishment this week has been the Noncho. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

Garden

It’s gotten hot and the garden has taken off. I’ve been weeding steadily and it is really exciting to find flourishing plants and emerging flower buds. Look at what is going on right now:

Seriously, the garden is starting to explode with color. My rose plants are covered with buds and the main show is going to start in just a few more days. We had so much rain earlier this year the rose bushes grew really well and things are looking good. Okay, June is picking up a little.

Books

I’m enjoying The Cold Millions while I work on my second sock. So far it is pretty good and applicable to economic issues that we are dealing with today in the US.

Have a great week everyone.

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

PS: The gastroenterologist told me that I can’t eat cheese any more. Or chocolate. Or caffeine. Or carbonated drinks. Alcohol is absolutely forbidden.

I’m pretending that I didn’t hear that part about the cheese.

The Saturday Update: Week 21

Here it is Memorial Day weekend and it is cold and raining outside. Hannah and I have been hanging out indoors knitting, reading a book, and cleaning the stash. Oh, boy. There sure is a lot of yarn in the stash… let’s talk about that another day. Good thing it is raining, because I have a lot of knitting to do!

Hannah has been snoozing while I knit.

It is going to rain again tomorrow and when this is all over the outside gardens and lawn will be looking great. In the meantime, I have lots to keep me busy indoors.

Knitting

I finished up the first of the assigned pooling socks that I’m working on.

I had a skein of yarn from Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co. in the Colorful Yarns colorway designed for my favorite LYS, Colorful Yarns. The skein is mostly grey with short rainbow strips that are about 1/6 of the length of the skein. I started knitting the yarn in my usual ribbed sock pattern and was not happy with the way the colors were just stacking on top of each other. I ripped the sock out and started again with a K2P2 ribbed section at the top of the sock with smooth stockinette after that. I purled the rainbow sections when I came to them and threw in random PSS stitches in the rainbow purl strips in an effort to create some randomness in the colored sections on the sock. You can see in my second picture that I put in 1-3 PSS bumps into the purled/color strips or sometimes didn’t add a PSS at all.

What is PSS? It’s a stitch that I learned while knitting The Sharon Show in section 21 (called Catnip Garden) that is simple, added a little bump to the knitting and was sure to alter the length of the rainbow strips. Basically you purl two stitches together but leave them on the left needle. You then knit the same two stitches together, and then purl them together again before you pull them to the right needle: three stitches are made from two. You then pass the middle of these three stitches over the stitch next to it (closest to the tip) and there is the bump! If that doesn’t make sense, here is a swell video to show the stitch. On the next round I slipped the two stitches from the PSS and then finally knitted them on the next round after that. You can see the little colored slipped stitches below the purled sections in my second picture. I knit the sock from the top down; if you knit one from the toe up the little colored stitches will be above the purled sections. (Hint: because of the slipped stitches put a purl or two between PSS stitches.)

Once I got through the heel section I stopped inserting the PSS stitches in the knitting on the foot of the sock: I purled on the top of the foot while sticking to smooth stockinette on the bottom of the sock (3rd picture). I lost some of the randomness in the line up of the colored strips but that part of the sock will be in my shoe so I’m good with it. The final picture shows the finished sock with its contrast heel and toe; kind of wish now that I had make the top ribbing that hot pink too. I’m now working on the second sock now and should eventually get the pair completed.

The other knitting that is still going on is the Noncho (Casapinka) that I kind of wish was already done because it is cool with all of the rain… Hannah has been a great help.

Garden

It is raining outside!! Here are the cool pictures from the week of my indoor plants.

I’ve taken to spraying my African violets every week and they seem to like it. The leaves have lifted up and the plants are blooming like crazy. Not what I expected to happen, but the plants are responding so well I spray them down weekly now.

Books

I finished Wanderers today.

I was struggling with this book a little and wasn’t sure if I would complete it because… almost 700 pages! I don’t know how much I should say because of spoilers, but the plot involves sleepwalkers who are unresponsive to any efforts to wake them up. They never eat, never stop walking, and it is impossible to get a needle into them to draw blood. “Maybe they have scleroderma,” hypothesizes the CDC personnel attempting to understand what is happening with this flock of wanderers. Scleroderma! They had me at scleroderma. I kept reading.

Of course the wanderers don’t have scleroderma. This book is big, complicated, and pulls in lots of situational elements that are obviously based on actual people and events in the US. Amazingly, the book, which was published in mid-2019, also features a pandemic. I remember looking at the book when it was first published during those happy days when I could just head off to the book store to meet my friends; now things are changed and the impact of the book was that much more. I did like the book, but then I’m a biogeek who reads books about the CDC and outbreaks even before it became our lives.

Have a great week everyone!

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

The Saturday Update: Weeks 14 and 15, 2021

Guest Writer: Hannah the Magnificent

The Kitten Mom made me this new playground during one of her short times out of bed. Don’t you think that she should paint it hot pink for me?

The Kitten Mom is being lazy and staying in bed to read a book today so I’m just going to step in here to tell you about the last two weeks. The Kitten Mom just keeps going out of the house on errands (leaving me alone!!) and then when she comes home she just sleeps and acts super boring. I need her to play with me!! I love her to use the laser light, and to throw little toys for me to chase, or to just run around the house a lot so I can gallop along with her, but NOOOOO she just reads books and sleeps when she comes home. Still, we did do some fun stuff this week so I’ll tell you all about that stuff, okay?

Garden

It is snowing outside, like almost every single day. The Kitten Mom did go outside to mess with the plants out there while I watched in the window, but she mostly just covered all of her plants with boxes and bags because they were getting cold white stuff all over them.

See what I’m talking about?

We did work in the indoor garden this week because the Kitten Mom decided to move a bunch of orchids from one pot to another one. What is up with that?? Most of the plants have finished blooming so maybe she was trying to make them happy again… I don’t understand why she did this, but I did have a lot of fun playing with the wood chips and the pots, and then there was the WATER! I really love water.

The Kitten Mom moved the plants into bigger pots with this damp wood chip stuff around them. Now she has so many plants on the shelves under the lights that there is almost no room for me anymore. Almost. I mange to squeeze myself in there anyway and it is kind of fun because the Kitten Mom always rushes over to pay attention to me when I do it…

Knitting

I have sleeping on the bed with the Kitten Mom every single evening while she knits on stuff. I like to chew on the the yarn, but she doesn’t like that too much. I also like to groom the knitted stuff until it gets soft and fuzzy, but she kind of gets really excited and takes stuff away from me when I do that so mostly I don’t do it any more. Mostly.

We have really made a lot of progress on her new purple sweater. She is now finishing up the last sleeve and I like this project because it is perfect to sleep on. Except she keeps moving it around a little too much for me to get completely comfy…

It is better when she knits socks because then I can sleep right on her nap without purple knitted stuff hitting me all of the time.

Books

What can I say. The Kitten Mom reads a lot and I like that when I want to sleep too, but it gets a little old when it is time to get up and PLAY for awhile. What is crazy is the Kitten Mom listening to books while she knits. So strange. At least when she is reading I can sleep on top of her, but this knitting and reading thing is kind of weird if you ask me. I bring toys to her to play with, but nope. She mostly just reads.

She thinks that this book is really wonderful!

The Kitten Mom finished that book in the picture this week and I thought that she would get up to play with me, but nope, that did not happen. She immediately bought the sequel to the book and went back to reading. She didn’t even start up my laser light for me before starting the new book!

Now it is almost evening and that means that it is time for me to get my tuna dinner!! I like my dinner almost as much as playing, so this is a great time of the day. Then the Kitten Mom and I will be back to knitting and reading and maybe a little nap or two. I love the Kitten Mom.

Maybe we will play a little after our after-dinner nap.

Notes from the Kitten Mom:

  • I’ve gotten both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and have started making more trips out of the house including shopping trips. I got my hair cut, people!! I’m also getting all of the medical testing that was put on pause a year ago finally done. It is so good to get out there again, but exhausting. Hannah is so thrilled when I get home she just flings herself down on the ground in front of me and wiggles around in joy. Then we get cookies. What a perfect pandemic companion this little kitten has turned out to be!!
  • The sweater is Goldwing by Jennifer Steingass. I’m now finishing up the second sleeve and hope to wear it next week in the next round of snow storms.
  • I have gotten several new orchids in the last few months and decided to repot them now that they are (mostly) done with blooming. I use a mixture of wood chips and sphagnum moss for my potting soil since I live in a pretty dry climate, and mostly my orchids do well after I move them to new pots with this new soil around them.
  • There has been a sting of weather systems crossing the state that bring with them snow for the plants outside and trouble for me. Good thing I had the whole series of The Murderbot Diaries to read to keep myself entertained. I love these books!! I checked them out of the library but now I’m thinking that I should just buy them because I will be reading these books again!
  • The sequel to A Memory Called Empire is the book A Desolation Called Peace. These are really good books; rich characters, complex political intrigue, beautiful writing, spaceships, and cultural dynamics that are an echo of the series of books about the Roman occupation of Britannia that I read earlier this year. I have just arrived at the part of the book where we get to meet… aboreal, water loving kittens. And aliens. Of course. This is space opera, after all.
  • I have to take Hannah to the vet for a checkup and her shots…

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 13, 2021

Spring has arrived here in my little part of the world. The weather is balmy, the sky is endless blue, and I hear birdsong every morning now. Yay! I headed off the the nursery on Friday and bought some nice bedding plants that can withstand a spring snowstorm or two and planted them that afternoon. Look at what else I found!

So cool, right? My front rose garden is covered with these little white flowers and the occasional crocus as pops of color. Some of my perennials are putting out new growth and I am feeling pretty good about getting the outside gardens going again. I think that all of the rose bushes made it through the winter, but in another few weeks I’ll know for sure. Please, no big snow storms, Mother Nature!!

Knitting

I kind of set a goal for myself early in the year to knit a pair of socks each month, so late last week I went into knitting overdrive and got March’s pair of socks finished. They are nothing fancy, but they are done!

These guys were knit with Classic Sock yarn from Spun Right Round in the colorway “Hellbent”. This yarn is a 4-ply hard twist merino yarn that is advertised as perfect for socks, so I took a chance and cast on. It’s a knitting experiment! If they hold up to wear okay I have some more yarn like this in the stash just waiting to join them in the sock drawer…

Once the socks were done I went back to knitting the Goldwing sweater and made some progress. I have now finished the body and am working my way down the first sleeve; Hannah has been tons of help with the sleeve knitting… NOT! I have to flip the sweater around while working on the sleeve and that makes the knitting look like a cat toy to her. Still, we are making good progress.

Books

Have you ever found yourself reading books that had similar themes? Without meaning to I have gone down the rabbit hole reading books about… artificial intelligence and the personhood of human-like constructs.

These books ask the question, “What is personhood?” while taking you on adventures that are engaging and action-packed while forcing you to consider why some individuals have lesser rights than others. In A Closed and Common Orbit the artificial intelligence of a ship (Lovelace) moves into a robot body after a catastrophic failure and reboot that makes her continued presence on the ship uncomfortable. It’s a rocky, and illegal, transition but over time Lovelace, with the help of her irrepressible engineer/friend Pepper, is able to move into a life that is hers alone.

Then there is Murderbot. Oh, dear. I am currently consumed with Murderbot. Imagine being a highly skilled and intelligent construct of organic and machine parts that is designed to provide sophisticated services to clients who hire their services from security corporations. Known as SecUnits, these constructs are lethal bodyguard units capable of multiple types of responses; they can conduct electronic warfare and control other units (like drones) while shooting their way out of any ambush or hazard; retrieval and secure safe passage for human clients is their specialty. They are lethal units, valuable corporate possessions, and their compliance with corporate priorities and directives is controlled by implanted governors that “punish” any failure by the SecUnit. They are “things” and have no rights. Except… what if a SecUnit is able to hack the governor and can begin to make decisions for itself? Meet the hero of The Murderbot Diaries as it goes rogue and begins to find its own way in the universe. I love the Murderbot!! This is Space Opera to die for with a main character (snarky, media-watching, anxiety-ridden, loyal to its friends) that grows on me with every single new book. Who could have thought that a Murderbot could be so human as it struggles to deal with… humans? I just started the 5th book in the series today and I am seriously upset that I have to wait for the next one to get published.

Lucky for me I have Klara and the Sun waiting for me in my library. Klara is an artificial intelligence. Klara is solar powered. I can’t wait to meet Klara.

Hannah: Klara can’t be as cute as me!!

Have a great week, everyone!

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

The Saturday Update: Weeks 11 & 12, 2021

Life has been busy and I’ve really gotten behind on everything. Hannah had her first birthday last week:

Hannah: I’m a big girl now!!

Seriously, I was so busy and worn out over these last two weeks I barely got any reading or knitting done. Adding to the energy drain was my second dose of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and three weather fronts that barreled across the state last week. I am grateful that the snow that these storms dumped was manageable this time, but each one took a toll on my joints and breathing. That’s okay though… did you notice that I got my SECOND VACCINE SHOT!!! This is just huge! I am starting to schedule medical appointments right and left as it is finally time to get some attention for my very badly behaved hip and breathing issues. Bring it, Mother Nature. I am ready to take you on!! The Blue-Faced Zebra is emerging from a year of strict lockdown and is on the move again!!

Also, it is now spring and the birds are back and I am so happy to see green shoots of grass again. It has been a really long year, but it is finally getting a little better.

Knitting

I’ve been pretty sporadic with the knitting and I’m kind of limited to simple stuff right now because my hands are NOT HAPPY with all of the running around and weather events, but still I am making some progress.

My Goldwing sweater is getting longer in the body and I am debating how much more to knit before I start the ribbing at the bottom. I often finish the sleeves at this point and then come back to finish off the body as I’m always running short of yarn, but this time I think I can do things in the usual order as I bought an extra skein of yarn.
I’ve also been working on these simple ribbed socks using yarn that one of my sons gifted me with for Christmas. This yarn is Classic Sock by Spun Right Round in the colorway “Hellbent”. I really wanted this yarn, but it looked awful after I wound it… all brownish and muddy looking with some color sadly peeking out. I stuck the wound cake back into the stash to hide it for a few weeks. Needing a small project to take with me on my adventures out of the house, I pulled the cake out last week and cast on socks; it was already wound and I was in a hurry. As I knitted I fell in love with the yarn again. Now the colors sparkle in the mostly grey field and the brown elements have receded into the background. Who knew that would happen? Today, in the picture, the sock looks mostly pink. This sock yarn has been a learning experience for sure.

Garden

Poor garden. It has been so neglected lately, but the plants are still hanging in there. The best thing that is happening garden-wise are the microgreens that I have growing under the lights with the orchids.

I have been eating lots of microgreens these days. Full of nutrients, easy to digest, lower in fiber, this has been a great thing to add to my diet. These greens are broccoli and taste great; I’ve discovered that they work well added to almost everything so I manage to eat some every day. Take that, scleroderma!! I’m growing them in the Hamama system that I got for Christmas and I just reordered more seed quilts because I’m really liking them.

Books

I finished up several books over the last two weeks; let’s just chat about two of them, okay?

I was so in love with World of Wonders when I started reading it. I just loved the way the author blended her joy with the natural world with her family and life experiences. Then as I read more I began to become less charmed as her interactions with nature seemed more forced and some of the magic was slipping away in her writing. By the end of the book I had gotten over her and was thinking that I could do better job writing about my own love of nature and my blended experiences. The author shared experiences from trips around the world; for me the continual moments of joy that have been my encounters with nature that are truly home grown. I was thinking of all of this as I drove east last week and passed a big herd of pronghorn antelope grazing in the Plains Conservation Center near my house. Pronghorn antelope!! I love pronghorns… I could tell you stories about pronghorns… I hadn’t seen pronghorns for at least three years, and there they were, two large groups, just as I was thinking about writing about my lifelong love of all things biological. It’s a sign. Be prepared for some upcoming “Tales of a Biogeek” on the blog.

Now to chat for a few minutes about We Begin at the End. Why did I read a book with a quote on the cover about breaking readers’ hearts? Oh, it also said that it was impossible to not keep turning the pages. Well, that part was also true. This book, constructed so cleverly that even the most astute mystery reader will miss some of the underlying themes, is a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. The town in this book and the inhabitants are, quite frankly, broken. Badly broken to the point of being almost incapable of functioning, and yet they do somehow. Tragedies in the past have set in motion a series of events that bring unintended consequences that are both catastrophic and ironic for all of the main characters. My heart was broken, but at the same time there was a type of peace and balance in the ending. What a mess these people made of their lives; what a story this book tells. I miss my book group sooo much as this was absolutely a book that should be talked about with other readers.

Hey, did you know that today is National Respect Your Cat day? Yeppers, it is. Here are all the cats in my life in their most “You may now respect me” poses.

Hannah and my Grandkitties Jonesy and Maya will now accept your respect!!

Have a great week everyone!

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

The Year Alone: Reflections on Wonder, Luck and Hope

There is a storm on the way. These things look a little unbelievable on the weather forecaster’s computer display, but there seems to be a massive low pressure area cut off from the jet stream sliding relentlessly towards a part of the United States that will set up a big weather event. Snow. Lots of snow. Maybe feet of snow. I’m pretty stocked up but I needed a few items for my weekend cooking, so I headed to the grocery store late in the day to grab them. Oh, oh. The store was packed and the shelves were already emptying out. Shoppers radiated urgency as they raced down aisles disregarding the one-way Covid-19 traffic patterns. New shoppers were pouring in the door as I checked out and there was a whiff of panic as they passed me. This is crazy! How much snow is really coming, I wondered as I loaded my bags into the car and escaped the chaotic parking lot. I hadn’t seen anything like this since the early days of Covid-19 as the lockdown approached…

The lockdown. This week is the anniversary of the first Covid-19 death in my state, Colorado, and in just a few more days it will be the anniversary of the lockdown that started my year at home in isolation. So many people have been sick, and way too many have died. So much has been lost by so many people; this is the greatest tragedy of my lifetime. For me, however, in strict isolation, the year has rolled by with me in my own little world mostly disconnected from the greater world outside; my story is a lockdown story, not a Covid-19 story. I have been disappointed by people who kept me trapped in my home by refusing to wear masks or to comply with public health recommendations, and brought to tears by the kindness of strangers. A year is a long time; looking back now it seems like it passed in a flash even though I had some real struggles along the way.

Last night one of the local news programs had people post the last picture on their phone before the lockdown happened. Here’s mine.

My son’s kitten Jonesy in a tube attached to the cat pillar. He’s a 6 months old kitten in this shot.
Jonesy today as a handsome young adult at 18 months old.

This year of isolation has been 2/3’s of Jonesy’s life and the entirety of Hannah’s life as she was born within the first few days of lockdown in the middle of March. Looking at Hannah and Jonesy it is so obvious how long this year has been. Looking at Hannah and Jonesy it doesn’t seem all that bad, but of course this has been an extraordinarily tough year.

I sewed some cloth masks early on and wore them on the few occasions I had to leave the house: a science geek who had read way too many books about epidemiology, I suspected airborne transmission based on anecdotal reports from the New York City outbreak. That mask picture is the 2nd one on my phone after the start of the lockdown. As the debate about mask efficacy raged in online forums I wore mine anyway and ignored people who made negative comments. Almost a year later I was wearing two masks, one a highly regarded Vogmask, as I got that first dose of Pfizer vaccine.

“Do you trust the vaccine?” asked my neighbor yesterday. “Absolutely,” I replied.

I feel very, very lucky to get this Pfizer vaccine. Through chance I have a degree in molecular biology and worked for years in an immunology research lab. The molecular trickery used in this vaccine to harness my immune system to protect me from Covid-19 is the best thing that happened all year in my opinion.

I’ve been assigning lots of labels to this year spent mostly alone with my little tuxedo kitten, my books, and my bottomless pit of a yarn stash. This has been the year of astonishment. The year of disappointment. The year of living dangerously. The year of setting priorities. The year of realigning values. The year of healing. The year of decluttering. The year of absolute outrage. The year of lies and fake news. The year of masks. The year of Zoom. Finally, today, it is the year of luck and wonder.

I do want to apologize for my use of the words luck and wonder. There is no real luck in a pandemic at all. I absolutely know how awful and devastating this has been for so many people: how profoundly unlucky so many of us are that this happened to us right now in our lifetimes. The mutation and jump to humans of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was an event that has been anticipated and feared for a long time. It’s like waiting for an earthquake in California (The Big One) that will be massively destructive. You know it is coming, but you don’t know when or exactly where it will strike, and how devastating the damage will be. You prepare for it and hope that you are ready. How ironic, after growing up in California waiting for The Big One to hit, the crushing event of my lifetime came from a virus. In spite of the basic awfulness of all of this, I am learning to value the little crumbs of luck that came my way during my time in strict isolation while other people recovered so much of their lives and I was left behind.

I am so grateful for the luck, the random chance events, the technology, the human kindness, and the science that helped me get through this year.

My wonderful pandemic kitten was a failed adoption returned to the shelter and rejected by everyone else before I arrived to find her alone standing in a little cat tunnel. The last kitten left in the kitten room; her 6 litter mates had all found forever homes days before. Returned, rejected, all alone: the one thing that I needed. How lucky is that?

That’s little abandoned kitten Hannah on the left, 6 month old Hannah in the middle, and Hannah tonight hanging out with me while I type. Hannah was the one thing that I needed to pull me out of growing sorrow and a sense of abandonment when I realized that the the pandemic was raging unchecked in the USA as the result of a deliberate policy set by my government.

I was diagnosed with nocturnal hypoxia and received the oxygen equipment 5 days before lockdown. How lucky is that? Because of the oxygen I have been steadily improving for months.

I can order anything that I need online and have it delivered to the house in just a few minutes, hours, or days. Seriously, almost anything. A hamburger? It’s on the way!! A case of paper towels? My Instacart shopper is on it! A pair of new sheepskin slippers? Amazon makes it happen! More yarn… yes!! A plethora of indy yarn dyers will ship me my heart’s content. What would have happened if this pandemic hit in the 1990’s? How lucky that the technological infrastructure that allows all of these supportive services to exist is there for me and everyone else who needs them.

Every time I stream a movie on Netflix I feel lucky.

I was raised in the 50’s and 60’s: I can home cook from scratch and have returned to the meals of my childhood. Comfort food in a modern crockpot. How lucky is that?

I have a SMART PHONE that does everything that I can imagine doing. It banks for me. It remotely checks me into my doctor’s appointments. It tells me the route to drive to come home after a long day in a medical center. It connects me to so many other people in Facebook forums. It answers all of my questions: a couple of YouTube tutorials can handle any crisis. I can text all of my friends and family no matter what is happening outside. I feel lucky, people!!

I met with my primary care doctor via Zoom. I feel grateful for Zoom, people, even though most people in America hate its guts by now.

Knitting and reading groups have sprung up online that have connected me to wonderful, supportive, and positive friends from all over the world as we share our books, knitting, and cats. Then there is this blog. I tell you, I feel so lucky that this is all possible.

The Sharon Show, a MKAL run by Sharon from Security, a snarky cat who loves whiskey a little too much…

I can get unlimited ebooks and audibooks (well, as much as my bank account will allow…) instantly delivered to my Kindle tablet. I feel lucky.

In my year of isolation, oxygen, and limited adventures out of the house my painful joints have settled down, my kidney function has improved, and my red blood cell count has fallen into normal ranges for the first time in years. I am doing much better in many ways. Okay, I’m looking at a lot of medical testing to identify the cause of persistent chest pain, and there is still the problem of the severely damaged hip joint, but I’m in much better shape at the moment to tackle this then I was a year ago. I feel lucky.

Winter will end and the garden outside will come back to life soon. I feel lucky!!

I spend too much time wondering about things. Left alone, I have a lot of time for my imagination to run wild as I wonder about everything. I wonder if my roses all survived the dry winter. I wonder if the vet will yell at me for not getting Hannah in for her shots this year. I wonder what would have happened if this pandemic happened 20 years ago. I wonder what if it hadn’t happened at all. I wonder if I should throw away so many of my belongings as I declutter. I wonder why do I have a rare disease (systemic sclerosis) that appears to share some characteristics with Covid-19; what were the chances of that? I wonder when the Big One will come. I wonder if I should write a book. I wonder how I should combine colors of yarn in my next knitting project. I wonder what is happening with the Covid-19 long haulers. I wonder why some Covid-19 long haulers have improved after getting their Covid-19 vaccinations.

I wonder why, one week after my vaccination, I feel significantly better then I did two weeks ago.

I am actually looking forward to shoveling some snow this weekend.

In the greatest of tragedies there are still little crumbs of luck and rays of hope.

May our bad times end soon and we all have days of wonder, luck, and hope.

The Saturday Update: Week 9, 2021

This was a crazy, busy week. I made two major treks across town to medical appointments, pulled out the power drill and made repairs to the indoor garden, polished off two books, reintroduced myself to my spinning wheel, and made some major knitting progress. People, I ordered a new phone with an awesome camera!! And in the middle of the week this other really exciting thing happened…

I got my Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine!!

I’ve been cleaning out the cupboards (this is all your fault, Highland Heffalump!) and discovered some really nice roving that I bought years ago at the Interweave Yarn Fest. Look at it!! This shining softness is handpainted 50% yak/ 50% silk… about time to do something with it, don’t you think? I decided to add a little spinning to my days.

I started with the magenta roving and quickly remembered that I don’t exactly love spinning silk as it is hard for me to smoothly draft in my usual long draw, but the finished product is worth it. Right now I’m just trying to get back into the spin of things and hopefully this final yarn (which will be lumpy and pretty artistic with its uneven twist and thin stretches) will make a stunning (and arty) cowl some day. I am still thinking about how to tackle the multicolored roving… by the way, these fibers are from Greenwood Fiberworks. Anyway, Hannah thinks that the spinning is great fun and I’m starting to enjoy the zen of spinning again as I get the hang of working with the silk.

Knitting

I finished my socks and really buckled down and worked on the Goldwing sweater this week. I’m happy with the socks, and the sweater is slowly growing in spite of the exceptional assistance from my feline knitting supervisor. I have so many sweaters all kitted up waiting for me to get to them, and the cold weather is going to be gone before I know it, so I’m pretty motivated to get at least one sweater done this month. I’m more than half way through the colorwork yoke so the speed should really pick up in a few days when I’m finished with the colorwork and the sleeves stitches are placed onto holders. Of course, that’s when I get to try it on to see if it will fit…

Garden

Hannah likes to explore get into trouble in the indoor garden EVERY SINGLE TIME I work in the craft room. No wonder I’m having trouble spinning a smooth thread. She stands on the light fixtures as she climbs up onto the top shelf of plants, and wouldn’t you know it, both of those fluorescent grow light bulbs burned out last week. Funny. I wonder how that happened?

Hannah: It is a mystery. Also, the plant that jumped out and landed on the floor last night is also a mystery…

I tried to order more light bulbs online and quickly discovered that they are no longer made. I eventually decided to replace the light fixtures and bought LED grow light stands that attach to the shelves in a way that makes them virtually Hannah proof. The light is kind of a funky pink, but the plants seem happy so all is good.

The garden is pretty cheerful these days as my microgreens are looking happy (little do they know that they are going to be jumping into a blender in a couple of days when I make a smoothie…) and my newest African violets are blooming like crazy behind them. I just love that color pink! Perhaps inspired by the violets, the orchids are entering a second round of blooming and the latest plant is just now getting ready to open its buds; as an added bonus it looks like the orchid will coordinate smoothly with the blooming violets. Maybe the plants like Hannah knocking them around after all.

Books

I am completely hooked by this set of mysteries now.

I am completely enchanted by the Gaius Petreius Ruso mysteries. Ruso and Tilla are back in Britannia now, married and looking to settle into a new life together. Ruso wants/needs a job to make that happen, and the two of them become embroiled in a case of two missing tax collectors and the vanished taxes they were transporting when Ruso accepts a job as an investigator. This book sailed smoothly along as I listened to it while spinning and knitting, and I feel that the author has definitely hit her stride with the series. Ruso and Tilla have grown as characters, old friends have reappeared in this new plot, and the murders ( there are always murders, it seems, when Ruso is on the case…) and intertwined conspiracies are well developed and told in a straight-forward fashion that is easy to follow in an audiobook. I was up late into the early morning hours finishing this book and will be downloading the next installment in the series tonight. Hey, I have a sweater to get finished and this series is the perfect companion for me and the kitten as we work away.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Postscript:

Hannah eating microgreens in the garden while I write this post…

The Saturday Update: Week 7, 2021

Hi. I’m Hannah.

The Kitten Mom is taking a nap now and left her laptop out so I will be filling you in on the week, okay?

The Kitten Mom and I spent most of the week hanging out upstairs because it was just stinking cold for most of the week! I mean, I hated to even go downstairs to the best window to watch for squirrels because my feet got so cold… and there were crazy noises in the night, too!! The Kitten Mom was startled awake twice by big bangs downstairs that didn’t scare me even a little bit. Seriously. Well, maybe my eyes got a little HUGE but I was totally cool. Really. I was so brave I went with her when she went downstairs to check things out…

The Kitten Mom left some pop cans in the garage and they exploded. She said that they went ballistic and flew through the air. I can fly through the air when I jump off the bookshelf. Do you want to see ballistic Hannah? Ballistic is my new word for this week.

We spent most of the week knitting and reading under the covers upstairs and the Kitten Mom also made two big pots of soup. I didn’t get any of the soup because it was made of really yucky stuff like green chili and baked potatoes… I like chunky tuna the best of all my kitty foods… maybe we can make chunky tuna soup next week? I will help make it!! I’m the best helper ever!!!

Anyway, here is the knitting stuff that the Kitten Mom did this week:

The Kitten Mom spent days and days working on the bobble bind off for her new shawl. This is soooo boring but I like to sleep under the wrap while she works so it could be worse. She got tired of the bobbles one night and started on a new shawl with nice blue yarn that is fun to chew on a little when she isn’t looking. She also started knitting a new sock in the middle of the week that was more fun for me because I like to whap the needles while she is working. Those needles are really a lot of fun!!!

We also worked on her new mitts that she is making for the lady in California who sent me the lemons to play with. I’m really helping with these mitts and they are coming out looking super good, don’t you think? I think that they should become my newest toy so I can drag them down into my box playhouse. Maybe the Kitten Mom can make them squeak when I jump on them?!! That would be awesome!

For some reason the Kitten Mom kept working in the stash this week digging around in the yarn. It has something to do with this other cat named Sharon from Security who is releasing a new pattern this week named Botanique. What ever. Is that like plants? I like to dig in the dirt of the plants in the indoor garden. Did you know that the orchids have wood chips in them that are great toys to bat around on the kitchen floor? Why do we need more yarn when there are wood chips? Anyway, she found this yarn finally and WE GET TO GO WIND THE YARN TOMORROW which is about my most favorite thing in the world. Next to having the Kitten Mom play with me using the red dot toy… that little red dot is the bestest toy in the universe!!

Do you think that these will make a nice shawl? I get to sleep on the Kitten Mom’s legs while she is knitting and these colors look like they will be soft and warm on my fur…

So that was the week. The only other thing that happened is that the Kitten Mom VACCUMMED the house today and took away all of my dusty paw prints on the tables. I was really brave and watched from under the bed while she worked but it was kind of stressful. Afterwards I got new toys and some kitty cookies!!

I think that the Kitten Mom is waking up and that means that my time at the computer is over. I want to go pull a bunch of clothes down off the hangers in the closet to make a little kitten bed for myself now, anyways. Laters!!

Notes from the Kitten Mom:

  • How cold did it get? It was -17 degrees Fahrenheit when the pop cans exploded. I looked outside while searching for the source of the noise and saw a lonely bunny huddled in the yard covered with snow. Tough night for bunnies and kittens.
  • The wrap with the bobble bind-off is Julie’s Wrap (Joji Locatelli).
  • The garter stitch shawl (blue) that I started this week is another Age of Gold by Joji Locatelli. What can I say. The bobbles were hurting my hands and I needed a nice break to work out the soreness… I should have the wrap finished in another week or so and the left over black yarn can be used to trim the new Age of Gold shawl.
  • The sock is just a homegrown pattern, but that yarn is Smooth Sock in the colorway #Trending by Hue Loco.
  • The mitts are the Mando Mitts (Natela Datura) and are an exercise in yarn handling as some rows use three or four colors. I am doing three at a time and planning on coming back to duplicate stitch in the missing details later.
  • The lady in California who shipped the lemons is my exceedingly knitworthy niece Melissa.
  • The shawl that Sharon from Security and Casapinka released yesterday is indeed Botanique. I bought the pattern and have the yarn all lined up to cast on, but I want to get something finished and off the needles before I do that. Must knit faster!!
  • I am currently in position 6, 231 on my health provider’s Covid-19 vaccine wait list. I have a whole bucket of medical testing coming at me in the next 6 weeks and the race to get vaccinated first is now on…
  • The worst disaster of the week? I somehow sliced some new yarn that came via squishy mail as I battled with the packaging to get it out, and I now have 15 pieces of this yummy pink yarn.

The Saturday Update: Week 6, 2021

It is really, really cold here today! Right now it is 1 degree Fahrenheit outside and there is snow on the way; tomorrow will be colder. I’m wearing layers of knitted warmness and thanking my lucky stars that we are just catching the edge of this outbreak of polar wonderfulness.

Hannah: Since we are staying in you can play with me, Kitten Mom!!

I bought a laser pointer to play with Hannah and now she calls for me to come play with her a half dozen times a day… she loves that moving red dot even more than cookies!!

Let’s see… what else has been going on this week… I moved up 4,000 slots on the virtual Covid-19 vaccine wait list which means that I think I will get an appointment for my shot in just another couple of weeks. Yay!! My 23andMe results came back showing that I am ridiculously healthy (except for that little autoimmune thing…), I have elite-athlete type muscles (huh?), and that I have a genetic propensity to hoard unused items. Are you kidding me?! How did they learn about my yarn stash? Anyway, the ancestry results show that I am about half Swedish (which I knew) and about half British/Irish, which I wasn’t sure about as my dad’s family has been here in the US for over 300 years and the name is something… absolutely not British or Irish. There is a little French/German DNA in the mix, so I’m guessing the name came from that. This is kind of fun and I’m considering pursuing the family tree further.

No word on the systemic sclerosis study, but my DNA is now officially part of the data base. Yay!

Knitting

Knowing that the deep cold was on the way I hurried and finished my Tinsel Mitts so that I could wear them over gloves this week when I leave the house. The rest of my knitting time was spent adding the edging to my Julie’s Wrap which is pretty slow going as that ribbing uses twisted knit and purl stitches. That’s a lot of knitting through the back loop, people! It looks great and isn’t pulling in the way typical ribbing does, but it is definitely slow going. I have another inch or so to knit before I start the bobble bind off; maybe in another week I’ll be there.

Reading

I read the next book in the mystery series I started last week featuring a Roman doctor attached to a regiment in conquered Britannia. Once again he has arrived at a new posting just after a murder has occurred… I’m getting pretty fond of Gaius Petreius Ruso, the protagonist in these murder mysteries, and I especially like his disrespectful and independent slave Tilla who is quickly moving out of that status when it becomes apparent that she was illegally sold into slavery. There, I knew it!! I listened to this book on Audible as I knitted away on the wrap and there may be another book in this series arriving on my Kindle soon.

Did I mention that Hannah has perfected her cat loaf posture and hangs out with me while I’m listening to the book and knitting along on the wrap?

Hannah: all the best tuxedo kittens do this!

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

And wear your (double) mask!!