The Saturday Update: Week 1, 2021

Well, this was an exhausting and fraught week, wasn’t it. I mean, I struggled to knit the week was so bad, and then if that wasn’t enough I logged some personal drama myself. As in…

Yesterday I couldn’t walk on my excessively ill-behaved legs!! I hit bottom after a couple of days of noticing that I was having more breathing issues and sporting blue lips again. What is up with this, 2021? Did 2020 leave you some type of User’s Manual? Just drop that sh*t in the nearest trash can and behave yourself!!

In a normal year I would have called for help and gotten myself into a medical center, but in this year I stayed in bed on oxygen, drugged up, and snacked on the crackers and bai drinks that I keep upstairs. It’s got to be inflammation, I told myself, so I’ll just sleep this off. Yep. Today I’m up and managing like nothing happened. I blame the weather… I absolutely blame 2020 for lingering bad vibes… I blame too many trips in and out of the cold garage…

Look at what is happening in my indoor garden! The new monster orchid has recovered from its trip through the mail and is now looking pretty darn good.

No week or year can be absolutely bad, right?! There was also lots to be happy about. I had great packages on the way to me (squishy mail and the 23andMe DNA kit from my last post), a flourishing indoor garden, two really engaging books to read, and my goodness (!!) the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) shawl is about as cheerful as a piece of knitted work can be. I’m still thinking about my resolutions for this year (but getting my Covid-19 vaccine is at the top of the list), so I’m just going to ignore all the newsworthy events of the week and jump to what was up at home.

Knitting

I have ONLY ONE knitting project going on at the moment, but it is a doozy. Look at this explosion of color wonderfulness!

I’m now passing the halfway mark. This baby is going to be huge, but wonderful. I wear a lot of black so this will absolutely brighten things up when I wear it.

I totally lost control and ordered yarn for myself last week and I’m practically dying with the need to cast on more projects. Maybe just a little pair of socks? I know that I need to stay away from sweaters, but wouldn’t a cowl be a nice little things to have stuffed into a project bag… I have new yarns with names like “Naughty Chair” and “Troublemaker” that are insisting that I should cast them onto needles as soon as possible. Little projects like that are easier to manage when staying in bed all day with a cat sleeping on you… Do it! Do it! Do it! the yarns chant from the yarn stash…

Garden

Hannah has been spending a lot of time in the indoor garden, and I have to admit that it seems to be doing well even with her knocking plants over and using some of them as toys.

Hannah especially likes the owl in the garden that is supposed to be watching over her… yeah. I had to evacuate the owl to a safe location this afternoon. Several of the jade plants have been staked this week to help prop up the branches that Hannah has shoved over. I think that the problem is that Hannah is growing quickly and spaces that she previously moved through easily are now too small for her so… plants get knocked around, lamps knocked down, and worst of all, she misses some jumps and falls off of ledges that she used to have no problems with. Suddenly that little window sill isn’t quite big enough! Anyway, back to the garden. One of the orchids is blooming and another is putting out a stem, so the winter is cheerier than I first expected. The African violets are still putting out lots of new buds, so the craft room, where the garden is, is currently my happy place.

Books

I started two new books this week and am still reading them, but both have completely captured my attention and I’m planning on finishing at least one of them before the weekend is over.

I’ve been caught up in The Huntress and really enjoying it but yesterday in bed called for an audiobook so I started the second book, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. Now I have a real conflict as I like the Paolini book so much I want to cast on a new knitting project and just listen to it, but the Kate Quinn book is also excellent and I am so close to finishing it I should buckle down and just finish it off… but I can’t knit as easily while reading a paper book. Life is full of these trade offs. Obviously I should finish the paper book as fast as I can so that I can cast on a pair of socks… in blue yarn… with gold sprinkles… the name of the yarn is “Cloud Atlas” which would be nice to knit while in a sea of stars, don’t you think? That’s the plan.

“Naughty Chair” and “Troublemaker”, don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about you. I happen to have 3 little project bags and lots of needles!

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

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

And wear your mask!!

Footnotes:

  • “Naughty Chair” and “Troublemaker” are produced by Hue Loco.
  • “Cloud Atlas” is produced by Uschitita Fiber Art.
  • I was officially accepted into the Systemic Sclerosis Study being conducted by 23andMe this week and they have mailed the DNA collection kit to me.
  • I have stockpiled the yarn to make three new sweaters!! They should make it harder to buy yarn online, don’t you think?

Packages on the Doorstep

Here we are, safely arrived in 2021. I spent part of the day sandwiching the new art quilt top that I finished for my son’s very late Christmas present with the batting and the backing so that I can start doing the quilting tomorrow. Hannah was a huge help as I ironed and laid out the cloth on the floor with the batting and the top on it and secured everything with lots of safety pins. The backing for the quilt is just perfect, and I was able to get it with the help of a cousin who works in a quilt store in Durango, Colorado. I texted her a picture of the fabrics for the borders of the quilt, and she texted back fabric photos of possible candidates. I picked one, and she mailed it to me a couple of days later.

The fabric to the left is the backing that my cousin found for me and the purple to the right is the outer border of the quilt. They go together perfectly!!

I was so happy to get the package with the fabric when it arrived: it was perfect and the thread the exact right color. A big problem had been solved through a pandemic-induced life hack. As I worked with this fabric today I remembered all the uplifting boxes that have arrived on my doorstep recently that have really impacted my mood as I struggle along like so many other people isolating at home alone.

My niece in California sent me a box of lemons from her tree!! Really, who expects lemons when you open an unexpected box? I rose to the challenge and made lemon bars. Each trip to the fridge to sneak another bar out to snack on fills me with a little burst of happiness! Next I’m thinking that I might be able to manage a lemon pound cake. Can I freeze lemon juice?

Do you remember my fabulous monster orchid that I was so happy with last year at this time? That’s it to the left. Over the summer it died… seriously, it is silly to be upset over a lost orchid, but I was. Right before Christmas a enormous box arrived on my doorstep with a two foot orchid carefully stuffed into it… another monster orchid!! Check out the blooms in the picture to the right – that’s my new big boy orchid. My DIL scored me the best Christmas present ever!!

Out of nowhere a strange package appeared a few weeks ago… maybe it was early December? Completely mystified, I brought it in and opened it with Hannah to discover…

A knitting friend had bought yarn for me when she visited a yarn store in Florida months ago before the pandemic changed our world.

My friend is now waiting out the pandemic in another state and who knows when we will see each other again, but we communicate back and forth with email and sending me yarn was a world class act of generosity and completely made my day.

Finally, there was the Christmas gift that arrived without warning from my sister. A little something to keep its eye on Hannah, who has been known to get into mischief on a pretty regular basis these days.

An owl! It is hanging out these days with the orchids where it can, indeed, keep an eye on Hannah!

There they are, the collection of serendipitous boxes of joy that landed on my doorstep over the last few weeks that have been so impactful in helping me carry on as bad news keeps crashing in through my walls from the world outside. They remind me that even though I am still isolating and waiting for my turn to get a vaccine I am not alone at all. Through the mail, little things keep coming that mean so much.

I know that we all have high hopes for 2021, but I think that we are in for a long haul. Take joy in the little things that come your way, and when you can, send packets of caring and happiness to others.

This year I will be focusing on charity knitting.

2020: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye… and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!!

This is it: it is now late in the evening, I have a huge pot of soup cooking on the stove waiting for me to sample it, and there are fireworks (already) going off outside in my neighborhood. 2020 is finally drawing to a close. This has been a pretty difficult year, to say the least, for me and almost everyone that I know. You all know the highlights: pandemic, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, political craziness, and looming threats on the horizon. For me it was also a year of struggle with systemic sclerosis and the loss of a beloved pet. Unbelievably, I had resolved to make weekly posts to my blog to chronicle this year that can only be considered historic at this point. I still have to read all of the year’s posts again to select highlights, but to be frank once I start to list them all it’s going to be a little overwhelming. Let’s just ignore all the icky things that have gone on in 2020 and focus on closing down the year.

Faced with just a few days left in the 2020 I decided to polish off a couple of unfinished projects and books. I pulled out the knitting project bags and discovered a pair of unfinished fingertipless gloves… totally doable, I told myself.

One finished mitt was in the bag with the start of the second mitt, but since I had been making the pattern up as I went along it was a little bit of a challenge to find my way. Eventually, by counting rows and hunting for some notes that I put into a journal I managed to finish up the second mitt on Tuesday. Pretty snazzy, huh?! I’ve been wearing the mitts in bed while reading in the evenings and they are just the perfect things to keep my hands warm while sipping herbal tea and flipping pages. My Ravelry project notes are here.

I also took the last few days of the year to finish up a couple of books that I started months ago.

You know, I couldn’t have chosen better books to end of the year if I had tried. This is a year where many of us have had to reevaluate our choices and priorities. I don’t know about you, but I have thrown away so much stuff that I didn’t need any more, made changes to my home that made it more comfortable and user friendly, and returned to cooking from scratch like I used to decades ago. I am making do with the things that I already have, and am developing new coping strategies. It’s been a stretch at times, and some of the changes that I had to make this year took some time, but I got there.

Now, imagine that the world as you knew it fell out from under you and you are forced to run for your life with your 8 year old son in a matter of moments. Your family is gone, your resources are few, and you don’t really know how to do it, but you need to flee to a foreign nation to seek refuge: your picture is being broadcast through social media and there is a bounty on your life. You are now caught up in a migration north with other desperate refugees stalked by ruthless predators and constant threats, but also helped by kind people who reach out to you and your son on the journey. At the end, in order to reach safety, you place yourself and your son in the hands of a coyote to take you across the border with a small group of other travelers; not everyone will survive the journey, but if you do you have a chance for a simple life of decency and safety. That pretty much is the plot of American Dirt. All of a sudden, the horribleness of 2020 didn’t seem all that bad when faced with a situation such as this. This book was very well written and I am so glad that I read it now.

The Glass Hotel is another book that had languished on my Kindle for months, but now that I’ve read it I feel like it is a treasure. It is kind of a quirky book, with a cast of characters who are interconnected in ways that aren’t obvious at first, with a plot that bounces back and forth in time as the events and connections are woven to create the fabric of the story. It is a book about a Ponzi scheme, ghosts, an isolated hotel in the Pacific northwest, choices, opportunities, consequences, and what is important in life. This is a book that I’m going to be thinking about for a long time, and one that I’m so glad I read this week at the end of a very, very crazy year.

So that is that. There’s only an hour left in the year, and the soup is smelling really good. I have one, and only one knitting WIP to carry forward into the new year, and it is a really cheerful one. Behold, the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) by Sharon from Security (Casapinka).

These are the wildest colors that I have every knitted together, but this is a knitting adventure and a really fun way to end the year. Hannah has been hanging out with me all evening as I’ve been listening to The Glass Hotel and knitting away and we’re making a lot of progress. I have to laugh to myself about the yarns I selected: Dream in Color, Teenybutton Studio, Chasing Rabbits, and Hedgehog Fibres. Yep. I definitely did dream in color when I put this combo together, and what is up with the fox, rabbits, and hedgehog? This is the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz), but somehow all of those other animals snuck in too. It is hard to not be cheerful facing the new year when working with all of this fun! My Ravelry notes are here.

The African violet has doubled in size over the last year.

Let me close out the year with this picture of my favorite African violet from the indoor garden. Look at this little guy, covered with new blooms and promise for a great new year.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

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

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 47 & 48

Wow. We’re getting kind of close to the end of the year. These last two weeks just kind of flew by for me as I spent most of them either 1) asleep or 2) knitting. That’s right. I am drowning in knitting projects, dreaming of color, yearning for more yarn, and pretty much out of control. My two autoimmune diseases, Sjogren’s and systemic sclerosis, also decided to be out of control for several days as I slipped into a flare, loaded up on more drugs, and spent days in bed mindlessly listening to audiobooks that I can’t remember now and watching television that I normally would never consider… last Sunday the idea of a shower was so exhausting that I just stayed in bed all day and watched Russian figure skating. I don’t want to brag or anything, but this may have been an historic low for me… if I end up watching monster truck demolition derbies I will definitely have hit bottom…

It was also Hannah’s 8th month birthday last week. Not the best light for the picture… do you know how hard it is to get a kitten to pose with you?

In the meantime I have been making lists of things to do in my journal. Good heavens, I am going to need a few more weeks in the year. On the other hand, since we are talking about 2020, it is probably best to just hustle it right out the door as soon as possible and ignore the list!

Anyway, I magically emerged from the flare early this week and I’m back to knitting like crazy and dreaming of new color combos to put together some additional projects. Maybe I ordered some more yarn too. Hey, things are getting crazy out there is Covid-19 land, so best to stock up, right?

Knitting

The next knitting MAL that will be run by Sharon from Security (Casapinka‘s poorly paid and overworked staff member who is currently outraged about the mouse that ran through the palace in an episode of The Crown and is also hiding out from the ringworm that has been brought into the house by a newly acquired staff member joining the Casapinka operation… ) is the highly anticipated Secret Life of Cats (and dogz). I have the yarn, I bought the pattern, and I am waiting with great anticipation for the first instructions to drop on December 1st. Oops. That is like… NEXT TUESDAY!!! I am in the middle of Slipstravaganza (Stephen West), and it is growing into an absolute monster. Must. Knit. Faster.

I am just driven to get this shawl done. I absolutely love the way the colors and textures are working out as I knit the shawl. I did hang back on this project and waited for other people to knit and show theirs off before I cast on; the final product is just stunning and I am motivated to get as much done as I can before Secret Life arrives next week. I don’t think that I will get it all done in time, but hopefully I will be into the final clue soon. It is now too large to show off well on the needles so the big picture will have to happen after I get it all cast off. I understand that the cast off takes about 5 hours… this is the dark side of getting into a MKAL with a lot of other chatty and supportive knitters. 🙂

Meanwhile I did get a few other things done in the knitting world. I finished up my socks made with Hue Loco yarn (colorway Elixir) and wound up the yarn for the next sweater that I want to make. Oh. About that sweater. I am going crazy with the color combos. I wound the yarn that I first chose, and then decided to switch to a warmer fall colored pinkish yarn. Sigh. What do you think?

The sweater is Solvi by Jennifer Steingass, and that picture to the left is her copyrighted photo that I swiped off Ravelry. The soft black yarn will be the sweater body, and the blue Hue Loco was my first pick for the contrast, but I’m thinking that I will be a lot happier with the pinkish Six and Seven Fiber yarn on the far right. The pinkish yarn is called “Forever September” which kind of clinched the deal for me. Best time of the year, right?! All inputs gratefully accepted on my color choices. I also have a fabulous red yarn with black flecks that could be used. I’m drowning in color decisions, people!!

I almost forgot to show off the socks. Here they are… Tada!!

Garden

Hannah and I are are spending more time working with the indoor plants where she excels as a helper. Did I mention that she is shredding the fronds of my palm and carrying the bits that she is able to remove from the plant around the house to use as toys? Still, it is a huge plant and if she is happy, I’m happy, and even the palm seems to be happy as it has started growing two new fronds since Hannah started giving it so much love.

Most of the plants are putting out new growth now and there is very little blooming going on except for the orchids that I brought home from the grocery store. The African violet is getting huge, and the jade plants are putting out lots of new growth in response to the pruning that I gave them last summer. My jade plants don’t bloom, but boy do they respond well to pruning!

Reading

I listened to two silly military science fiction books this week that stole plot elements and characters from at least a half dozen other books in the genre and made endless references to the game of chess, movies, and other science fiction books with reckless abandon. If you have been steadily reading science fiction for over 50 years like I have then you get most of the jokes and catch the popular culture and movie references, which made the dialogue a little snappy with the inside jokes, but it also seemed like the authors were two guys showing off their credentials to help me overlook the fact that they weren’t all that original in their thinking. Anyway, the pace was rapid, the story line inventive (well, if you scramble enough plots together you get lots of twists and turns, right?), and the best part was if I fell asleep and missed a couple of chapters it was no big deal. 🙂

I think that I should allow these books to remain nameless. Just another chapter in my flare last week!

Well, that’s it.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

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

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 44 and 45

Late again, late again. I feel like a character from Alice in Wonderland. This time my excuse is the horrific anxiety associated with 2020 in general, and the presidential election in specific. I’ve been struggling with my scleroderma all week: blue-lipped and short of breath, struggling to walk, fatigued and in pain. Not a good week at all! I stayed in bed this weekend with Hannah and my knitting and I am finally coming out of it tonight. It hasn’t been helping me that the Covid numbers in my state are just skyrocketing to new heights and near by municipalities are clamping down with curfews and other restrictions. Sigh. Thank heavens there is a state-wide mask mandate that applies to stores or I wouldn’t be able to go out at all. I’m now in my 8th month of stay-at-home, and the end is nowhere in sight.

Is it safe to go out now? Nope. Not yet, Hannah!

In other 2020 news I now have email arriving in my inbox in Italian. I don’t read Italian… Who had this on their 2020 Bingo card?

It is snowing like crazy in the mountains this evening and we are finally coming to the end of our wildfires. Yay!!

Knitting

So, while resting up and avoiding the never-ending, anxiety-inducing election results I did get a lot of knitting done. Hannah was an exceptional help as I steadily worked on my shawl for most of a week, and then supervised the blocking for me as I worked with pins and blocking wires. Let me present to you my finished Far Away Dreams shawl (Joji Locatelli).

I am so pleased with how this turned out. Soft and very squishy from the garter stitch, it is perfect to wear on a cold evening or while reading in bed. I am coming to appreciate rectangular shawls as they are shorter in the back so they stay free when you are sitting down and are fairly easy to bunch up around your neck as a scarf under a coat. I ran out of the blue yarn so after some stash diving I decided to use the black MCN yarn for the outer trim, which totally worked as the lace yarn had black and blue flecks in it. So happy with the final result!

Once the shawl was blocking I dived back into my bag of unfinished projects and pulled out a hibernating sweater and those socks that I cast on with Hue Loco yarn a couple of weeks ago. I’ve focused on the sweater this week and the sock is seeing a little action too. Check it out!!

This is Misurina by Caitlin Hunter, a short sleeved cropped sweater knit with fingering yarn on rather large gauge of 20 stitches per inch. I am knitting this on size 6 needles to make this yarn work, and I am so happy with the fabric coming off the needles. I just separated the sleeves from the body of the sweater so things are going to go much faster now. I’m kind of wondering about knitting another one using DK yarn from the stash; I have enough yarn to make one with long sleeves. Hmmm…

I’m also working a little on the socks being knit with Hue Loco yarn (remember… I sort of lost control and went on a spending spree a few weeks ago and got yarn in every color in the new Fall palette. I regret nothing! It is important to have fun and some reckless moments while times are just crazy all around you…). Anyway, this sock is being knit with the Elixir colorway.

Elixir is the colorway next to the Uschitita on the left side of the picture. I’m working more steadily on the socks now as I can’t wait to cast on another color from the buying spree… I’m already dreaming about casting on the blue Uschitita or the purple Hue Loco…

Garden

It has gotten a little chancy for plants that live outside now that the ovenight temperatures dip below freezing so I ordered some shelves online and brought in my favorite miniature roses from outside and set them up in the living room to create an indoor garden. So happy to knit in my garden again in the afternoon sunshine in that room. The perfect spot to read. The favored cat nap spot…

Right now the leaves are falling off the roses as they adjust to the new conditions, but in my experience new leaves will arrive in the coming weeks that are adapted to the living room’s light levels. Yay!!

Reading

I am really in a mystery mood right now. I finished one last week and am working on a historical mystery/suspense book now that I’m enjoying.

Careless Whiskers is a cozy mystery and a fast read. The main character, Charlie, works part time in the college library and solves murders on the side. It’s a fun gig if you can get it. 🙂 He lives in the 3 story house that he inherited from his deceased aunt that is too perfect for words: the house comes with a housekeeper who takes care of everything including the laundry and cooks fabulous southern meals on the side. She even takes care of the cats! To make this even more envy-inducing Charlie has boarders who help out with cat-sitting and provide the meals when Azalea is off on the weekends. There is a giant Maine coon cat and a kitten in the book; both of these animals are perfectly behaved and never chase squirrels or climb the curtains… did I say that this is a cozy mystery? Anyway, there is a theatrical production, players with enormous egos, a death, and a cast of suspects that includes Charlie’s daughter. Charlie eliminates suspects between naps and meals that feature more biscuits then I eat in a year while taking the perfectly-behaved cat almost everywhere he goes. See, a perfect book to read during a difficult week.

I’m about halfway through Conspiracy and greatly enjoying the characters and the story. Okay, Giordano Bruno is one of my favorite characters ever!! A philosopher at odds with the Catholic church and an intrepid solver of murders, he is neck deep in intrigue in Paris this time. The battle for control between religious factions in Paris is pretty intense as Huguenots conspire to place their candidate on the throne which is currently occupied by a Catholic king. Bruno is caught in the middle of all of this as he is forced to work for King Henri, the English ambassador, and several other players on the board. Whew. Things are tough for Bruno who is trying to handle some personal issues of his own (like, maybe he can be restored to a state of grace with the Catholic church and perhaps run down a women he kind of likes…) while getting ambushed by different agents of the factions battling for control, and… he keeps losing his knife! The knife that Sir Francis Drake gave him in the last book! Surely, the knife will be recovered soon… Bruno needs his knife! This is an engaging book to be sure and I can’t wait to get to the end of it because I have another Bruno book waiting for me on the kindle. Yay! Good reading times.

Well, that’s it.

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 37

Well, this was a week. It seemed much, much longer, but really, it was only a week. My youngest son alerted me that he was battling some type of infection early in the week and the news stations began alerting me that the weather was going to be just wacko for a few days. The forecast was so crazy we made the national news.

Yep. We broke a record for the heat amid warnings of a serious snow storm on the way. The smoke from wildfires in the mountains west of me kept the sky a dirty white color and the sun a sullen red ball as I brought all of the potted plants into the garage for safety before the expected snow and hard freeze. The temperature dropped over 60°F in 24 hours and I had to start up the furnace. I covered the roses to protect them and my son started a second prescription of antibiotics.

Two days later the weather had warmed up again, the snow was gone, and I had carted all of the potted plants back outside for a few more weeks of sunshine. The fires in the mountains were chugging back to life after a few days of respite during the snowstorm, and a text had came from my son that started with, “Don’t panic…” His doctor had sent him to the ER, he was transported to a second hospital where he had emergency surgery and landed in the ICU on a respirator overnight. This afternoon he is off the respirator and sending me text messages again while I make calls to his nursing team. Because of Covid I’m not with him right now and I JUST HATE 2020!!! I think that we are all due a break.

Knitting

This was a week for garter stitch for sure. I did some work on the new Misurina sweater early in the week, but by the end of the week, aware that my son was not getting better on his antibiotics, I was all garter stitch, all the way.

I’m further down the yoke of the Misurina sweater (by Caitlin Hunter) and am happy with how it is going.

The colorwork sections of the yoke are separated by little cables, can you see them there in the grey? I was catching the floats in those cable stitches but you can see them peaking through because of the loose gauge so I am just making really long floats now. I don’t like to do that in general, and I have an idea of catching them later on with some clever stitching with grey yarn if they are a problem, but for now extra long floats are the plan.

Lured into a sense of autumn by the cold and snow I cast on another garter stitch shawl using some Mad Tosh sock yarn in the colorway “Rocky Mountain Colorado” that looks like all the colors of fall.

See what I’m talking about?

This is the Age of Gold shawl by Joji Locatelli.

The large garter stitch shawl is finished off with a lace border in a nice contrast color that can pick up one of the colors in the garter fabric. I kind of want to use a dusty pink that I have, but I’m also tempted to buy a beautiful saffron colored yarn I saw online. So many decisions in a week gone bad! Right now I’m just going to keep knitting and once I’ve got more yarn into the shawl I’ll have a better idea about which color I want to highlight. The trick is to make the colors sparkle instead of toning down the shawl… Ironically, because of the extreme heat followed by a hard freeze, the fall colors in our mountains won’t be that nice this year. Thanks again, 2020!!

Garden

Right before the rain started I went out into the smoky air and took some pictures while moving plants into the safety of the garage.

The stonecrop was just starting to bloom and covered with bees. Poor guys… hope they got home before the rain started.

While I was taking the picture of the bee there was a flash of movement to my left… a bunny in the back yard again!!

The stonecrop came through the storm just fine under the tubs I covered them with and the bees are back. I haven’t spotted the backyard bunny again, but the squirrels are putting on a show in the front yard for Hannah as they race around the front ash tree. As I took the knitting pictures yesterday I spotted this under my Douglas Fir (the only good Doug is a dead Doug… poor maligned tree): an owl pellet!!

The first time I’ve ever spotted one of these in the wild!

A little calling card from one of the great horned owls reminding me about the circle of life.

By the way, the mountain lion has been seen a couple of more times, but not in my backyard, thank heavens!!

Books

The Pull of the Stars was great! Set in Ireland, it is the story of a nurse working in a small ward with pregnant women stricken by influenza during the Great Influenza pandemic in 1918. The characters are rich, the historical setting and issues ring true, and I chomped my way though the book in just a couple of days. Along with the pandemic there are threads about the great war, shell shocked soldiers, the fight for Irish independence, prejudice against women, and the abuse of the “pipeline” that consumed women and children not protected by the sanctity  of marriage in 1918 Catholic Ireland.

The title is a nod to the origin of the word “influenza” which comes from an Italian outbreak in medieval times that was attributed to the influence of the stars.Our heroine nurse records each death and loss as tiny scratches on her watch. A moon for a lost mother. Tiny lines and half moons for stillborns and premature births. Every loss is recorded in time from an illness poorly understood and difficult to control. Kind of haunting, huh.

So I attended the live discussion with the author of this book at Barnes and Noble, and it was great! The author, Emma Donoghue talked about her work and answered questions from viewers that were general ones like “why did you choose this situation” or “how difficult was it to portray medical understandings of a century ago”. It was fine, but I also would have like to just “talk” about the book, the characters, and their actions with the other participants. Nope. No spoilers allowed. There must be a way to have reader chit chat just like the real book club would do. I guess I’ll keep digging and maybe ask B&N if there is a way that can be set up. It would be just another Facebook group, right?

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Be kind to each other and stay safe.

It’s time for me to call the hospital again.

The Saturday Update: Week 36

I think that I am just about done with 2020. Never, ever has there been a year so ill behaved in my own memory. Today we hit a record high of 100° F where I live, and on Tuesday it is expected to snow. We had another case of bubonic plague in the state. A geyser in Yellowstone National Park, long dormant, has suddenly returned to life. Covid-19 cases are spiking in the states that surround my own. The nightly news continues to be a horror show, and some of it is just downright triggering. There can be no longer be doubt that the current administration is taking action to accelerate the Covid-19 infection rate in the US; stay tuned, folks: our fatality numbers are going to be astounding. Every day brings more tweeted lies and misinformation meant to contribute to racial tensions and general chaos, and the words “civil war” are popping up more often in my social media timeline.  The president was reported to disparage war dead as “suckers” and “losers” this week, and also encouraged his supporter to vote twice. This is just plain historic, but also very painful. I’m totally over living in interesting times.

Some days it is hard to stay cheerful.

But Hannah and I are doing our best. 🙂 Also, I’ve told Hannah that she can’t play with the squirrels because… plague!

Hannah: There’s a squirrel, Kitten Mom!! Let me out, let me out, let me out…

Shameless hussy squirrel chomping down my flowers, oblivious to the intensely focused kitten at the screen door.

Knitting

This was a hugely productive week knitting-wise. Well, nothing got done, but there was a lot of knitting going on! I am working on a second Far Away Dreams shawl with more yarn from the stash. This mindless garter stitch shawl is perfect and easy to handle while knitting in bed, sucking down oxygen, and listening to an audiobook.

I still have three feet of garter stitch to go before I start on the outer border. I’m going to use a white yarn speckled with blue and black that will be just awesome. Isn’t that a great blue color? Its name is “Denim”.

I also went crazy and cast on a sweater in the middle of the week.

After vacillating between color choices for a couple of weeks I settled on this combo to knit myself a Misurina by Caitlin Hunter.

Misurina has it all going on… cables, lace, colorwork, and some texture too. The original sweater was knit with a single stranded yarn containing a little linen and the gauge was pretty large… 20 stitches per 4 inches. I settled on two colors of single strand yarn that was pretty lofty in my stash and recklessly cast on using size 6 needles last week.

This sweater is knit from the top down and I have just made my way through the lace and am beginning the colorwork. I need to transfer my stitches to a larger size 6 needle, but they are kind of in high demand right now. Hmmm… It may be curbside pickup time at my local yarn store. 🙂

Hannah is a lot of help and is also totally a fan of the cashmere yarn I’m using for the contrast color.

In the background, being knit in chunks when new clues arrive, is my The Sharon Show shawl. If you don’t want to see this, I’m sorry. It really is too good to not show off. It is finally long enough to drape around my shoulders like a shawl which gives you an idea of all the colors and textures going on while this is being knitted.

See what I mean? Texture, lace, crazy stitches you never thought of before all coming together to make a totally fun, cat-crazy experience. Part of the fun is the totally cool and laid back group on Facebook that has been completely supportive of all knitting speeds and color choices.

This shawl and the whole MKAL experience has been the perfect antidote to the crazy world outside my doors. Peace. Joy. Color. Admonitions from Sharon to not be self-critical and to weave in all of the ends!!  Did I mention that each clue comes with a cocktail recipe? One of the best parts is seeing all the color choices of the other knitters: I am so going to have to make another one of these in blues… and maybe earth tones… My Ravelry notes are here.

Garden

The weather was cool for several days before the thermostat went back up into the high 90’s. Many of the potted plants were able to recover over the last week, and things are looking pretty cheerful out front again.

All the geraniums along the front walk are blooming cheerfully again.

The mini roses especially are looking good. Poor things. Little do they know that there is snow on the way…

I’m going to bring all the potted plants into the garage for a couple of days and then will go to heroic lengths to cover and protect the front roses to get them undamaged through the cold front and snowfall on Tuesday. Poor roses. The plants took a lot of damage in the spring from a late hard freeze, and here we go with an early one in the fall. 2020, knock it off!!!

Books

Okay, I lost a couple of days reading a book for my book club that was… not good. I refuse to post its picture online and I’m not going to say anything else expect that I’m pretty much done with my book group. NO one else read the book, and they decided to just get together at a restaurant for happy hour and a return to the days when we used to meet in person, and of course that isn’t something that I can do. I was already pretty disgusted with the week when this happened, and not being able to recover the two lost days of my life BECAUSE I READ THIS STUPID BOOK THAT THEY CHOOSE!!! I headed online looking for options. Hey, Barnes & Noble has an online live book club meet up that I could join. They picked a book that I want to read, and people are already online talking about how excited they are to have the book, and that they are reading the book, and that they can’t wait to talk about the book… I’m in!! I love books, and I want to hang out with other people who also love books, and I would also like to talk about the books!!

This is the book for the Barnes & Noble club. I started it last night!

This book is set in Ireland, during WWI and the Great Influenza pandemic. Our heroine is a nurse taking care of young pregnant women who also have the flu in an isolated fever ward. The book is also crazy timely as the disrespect of WWI fallen troops is a hot item in the news this week, and we all know about the pandemic… I’m only a couple of hours into the book, but it is engaging and interesting; I’m a fan! I’m looking forward to the actual meeting and discussions.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Late Update: Just got a warning on my cell phone that there is a MOUNTAIN LION wandering through my neighborhood. Of course there is. It is 2020.

The Saturday Update: Week 35

The days have finally cooled down here and the first leaves are changing color on my trees. The air quality is better as some rain showers in the evenings cleared the worst of the smoke from the air. The plants in the garden are recovering and so am I; the painful joints/muscles are now behaving themselves and I am getting good sleep again. I’m making more progress in cleaning my house (this week I got ride of fleeces that were at least 20 years old…) and am ready to return to a little quilting.

Hannah thinks that would be fun!

Knitting

I was really productive this week in the knitting department. I finished the Far Away Dreams shawl that I have been working on for a few weeks now.

This cushy shawl is just perfect for wrapping up in on cool evenings.

I especially like how the lace turned out.

Can you see in the picture above that the light outer trim on the right side of the shawl is just a tiny bit wider? I lost at yarn chicken and did the last row of the dark lace in the lighter color. I’m pretty sure no one will notice the difference while I’m wearing the shawl. 🙂 My Ravelry notes are here.

I like this shawl so much I already went digging into the yarn stash for more yarn to make another. This time I’m going to have a lighter outer border.

This will look more like the knitted sample shown in the Far Away Dreams pattern. I’m liking it!! The speckled white will be the lace border. I can’t wait to cast on!

I need another shawl to knit on because I’m racing right through The Sharon Show shawl. It is so much fun!! I can’t wait for the new clue to arrive on Friday and I usually have it done within a day or two. This week I focused on finishing the Far Away shawl and put off Sharon until the end of the week. I got Clue 3 done Thursday night and was just chomping to start Clue 4 as soon as it dropped. I’m now halfway through Clue 4. I won’t show the entire shawl because… MYSTERY… and I don’t want Sharon from Security to track me down with a citation (but I’m pretty sure that Hannah would be excited to have her come visit and maybe play chase-chase with her…) but here is a glimpse of my latest work.

How fun is this?!

I kind of want to cast on another one of these shawls, too, but I’m waiting to get to the end before I make the final color decisions.  I’m also fussing over yarns and color choices for another couple of sweaters these days (with lots of help from Hannah) and I’ve been reflecting on how robust my yarn stash is and how happy I am to be able to put together an endless number of projects using just stash yarn. Seriously, there is yarn in there that I’ve wondered, up until this summer, just what it could be used for that is now exactly the right amount and color for a new sweater pattern just dropped by a favorite designer. Good planning. Good luck. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Garden

To you see this? The miniature roses are starting to bloom again. This year I plan to plant the roses into the garden to overwinter instead of bringing them indoors for the winter because, Hannah!

There are several new buds on the plant. Can you see them?

Books

I’m reading again now that my eyes have recovered. I’ve gone back to the 16th century for some murder mystery action.

It’s a murder mystery. 

Our hero is a lawyer named Matthew Shardlake who has undertaken an investigation in the service of the Lady Elizabeth who wants to ensure that justice is served in the murder trial of a distant Boleyn relative who is also embroiled in a land dispute with a neighbor. This story, written about a time centuries past, also echoes some themes current today. There is a lot of political uncertainty as the current king, Edward VI, is 11 years old and his uncle is ruling in his name. You get a sense that power is being abused; coinage is so debased it is almost worthless.  Landowners are turning out tenant farmers to enclose their land because sheep earn a better profit for them than crops. Displaced and homeless people wander the landscape in search of a living while the wealthy insist that their actions are necessary to maintain their way of life; the landless citizens are seen as dangerous and criminal by the more stable upper class and resentments are brewing.  The  shifts to the new religion and an English language mass continue and are also creating tensions. To be clear, this is a time of unrest and uncertainty that kind of rivals our own. In the middle of this a run-away wife is found murdered and  Matthew is dispatched to discover the truth. I’m about a third of the way through and I’m enjoying myself.

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 34

Here I am again, posting late on Sunday night. This week was not good. Bad week, bad!! Seriously, it was just multi-dimensional in the badness that went on during the week. I have to admit that it can’t all be blamed on the calendar, although I do think that 2020 continues to behave in a completely unacceptable batshit manner. Fire tornadoes?! Really! Two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time?! There is an asteroid approaching earth? Of course there is! 2020, just stop right now!!

An interesting development of the week was Hannah discovering MacKnitzie on the bookshelf. She’d been up there several times before, but now she thinks that it is fun to drag him down by his tail onto the floor to play with. Such a determined girl, she is undaunted by the crash of falling books…

Incorrigible! I think that MacKnitzie is in for a few adventures…

There was almost no reading this week and very little knitting. Why? Just read on, my friends. 🙂

  • I am fighting an infection, which is always a situation where I first respond with an “oh, oh” and then with a shortly followed word that won’t be shared here. I went onto antibiotics and off my immunosuppressant drugs: race time!! As my immune system revs up and attacks the infection I am also going into a flare of my disease. SO NOT GOOD!! The plan is that the antibiotics will tip the scales to favor defeating the infection before I’m too sick. Ugh. As I got sicker and sicker from my autoimmune buddies I started sleeping through most of the day.
  • We waltzed around with triple digit heat all week. That slight wailing you hear is my crispy garden plants crying in the heat. The louder wailing you hear is me…
  • There are horrible wildfires going on in my state and California that are sending smoke my way.  A lot of smoke. The sun is a dull red ball in the sky, ash is falling, and things don’t look to improve soon. My distress needle is firmly pegged in the red. My lungs think this isn’t optimal. The smoke is affecting my eyes so I can’t read and I’m staying on oxygen 24/7 while this is going on. I know that this is nothing compared to the people fighting the fires and evacuated from their (possible destroyed) homes. The latest news is that Australia is sending California fire fighting resources, and our governor just activated the National Guard. There is another tough week ahead.
  • The nightly news over the last week was also enough to make anyone go back to bed. In the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic that has me trapped in isolation with my adventure-seeking kitten, completely dependent on delivery services, evidence surfaced this last week that the postal service has been sabotaged. No wonder my prescriptions have been wandering around and arriving late and why hasn’t my printer ink come yet!! I’m taking this really personally since now, instead of just messing with the world supply of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that I need to control my Sjogren’s and scleroderma, the agency I need to bring it to my door is also under attack. Instead of knitting I directed energy to writing my congressmen.
  • It is the 6th anniversary this week of my scleroderma diagnosis. Normally this date wouldn’t lay me low, but this week I couldn’t walk, breath, eat anything without a negative consequence, and… you get the idea. Sad anniversary, scleroderma.

Whew! The flaming hot hard lump in my leg is much better today and I went back onto my immunosuppressant drugs. This evening, as I type this, my dizziness has faded away and I feel almost peppy walking on legs that don’t hurt. Yay! Hopefully the antibiotics will manage on their own from now on.

Bring it, 2020! I’m ready for you again!

Knitting

I did manage to get some knitting done through the week. I am now working away on the lace outer edge of my Far Away Dreams Shawl. Look!

My goal for the week was to get the lace edging done, and truthfully I worked into the wee hours of the morning last night to get there, but nope, not yet. It is starting to look really nice (all bunched up on the needles…) and I’m liking that dark color for the lace more and more.

I’m also still working on The Sharon Show. The third clue dropped Friday but I am doggedly knitting along on Far Away Dreams since I am so close to the end and I should be able to catch up with Sharon later on in the week. I did download the pattern and discovered that this third clue had lace sections. WOOHOO!! I love lace. This MKAL shawl is going to fantastic. The knitting goals for the week are now set: finish Far Away and then Clue 3 of the Sharon Show.

Also, I dug around in the yarn stash to find some yarn to make another Sharon Show. This shawl is fun!

Garden

I can’t really go outside too much, but by wearing a mask I’m managing to make short trips out to water plants and pick up mail. I wanted to buy some more bedding plants for the fall to replace ones that expired in the heat, but the way things are going right now I decided to take down the hanging pots and put them on top of the dead planters in the front yard. What do you think?

The heat hasn’t been kind to the plants so I babied them for a week on the deck before moving them out front. There is more shade in the front and I hope that they will continue to recover and bloom.

Books: don’t make me laugh. Smoke in my eyes and all that…

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 32

It is International Cat Day! Hannah is besides herself and has been celebrating all day with the new toys that arrived from Chewy yesterday.

Hannah: it should be International Kitten Day!!

Hannah is wondering if her feet are getting kind of big… yeah, a little bit… I am laying in more kitten food! Anyway, it was a pretty good week for Hannah and I as we knitted, read books, cooked meals for the next week, and basically took it easy. Well, I took it easy; Hannah is getting more athletic and demanding and expects me to play with her and… wait for it… feed her KITTY COOKIES!!! That’s right. She has decided that she likes those kitty cookies after all. Why do I do this to myself. Under no circumstances will I let her drink out of the faucet!

Knitting

I spent a lot of the week knitting and knitting on my Far Away Dreams shawl. I want to be honest here; I started this because I wanted no stress endless garter stitch as I was stressed out and fighting a flare. Now I’m less stressed out,  the flare has receded somewhat to the usual background level of symptoms, and the garter stitch is still going on, and on, and on… There are 231 ridges of garter stitch and I am now close to 200 ridges, which is 400 rows. The end is in sight. Lace is right around the corner. I’m going to get this shawl down in the next week or two…

Then I opened up Ravelry.

Caitlin Hunter published another pattern!!! I love this sweater! I need to start on it right away!!

Look at this! Photo is swiped from Caitlin Hunter’s Misurina page on Ravelry and under her copyright.

Hannah and I headed right up to shop the yarn stash for the yarn. This is what I found:

Won’t this look great?! The gray will be the body of the sweater and the multi (which is the Rocky Mountain Colorado colorway!) is the detail.

I was so excited to start. I planned to wind the yarn almost immediately. I made a fatal error. I succumbed to curiosity (curiosity killed the cat, you know… it can also be damaging to knitting progress…) and clicked on the icon for The Sharon Show by Casapinka. If you don’t know about this already, The Sharon Show is a MKAL (Mystery Knit Along) that is being run by Casapinka’s entitled, snarky, highly opinionated, snax demanding year-old cat. I don’t do MKAL’s at all, as I prefer to know exactly what I’m knitting before I invest all of that yarn. But this is pandemic time and I am sooo isolated right now. I just looked at all of my yarn and I know what I have up there. How can I walk away from interacting with a cat like this?

Sharon is in charge of security at Casapinka. Sharon is bossy and dripping in attitude. Sharon is not above writing up a citation if you violate knitting suggestions. The snark is strong with this one. I bought the pattern.

The pattern came with some info on color choices and a schematic coloring sheet to help you plan the order of your colors. And strong admonishments from Sharon about abiding with guidelines. There might have been some threats about citations…

I got going on playing with the color order and when the first clue dropped yesterday I cast right on and got started. The pattern is so cat snarky and fun!! I am so glad that I am doing this. My first picture of the knitting can be found on my Ravelry project page; I don’t feel that I should post it here because…MYSTERY Knit Along.

I have a lot of knitting going on now. I am going to finish my clue each week as fast as I can and then really concentrate on the shawl so that I can open up the needles I need for that sweater. It’s a plan. I’ll let you know next week how I did.

Garden

The butterfly bush is blooming!!

And a beautiful Japanese Beetle has arrived to snack on the plant.

I hurried that beetle on his way and gave the plant a good spray with soapy plant insecticide. Things are picking up in the garden. I’m looking forward to some butterflies coming by for a visit and snack. Hannah will like that!!

Books

I was a prolific reader as a kid, and very early on I was sucked into science fiction books. Heinlein was a popular author with me and I read Starship Troopers many times over the years. The last two weeks I have been reading a series of military science fiction books that are reminiscent of the books that I grew up with by the author Marko Kloos.

Space going military, giant alien invaders, hot-shot maneuvers, and desperate battles. The plot moves right along and the dialogue is snappy. Perfect.

This actually is the 6th book in the series which I suspect is coming to an end with this volume. I have to be honest; I started the first book because it was included in my Kindle Unlimited package and it included a free audiobook, but once I got into it I was a happy knitter/quilter/flare-fighting invalid and kept getting the next volume in the series as soon as I finished a book.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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