MacKenzie Speaks: Crutches, Mountains, and Squirrels

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this ball of yarn? This is my most favorite yarn at the moment. So soft. So nice to cuddle with. The little flecks of color are my favorite.

The Mother of Cats has been somewhat difficult to work with lately. She has been limping all around the house, and yesterday her physical therapist finally told her she needs to use crutches for the next few weeks. HER CRUTCHES KEEP GETTING IN MY WAY!!! What is up with that? She doesn’t go outside as much as she used to, and she started knitting this simple sweater with just one color of yarn instead of the Koivua sweater that I just love.  There are more colors to chomp in the Koivua, and it is now so big she can’t keep me off of it while she knits. Is she working on the sweater that I can sleep on while she works? No! She is not!! She says knitting with the one color is easier to stuff into a bag to haul around with crutches. Whatever. What is up with the Mother of Cats? A little adversity and she totally folds: I’m so disappointed with her!

Except I do really like this new yarn so I’m starting to forgive her for putting the Koivua into time out. This sweater is called “Climb Every Mountain.”  What is a mountain?

Today the Mother of Cats finally let me go outside while she took pictures of all of her knitting and we watered all of the outside flowers.

Look at what happened to the blooms on the hydrangea plant over the last few days of cool weather. The flowers have turned pink again! The Mother of Cats was really happy to see the flowers. I was like… meh… laters… I have to go have a chat with that squirrel…

While I was chasing the squirrel around the yard she took these pictures of the new sweater. It is starting to look pretty good, isn’t it? It is kind of nice to sleep on…

She is now below the sleeves and getting ready to use her last ball of yarn.
Oh, yeah. Look at the new stitch markers that she made to use while making this sweater. How cute are these? She should use these to play with me!!

Now it is late in the afternoon, the squirrel has left to do whatever squirrels do, and the Mother of Cats, the crutches,  and I are back in the house. I just got some yummy salmon to eat and the Mother of Cats is getting ready to knit again. Hmm… that new sweater is getting pretty big now. Maybe I can sleep on part of it while she is working. I’m so handsome and the yarn really looks nice next to my fur. Maybe she will be reasonable for once and will let me do that. IF she loves me I will get a quality nap on yummy yarn.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Climb Every Mountain by Heidi Kirrmaier. That yarn that MacKenzie loves is Tweed DK by Western Sky Knits, and it really is nice to work with. My Ravelry notes are here.
  • How ironic is it that I’m knitting a sweater called “Climb Every Mountain” while trying to master walking with one crutch?
  • The hip has become even more challenging. I met with the physical therapist yesterday who had printed out the notes from the hip specialist that I met with last month. Things are worse than I realized. I have IT band syndrome, inflamed tendons associated with my hip adductors, and then there is the severe hip bursitis.  I need to rest the tendons as much as possible as I stretch the IT band and use the topical anti-inflammatory gel that we hope will get the swelling down. Since I can’t walk without limping and the adductors need a rest I’m on crutches for the next three weeks at a minimum. I’m truly a mess as I can’t use a cane (bad wrists), ice (thank you, Raynaud’s), or work in a pool (Sjogren’s, I really hate you right now), so things are challenging, but I’m really motivated since I want to stay mobile as long as possible and I’m a poor candidate for a hip replacement.
  • MacKenzie is learning to stay out of the way of the crutches, but he is taking the whole thing personally. Poor thing. I have started giving him more cookies… I have NOT surrendered any of the sweaters to him.
  • Koivua  is waiting for the first snow fall as I rush to finish two transitional sweaters. Winter, take your time…

    Napping MacKenzie_web
    Finally!!

Late Summer Knitting

The heat here in Colorado has been unbelievable: we hit 100°F on Monday and it is still hot. My garden, however, is recovering in the lower light intensity and flowers are starting to bloom again. Feeling pretty good about things I’ve taken to knitting outside in the garden again in the cool of the mornings and late evening.

Knitting outside can be entertaining again. My sedum is blooming now and the garden where they are planted is abuzz with a steady parade of bees. This sedum is called “Autumn Joy Stonecrop” and I’m really impressed with the blooms. So are the bees, evidently!

Today while knitting and sipping my morning latte I got my latest pair of socks done.

Easiest knitting ever! I made these socks in a simple K3P1 ribbing that makes then fit well while providing mindless easy knitting in the evenings while listening to audiobooks. My project notes are here.

The yarn I used is from Western Sky Knits and I’m really becoming a fan of this smooth sock yarn. I still have enough yarn left over for some arm warmers. I think that I’ll put an interesting lace edge on then and use some Icord, but keep that simple ribbing.  Adventures in knitting, people!

Here’s the book that I’ve been listening to while knitting.

My latest audiobook has been wonderful! Seriously, I knit way too long into the night because I had to get to the next chapter to discover what would happen next. It’s a book about family, ghosts, dreams, invisible ties, and, of course, a tiger that isn’t all it appears to be. The audio is done by the author and that made things even better. I loved it.

My potted roses are all doing well after recovering from spider mite attacks early in the summer. This pink bloom makes me especially happy. I’m still debating whether I will plant these roses into the ground or bring them inside for the winter again. There’s lots of time, right?

I do love the colors of fall, but right now I’m really enjoying the bits of pink going on in my life. There is pink in my garden right now…

All of the flowers in pots on my deck have recovered and are putting out blooms. These, I think, are verbena.
I’m knitting with pink yarn using my favorite pink stitich marker.
And the sweater being knit in the pink (and cream) yarns is finally far enough along to get checked for size. A few more inches, don’t you think? Heavens, this sweater sure needs to be blocked, doesn’t it, but I’m really pleased that it looks like it will fit okay. This is Koivua by Caitin Hunter, and my project notes are  here.

Today is the last day of high heat for awhile; a front is pushing in and tomorrow will be much cooler. Okay, it will be hot, but not blazing hot. Hopefully there will also be some rain. There’s lots of time yet for roses, knitting in the garden, and days watching bees.

Oops. A flock of geese just flew over my house at the treetops, honking like crazy. It’s like they are laughing at me. No matter what is happening right now with the weather and in my garden, autumn is coming, and the first snow is on the way.

Woohoo! Knitting weather!

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Koivua Days in my Garden

What a wonderful week it has been. I’ve been out in the yard for a couple of hours every day with MacKenzie and a book or my knitting. The buzz of cicadas echo in the trees over my head, the squirrels frolic along the fence, and the flowers are starting to bloom again after the blazing heat of July. Life is good, I’ve raced through two books and last week started a couple of new knitting projects that are keeping my interest and making me happy. Let me show off my current knitting love, Koivua.

How beautiful is this!! I’ve just separated the arms from the body of the sweater and it is time for me to attach the rose yarn again to start the next colorwork chart for the body. Here are my project notes if you want more info about the yarns. The flowering plant is lantana, and it just burst back into bloom this week. This is what happens when you give plants some Miracle Gro… I’m wondering if this plant will survive the winter if I plant it at the end of the season. It will be a plant experiment!
Sweater in progress.
Sturgill sweater.
Original yarn choices… NOPE!

I had some issues with the planning of this sweater. The pink is left over from this sweater that I knitted last winter, Sturgill by Caitlin Hunter. I really liked the contrast of the rose variegated yarn with the grey, so I ran right out and bought some grey tweed yarn to use with  my leftover rose yarn to make a Koivua. Good plan, right? Then I thought about things a little more. Looking at my Sturgill you can see that the variegated nature of the two yarns made it hard to see the colorwork pattern in the sweater. I liked that effect in Sturgill, but maybe I shouldn’t make another sweater that had the same fuzzy pattern effect going on with the same colorways. I snuck out to the yarn store and bought some yarn that would give me more contrast with the variegated rose yarn. I was on the hunt for a nice neutral cream yarn.

Bingo! Look at what I found at the yarn store that opened just a few miles away from me. This Kelbourne Scout is a new yarn for me, but this won’t be the last time I buy it! It isn’t superwash, but it is really bouncy and soft. Just what I needed to show off the pattern.

Buying 5 skeins of yarn puts me back a little on my yarn destash project, so I need to really start knitting fast now. I casted right on and after a couple of days I had this:

The cream yarn knitted up wonderfully: it is bouncy, has a slight halo, and shows off the pattern well. I’m happier than ever about the yarn color switch as this cream really brightens up the rose yarn.

I’m much happier with the cream colored yarn than I thought I would be. I tend to avoid light colors in yarns, but this time it was the right decision as the colors in the rose yarn are just shining. The yarn is such a joy to handle I’ve been working outside in my garden swing in the late mornings with little gardening breaks.

Butterflybush bloom
My butterfly bush is finally getting its act together and producing some blooms. Okay, I had to baby it a little bit; I sprayed all the baby blooms with Neem oil to protect them from insects and then started deep soaking the bush a couple times a week using a big bucket and a drip line. Success! Doesn’t this bloom remind you of the yarn in my new sweater?  I probably should give this bush some Miracle Gro too.

I am on fire to get the sweater done by the end of the month, but that probably won’t happen since I need to keep on babying my wrists (which are much better), and life keeps on getting in the way. Still, I am hopeful that the next report on my destash project will be a good one. 50 skeins… I can do it… must stay out of the yarn stores…

It feels like the height of summer with the flowers and the buzz of insects, but there are a lot of crickets and some of the leaves on the trees are starting to turn yellow. The kids in the neighborhood have all returned to school, and it is only a few weeks away from the colors of fall. Yep. Must knit faster!!

Update on the Suburban Wrap:

The wrap arrived safely in California earlier this week and it has already gone to school!

My knitworthy niece is a music teacher, and the wrap traveled to school with her as she met her students this week.
Where it also looks pretty good on my grandniece, who is a student at the school where my niece teaches. How fitting that this wrap should be in a classroom devoted to artistic expression and worn by such knitworthies!

MacKenzie Speaks: Snapshots From My Garden

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The catmint is re-growing after taking a beating in the July heat. Perfect for a little cat nap! This is one of my favorite spots in the garden.

August is here and the days have settled into a nice little pattern. Mornings in the garden with the Mother of Cats. Afternoons inside with little Miss Pitty Pat. Evenings knitting and knitting and knitting. It’s hard to say what my favorite time of day is, but today I want to show you what has been going on outside in my garden.

There is a bunny hanging out in the front yard! It ate some of the Mother of Cats flowers, but she still won’t let me out to show it what’s what. Why is she so mean to me? I’m just positive that she doesn’t love me at all!
Luckily the bunny can’t get into the back yard to eat the flowers growing in my garden.
There are a lot of young squirrels racing along the fence and fighting in the trees in the back yard, and some of them are getting a little too pushy about my outdoor water dish. I told this squirrel to STAY OUT OF MY YARD but he didn’t listen to me. Bad squirrel.
I spend a lot of time hanging around next to the water dish waiting for squirrels, but I still haven’t caught one. Hey, they are pretty fast!
The wasp nest is still growing. Where do all of these wasps come from? These guys make me nervous and I stay away from them.

Yesterday while we were outside a dragonfly landed on the Mother of Cats’ book. Wow! She was as stealthy as a cat a she tried to ease her camera out to take a picture of him; I was almost impressed by her skill. Nope! Even I can’t catch a dragonfly, Mother of Cats. What made you think that you could do it? You don’t even have claws, and your reflexes are really inferior…

In the afternoons I hang out with Miss Pitty Pat. She is kind of my best friend these days. Last night she broke her hamster wheel, so the Mother of Cat is heading out this afternoon to get her more toys. I can’t wait to see what she gets us.

Well, it is getting close to the evening so the Mother of Cats will be knitting soon. Woohoo! Yarn chomping time!

I’m such  good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

    • The cottontail bunny has been in my yard for weeks now. She sleeps in the grass, explores the flowerbed, and somehow has avoided the cats who roam my neighborhood unsupervised. Very sweet, and evocative of the days when I used a photo of a bunny like this to anchor my online biology course.
    • Sadly, the wasps began to chase MacKenzie and me, so I finally sprayed the nest with insecticide this week. Intrepid wasps, they have started a new nest in a safer location.
    • There are many dragonflies in the yard now, and the butterfly bush is heavy with blooms waiting to open. Yay! I’m looking forward to more airborne visitors that won’t threaten to sting me.

MacKenzie Speaks: Endless Fade…

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see how hot I am? I collapsed on the Mother of Cats’ knitting as it was too hard to even yarn chomp…

Yesterday while the Mother of Cats was driving around in the car (she went to the yarn store… she tried to sneak in some yarn, but I saw her and I’m absolutely certain that she has SLIPPED again…) she glanced at the dash and noticed that it was 101° F outside. I believe it. It is so hot I can’t go outside without burning my paws, and I barely have enough energy to put a claw into the Mother of Cats knitting. Barely. It is so much effort, but when you are a cat of superior personality and strength of will, you persevere and grab yarn anyway. It shows character in the face of adversity…

The Mother of Cats CUT MY CLAWS again!!!

I don’t know why she hates me so much. I’m just trying to do my part in this endless fade project that just keeps going and going and going… Seriously, I don’t know when this project is going to get done. It just keeps getting bigger and hotter and the Mother of Cats whaps me with it every time she turns it. It would be different if she would let me sleep on it, but nope. The Mother of Cats never lets me have fun!!

But we are making some progress with all of that knitting and whapping. Look at where we are!
Brioche section of What the Fade?! shawl.
We have completed the endless sea of brioche stitch that we did for the first couple of weeks of knitting. 
Now we are working our way through the endless garter stich section at the bottom of the shawl. Today we finally got started on one of the lighter colors of yarn.

The Mother of Cats and I do go out into the garden in the evenings so she can water and I can look for bugs and squirrels. It is so hot outside that even the bugs are hiding.

So I just hang out in my favorite cool spots in the garden after she waters.
The lavender is now blooming in the yarrow garden so that is my favorite spot right now. Do you see any bees buzzing around? No, you don’t! Even the bees have gone home in this heat!
Ha. Now that my claws are cut the Mother of Cats is letting me sleep on the end of the shawl while she works. Maybe she does care about me a little. 

Since we are hanging out in the house during the afternoons I think that the Mother of Cats and I may get the shawl done in the next week or so. I can’t wait to show it off. The Mother of Cats could never get things like this done without my help.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The shawl is What the Fade by Andrea Mowry. My project notes are here.

Yarns for shawl.
Here are the yarns. 

This shawl uses 6 skeins of yarn, which explains why I am still knitting and knitting on it. This morning I started the 4th color used at the bottom of the shawl, so the end is now in sight. Yay! This weekend the heat should break, the afternoon storms will return, and my Fade will be finally finished. Stay tuned for the final update!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Safe House

You know, I kind of view myself as a happy camper. I have more things (ahem… knitting projects) going then I can get finished on any given day or week, books lined up to read, and a “to-do” list that I’m slowly working my way through. Hey, people, I fixed the loose tiles on my kitchen floor last week!! My cat MacKenzie is my constant sidekick throughout the day as I knit, work in the garden, read in bed, and even with me (underfoot, demanding cookies) while I’m cooking. Even on the bad days when I’m pretty much down for the count, I manage small victories. There is just one problem with this picture.

Look at these beautiful coneflowers I just added to the garden. I’m hoping to lure some butterflies into the yard. Every garden should have butterflies, don’t you think?

I just don’t fit in the world all that well anymore. In my home, living the life that I’ve created for myself, it is really easy to forget how much I have adapted to accommodate the limitations of my scleroderma, Sjogren’s, and fibromyalgia. Once I go anywhere else reality hits me hard. Every trip out of my house is going to come at a cost. Here are the worst of the offenders that will lay me low.

Air Conditioning I know that almost everyone in the world is grateful for air conditioning in the summertime, but for me it is a royal nightmare. The shock of walking into a refrigerated building on a hot summer day will trigger an immediate Raynaud’s attack. I pull on long sleeves and fingerless mitts as soon as I get into the building, but my lungs know what’s up and I have trouble breathing. The airflow makes my eyes burn; I’ve been reduced to wearing my sunglasses indoors to protect my eyes. Don’t even get me started on the refrigerated cases churning out cold air; you haven’t lived until you’ve had to pull up the hood of your sweatshirt and the sleeves down over your hands so you can score some butter and eggs.  If that wasn’t enough, there are also usually…

Scented Products Almost all buildings use scented cleaning products and sells additional items with scents. Candles. Lotions. Laundry soap. The scented bathrooms are a nightmare. If I’m not already in trouble with my breathing I will be if I have to walk down the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store: I also start to itch and my face swells. Why do these chemicals even exist? They can’t be good for anyone!

Restaurants These are a special kind of hell for me. All the drinks come cold and with ice, and the entrees are served piping hot. There are other landmines that I need to avoid: salt, lactose, fiber.  I have to carefully select something that is very soft and that will behave itself in my gastroparesis stomach. I can’t have spicy food. I can’t eat fresh veggies. Actually, to be safe, some of this food should go through a blender… I actually once soaked a cut up sandwich in soup so I could eat it…

Walking I am trying really hard to meet my walking goals every day, but I stretch those steps out over the day. A trip to run errands can be just exhausting if I’m on my feet for a couple of hours at a time. I need to always carry water, be aware of the location of bathrooms, and have places where I can sit down if I need to.

Sunshine It makes me sick! Enough said.

Ready for another picture? These paper wasps are building a nest right on the edge of my deck! MacKenzie and I are not amused. Still, it kind of shows how the outside world is full of dangers…

Recently I had a tough talk with myself about pruning down my outings and being more strategic about how I expend my energy. I need fewer outings, and my destinations need to be closer to home. I need to live online. I need to in a safe environment as much as I can to manage my diseases.

My home is my safe house. I have no air conditioning and I minimize air flow. I keep the temperature in the mid 70’s in the day so that my joints and lungs will be happy. I cook all of my own food, I don’t own any salt at all, and everything that I drink is room temperature. Fruits and veggies go through the blender to become smoothies. Every product that comes into the house is scent free. I’m always close to a bathroom or a soft surface to crash onto for a quick recovery if I get dizzy. My stairs have wrought iron rails that I use effectively on bad joint days. Flourishing in my safe house I sometimes forget how sick I am because, well, I have fewer problems.

I planted this yarrow last year in a flowerbed that has killed almost everything planted into it. Not this yarrow!! The secret of gardening, and living with serious chronic illness, is to keep on trying new things, and to match your needs to your environment. Or, in my case, make your environment match your needs.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment so I listed up some symptoms and issues that I need to ask her about. It is quite a list now that I look at it, and it kind of underscores how chronic illness can trick you into thinking that things that would normally send you screaming into urgent care are “just another day of scleroderma.” Shortness of breath is an almost daily thing. When I glance into the mirror these days I sometimes notice that my face is blue. One hip keeps failing me; okay, I actually have to lift that leg to get into the car. My joints swell so much that I can’t sleep at night.

But I am good, here in my little safe house with my gardens and cat.

Tomorrow my doctor and I will attack some of these scleroderma/Sjogren’s issues. I kind of think that lung testing and a MRI of my hip are in the future, and that there may be follow-up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been gathering up my energy in preparation for these outings into a world that is dangerous for me, knowing that after each outing my garden swing, knitting and latest book will be waiting for me. With a room temperature ice tea.

And a cat!

It is good to have a safe house.

Barking Dog, Yowling Cat

When I was a girl my grandmother had a little phrase to describe someone who was acting crabby (little me, of course) as having gotten up “on the wrong side of the bed.” You know what she was talking about. A person being constantly irritated by a never-ending series of triggers.

Today I woke up pretty sore, crawled down the stairs to make my morning latte, and once I had pulled myself up the stairs and back into bed I found a post from another blogger, NothingButKnit, on my phone called Things That Are Bugging Me Right Now: A List. Oh. A list of all the things that are bugging me right now. Wow. Where do I start? There are so many things that bug me. Yippee, I can do this!!

NothingButKnit had only 4 things on the list. Gee. She is kind of a light weight, don’t you think? I mean, there are so many things that are bugging me at the moment it is impossible to prioritize them, but I can certainly try.  Ignoring all the things happening in politics and current events, which are their own exhausting list that force me to call or write my congressmen EVERY STINKING DAY, and excluding my trifecta of autoimmune diseases, here is my own list:

  • Robocalls. Seriously. How many times do they think I need to be informed that this is their last attempt to contact me about my insurance. Especially since it is several times a day. This is why nice people can’t turn on their phone ringer.
  • Food packaging that I can’t open without dragging in the tool box from the garage. Don’t laugh. I have half of the toolbox in my kitchen drawer at this point. The big stars are the rose pruners and a pipe wrench.
  • Hailstorms! I bought a new car last summer and I’m pretty nervous about hail. A few weeks ago I got caught in a storm that dumped 4″ of hail; I was pumping gas when it started and was able to stay under shelter. Last week there was golf ball-sized hail. I don’t even want to think about baseball-sized hail…

    I grabbed a picture early in the storm. Those stones are 1/2 inch across. 
  • Bindweed. This plant grows at virtually the speed of light, swallows rose bushes overnight, and never dies no matter what I do. Stop bugging me, bindweed!!
Sigh. I’ve resigned myself to pulling weeds for 30″ a day. It’s best in situations like these to just keep chipping away at the problem without looking at the big picture.
  • Yowling cats. Cats that belong to my neighbors wander into my yard, roll in the cat mint, and sleep in the best cat sleeping spots in the yard. They also stop by the ground-level windows to chat with MacKenzie. How sweet. Especially at 4am. I love the sound of hissing, smacks on glass and yowling in the morning, don’t you?

    MacKenzie also yowls every morning to let me know that he wants to go out into the garden for a nap. He loves his garden. I can’t let him out unless I can supervise him because of the stray cats and the dog next door, so he only gets to go out while I’m pulling weeds and watering. “Stop yowling!” I tell him every morning. “Let me out now!” MacKenzie yowls back. It’s like having a toddler again.
  • Barking dog. Ugh. The neighbor next to me got a sweet little puppy three summers ago that grew up into a territorial barking, growling, fence-charging Pitbull nightmare. After months of work she no longer goes berserk when I go into the yard, but if this dog sees a cat… it gets scary. The dog has chewed a hole in the fence that she can stick her face through. All the better to watch and bark at the cats that come visit my yard and MacKenzie. When she sees a cat she growls, body slams the fence and barks furiously while tearing at the hole in the fence.

This week I was outside pulling weeds with MacKenzie (between thunderstorms with the phone ringer off) when the dog suddenly saw him through the fence. Oh, oh. The dog got her face through the fence, the growling and barking commenced and I started running towards MacKenzie to see if I could shoo him away.

Nope. MacKenzie snapped, charged the fence from his side and went into total feline fury mode. In stunned amazement I watched my geriatric cat hiss, slash, and crash into the fence in a frenzy I’ve never witnessed before. I’m sure there was yowling, too. Every time the dog put her face through the hole, he let her have it again. Just as I was heading to get the hose the dog broke off the attack and it was over.

Mr. Victorious

The dog’s face was slashed in several places and she hurt herself trying to get more of her jaws through the hole. Luckily, she wasn’t able to get a good bite on the cat.  MacKenzie, two claws ripped off and toe pads damaged by hitting the fence, stalked off to take a nap in a nearby (unweeded) garden patch. The dog’s owners now keep her inside to PROTECT HER FROM MY CAT and they repaired the hole in the fence that very night.

Be like MacKenzie, I tell myself. Don’t let things bug you too much. Defend yourself and smack down the things that you can, and spend the rest of your time sleeping in the garden.

Excuse me, I must head out to pull some more weeds, then it is knitting time. Maybe I will listen to an audiobook with my new sound-cancelling headphones while I knit. Outside, on my swinging garden seat, with my roses.

Robocalls, hailstorms, weeds, barking dog and yowling cat, begone!!