The Saturday Update: Week 17

I’ve been busy this week, and I have almost nothing to show off for it. I did a lot of cooking: more pumpkin bread, cheesy potatoes and ham casserole, shortbread cookies. The cheese grater attacked one of my fingers, though, so there wasn’t all that much knitting going on while I healed up. (Yes, I took a picture. No, you don’t get to see it!) I sewed more masks and gave some away. I got another quilt all sandwiched together to move onto the sewing machine to start quilting. The state where I live is starting to make a transition to opening some businesses very carefully, but the city where I live has suddenly become a Covid-19 hot spot and I’m not so sure that there will be any opening of restrictions for me next week. I am so very grateful that I am better prepared to spend time at home alone then most people are because… yarn stash!!

Knitting

I did manage to get more work done on my V-Neck Boxy Sweater; I’m now about 3″ below the join below the V-neck and am knitting in the round towards the lower hem. This is great binge watching knitting, but not so great to show off until I get much further down the sweater. I do have some nice progress to show off on my Sweet & Tartan socks.

I’m below the heel on the second sock. Gee, it looks kind of sad without that hot pink I-cord added to the top ribbing. I should have this sock done in a couple of days. My Ravelry project notes are here.

Since I wasn’t knitting as much as usual while I nursing my injured finger I spent some time cleaning out the craft room. I located the directions for another couple of quilts. Casapinka published a new shawl pattern created to support local yarn shops called Breathe and Hope. Wow! I really like this little shawl. I dived into the yarn stash and started pulling out several combination of yarn possibilities. I actually have 4 combos in the project box, but this yarn is the top candidate:

I have two mini-skein sets that kind of go together. What if I faded each set as I knit down the shawl in a manner that kept the contrast going. That is, one set faded from dark->light while the other is faded in the light->dark direction. It should work, right?

I have another couple of yarns that are really calling to me too. This will be more subtle and faster to work. What do you think?

There is actually more contrast between the grey yarns in person. As soon as I put that lighter grey down next to the dark one it just burst into life. I think that it will be nice.

I organized the yarns and bought the pattern last night, but I’m not going to cast on until I have made more progress on the projects that I already have going. As soon as the socks are done and the sweater is a little further along it is going to happen!! Besides, Casapinka, who seems to be exhausted from developing this pattern and organizing the LYS event, issued two updates to the pattern today and if I give her another couple of days I’m sure that all the issues will be resolved. The last update swears that all is now fixed and that she was in Witness Protection with a bottle of gin…

Garden

This is the sad transition part of the gardening year for me. Plants that have been indoors all winter are being transitioned to life outside right now. I carry about 10 plants out for several hours each day and let them get some full sunshine. A couple of them are not happy and are dropping leaves and carrying on like babies. Seriously! They will toughen up, but right now they are looking kind of pathetic.

This hydrangea is the worst of the bunch! All of its indoor leaves burnt, died, and dropped off. Now it is putting out lots of new growth and appears to be coning through the transition okay. Once it has the new growth out and is looking more healthy I will repot it.

My outdoor flower beds are all pretty pathetic too. It is still too soon to clear out all of the winter mulch as there is sure to be another freeze or snow event; the lawn is starting to grow but it is still patchy. Ugh. Mostly I have developed a healthy flock of dandelions in all of my flower beds around all of the perennials that are just now starting to put up new shoots. I thought about weeding out one garden but there were a lot of bees swarming among the cheerful yellow dandelion blossoms, so I decided to do the right thing and let them have at it. I’m not lazy. Really, I’m not! Besides, I should give the perennials a little more time so I don’t accidently rip one of them out too.

Books

Yeah. I’ve got nothing. I’m still reading The Splendid and the Vile. We’re all the way up to 1941 and Churchill is still soldiering on through the bombings and scheming on ways to convince the US to enter the war. I am impressed by the drive, clarity of vision, and long range strategies that were employed by both leadership teams in the war, but especially by the British who had a strong culture of service to the nation. I’d feel a little better about things right now in the US if some of that was being projected by the leaders giving our nightly Covid-19 briefings.

A Little Wednesday Sunshine #3

Happiness is something that can be a little elusive these days. Are you totally tired of being home and seeing the same things all day long? Obviously it is time to make something good smelling and yummy in the kitchen.

I made bread pudding this week. I can’t tell you how wonderful and comforting this dish was; cinnamon and butter flavored heaven! The recipe is here.

I also got my latest quilt finished early this week. It is now chilling at the foot of my bed where it makes me feel happy every time I see it.

Happy colors and roses hanging out on top of my white linen comforter. See. Happiness.

Today the day started out a little gloomy with threatening rain showers. No. Just NO!! It was Earth Day and I was determined to break self-isolation to go to the local nursery to score some plants. So I did!

I bought some new little plants for my kitchen window sill greenhouse. How happy are these?

I had some ideas for putting new roses into the front flower bed and was on the hunt for small landscape roses that would bloom all summer. I hunted online, found some promising candidates, and then searched through the roses at the nursery where I found…

These guys. I actually was thinking of another color of this exact rose type for the front of the house, but once I could see the actual plants and the labels that showed a better representation of the colors and the bloom, the apricot rose won me over. The perfect purchase for Earth Day.

I loaded three of the rose bushes onto my cart, and dodging around other people (some of whom were not wearing masks… what is up with that?), I got though the check out okay and loaded everything up in the car. There were some Clorox wipes involved along the way as I handled the cart, keys, and door handles… Hey. In my case a little paranoia is a good thing. Big time paranoia is even better!

Here are the new roses hanging out with the other plants I have parked in front of my sliding glass window catching some afternoon rays. The three compact plants in the cardboard box are the new guys; everyone else is a plant that wintered indoors and is now getting ready to move out full time for the summer. Most days they are outside and only come in for the night, but today I was too lazy busy to lug them out. That blooming lantana plant at the front is especially eager to move outside…

On the way home from the nursery I decided I might as well go wild while I was out wearing my mask and gloves, so I checked out the parking lot of the grocery store.  It was almost empty, so I ventured inside, grabbed some groceries of the perishable variety, got gas for the car, and even put it through the car wash. Totally successful outing! While I was on the way home again the sun broke out and the afternoon became just beautiful. Sunshine! I can’t tell you how happy I was driving home with the sunroof open in a clean car carrying groceries and new rose plants. It felt almost normal. 🙂

As I drove up to the house I realized that the phlox in my front yard is now looking really nice.

Once I was in the house again (and all my groceries had gone through the Clorox wipe routine…), there was the monster orchid all lit up in the afternoon sunshine, glowing happily in the living room. The perfect happy lift at the end of a happy outing.

There were some orchids at the nursery that looked like the monster, but they were only half its size and only had a few blooms each. Go, Monster Orchid, Go! Clearly he is some type of orchid winner here!

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

Afternote: Why all the paranoia and Clorox action, you ask? I’m an immunosuppressed senior citizen with kidney and lung disease thanks to my multiple autoimmune diseases. Still, sometimes you just need roses…

The Saturday Update: Week 16

The pandemic goes on. My country continues to act in alarming and perplexing ways; not only is there zero chance that I’m ever going to be able to leave self-isolation, but I despair of getting a new kitten. My joints are very ill-behaved and I don’t think that I will be getting that injection of steroids into my hip anytime soon. I used Instacart to buy my groceries for myself this week and the shopper, who wasn’t wearing a mask, substituted my order for fried rice with steaks (?!).  I MISS MACKENZIE SOMETHING AWFUL!!! (sniff) Okay. Enough of that. On a scale of 1-10 I’m somewhere around a 2. I have food, yarn, books, and my garden. I have steak!

Knitting

I’ve been knitting like crazy all week, but I’ve been bouncing around between three projects. Check it out.

I finished the first Sweet & Tartan sock! The designer created 3 different sizes of this sock; each size has a slightly different pattern for the tartan mosaic knit. This sock is the Medium version, and you can find my Ravelry notes here. I added an I-cord topper in the bright pink to the top of the sock after I finished. What do you think: too much or the perfect balance?
This pile of knitted mess is my new V-Neck Boxy sweater. I am now below the arms and the V-neck and am knitting the body in the round. Next stop, many inches from now, will be the bottom ribbing and the bind off. This is the mindless (and boring) part of the sweater, but it is perfect knitting while listening to a book or binge watching Netflix.
As a little break I started knitting the Maya cat. The black mohair yarns will continue to cover up the purple as the halo develops. Right now I’m pretty happy with how it looks.
Garden

Are you tired of my Monster Orchid yet? It just keeps going and going; it has become the centerpiece of my living room and I feel a rush of happiness every time I glimpse it. Much smaller, and no where as showy, is this miniature orchid that I have stationed on the china hutch.

This plant also is really healthy looking and is churning out new air roots while it blooms.
Do you see the new growth emerging on the stem that holds the blooms of this orchid? Yay! I think that we are looking at the beginning of new stew offshoots that will produce more blooms. This plant is an overachiever!! Yay orchid!

There is lots of sunlight coming into my downstairs rooms now and I have moved miniature roses to collect that light. They are really putting out the new growth and are champing at the bit to be let outside. Not yet, roses, as it is still below freezing some nights, but your day is coming soon!

Books

I have to admit that I am in a mood right now. We are living in extreme times and I yearn for clear leadership and well articulated goals. Is it too much to expect long-range planning to deal with the current situation and the next several stages to come with the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic impacts? I’ve had a somewhat less than rosy outlook about what is actually happening because…

I read this book a few years ago and it totally freaked me out!

You are looking at the reason why I bulk buy everything. This book was just gripping in its presentation of the event of the 1918 Influenza pandemic and presented many lessons. Medicine needs to be science based. The suppression of information during a disease outbreak leads to deadly outcomes, and quarantining works. Community actions and public health measures can make enormous differences in outcomes. Pandemics come in waves. Viral mutations are evolutionary events; we can take actions to lower our risks, but biology is relentless, mutations do happen, and assigning blame is pointless. Pandemic planning is all. The identification of the infected and their isolation is an absolute necessity. Some politicians in the US are calling for the country to reopen right now; their logic is that some people need to die in order to maintain our way of life. I wish I could zap this book at them right over the airways to be directly transferred into their brains…

So what am I reading while the news is filled with conflicting and overwhelming news reports?

I’m reading about another time of extreme threat and supreme leadership.
and this novel about extreme political machinations in an environment of unhinged leadership.

Both books are well written, very compelling, and validate my sense of how things should be right now in our time.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

A Little Wednesday Sunshine #2

Here we are, deep in a pandemic, isolated, bored, longing for good food and lost outings, and worrying about those we love. Hard days, huh. How about some happy things that I encountered this week? A little sunshine in the middle of the week, so to speak.

I bought some little bulbs to plant in my front garden in a school fundraiser a couple of years ago. I have no idea what this is, but after the snow melted this week there it was. Look at how cute it is!!
My neighbor put fertilizer on his lawn last fall and it has greened up with a vengence. Look! The first bunny of the year has shown up to snack on the lush grass. Try to imagine me sitting in the street for several minutes waiting for this bunny to get used to me so I could take this picture. Yep, that happened. I was out there so long a squirrel arrived to check on me.
I’ve set up the sewing machine on the dining room table in front of a sliding glass door so that I can sew in the afternoon sunshine. Doesn’t this springy quilt make you feel happy?
Finally, I finished up my Pebble Tunic this week. The pockets are sewn up, the ends are all woven in, and as you can see, I put on the cat paw buttons.
and they look fabulous!!

It’s actually a day here with little sunshine. In a few hours the clouds will finish closing in and rain will start, changing to snow before morning. Tomorrow and Friday it will continue to snow and carry on outside. I will get to wear my new sweater! That flower outside evidently is able to handle snow, and the bunny is hopefully tanked up on grass and will do okay in the icky weather. By the end of the week I should have that quilt done and I’ll be casting about for new projects to work on. In spite of everything, there are happy things and sunshine in the week.

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

 

The Saturday Update: Week 15

Big Blue looking in the window of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.

It’s right at 8pm here at my home in Colorado, and I’m typing this listening to a cacophony of howls (haroooo….) and fireworks. The Colorado Howl has really taken off as the Covid-19 pandemic heats up in my state; we also made the national news this week as politics interfered in our governor’s efforts to secure us the supplies that we need for Covid-19 patients. There are some serious outbreaks occurring in the state, and the huge convention center in downtown Denver is currently being converted into a field hospital for 2,000 Covid-19 patients in the days to come. I smile to think of Big Blue looking in the window to cheer up patients in the field hospital, but I wish so much that this wasn’t happening. I hope that everyone else is doing okay and had a good week.

Knitting

I’ve been knitting away on a couple of projects at once; one demands my attention and the other is kind of low level knitting. Check them out:

My first Sweet & Tartan sock now has a heel.

Once past the heel the tartan pattern is maintained on the top of the sock and the bottom becomes striped. I’m so enjoying this sock and can’t wait to wear it. I’ve already gone stash shopping to find a few more yarn contenders to make some other Tartan socks.

Most of my time was spent knitting away on the new V-Neck Boxy sweater, although you wouldn’t know it from the heap of stitches…

The V-Neck Boxy sweater is constructed seamlessly from the top down, but it has some interesting features. It starts with the back yoke stitches knit down from the shoulder CO, which are placed on a holder once you are ready to join in the round. The front stitches are then picked up at the original CO at the top of the shoulder, and then down to reach the same point as the back stitches. I like this modular approach since there is kind of a “seam” at the top of the shoulder that gives the sweater more stability when you wear it. I’m now knitting the second front section and soon I’ll have everything all joined up for knitting in the round. Yay!

Garden

It was sunny for most of the week so I took the miniature roses outside for some sunshine excitement. They responded by bursting out some new growth.

Towards the end of the months indoors under the grow lights the miniature roses are really dying for some quality sunlight. Look at how this one responded to just a week of good sunshine.

The orchids are still hanging in there, but the weeping fig tree that I pruned last week is now dropping leaves (!!) and look at what happened in the kitchen…

Remember my excessively cute miniature kale plants?
This week this happened. I overwatered them and they got moldy… There was no saving these little guys. I should have not closed up the little glass house on them.
My miniature African is still hanging in there or the kitchen window sill would be really sad looking.
Books
This week I’ve been reading books with blue covers. 🙂

I still need to finish American Dirt, but it got paused for a while as I was just too sad to read a book about a woman dealing with desperate times last week. I jumped to the newest book by an author that I really like, Jack McDevitt, and cruised right through the latest book in his Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath series. I really like these books. They are fun and kind of unique; Alex runs a business that deals in ancient artifacts of historical significance, and Chase is his starship pilot and girl Friday. There is always a mystery to solve, philosophical questions to answer (What is life? To whom does history belong?), and a cast of interesting characters. The books are set far in the future, and the historical artifacts that Alex pursues are from people and lost colonies/ships that exist far in our future, but long ago in Alex and Chase’s past. There is astronomy in the books; who knew stars and plants could have all of these things happen to them? Chase takes insane risks and wrecks a lot of flyers. Alex is always a couple of steps ahead of Chase in solving mysteries and has a habit of just whipping out significant details when it seems they have run out of leads. Chase serves as a moral compass from time to time. Alex is a celebrity, and Chase writes best selling autobiographies of their adventures. The AI of the interstellar ship is my favorite as she provides the adult voice warning them to not do insane things, and then has to rescue them when they ignore her. You know, like a mom, or those scientists in disaster movies. Can you see why this is a series that I enjoy a lot?

In this book, Octavia Gone, a research station studying a black hole abruptly vanishes, and an artifact with an unknown language is found in the belongings of one of the lost crewmembers. What happened to the station? Where did this artifact come from, and how are they connected? Is it possible that aliens did this? Was the wormhole near the black star involved somehow? As the team chases answers they run into huge moral and ethical conflicts that complicate their investigation: secrets and promises that have unknown consequences.  Eventually they discover what happened to the station, and achieve some resolution to their ethical dilemmas while providing answers to the families of the lost crews.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 14

It’s been a scary, sad week, hasn’t it? I’m still home in lockdown, sewing masks and missing MacKenzie something awful. The number of Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing in the US, especially in New York. I find myself fighting tears at least once a day now. There’s nothing for it but to keep checking in on loved ones and to stay busy. Luckily I have lots to do, and I have been busy. Before I show off the week let’s just start out with something happy.

The Monster Orchid now has 13 blooms and everyone of them is still going strong. The plant responded to having its blooms staked up by turning them for maximum visual impact. Beautiful plant!! I think that it likes the light in the front room.
Knitting

I completed the knitting of the Pebble Tunic! It fits and feels wonderful. It is also not finished or blocked. Still, you can now see the sweater!

This is a wonderful, long tunic that will be a fabulous light weight and warm layering piece in the fall. I need to sew the pockets into place and to weave in the ends. I think that I will steam block it in the end.
I hate to sew pocket liners into place. They intimidate me and I struggle with the outer edges. 
I’m thinking of sewing a button into the corners to cover the inevitable mess that will be at each pocket edge as I do the finishing. I think that it will look kind of cute with the floppy pocket. What do you think about this button?

I have to be honest, though. Now that I am at the finishing part of the sweater I am in a rush to get started on my next sweater. I want to wind that yarn and cast on immediately. I have three little projects (socks and mitts) that should be finished, but last night I dug through the stash and found the yarn to cast on ANOTHER pair of socks. I don’t want to sew pockets… I want to knit, knit, knit!! Today I packed up the Pebble Tunic to hibernate for a few days while I get the yarn wound for my next project, another V-Neck Boxy.  Eventually I’ll get it done. Besides, I need feedback from all of you about those buttons!

Garden

You already saw the orchid. Seriously, the orchid is the star of the indoor gardening at the moment, but I have been attending to some of the other plants.

For reasons that I don’t understand this jade plant has been growing like a weed, much faster than the other jade plants that I have. They are all clones from one single original plant, so I really don’t quite know what is going on here. The top growth has gotten so heavy that the two largest stems have flopped over. I staked and tied one, and I’m now considering cutting most of the downed section off. I should probably repot this hot jade plant mess, don’t you think? In the meantime I’ve moved the plant under a flood (grow) light by the window to see what happens in better light.

Tomorrow I think that I’ll dig around in the garage to find a nice clay pot for this guy. Since the plant is a super grower I’m considering starting a new plant with the downed stem to see if it will grow really fast, too.

Talking about rapid growth… do you see what this weeping fig has been up to? 

My weeping fig that I have growing in in the light of the front window really put out a lot of growth over the last year. When I repotted the plant a few weeks ago I discovered that the root system was pretty small and I worried that I had damaged the plant when I pulled it out of the old pot. Nope. The plant didn’t drop any leaves and is still putting out new ones so I fertilized it this week,  pruned off a lot of lower growth, and then staked and tied up branches to encourage the two plants to take on a more tree like shape. Here’s hoping it all works out. It’s another experiment!

Books

Maybe I’ve been messing with the plants this week because of the spring sunshine. Or maybe I’ve been looking at the plants with new eyes because I read this book this week.

I read another book about science and plants this week.

I loved this book. One of the things that I learned in the few years I worked in a research lab is that science people, really memorable people who do science, are originals. They think out of the box, they have wicked senses of humor, they listen to a singular internal muse as they work, and they have a casual relationship with rules and conventional schedules. I learned to write well while working in the lab. I learned to never take anything for granted in that lab, became endlessly creative as we designed original experiments, built our equipment, and collected the data. Science follows a timetable of its own sometimes… if the data arrived at 10pm I was in the lab ready to get it. I did some crazy stuff, and some of the best, most intense relationships of my life were developed in that time. This book captures the science behind plants and Hope Jehren’s work, the craziness of securing funding, the work of building a lab, and the unique and enduring relationships that are formed in collaborative research teams. A friend recommended this book to me, and I am so glad that I read it.

Jade plant, prepare to become an experiment!

Quilting

Look! A new category. Early in the winter on impulse I bought a huge roll of batting to make quilts. I have several quilt tops all pieced together waiting for the final quilting, and I have more quilt kits that need to be sewn. Now that I am trapped in the house I have this work to keep me busy. Behold. The first quilt got done this week.

Here’s the whole quilt.
and a close-up of the cats in the focus panel.

Next up: a green quilt with roses on it.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 13

Wow. Week thirteen already. That is a quarter of the year. Things are going by quickly, or incredibly slowly, depending on how you look at it. I do hope that everyone is doing well.

Knitting

I showed off the Pebble Tunic a few days ago in my last post, so I won’t subject you to another picture now. Truthfully, it only has had a couple of pocket linings added to it at this point. It will be much more interesting to show off once there is some sleeve action, right? Stay tuned for further updates on the pink tunic wonderfulness…

The tunic got so little action because I finished up the cat I was knitting.

Do you remember my son’s kitten Jonesy? I’ve been knitting a doppelganger of Jonesy for a few weeks now. It was a real challenge to get yarn combinations that would mimic his coloration realistically, and I even had to dye some yarn to get the stripes right. 

Today I finished sewing the knitted cat together and began to excitedly take pictures of him to send to my son who is staying-in-place in a city north of me.

What do you think?
Those stripes are exactly the way that I wanted them to turn out!! I couldn’t be happier with how this cat looks.
Now MacKnitzie has a friend to hang out with until I can get the cat to my son.

This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland. My project notes on the Jonesy version of the pattern are here.

Garden

Are you sick of looking at my monster orchid yet? Sorry. That is all that I’ve got right now. The big boy had two more blooms open this week and I finally had to stake one of the bloom stems up to keep the plant upright. This plant makes me happy every time I see it, and it certainly is making the living room a cheerful place to read in under my weighted blanket.

There, doesn’t he look really nice with that stake in place?
Remember when I was over-the-moon excited about the rose gold orchid blooming? I have a miniature orchid in the pot with it right now. I know that you don’t get the whole scale of the monster orchid which is now over 2 feet tall with its blooms in a single shot, so I took a photo of the orchids together. See. He’s a monster!!!

Off to the far left in the group orchid shot above is the weeping fig tree. I keep looking at it as I consider what chunks to cut off when I prune it next week. Poor tree. It doesn’t know what’s coming…

Books

Staying home alone, day after day, my mind skitters around jumping from association to association. Right now one of the drugs that I am on is in the news as it might have some efficacy in treating Covid-19 patients. The drug is a derivative of quinine, the malaria drug, and is called hydroxychloroquine.  Hearing about this, my brain immediately took off: How does this drug hydroxychloroquine actually work? How are the protists that cause malaria like the mobile white blood cells that are invading my lungs? Suddenly I was back in the lab I once worked in counting activated white blood cells in my microscope view field. Then I associated that scene with one in the book Lab Girl that I am listening to while knitting (and sewing a cat) in the evenings. The scientist in Lab Girl does a lot of outdoor work with soils… I spent a year teaching about soils and weather to students when I first transferred to teaching in the high school. Weather. I took a summer course at NOAA to learn about weather where we graphed tons of data on maps. Weather is crazy hard to study and teach. So much chaos, so much data, so hard to find the patterns in the data that streams in from a multitude of sources…

I just finished the book Weather: A Novel (by Jenny Offill) before I started Lab Girl. What an amazing experience. I am utterly in awe of how the author captures the brain skitterings and inner voice of our heroine Lizzie as she moves through her life and offers elusive connections that create images and patterns out of the chaos. Just like weather itself, there is a lot of data occurring as single events that create larger patterns and trends through time. The story is created in small text snippets of amazing imagery and tongue in cheek humor that carry us along. Lizzie is a failed psychologist and a librarian; she uses her observations of people around her and her endless access to knowledge in the library to navigate through her world. We follow Lizzie along as her life evolves over a few years while she grapples with her life, her connections and responsibilities to others, and the answers to really big questions that she needs to answer as part of a part-time job. The questions are exhausting and take a tole on her: what is important in a world rolling in possible extreme outcomes? Scary outcomes. Outcomes like climate change, war, and pandemics… What is one little life when all the rest of this is on the horizon?

Maybe this isn’t the best book to read at this moment, but I think that I will remember it for a long time.