The Saturday Update: Week 3, 2021

What a week, what a week, what a week! We saw our new president inaugurated here in the US, I went wild and set up a plethora of new knitting projects, I had issues with my health through the week, and yesterday I spent most of the day in Urgent Care getting some testing done. Whew! Let’s just unpack the whole week, okay?

But first:

I knew there was a chance that I might be gone from Hannah for a few days if my new symptoms spiraled out of control so I installed a new Hannah cam. Alright, that was a little bit of a struggle as I hunted for screws to mount the camera (Hannah, where did you put the package of screws…) onto a shelf in the craft room. Never finding the correct screws for the mount I hunted through the garage to locate alternative screws. Got them. Then the power drill was… out of power… so I found a screwdriver. Right. There is no way these scleroderma wrists can put a screw into wood without a hole already there. Back to the garage for nails and a hammer to put a starter hole into the shelf. Hannah was a huge help through all of this, by the way. As I hammered in a nail to make my starter hole in the shelf Hannah swooped the screws off the table and onto the floor, because… it’s a cat thing. “Why is everything so hard…”, I muttered to myself as I rescued the screws and got them into the camera mount. Hannah moved up onto the shelf so she could help me work better… that little paw can work magic, right? Finally, finally I finished and checked to make sure the camera was on the network and working correctly…

The first thing I see through the camera feed…

Knitting:

I have been doing pretty good keeping my knitting WIPs under control. Then the government sent me some money and I bought yarn! Hello, just doing my part to stimulate the economy and support other people, right? I am just rolling in creative ideas for knitted projects and this week I bought and printed patterns, organized knitting kits and cast on with reckless abandon. You might say that there was a small explosion of knitting projects.

Did you get all of that? Let me tell you what’s up starting with the pictures on top, left to right. (1)I lost my mittens, so I need to make those Tinsel Mitts before it snows again. They have a flip top to cover the fingers and I’m thinking that there must be some way I can line them for more warmth. Maybe with some fleece or wool batting stuffed into the lining to keep it all extra warm around the fingers? Hmm… (2) I moved the Goldwing sweater up my queue and want to get started on it as soon as a couple of little projects move off the needles. That sweater is sooo cute and I love the yarn that I just bought for it. (3) I bought lots of bluish yarns while I was sad last spring, and now I want to stay warm without putting too much effort into it. I know that the Age of Gold shawl has lots of soothing garter stitch with a nice warm drape and good coverage so I am making it again with this blue multi yarn. (4) The group of pink and grey yarn is going to be used to make a pair of arm warmers to match my Secret Handshake cowl that I made in that MKAL last fall.

That takes care of the top row of projects. The bottom row shows the two projects, left to right, that I worked on this week along with the WIP that I carried into the week, the Geology Socks. (1)I wanted easy, calming knitting to produce snuggly warmth early in the week and went to Ravelry to look at patterns. I decided on making another Age of Gold but there was a wrap that really screamed that it wanted me to make it: Julie’s Wrap by Joji Locatelli. Darn. That wrap needed more than 3 skeins of yarn to make. Wait, wait, wait… I had 4 skeins of a dusty black cashmere/merino fingering yarn lined up for a sweater that could be directed to this wrap… bam! That yarn instantly became this wrap as I frogged the sweater and decided to knit Goldwing first. (2) The yarn on the right is to make a pair of detailed Mandalorian mitts.

Having made the kits and decisions, I then got busy. Once again, the projects are lined up left to right in the pictures above. (1) I have finished my first Geology sock and am started on the second sock. (2) I am making good progress on the Mando mitts even though you have to use three colors at once in parts of the mitts, and I need to add more detail with duplicate stitch after I finish. I don’t think that English is this author’s first language as some of the written directions are a little shaky, but the charts are golden and I’m just using the force and charging along fearlessly as I knit these mostly ignoring the directions. (3) the dusty black garter knitting is the beginning of Julie’s Wrap coming off my needles. Right now I have over 2 feet of done with 2 more feet ahead of me before I start on the twisted rib outer trim and finally the (be still my heart…) BOBBLES! that are produced in what I think is the bind off. I love bobbles! I learned how to knit backwards just for bobble production, and if ever there was a time to utilize that singular skill it is while making bobbles on a wrap that is more than 4 feet long. By the way, now that I’m knitting that black yarn I’m glad it is becoming a wrap because it is pretty darn streaky. See, a good decision!!

Scleroderma Chronicle:

Sigh. Then there is my continuing scleroderma adventure. I’ve been experiencing some intermittent chest pain that has become more severe and frequent over the last couple of weeks. When you are chronically ill you don’t call in every new development because if you did you would wear out your doctors and you’d absolutely exhaust everybody involved in your life, but when I had a 45 minute bout of chest pain Thursday night along with blue lips and shortness of breath I knew I had to get some medical evaluation started.

The medical group that I belong to has a 24 hour online “chat with a doctor” to get advice. The advice I got was to head to urgent care to get a heart attack ruled out. Okay. I can do that…

When you show up at urgent care with shortness of breath and chest pain you get double masked and whisked into a sealed exam room where you are isolated from everyone else and the medical staff wears all the protective gear available to them. Whew, that was fun. After testing and 5 hours of waiting (and starving because I hadn’t eaten just in case…) I was told that this wasn’t a heart attack (YAY!!) but that there was an issue with fluid around my heart. It’s an autoimmune thing. I need more testing and evaluation and may need to be hospitalized to get it done, but since it was the weekend I convinced them to let me go. Actually, I think that I was lucky that I went to urgent care instead of an ER as it made it easier for me to escape. 🙂 Referrals were made, summaries were sent off to my rheumatologist, and I drove home with my chest still hurting. As soon as I got home I shot off an email to my rheumatologist and went back to bed. Bad scleroderma, bad!!

My niece sent me soup today using DoorDash!

Today I’m up and doing better but taking it really easy. Yesterday was just another chapter in my scleroderma story, but it really impressed on me that catching Covid-19 would not be a good thing at all.

Wear your masks, people!!

The Saturday Update: Week 2, 2021

Wow, already half done with the month. The weather has been pretty mild here and I took advantage of it to run errands and get more cleaning done. I turned in my DNA sample to 23andMe for their systemic sclerosis research project and spent a few hours answering their endless data collection surveys. I signed up to get the Covid-19 vaccine (yay!!) only to learn the next day that the government had lied to my state and the vaccine was NOT coming after all. UGH!!!! Hannah and I worked for a few hours on the quilt for my son; this is slow going as she seems to feel like this quilt is a new toy for her. I also really buckled down on The Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) to get that shawl done by the end of the week, and Hannah really outdid herself with feline support on that one, too.

So that was the week. In the background there was a lot of drama in the news this week which helped me get the knitting done while watching the impeachment debates and votes. Okay, we are getting close to pegging the stress dial for many folks; if this was a thriller novel it would be kind of into ridiculous territory about now. We still have an out of control pandemic, there was an attempted coup instigated by president, the president was almost immediately kicked off all media platforms and impeached, more violence is expected in the coming week so there are national guardsmen sleeping on the national capitol floors, there is no national stockpile of the vaccine, and the polar vortex is misbehaving again. AGGHHH!!! There, I don’t know about you, but I feel better. Having yarn and a kitten helps too.

Let’s just spend the rest of this post chatting about knitting, okay?

I cast off The Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) tonight. This baby is really huge, full of texture and lots of color; I almost hate to block it because it will grow even larger then…

The Secret Life is an advent shawl that was designed to be knitted one day/clue at a time starting December 1st and ending on Christmas. It was made to accommodate the advent knitting kits that many Indie Dyers put out, but since I didn’t have one of those I used 4 skeins of yarn from the stash. I like this shawl, but for the last couple of days I have been dreaming of making another one in the greys and plums of my new Christmas yarn. Hannah and I have already been digging around putting together yarn for the new shawl. I can use 4 skeins again, but I also have lots and lots of small amounts of yarn and it is tempting to put together a set of 25 colors. Lots of stash digging will be going on to make that happen…

I also got silly and bought more yarn. It’s not all weakness of character… the government sent me a stimulus check and I decided to stimulate the economy by buying yarn!! That’s why there are online yarn stores, right? I’m such a good Loopy Ewe customer they are now sending me free yarn along with what I’ve purchased. 🙂 I have long been a fan of Jennifer Steingass sweater patterns, but I have never knitted one before. This month I snapped and bought the yarn to make two more sweaters which means I now have three different Jennifer Steingass sweaters lined up. I guess that is my sweater resolution for the year.

I loved the Goldenfern pattern the minute I saw it, and I have been hunting down yarn to make a Goldwing for a couple of months. I also have the yarn wound up to make Solvi (that is the off black yarn and the pink) and I will be casting it on this week… really, really I will. I want all three of the sweaters right now which means it is going to be hard to ignore the ones waiting on the back burner as I knit. Time to knit fast!!

Hannah just loves to help with winding yarn!

The only other knitting that is going on now is that I did cast on a pair of socks to work on late at night while listening to my audiobooks and they are moving right along.

This is a chunk of the leg of the sock showing off the stitches. What, you are having trouble making them out? Note to self: solid colors show off details better then heavily speckled yarns.

I love the socks and I think that when I’m wearing them and the stitches are stretched out the pattern details will show up better. If they don’t, I will have to make another pain in a solid yarn, so there! These are Geology Socks and the Uschitita yarn is called Cloud Atlas.

Oh… I almost forgot! In my family we are a bunch of Star Wars fans, and perhaps the biggest one of all is my exceptionally knitworthy niece. She just loves The Mandalorian. Like a lot. She has a Child softie that gets posed in the best of places. Like at Starbucks. Or by her car…

That yarn is to make her a pair of fingerless mitts featuring Mando and the Child from the show The Mandalorian and they will be cast on as soon as the socks are off the needles. Or maybe sooner. It is the way.

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: 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 51 & 52

Can you believe it, this most horrible of years is almost behind us. Whew! I am planning to do an overview of the whole terrible year next week, but right now let’s talk about the Christmas crafting.

Hannah: did you all have fun? I got new toys, tore open presents that weren’t mine and played with all of the papers after presents were opened. It was great!!

I have been crafting along for weeks and not talking about any of it because… presents!! Now that everything has been safely sent off and received here is the whole present overview.

Knitting

I knitted some super warm socks for my sister, made a little mouse for a cousin (with a sweater for him to wear on cold nights raiding the pantry), and a couple of Christmas gnomes for another cousin. The socks are Snowshoe (Emily Foden) socks, the Little Mouse in a Sweater is another Claire Garland design, and the gnomes are Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira.

Quilting

I have been working in the evenings on an art quilt that is a present for one of my sons. This son likes to fly fish, so the quilt is a good fit for him. I started the quilt in the spring, but put it away for a few months because of Hannah action that was going on while I was working on the quilt. Now that she is a little older I’m having more success working in the sewing room, but it is still a little stressful.

Hannah: I’m quality help!!

Hannah is still involved in every thing that I’m doing. She bounces around the room climbing in the garden shelves, pulling scraps of fabric out of the trash, stealing the pin cushion, tunneling under loose fabric left out, and closely watching every move of the sewing machine. In situations like these safety protocols are everything: I turn off the sewing machine every time I get up from it and place the steam iron behind a closed door while I’m not using it. Okay, I unplug the iron too. Hannah is really clever at getting into things… Thankfully she understands that she can’t get up on the ironing board now. She also will settle down and nap in artfully placed open boxes with tissue paper in them.

Finally, late Christmas Eve, Hannah and I got the quilt top finished. Oh, you can’t see the quilt’s features with Miss Hannah all over it? It’s hard to make out because it is upside down? Let me show off some of the details…

There is a fisherman casting his lure out over the water with the fish leaping up on the next panel to bite it. There are little bear cubs and a moose walking through aspen trees. Altogether the quilt is a four block wall hanging that I hope will look nice in my son’s new home. I still need to get this quilt top assembled with the batting and the backing, and then there needs to be lots and lots of quilting as I outline each of the little pieces of fabric. I told my son that the quilt is coming, and it (Hannah willing) should be done in another couple of months. This quilt is a Pine Needles (McKenna Ryan) design and its name is Calling Me Home.

Sliptravaganza

I’ve been working on Slipstravaganza for so long I have kind of stopped talking about it as it slipped into the background. In the wee hours of Christmas morning I finally finished casting off the shawl and took a fast snapshot of it in the dim light of my bedroom. Look at all that texture and detail!! Today I blocked it (with Hannah’s help) and as soon as it dries it is going to become my main winter wrap! This is a huge shawl, very showy, but also extremely comfy to wear because of the shape. Did I mention that the white main color yarn is a cashmere blend? This is just perfect for snuggling on cold winter days.

This shawl is made of yarns that I have loved and hoarded for years. Really, I have held onto a couple of these skeins for a decade because the exact right project never came around… when I love a yarn it has to go to a project worthy of it, right?! The pink yarn was bought several years ago on a trip to the Estes Park Wool Market in Estes Park, Colorado. Every time I look at it I smile thinking about the sheep and alpaca I saw that day, not to mention lamb barbeque, cinnamon pecans, and a fabulous day in the mountains! The gold yarn is a silk/yak/merino blend that I bought at a pop-up shop set up in a Boulder, Colorado yarn store that is now closed. I learned to spin and weave in that shop (Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins) and this special yarn is forever linked to that store. Also, I just love the glow of this gold yarn!! The purple I bought in a shop in Arvada, Colorado while visiting yarn stores along the front range of the Rockies as I participated in Yarn Along the Rockies, an annual shop hop in my area of the state of Colorado. How much fun a shop hop is… you pile into cars with your friends, throw caution to the winds as you use Google Maps to navigate through shadowed mountain roads and strange towns to discover a new gem of a yarn store. Inevitably you end up at a great lunch location to swap stories and shopping scores with your friends before heading out again on the hop. Good times!! Needing a yarn to pull these three together I bought two skeins online at Hue Loco (Loveland, Colorado) earlier this year. This shawl is something of a celebration of my well fed and nourished yarn stash as it also showcases the Colorado fiber artists whose work it incorporates. How ironic, at the end of this year that I have spent isolating alone with my pandemic kitten, I have completed this knitted piece of wearable art made from the yarns of my state, acquired as I traveled around it in happier days before I was diagnosed with my autoimmune diseases and Covid-19 appeared in our world. Soft and warm, heavy with happy memories, I am armored against the world outside.

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 49 & 50

What a shock to write down week 50! I have to admit that it is kind of a thrill to get towards the end of this most eventful (and not in a good way) year at last, but it is a reminder of all that I need to get done before the holidays are upon us. I’m trying to get presents finished in time to send off for Christmas and then there are my challenge goals on Ravelry and Goodreads. My Ravelry challenge goal is to get 30 knitting projects done this year and I have only one more to go! Piece of cake. I also wanted to get 50 books finished off this year and that goal is getting close with only three more books to go. We’ll just pretend that there weren’t any plans for the garden, okay? Between heat, smoke, my unhappy lungs and the pandemic there just wasn’t much progress there.

I’ve been reflecting on the year now that we are coming up to the end, but even more so on the last 9 months. I started this year struggling with shortness of breath and sporting blue lips; I felt a little desperate as my symptoms weren’t being taken seriously by my physician team and I pressed for more testing and answers. Exactly 9 months ago today my pulmonologist called to tell me that my oxygen levels were too low overnight when measured in a sleep study: I needed to go on oxygen when I slept. The next day the oxygen concentrator came just as I finished laying in groceries for a few weeks at home alone. By the middle of the next week we were in lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak in my state and little Hannah was born. Three months later I was able to adopt Hannah in a contact-free adoption and today we are rocking the Stay-at-Home lifestyle. This month Hannah is acting like a teenager and I’m feeling a lot friskier myself as many of my symptoms have faded into the background and my blue lips are rarely seen when I glance into the mirror; my latest bloodwork shows that I am maintaining, and I’m meeting next week with my rheumatologist (remotely) to find out what to do about other symptoms that have cropped up. Outside the world is on fire (the COVID numbers are horrific and the drama associated with our election continues…), but in the little world that I’ve built for Hannah and I things are good.

Knitting

I am trapped on Slipstravaganza Island wandering around in the chevron wilderness. I just love this project and worked steadily on it for a week before I had to call a halt to work on Christmas-related knitting. In my defense, the rows are now over 900 stitches each at this point, so the narrow garter stitch chevrons take a few hours to complete. It will be fabulous when it is done and I’m hoping to get back to it as soon as my Christmas presents are in the mail. Wait until you see this thing blocked!!

I love the colors in this shawl so much, and what you can’t see is that there is silk, yak, and cashmere in that yarn that makes it just a joy to work on. Soon, soon, soon it will be done… but not this week.

I can’t show off any of my other knitting projects because… they are secrets! Hello, Christmas presents… I have been working on other undertakings that won’t be named since I also can’t show them off, so… how about I talk about cleaning my yarn stash? I pulled everything out this week to get yarn reorganized again by types, sources, and colors and then put it all away neatly in bins to keep it safe from kittens and moths. Of course Hannah helped me with all of this; if you imagined Hannah racing through the house with a skein of alpaca yarn in her mouth you nailed it!! Then at the end of the clean-up the great “Where is Hannah?” search began…

Do you see her?
There she is! That quilted wall hanging was rolled up before Hannah found it…

Books

I just realized that the color is off on both of my pictures because my Kindle switches to the blue filter in the evenings to help me sleep. Hey, that really does work! If you don’t already know about this, try it out.

I have been reading the Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith (J. K Rowling) since the series started, and I just love the complexity of the characters. In this book, Troubled Blood, Strike and his partner Robin are hired by the daughter of a long missing woman to discover what happened to her. It has always been supposed that she was the victim of a serial killer who was active at that time, but the daughter longs for a definitive conclusion, and Strike agrees to take the case. Over the slightly more than a year that Strike and Robin work this and other cases at the agency they also deal with their relationships with old lovers, family members, each other and ultimately, themselves. I have to be honest here… Strike and Robin are both damaged goods, but during this book they both confront some of their demons, move some things into the past, and begin to gain balance and perspective that makes me eager to get the next book in the series. Oh yeah, they also solve the case!

After polishing off Troubled Blood I blindly started The Last of the Moon Girls without any expectations because… I’m a little ashamed to admit this… it was also an audiobook and I needed something to listen to while knitting. To my surprise it is also a book about an old murder, also has a main character who was “different” from everyone else growing up, and who also has a very fraught relationship with a dysfunctional parent. Cormoran Strike Deja vu!! I’m enjoying this book as I listen to it, knitting away on my mystery presents, but I have to say that it isn’t as rich and complicated as Troubled Blood was. Actually, that is a good thing since it is an audiobook and I would have trouble following multiple investigations and a huge cast of characters in action; as it is this book is perfect for the task at hand as it has a straightforward storyline that keeps layering in additional characters and plot twists in an engaging manner without too many games. I kind of think I know who the killer was, but I’m not absolutely sure…

Must keep knitting and listening!!

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 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: Week 46

What a good week I had this week. Okay, the Covid-19 numbers are rocketing up into the stratosphere while people on Facebook still vent about governmental overreach and their refusal to wear a mask (!), but the weather was nice and Hannah and I had a very productive couple of days reading in bed and knitting like banshees. (I bet you didn’t know that banshees knit. Of course they do, and they are very fast while never, ever, dropping a stitch!) I got to the grocery store late one evening and stocked up for a few weeks and cooked up some yummy meals that will last me through the next week. I also went crazy and bought a whole package of creampuffs. It’s my pandemic, and I will eat creampuffs if I want to!!

Knitting

Let’s get right to the knitting, shall we? I finished my Misurina!! Early in the week I took the stitches off the needles and onto a yarn holder to check for fit and things looked good!! Boy, did that get me fired up to knit like crazy! The pattern is for a cropped sweater and advised that you knit 5 inches below the armhole before binding off, but I was like, NOPE!, I will keep knitting until I run out of yarn because cropped isn’t the best look for little short-waisted me. To make sure I had a good feel for the yarn amount I finished the sleeves with my second cake of yarn and then blended the two yarns together as I transitioned from the first cake to the second in the body. I kept picking up speed during the week and finished binding off early this morning. Today I misted the sweater with water and hovered a steam iron over it to block it and the finished sweater is just what I wanted. Look!!

It’s a little tee type sweater that just rocks! Seriously, this is such a comfortable item to wear and I couldn’t be happier. The sweater is knit fairly loosely but is surprisingly warm and a nice layering item. Caitlin Hunter for the win again!! My Ravelry notes are here.

I seem to have spent the rest of the week agonizing over the colors and yarns to use in the next batch of knitting projects. Hannah and I went through the yarn stash over and over as I pulled out yarns and tried to dream up color combinations. I would make a decision only to change my mind the next day and back into the stash we would go. I want to make a Solvi sweater. I bought the pattern for Slipstravaganza but never cast on as I was buried in other knitting projects. Okay, I will be honest… Stephen West is really artistically adventurous and I was a little nervous about committing 5 whole skeins of yarn to a knitting extravaganza if I didn’t know what it was going to look like. I worried about where to put light and dark colors. I love my yarn and didn’t want to waste any… but as this week went on and people in the group began to publish their finished shawls I loved what I was seeing! Now that I know what the final project is I can make good choices about colors and knitting order. I need to make one of these!! I maybe need to make two of them! The pattern required 2 skeins of a main color and three more contrast colors, and after much stash diving Hannah and I came up with two combos of yarn and colors.

I think that the yarns on the left are going to be my first shawl, but I am really torn about the yarns on the right as they might be more useful in the winter. I have two skeins of that navy yarn so it will be the main color; that inky blue sort of screams winter, right? On the other hand, the cheery colors of the yarns on the left might be exactly what I need right now. There is a lot of yarn in these shawls so whichever I pick is going to be my main project for the month along with the sweater. So many decisions. So much yarn that I need to wind…

I am also waiting for The Secret Life of Cats (and dogz), the next knitting adventure designed by Sharon from Security, Casapinka’s snarky, sushi chomping, citation writing, but mostly supportive-to-knitters feline employee. This adventure will be coming in a few more weeks, but I wanted to get started on the yarn selection and came up with these happy and wild colors:

I posted the pictures of the yarn on Facebook to ask if they were too wild for The Secret Life and Sharon says they are A-okay. Yay. More yarn to wind!!

There is also a pattern for a Siamese cat wearing a little Fair Isle sweater that is going to be published by Claire Garland next week. I need that too. I think that some other members of my family are going to want one of them also… the cat doesn’t absolutely need to be a Siamese, as other cats probably also wear darling Fair Isle sweaters… So much knitting, so little time…

Books

Did you notice that I jumped right over the gardening? No gardening going on here lately. Most of my plants are still alive, but how interesting can pictures of jade plants and orchids be when there aren’t any blooms. Hey, do jade plants bloom? Why haven’t I seen any blooms? I may have to look into this…

I’m still immersed in the adventures of Giordano Bruno, philosopher, spy and crime investigator in the 16th century.

I finished Conspiracy last week (Bruno solved the murder mystery, got his lost knife back, and even connected with that woman he was hoping to find in Paris) and started Execution right away. Hey, Bruno has abandoned Paris and King Henri and we are back in London again. Bruno is once again involved in high intrigue uncovering a plot that threatens the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and wouldn’t you know, there has been a murder. Of course. Bruno must insert himself into the conspiracy to execute Elizabeth to make way for Mary Stuart (and the supremacy of the Catholic church in England), derail the plot, solve the murder, keep his knife safely at his side, and maybe, maybe convince the woman of his dreams to marry him. It’s a lot. I’m reading my way steadily through this latest chapter in Bruno’s adventures. I think that this is the last book in the series for now so I’m going to have to divert to another genre again after this. I do have a nice science fiction waiting for me…

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.