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 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.

Watercolor Days

A couple of weeks ago I had trouble breathing, called my doctor’s office, and the nurse there called 911 for me. Wow. What an experience that was. Okay, it was a little surreal to be frank. One of the things that happened was the paramedic, after he had placed a needle in my arm vein, attached me to heart monitors and then placed me on oxygen, told me how much he liked my watercolor paintings of cats. What? This is really happening? Panting for air, I struggled for a moment to think of what he was talking about.

Cat Quilts
Oh. These cat pictures.

Those aren’t really watercolor paintings, but they sure do look like it, I suppose. They are actually art quilts made with handpainted fabrics that give them their “watercolor” look.

Siamese Cat quilt.
Here’s a close-up of one of the quilts. You can see that the picture is made by fusing down lots of painted and stenciled fabric pieces that were then sewn and quilted. 

The patterns for the quilts came from McKenna Ryan and I bought them at a local quilt store years ago. Over months I slowly assembled the fabric stash to get the colors that I wanted, and then I created the quilts in my own colors to make them show cats that I have known and loved over my life. These three cats are Morgan (the yellow sunflower cat), Zach (the tuxedo cat) and Teak (my beloved Siamese cat).  I love these quilts, especially because of the quality of the dyes on the fabric and the way the colors work together.

So, do you think that I am a sucker for handpainted yarn? Oh, my lord, that would be a huge YES!

The week after the exciting and exhausting ambulance ride my BKB (best knitting bud) Deb and I went up to the Interweave Yarn Fest to do some quality shopping.

Yarn booth.
The first booth in the door was this one by Western Sky Knits. Look at those yarns!! Look at those handpainted yarns in amazing colors! Look! Look!

Don’t those yarns look a lot like the colors that are in the quilts?

Yarns
Take a closer look. See what I’m talking about?

I saw these yarns and I was gone. I didn’t even do my usual pass through the entire yarn show before buying anything. I just started piling up the yarn that I wanted and that was that. I bought 11 skeins of fabulous, water-colorish yarns and wanted more. Let me show you what I got.

Yarn
I am a complete sucker for a good gold yarn. That was the first skein to jump into my arms. I love this gold. I bought two speckles to go with the first gold skein, and then had to get another skein of gold just in case. You know. Who can tell what I’ll need in the future? The stash cries for gold yarn. I’m on the hunt for the right shawl pattern now, but I’m also dreaming of socks and arm warmers.
Yarn
Then there was this. I needed these colors in my stash.  These yarns are the missing pieces that I needed to make some shawls that I’ve been organizing from the stash. Just like I did with the quilts, I have been assembling colors for projects that I dream of from a number of sources and putting them into my stash. These yarns, and these colors, filled the final gaps and made my vision come together.

Here’s the thing. Looking at these yarns, I realized that they are the colors of the quilts. Watercolors. Colors that make me smile inside. The colors of sunshine, flowers in the garden, cats, and summer days. I look at these yarns, I imagine the projects that they will make shine, and I begin plotting the knitting. And the flowers that I will plant in the garden next month. And the people that I will gift the knitting to. Some projects that will last as long and give me (and hopefully others) as much joy as the watercolor quilts that I have on the wall.

Watercolor days.

May you all have many of the same.

Update: Knits, Quilts, a New Book and Cold Cats

It has been just crazy hectic here the last two weeks. I have been driving to doctor appointments, cleaning the house, running errands, and staying pretty darn busy getting stuff ready for Christmas. This week I’ve been chipping away on several Christmas makes (with lots of cat help), and while the list of things I’m making seems endless, I finally got several things done all at once in the last couple of days. Finally, some progress! Check it out.

Shawl
I finished the Jujuy Shawl that I’m making for a cousin. I was told to use bright colors; this should definitely fit the bill. Ravelry notes here.
Mitts and Book
I also got these Akiko mitts done while I was reading a book. These babies are made with Anzula Cricket yarn and the cashmere blend makes them feel really yummy. This is the second pair of these mitts that I’ve made. I wasn’t happy with the thumbs on the first pair so this time I moved them over onto the palm of the mitt. Ravelry notes here. Looking at the tops of the mitts they look misshapen and thumbless, but if you turn them over…
Back of mitts
…there they are, tucked away on the back of the mitt. I moved the gusset over 6 stitches on these; I’m still fussing about these thumbs and may do a third pair with the thumb moved 4 stitches… This is a illness, but I prefer to call it a mitt study. 🙂
Table Runner.
I also got this table runner pieced and ready to quilt. The pattern, Waffle Time,  is really fast and easy to make. I bought the fabric last year and finally got going on the stitching this month. Did I mention that I have another table runner and a quilt to get done too?
Fabric close-up
See how cute these fabrics are?

I just want to say that all this crafting wasn’t easy at all since the weather turned dangerously cold for kitties this week and I couldn’t let them go out for more than a couple of minutes at a time. MacKenzie has been especially crabby about the turn of weather events. This morning when I got up it was -10 degrees F and the ground was covered in snow! Yikes! No way could the cats go out in that!

Annoyed cat
MacKenzie: Do I look annoyed? Yes! I would like to speak with whoever is in charge of the weather. This is completely unacceptable.
cat on shawl
MacKenzie: If I can’t go outside I should be able to help with the knitting, right? Yarn chomping time!! I mean, what do you expect a bored cat to do?
Cat
Yellow Boy: Yarn chomping is so yesterday. I prefer to sit on the pattern and stare at the Mother of Cats until she gets me some chicken to eat. If I can’t chase bugs I should have chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken!! Did I mention that I can stare for a LONG time?

When they aren’t yarn chomping and staring at me (sitting on the pattern, of course) the cats have insisted on sleeping on top of me. These are big cats! The little one is over 15 pounds, and MacKenzie is a whopping 18 pounds of dead cat weight.

Book
Luckily this new book was published this week so I can read while serving as a cat bed. Oh, my goodness. This is the latest book in my most favorite series ever, The Expanse. I watched the first season of the television show made from the books last week to warm up for the release date, and as soon as the book was available in the early hours of Tuesday morning I downloaded it to my NOOK. 

I really do love these books. I even blogged about them. I like the characters, the political/social situations created as people move onto other planets and into space, the science is good, the pacing of the plots is excellent, and did I mention that it is SPACE OPERA?!! Hello, Science Geek! Here’s the previous posts about these books:

This new book is the 6th in the series. I didn’t feel compelled to blog about the 5th book, but this latest book has really hooked me back into the story. All my favorite characters are back, the story is moving right along, and there has got to be a space battle coming soon.

Thank heavens it is cold out. What a wonderful excuse to stay inside to craft and read. I may get all of my Christmas makes done on time this year. The cats will get more attention. I will get my book finished lickety-split.

Cat
…and I will get more chicken!! 

Thanks Polar Express.

Have a good weekend everyone.

MacKenzie Speaks: Big Project Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
Would you believe it is 80 degrees out here in the middle of November? That’s a nice thing since the Mother of Cats has been spending all of her time with some NEVER-ENDING projects instead of spending time with me.

First it was the quilt. She completely ignored our needs and sewed and sewed for days. Then she laid everything out on the floor to make a sandwich of some type with this fluffy stuff called batting (That she would not let me roll in! Hello! Cat bait!!) that involved a lot of pinning and muttering. I even got stuck with a pin. NOT nice, Mother of Cats…

Quilt
Look at all of those pins. Why did she have to go and ruin a perfectly yummy cat bed?

Then the sewing started. It went on, and on, and on…

Quilting details.
Somehow she felt compelled to sew around all of the details in the quilt. All of them. Usually the Mother of Cats is pretty balanced, but this was just ridiculous.
Cat on quilt.
I hardly had time to catch a nap between sewing sessions!
Cat helping sewing effort
Finally she finished with the machine and spent a whole day binge watching Longmire on Netflix while she “sewed on the binding”, what ever that means. I really enjoyed hanging out with her while she stitched. It would have been better if she hadn’t moved me around so much. For some reason she just couldn’t settle down and leave the quilt in a comfy position. What is it with her obsession with pins?
Finished Quilt
Whew! It is done. Hey, wait a minute! What is my comfy new quilt doing up on the wall? Thanksgving? Cats don’t care about Thanksgiving. They want cat beds!! Mother of Cats, what are you thinking of?

Then she went shopping for some new toys for us and came back with a big heavy box. Boxes! Yellow Boy and I love boxes! We helped her unpack the whole thing and then she laid out all of these strange wooden pieces. Huh? Strange cat toys…

Cabinet pieces
What a mess. 

She got out tools including the POWER DRILL and that was that for me and Yellow Boy. We evacuated to the outside while she spent the afternoon and early evening putting her new mouse trap together. She says it is to hold her working stash and projects in the television room… whatever. We went out to chase squirrels and hunt bugs after dark. Ha! She totally forgot about us until an hour after our usually coming-in time.

Cabinet
And this is what she ended up with. How are we supposed to play with this? And all of the yarn? It’s put away where we can’t get it! Why isn’t she more sensitive about our needs? Cats need constant attention and entertainment. Yarn entertainment is quality time for cats.

Thank heavens there is still yarn out because she is knitting a sweater. She has been knitting this sweater forever. The yarn she is using is the absolute best for chomping, and I love squishing it with my paws. Imagine how I felt when she dumped all the pieces into the sink and then got them WET.

Cat on blocked sweater
 Oh wait, I do like the smell of wet yarn. Don’t you think it’s the best thing since day-old fish?
Cat
Then the Mother of Cats and I sewed all the pieces together…
Finished sweater
and suddenly it was done! Look! She wore it to her knitting group meeting yesterday.
Detail of sweater back
Check out the back. Don’t those textured stitches look like they belong in a cat bed?

And just like that, after weeks of work, three big projects got done this week. OK, the cabinet was only a day, but it was part of the “get ready for the holidays” effort. For some reason she thinks that the holidays are a big deal. Really, it is a lot of commotion. Cats don’t like commotion.

Hiding cat
See what I mean? This is what just a mention of Christmas does to Yellow Boy. He is not a fan of commotion…

Still, the Mother of Cats cast on several new projects last night to start on the Christmas knitted-presents drive. Lots of bits of yarn. Beads! Loose knitting needles and crochet hooks. Hey, I can help! I’m such a good boy. I love to help with all the Christmas fuss.

Cat face
Can I have some cookies now?

 

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The Grand Stand quilt (pattern 328 by Mountainpeek Creations) was bought as a kit from Holly’s Quilt Cabin. While the original fabrics are long gone it is still a cute design.
  • The sweater is the Guernsey Pullover by Norah Gaughan. This sweater has been going on and on for weeks with lots of help from MacKenzie. The yarn that he loves (as do I) is Malabrigo Rios. You can find my Ravelry notes here.
  • That cabinet was on sale at Target. Having cut my teeth on IKEA furniture I felt empowered to buy it, have them load it into my car and the rest is history. Take that loose knitting projects!

Christmas Make: Stacking Fabric Bowls

I made my first Christmas make list a few weeks ago and it is getting close enough to the main event for me to start to take things seriously. Usually my family and friends get knitted items; they all have knitted mitts, shawls, cats, and socks from previous years. I had this idea that I would change things up and do some sewing this year. Lord knows I have enough Christmas fabrics! Last week I pulled out everything that looked a little Christmasy from my fabric stash and filled a crate with candidate fabrics. If I sew for a couple of hours each day I should be able to make some real progress on the presents without the usual last-minute stress.

Crate of Fabrics
Well look at this! There must be a few presents in here…

I found several projects and kits from previous years that didn’t get made or finished: a set of placemats, an advent calendar, a table runner and some ornaments. Hey! I should get cracking!  Of course I decided to make something that wasn’t any of those items for my first project. The problem was these exceptionally cute fabrics that all kind of went together…

Fabrics
How happy can a set of Christmas fabrics get? These are the leftovers from some projects I made in the past with one new buy added in. They look like they were made to go together, don’t they, but some of these are over 10 years old.

I decided to made a series of stacking fabric bowls similar to the ones that I made for my sister for her birthday. The dark green solid will be used for the lining of all the bowls except the smallest, and the bowls will be sewn in the order I have the fabric stacked. I even found a variegated thread that I could use. It’s a plan!! Here is the pattern that I found online to use for the bowls.

Quilted squares
The bowls are made by first constructing a series of quilted squares. To make these bowls I created 12″, 11″, 10″, 9″, and 8″ squares. (OK, I have to be honest. That was the size of the squares before I sewed them. The finish squares are actually 1/2″ smaller because of the seams. I decided to not sweat the small details.) 🙂
Quilting
I did the easiest quilting possible for the squares. Isn’t the thread cute? That was why I used the solid green for all of the linings.
Finished bowls
Stitched down darts in each corner create the bowls. Cute, huh. I’m glad that I used a print fabric for the lining of smallest bowl. 

There is enough of some of the fabrics to use them for more bowls (I think that the largest bowl is exactly the right size to hold a Christmas coffee cake or maybe a hand-woven dishtowel with a package of my favorite Christmas cookies…) or to make a set of placemats. I have the perfect family placemat pattern all ready to go and a set from last year that just needs to get some quilting done and the binding attached. I am trying to stay out of the quilt store but I can make everything work if I just add a couple of coordinated fabrics…

Do you see why I have such a big stash? For now I have organized two more set of Christmas bowls and set aside the fabrics for Thanksgiving bowls that I can use next week when I go to my son’s house for the big meal. After that I can attack the table runner and placemats.

So much fabric, so little time. And I thought I had a problem with yarn…