The Saturday Update: Week 22

I’m going to just come right out and say that things are crazy, scary, and full of grief here in America. It’s hard for me to focus because there is a sense of history that compels me to keep checking the news. Where to start? At this point I am almost beyond words. Maybe I won’t even go there. Instead, let me offer you the good moments and snippets of joy that came to me this week. The leaves are out on the tree over my garden swing, and I can finally sit outside and read listening to birdsong. Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day, and all of my neighbors were out in their front yards working; I sat in the grass and “talked” to all of them as we shared our latest news. My neighbor next door and I call to each other over the fence these days… This week I tossed her a can of baking powder and a packet of “no contact” cookies arrived on my front porch later on. Instacart delivered all of my groceries to me and I discovered that 25 pounds of rice is a lot more than I thought it was! (Feel free to PM me if you need some…) My neighbor mowed and trimmed my lawn when I wasn’t looking and I snuck over and weeded out all of the weeds in the rocks along his house two days later. (Stealth yard work! I highly recommend it.) I applied for 3 more kittens this week, and SpaceX safely launched Crew Dragon into space this afternoon. See, no matter how bad things sound in the news, there are small moments of joy everywhere.

Knitting

Do you see what got done this week?

Knitted Maya is done!!

This is my last knitted cat for awhile. Maya, my sons Maine coon cat with attitude to spare and undisputed princess status in the home, is finally knitted up. Maya is excessively fluffy… I finally just settled on creating a cat with the correct coloration (using purple with the black for fun) and hoping that time will fluff her up if we brush her. Who am I kidding… the real Maya is too fluffy for words. She does love hanging out draped across the back of my son’s chair at his desk, so this knitted Maya took to the tree for her photoshoot.

Doesn’t she look great? This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland and you can find the project notes, such as they are, here.

The rest of my knitting energy has been going to the Garter Snake Cowl. I think that I am about half way done, and you can see that I am now in the middle of the transition from brioche stitch to garter stitch as I knit up the cowl. I love how these two yarns are looking together!

Looking good!! My Ravelry notes are here.
Garden

Flowers are popping out all over and the roses are right on the verge of blooming. The catmint has just gone crazy with the blooms and the bees are working overtime right now.

See what I mean? I’m pretty sure that this is a honey bee. Yay! So happy I could help out, little guy!
Here’s another shot because, seriously, what are the chances that I will get another picture like this while using a cell phone?
Books

Sigh. Still reading The Mirror & The Light. I can’t seem to concentrate on reading at the moment with all that is going on, but has that stopped me from buying more books to read? Nope!! I just keep adding them to my Kindle with the hopeful expectation that I will snap out of my inability to read and race right through them in a few days. My book club is meeting by Zoom in a few days so I have to get Catherine House finished before Tuesday. It’s 314 pages. I probably should start it, huh. After I water the plants, prune the roses, and maybe knit awhile…

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 21

It was a really nice week. It was a warm and sunny week. It was a work in the garden week. It was a baking cookies week. It was, especially, a knitting week!

Knitting
I’ve made a lot of progress on the latest knitted cat project. This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland. My Ravelry notes are here.

Last night I got Maya’s ears and her eyes done. Now I have the white knitting of her tummy, neck and chin to do and then it will be time to sew her up! I have some idea of adding snippets of black yarn to make her have a longer coat, but we’ll see how that goes… I plan to start with her tail which is immensely fluffy. Do you remember Maya the cat? Here’s my first post about her.

I’m still fussing over yarns to knit a Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka. I finally decided to cast on with these two yarns to make a first shawl that I can use to learn the pattern. These colors are ones that I like a lot and will go with most of my wardrobe.
Here’s the problem: reading over the pattern I didn’t have a clear idea of how the yarns display in the shawl. I’m using these two yarns that I like but don’t desperately love to learn the pattern before I cast on again with the yarns that I love immensely…
These guys!! The plan is to double fade these guys as I work on down the shawl. Now that I’m working it I’m wondering if I can break the color changes by sections in the shawl. Stay tuned… I just realzed that I need to be weighing the balls of yarn while knitting the practice shawl…
I’m also making some good progress on my Garter Snake Cowl. I’m almost to the point where the garter stitch begins. My Ravelry notes are here.
Garden

Lots of weeding is going on and babying of plants that are considering whether they would like to bloom soon, or maybe just grow some more for awhile. Those darn plants! I try to convince them to do both at once but they just do whatever they want no matter how much food and fertilizer they get.

Today the first  bloom on my ice plant in the front flower bed opened. Yay! Soon there will be 5 feet of this blooming happiness along my front walk.
This snapdragon plant, a runaway from a flower bed, is now blooming like its life depends on it. Which kind of is the situation as this guy just appeared in a rocked section of the front yard. I’m watering and feeding it anyway because… well… just look at it! This one little plant is almost the size of the big tub behind it!
Finally, I am happy to report that my rose bushes, which were heavily frost damaged a few weeks ago, have all rebounded and are putting out new growth. This bush, a Home Run rose, was a big one covered with blooms all last summer. Last year’s canes are mostly lost, but there is an abundance of new growth coming up from the roots.. Yay!! I won’t be completely sure about what I have until this plant blooms, but I’m pretty sure it was not a grafted plant, so I should be getting the rose blooms that I want.

I’ve deep watered those roses every week using a big bucket and a tube to slowly siphon water over to the roots, and two weeks ago gave them a nice dose of fertilizer by the same method. Success!! Can’t wait to see the blooms.

Books

I’m still reading the treasuring The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel. It is such a rich book with precise text and reflective sequences that I am reading it slowly. Also, did I mention that there are 784 pages? Every morning I make a latte and take the book outside with me to read while I enjoy the morning traffic in the back yard. Today there was a blue jay! Did I get a picture? No. I did not. I’ll see what I can do if he come back…

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 18

Another week. It is just crazy, but with sunny warm weather the days seem to be going a little faster. The lawns have been mowed and I am working in the gardens now clearing out the debris of last fall and planting seeds into the bare spots. I managed to get my new roses planted and am now working on clearing out the gardens in the back… so many dandelions for the bees right now, so I feel a little guilty. Luckily there are lots of other things that I can get done out there before I dig and clear those last gardens.

So the pandemic is kind of overwhelming for me right now. The news here in the US is full of people storming the governmental offices and demonstrating to be allowed to reopen the economy. I get that, but what is insane is people demanding that their lives be returned to normal. You know, no more masks! Packed beaches! I want to go to the movies and to restaurants. I want everything to be the way it was! I refuse to take a vaccine! I don’t care that we don’t have testing! This is just affecting old people anyway, and it’s just fake news, so let’s just go back to normal!!!!!

Sigh.

This was me five years ago when I was first diagnosed with scleroderma, Sjogren’s disease, and all the rest that came crashing down on me in the months that followed as all of the test results and specialists visits happened. I get it. The loss of your former life can be crushing. Get over it. To pretend something is not happening is not “living without fear”, but rather just burying your head in the sand. It is happening. Be brave. Put on your mask, make the adjustments that you need to in your life, plan for the long haul, hope for the best, and plan for the worst. We will make it, but not if we all just act selfishly.

Books
I decided to switch the order of my weekly topics because this book is so appropriate for what is happening in my world right now.

I finished The Splendid and the Vile this week. Oh, my goodness. This is the book that I needed right at this moment. Imagine blackouts, nightly bombings, fires, thousands of casualities, and a pretty darn hopeless outcome as the nation prepares for invasion. Your allies are gone, and your friends just don’t want to get involved. In the midst of almost certain disaster Churchill emerged in Great Britain as the man that they needed at that time. Hugely energetic, positive, honest, ecentric, and ruthlessly demanding of the people around him, Churchill played a long game over years navigating his nation’s way though what can only be described as desperate times. His leadership and the development of central operations that placed and maintained a wartime footing over years was just inspiring for me and a great counterpoint to the nightly news. This book unpacked the early WWII years and made the people involved in the British effort come alive. I am so glad that I read it.

Now I am again picking away at several books at once trying to settle on one to carry me through the next week. I started a book called She by Pete Brassett because I had the audible version along with the book; I also kind of like British detective books so it was appealing. Oops. A book about a serial killer. What was I thinking of? I then started a science fiction book that is the last in a series that I’ve been reading. The Last Emperox by John Scalzi is set in a scenario where civilization as they know it is collapsing and the rich, powerful corporations are all scrambling to secure as much profit and security as they can in the unfolding chaos and uncertain future. There are machinations, betrayals, assassinations, and blantantly unscrupulous business practices that completely ignore the welfare of “the little people”. What was I thinking!! This is perhaps not the best book for me to be reading at the moment. I can go back to American Dirt (desperate mom tries to escape Mexican cartel and get to America and safety… maybe not) or return to The Mirror and the Light (more political maneuvering with a unhinged leader at the helm; death and betrayal is everywhere…), or just give up and read some nice Japanese cat comic books that I have. That’s the ticket! I am going to focus on The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home for a few days!

It’s a plan!
Knitting

My needles have been busy this week. You know how it is. You can work for days and days without seeing any progress, and then suddenly it is apparent how much you have actually gotten done.

I finished up my Sweet & Tartan socks this week. I am so happy with how they came out and couldn’t be more pleased with the pop of color that the I-cord at the top gives them. I wore them for a couple of cool days this week and they really stay in place. My notes are here.

Then there is the knitted Maya cat that I am making for my son. The knitted Jonesy needs a friend, right?!

I’ve finished the back from the tip of her nose to the end of her tail. Next I will be doing her legs.

You can’t see the cat in the above knitted cat rug? Huh. Maybe I should show it to you in another format.

There, is that better? I’ve draped the knitting over MacKnitzie so you can see how much progress I’ve made. I’m well on the way to having a cat!! This pattern is Cat by Clair Garland. My notes are here.

I’ve also been knitting and knitting on my new V-Neck Boxy sweater. I am about 9 inches below the armhole now and am approaching something that might be looking a little like a sweater.

What do you think? This is V-Neck Boxy by Joji Locatelli.
Garden

Things are starting to come to life out back. I have an immense shrub by my back deck that is almost as high as the rain gutters. It is now covered in blossoms.

The shrub is absolutely covered in these scented blooms… but they don’t smell nice. I’ve actually been keeping the patio door shut to keep the scent out of the house. Later on this shrub will have nice little red berries on it. I’m pretty sure that this is a Viburnum.

Remember my very unhappy roses that I put back outside after they spent a winter being babied in the house under grow lights? They are slowly toughening up, and today I saw this:

Aww… it managed to get a bloom out. See little guy, you will be okay.

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 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.

Knitting Maya

This is Maya.

Maya is the last cat that I need to knit in the family. There is a big technical problem with Maya… she is excessively fluffy!!

Maya was adopted a few years ago from a cat shelter to be a companion to my son’s cat Daxter. “She’s a firecracker,” my son was told when he looked at her in the kitten room. She certainly is! She pretty much ruled the kitten room at the shelter, and now she pretty much rules the roost at my son’s place.  Of course I need to knit her up too.

Maya’s coloration is what is referred to as “tuxedo” , a beautiful black and white pattern. Her extreme fluffiness is the Maine coon part. Her attitude is all her own… do you see she was swatting at the camera with her paw while this picture was being taken?

I’ve been collecting black and white mohair yarn to create a knitted Maya for weeks now. I plan to use the usual pattern: Cat by Claire Garland. Once I had the yarn collected I still kind of worried about how all that black would look on the finished cat.

Here’s the problem: there is a lot of shaping in the cat’s face, and I also learned that it was important to use shading with different combinations of yarn to make the face more realistic. Hard to do with all black and all white patches…

I spend more time than I want to admit to watching videos on Facebook. I also watch an artist create paintings of pets… DawgArt Pet Portraits. She paints live on Facebook and it is so interesting to see how she creates realistic pet portraits using unusual colors. One of her tricks is to use purple and other dark hues instead of black.  My son suggested that I use purple yarn in Maya’s black patches. Oh. I have purple yarn in the stash…

I swatched lots of ideas. Purple mohair with black yarn. Black mohair with purple yarn. Purple yarn with clumps of knitted in black wool from a fleece. The Black mohair with purple yarn works the best and is what I plan to use. Once the black halo develops the purple will just shine through and will add the texture that I need.

Still worried about getting the fluff affect I went digging through the stash hunting for really fuzzy mohair that could be dyed black.

Oh, this is really fuzzy yarn. Into the dye pot it went!!
Mohair yarn dyed black.
The dyed yarn is mostly black with some pink highlights in it… perfect for a tuxedo cat with purple undertones in the black sections!
Here is all of the yarn that I plan to use to create knitted Maya.

I’m going to use two strands of mohair (Rowan and Shibui) with purple for her face and will add in the strand of dyed mohair on her body; with a little brushing I’m hoping that the finished knitted cat will have the illusion of long hair. All of the black portions will use purple yarn with the mohair, and the white is staying white. I will need to do a little embroidery with white on her nose, and some trickery to get her lips just right, but I think that I know what to do now.

Whew! All of that planning is now out of the way and I’m looking forward to finally start knitting.

Hurry up Nana! I’m waiting for my knitted twin to arrive!

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.

The Saturday Update: Week 11

Life is suddenly getting a little intense, isn’t it? I hope that everyone is safe and that you have your plans (and food) in place to prepare for days and weeks at home. I feel that I’m about as well prepared as I can be: months of prescriptions on hand, a yarn and craft stash that can keep me occupied for months, if not years, and all the consumable goods for several weeks at home. I already am a bulk buyer who keeps a well stocked pantry, so the last minute shopping that I had to do was pretty minor. I bought some potting soil, canned goods, some meats to freeze, and the most important item on my list:

While everyone else was grabbing toilet paper and Spam, this is what went into to my cart!!

I’m not hoarding. This is essential for life! I also need coffee, but I bought a huge bag a few weeks ago, so I am set!

Knitting

I am still running around to medical facilities for testing, and even fit in a dentist appointment and a phone appointment with one of my doctors. The knitting is suffering in consequence, but the sweater, a Pebble Tunic (Joji Locatelli) is slowing growing and I am a few inches away from the pockets. Most of the knitting went into the knitted copy of my son’s kitten Jonesy. I finished the back feet this week and am ready to start the front paws.

Those back feet look just ridiculous, don’t they! Once they are sewn up and fitted into the body of the cat they will look much better.
What do you think of the color match?

I hope to get this done in the next week. I can’t wait to get the eyes in and the ears onto this cat’s head!

Garden

This week all the birds came back and we had rain after months of snow; Spring is right around the corner. My indoor miniature roses are getting tired of the indoor life and long for stronger sun, but I am suddenly getting more blooms on them.

At least the mildew that was a problem in the early winter has gone. Hang on little bushes; in a few more weeks you will be headed outside again for the summer.
The orchids continue to wow as more blooms appear. I seriously am in love with the monster orchid. I put it out on display in the living room for most of the week and then it returns to its floodlight for a few days of quality rays. So far this is working and the plant continues to bloom and look healthy.
Books

Today I finished (at long last) The Overstory by Richard Power. This is an amazing book and totally worth reading, but I want to make some caveats:

    • There are a lot of characters with intertwining stories. Their names change from time to time. The author jumps back and forth between the characters as he synchronizes the story line elements to build a complex, but compelling, conclusion. This is not a good book to read slowly over a few weeks.
    • I listened to a lot of this book while knitting, which was another mistake. It made things too slow. The jumps between characters, which is obvious in the text formatting, was confusing in the audible version. I couldn’t keep track of the names and shifting imagery the way I should of.
    • You kind of have to love nature, appreciate art, and value a complex multi-layered story to enjoy this book.
    • I am a geek, a biologist, and an outdoor educator for my state. I think that visiting a fish hatchery is a fabulous outing. I long to have a bee hive. I tend to let spiders and shrubs just do their thing with a little gentle intervention… and I also struggle with my neighbors to leave my front lawn alone; they will trim shrubs, spray for weeds, and edge the grass if I don’t keep an eye on them. These men are trying to help, and I appreciate them immensely, but that perfectly trimmed shrub just had all of its flowers clipped off…  why do men think that shrubs need to be perfect cubes? I mulch under my rose bushes and they helpfully clear out my flower beds. They also take cuttings from my plants and admire my roses. I do manage to keep the back yard the way I want: the leaves don’t get raked in the fall, and the dandelions flourish back there in the spring for the bees. By midsummer my back lawn looks great, I have bees swarming my other flowering plants, and the neighbors comment from time to time about how nice it looks. Somehow the front yard doesn’t do as well… because of all this I appreciated some of the messages in the book.

I’m glad that I read The Overstory, and the name is really meaningful once you have finished the book, but I do think that it isn’t for everyone. Me, I will never look at a tree the same way again.

Have a great week everyone!! Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it!