The Saturday Update: Weeks 37 and 38, 2021

Finally, finally the leaves are starting to turn in earnest and there is a rustling sound when they move in the breeze. The sky is now a gentle blue in the afternoon and there is a subtle change in the quality of sunlight as the sun edges further to the south each day; thunderstorms are a distant memory as the clouds adopt more benign shapes. I’ve taken to sitting outside in evenings to work on the computer listening to crickets while the cats romp in the house. The potted plants continue to show off late blooms but there isn’t much new growth appearing in the gardens. The baby bunny of the summer now looks all grown up, and there are low-flying flocks of geese passing over my house daily.

Fall has finally arrived!

Cats love fall! These two are rolling in personality these days.

Knitting

I’ve been knitting like crazy lately. Sharon from Security (Casapinka) took a week off from the Snark-O-Meter and I was left at loose ends: I cast on a new Rock It Tee and started knitting on that. I was really making great headway until… somewhere halfway down the body… I got bored. All that stockinette. Ugh. I began to day dream about other things that I could knit and somehow I decided that I needed to knit another little kitty to keep my knitted MacKenzie doppelganger company. You remember, my MacKnitzie that was created to look just like my personality (ahem… attitude) loaded cat that died just as Covid-19 appeared on the horizon. I still miss MacKenzie, and while I was waiting for the next clues of the Snark-O-Meter to drop, I couldn’t help looking at MacKnitzie on my shelf and wanting to make him a little friend.

Doesn’t MacKnitzie look like he is smiling?

I knitted up an Itty Bitty Kitty to sit with MacKnitzie on the shelf in my bedroom. I was thinking that the project would only take a day or two, but I had forgotten how fiddly the work could be if you wanted the final knitted cat to look realistic. I also was struggling with my old friend fatigue all last week so only a little got done at a time, but I’m really happy with the final product.

This little kitty is so fun when completed. It is designed to stand up balanced on the tail and two hind feet.

Now that I am done with the kitty for MacKnitzie I’ve gone back to knitting on the Snark-O-Meter shawl and I’m really anxious to get it done. Look at how well those classic colors go with the cats! (snark, people!!) Seriously, the cats are all over me while I’m knitting these days. Maybe they think that I should be making them cat toys or little itty bitty versions of them? Hmm… maybe I should be making little itty versions of Hannah and Mateo… or maybe a knitted mouse.

I’m now in clue 5, and since clue 6 dropped this morning I should be finishing up in just a few days. I can’t wait to show this finished project off as it just keeps getting better and better as I knit along.

Books

I am seriously reading lots of science fiction these days.

Through the fatigue of the last week I have just holed up and read lots of space opera. Today, while watering the lawns, I started to reflect on why I’m so immersed in space opera of all things.

I was in a book group that read lots of books that were suspenseful, gothic creations about women trapped in situations that were not of their own making, menaced by outside forces and individuals, and abandoned or betrayed by the individuals and/or agencies that should have protected them. Sometimes the women manage to escape their menacing entrapment, but just as often they come to a bad end. It’s a whole genre, and these books can be really popular, but I suddenly had an epiphany; these are not good books for a person struggling with a chronic, progressive disease. Okay, I’m not sure that these books are good for anyone, but they certainly weren’t good for me as I was struggling to get a diagnosis and help with my whole blue-lipped, panting for air, trying to not faint deal that I had going on. Doctors just kept reassuring me that I was fine; I was being dismissed, subjected to gaslighting, and unable to control my own situation just like some of the women in these books.

Oops. Time for a change in reading matter, I decided. I quit the reading group.

This month I am somewhere in the process of having my heart issues defined and a plan of action created. Things aren’t clear: I definitely have a pretty significant cardiac shunt, but they haven’t found it yet. They have a really good understanding of the direction of disruptive blood flow while I’m at rest, but they are trying to determine exactly what is happening while I’m up and active. I did a walk test last week (um… not sure I passed that with flying colors…) and will need to do a exercise/stress/echocardiogram test next week. This is all big stakes for me as it will determine my treatment plan going down the road…

Which brings me back to space opera. These books are all about desperate times and a scrappy group of individuals led by a strong and determined woman who is going to figure out what is happening and will eventually put things right!! The crews deal with every single emergency with creative, reality-based responses (well, using science fiction reality, that is) and refuse to ever, ever give up. They lose space ships, battles, body parts, and sometimes the future that they had envisioned, but they always, always make it through to the end with grit, determination, the support of their team, and the innovative use of technology. They are action-oriented and fearless. What ever is coming their way, they face it down, make decisions, and get to work with what they have. They are pretty much my heroes these days.

Be like Murderbot, I tell myself. If it gets bad, don’t forget to bring your blaster to the appointment. In this case, my blaster is a good understanding of my past test results and the diagnosis that they are considering, but you get the idea.

Space opera. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking resiliency in the face of an oncoming challenge of epic proportion.

Have a good week, everyone.

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

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: Week 27

I know, I know, it really is Monday. Whew. What a week. There was a serious wildfire just south of me early in the week and the smoke came my way. I HATE SMOKE!! To be more specific, I go into a flare of my autoimmune diseases every stinking single time there is air pollution due to wildfire smoke. I have trouble breathing, my joints swell, I hurt all over, rashes appear.… you get the picture, huh. By the next day the fire was out, I was drugged up, and by the end of the week I was better. I cleaned the house, worked on projects, and looked forward to a little (I do mean very little) barbeque dinner on the 4th with one of my sons. This was a big deal as I haven’t seen my children since this whole pandemic started since every single one of us is high risk.

It poured rain. Ugh. Refusing to be daunted by a little rain we grilled the steaks in the garage with me carefully sitting upwind. Dinner was wonderful anyway and I was so happy to hang out with my son. He took off right before dark to head home as he had to work the next day and I began to clean up.

Then all hell broke loose! My neighbors, lots of my neighbors, began to set off fireworks. These weren’t innocent little firecrackers, but huge, booming, highly illegal skyrockets, that were being launched from homes all over my neighborhood and my poor little house was kind of in the eye of the storm. After the house was hit by falling debris I went outside to watch for fire. There I was, ash raining down on me, sitting on the driveway, shrouded in smoke, stunned by the deafening booms. Unbelievable. My son texted me later that his drive across the Denver Metro area through the fireworks barrage was an incredible, once in a lifetime, experience.

By midnight a few fireworks were still going off and I was already feeling dizzy and sick. Yesterday I was unable to get up, but today, after prolonged kitten attacks, I’m back on my feet slowly getting some chores done. Hopefully, by this evening I will be able to knit again as the swelling goes down in my arms. Happy Birthday, America. I’m kind of ashamed of you right now… and while I’m wagging my finger at you, let me just add… WEAR A MASK!!! Seriously, you might kill one of my children!! Stop with this “my rights are being violated” nonsense!

There. I feel much better.

Knitting

The accomplishment of the week was getting knitted Maya all fluffed up and finished.

Look at that face! Maya the knitted cat is now almost as fluffy as the original.

I gave her a total body fluff job that left her with a tail almost as fluffy as the original. This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland, and my Ravelry notes are here.

I was going to put more fluff on the back legs that went a little bit into the white socks, but I ran out of yarn and energy as I got down to the tail. Still, this final version looks much, much more like the original cat. My son took this knitted version home with him for the wild ride home under the skyrocket sky. Have a nice life, knitted Maya!

I’m also working on making some fingertipless gloves by adapting my little fingerless mitts pattern that I use to churn out mitts every winter.

I’m trying to write out what I’m doing while I knit, but I had to redo one of the fingers THREE times and then realized that I should have been smarter when picking up the stitches for the fingers. Hey, it is a process.

Isn’t that yarn cute? It’s from the stash and I started out with 50 gram of it. It remains to be seen if I will have enough yarn to make the second glove, though, but that’s okay. This whole thing is an adventure; when I’m done I’ll have a pattern that fits my hand like… ahem… a glove! The base pattern that I’m adapting is my sweet & simple vanilla mitt pattern, and this yarn is Baah Yarns La Jolla in the January 2018 colorway.

Garden

It’s hot outside. Thunderstorms have blown the petals off most of the roses. Life is hard in the garden right now, but the mini-roses that wintered in the house under grow lights are starting to bloom again.

It’s a little crispy around the edges, but it is trying! That rosebush is at least three years old and has survived its transition from outside to inside and back again over three winters. Pretty good for a $4.99 grocery store rose, huh!

Books

I read this for the book club this week.

One thing about taking it easy this week, I got some reading done. I finished another science fiction book and then started Never Have I Ever for the book club (Zoom) meeting this week. If you’re looking for a book with lots of twists and turns that will hold your attention, then this is the book for you! The book is about the members of (get ready for this…) a book club that picks up a new member from a rental home on the block. The new woman in the group is a flaming sociopath who seizes control of the club, starts a game designed to learn secrets and develop leverage that can be used against the other ladies of the group. Not nice! Especially if you have secrets that you need to keep secret!! Thus launches the cat and mouse game between our heroine and this evil interloper as the two women maneuver to secure their advantage over the other.  Our girl has to keep her family safe,  figure out who this evil monster-of-the-block is, confront her own past, make restitution, deliver retribution, and somehow disarm the monster while saving the day. This really was a twisty book that I devoured in one day.

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 23

The heat arrived with a vengeance this week, and with it a lot of my energy went on out the window. Still, I made some progress on projects and it was a good week.

Knitting

I knitted like crazy at the start of the week on my Breathe and Hope shawl. If you missed it, I showed off a picture in my last post here. Then, after writing that post, I suddenly wanted to go back to the brighter colors of my Garter Snake Cowl and thought about how to add some fluff to my knitted Maya cat, so I shifted on over to those projects.

Maya

Do you remember my son’s cat Maya? She is an incredible fluffy tuxedo patterned Maine coon cat with lots of presence and even more attitude. I have been working on her knitted version for several weeks now. Last week I finished knitting her and showed off the pictures of the final knitted cat in my post last Saturday. I’ve been posing her around the house all week and kind of thinking about how I could add fluff to the knitted cat to make her look more realistic. I had moments of laziness when I would decide that she was just fine as a short haired cat. Then I would look at the cat again, posed on my bookshelf with MacKnitzie, and decide that I should enter into round 2 of cat creation with added fluff. Finally, today, I woke up energized to take the project on.

I cut lengths of mohair/silk yarn into three inch lengths, folded them into half, and then used a crochet hook to attach the loops to the knitted cat.

What do you think?

The work is going much faster then I thought it would, but there is a lot of cat that needs these little lengths of yarn attached. The final effect is so much more like the actual cat, however, that I am glad that I am doing it. I have the work arranged on a comfortable arm chair with good light in the front room and the plan is to work on Maya a hour or so every day until  have her done. Maybe by next week!

I am through all of the brioche in my Garter Snake Cowl and it is just garter stitch all the way now until I bind off. There is a trick to knitting this cowl that keeps it simple and the yarns tidy; you leave one yarn always in front of the work when you drop it to change yarns, and the other always goes in the back. It works perfectly, and the color changes are absolutely seamless.

Between the simple knitting of the cowl and the mindless attachment of the yarn to knitted Maya I’m finding that I have time to listen to some books on tape. Yay. I’m finally making some progress on my reading again.

Garden

The plants in the gardens are starting to look really good now. Perennials are in bloom, the roses are looking great, and my grass is looking mighty fine. I was looking forward to taking pictures today to show everything off… and then there was a high wind event and a thunderstorm that drenched everything and convinced me that I should take shelter in the downstairs bathroom for awhile.

My wooden bear was flung off the deck into the yard!

That bear is heavy! A wheelbarrow with rocks in it tipped over and my lawn furniture, even the wooden chairs for my outdoor table, went flying across the yard! I had been warned that the wind was coming so I did batten things down ahead of time, and for me the damage was minor. I do have a fence that needs to be fixed…

I can show off this pot of flowers that I bought this week. I had taken it safely inside before the wind came, so it is undamaged. 

Books

My book club met via Zoom this week, and it was kind of fun. We usually meet at a local restaurant, which is out of the question for me right now, but we all had drinks or food with us for the meeting and it almost felt the same. The book that we had selected was Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas.

Our June book club selection.

Catherine House was an immensely readable book that I just blew through in two days flat. It’s about an exclusive college with unusual rules: students can’t leave campus, have any personal possessions, or have contact with their parents and friends. Everything is provided, there are little limits on behavior, but the academic expectations are high.  There are strange traditions and weekly rituals that make team building exercises look like duck walks. The students have unlimited access to alcohol and lack social limits. Banishment to a reeducation center happens if you aren’t doing well.. Yeah. Things are not what they seem to be, and as you read what seems to be an endless account of student life that reminds you of Harry Potter without the fun magic, you realize that there is more, much more, going on than meets the eye. Something is really wrong with Catherine House, and our heroine is in danger… I just have to say that there are lots of characters that flit in and out of the story, and the plot is somewhat loosely constructed, so I think it was good that I was able to read this quickly; otherwise I might have been disgusted by endless academic life with little plot development and would have quit.

So what am I reading/listening to while knitting now?

I’ve started on the latest in a series of science fiction books that I like. I’m just a few chapters into this, so I won’t talk about it. I do have to say, however, that this audible performer, R. C. Bray, is excellent! 

I will mention that this series of books, Expeditionary Force, has gotten a little silly and formulaic, but the off shoot series, Mavericks, has captured my interest and I’m enjoying this book. 🙂

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 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.