The Saturday Update: Weeks 47 and 48, 2021

Hello December. How nice of you to bring us clear blue skies, warm sunny days, and absolutely no freaking moisture of any kind. The leaves are all gone now, the grass has turned a sad dormant brown for the winter, but all of the snapdragons are still blooming away in the unseasonable warmth and I’m still giving them water to keep them going. There is some talk of maybe getting some snow on the 10th… The squirrels rocket along my back fence every afternoon and dash over the roof to get to the olive tree in my neighbor’s front yard; Hannah rockets through the house as she tracks their movements and watches them through the windows. The great horned owl caught one of the wild bunnies last week and now there is only one sad little bunny to be seen in the evenings. I hope so much that it wasn’t my little backyard bunny of the summer that was caught, but I’ll never know for sure.

On another note, we are getting ready for Christmas!

Hannah was tremendous help as I tried to get the wooden reindeer assembled and set out front for display, and of course Mateo was the perfect kitten as I took his official Christmas picture. Do those reindeer look a little strange to you? They are much, much cuter when they have their evergreen cutting antlers on their heads, but I decided to not include the cats in that part of the assembly. Now the deer are outside sporting cute cutting from my Douglas Fir tree as their antlers.

Knitting

I’m still knitting chemo hats and PICC line covers like crazy for the Denver metro Kaiser infusion centers and they are slowly piling up in a couple of boxes in the craft room. Weekends, I have decided, are for my knitting, so I spent today knitting away on Kevat, a little cropped short sleeve sweater that has lots of character and detail.

This sweater is knitted from the top down and this is the beginning of the yoke. So far there is colorwork, a little lace, texture and bobbles. No boredom here!!

I’m about halfway through the charted yoke and then it will be time to split the sleeves off and do tons of lace through the rest of the body. The blue yarn is from Uschitita and I know that it blooms really nicely when washed and should handle the lace in the body well.

Books

I made a lot of progress on the sweater today because I am also listening to a great book while I work. Okay, I think that it is a great book, but that is because it is the final book in the space opera series The Expanse and I have been waiting and waiting for this book for months. I love this series, and it and the television production based on the books are great examples of quality story telling in any venue: that they are space opera makes it even better!!

The perfect Saturday afternoon.

I have been faithfully following this story ever since the first book, Leviathan Wakes, was published years ago. I was captured not only by the fast-paced story, but also by the well-developed characters and economic/political themes. The story has evolved through the 9 books of the series as wars were fought, mysteries solved, villains apprehended, and characters aged. There have always been some important threads left hanging (um… there are these gates that are connected to ancient aliens and their unsuccessful attempts to prevent their own extinction…), and it seems that all of these threads are being picked up and resolved in this book. I’ve been told that the final resolution of the story is great, but I won’t know for sure until I get there myself.

I have one hundred pages left: Sunday knitting!

That’s it. Have a great week everyone!

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

Remember to play nice with your toys…
and your friends!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 45 and 46, 2021

It is finally getting cold, but there still haven’t been any official snowfall in our area. As of today we have set the record for the longest recorded gap in snowfall in modern recorded weather history for the state of Colorado. I have moved all the potted plants outside again and all indications are they will still be healthy and blooming on Thanksgiving. Okay, there was a little issue with the potted geraniums that I brought into the house a couple of weeks ago… I found a caterpillar on a geranium cutting in the indoor garden!

That dang caterpillar appeared on a shoot I was rooting… it had already finished off the African violets in the garden.

The cutting had rooted successfully, but with that caterpillar it was immediately tossed outside with the remains of the violets and all of the other geraniums that had come indoors for the winter. Poor geraniums. In a few days they should succumb to an overnight freeze. Life is cruel, little guys.

Yarn

I am still knitting like crazy for Frayed Knots, the community knitting group comprised mostly of Kaiser employees in my area. Last week one of the infusion centers that we knit for requested that we supply them with some PICC line covers, so I did a little search on Ravelry, found a pattern, and started knitting some of the covers along with the hats.

This week I produced 6 hats and 3 of the PICC line covers.

I have settled on a few hat patterns that are easy and should be comfortable for chemo patients. They are Barley Light, Barley, and the Sockhead patterns. The pattern for the PICC line cover, designed for one in the upper arm, is here. I am so happy to be putting the leftover and unused yarn in my stash to a good use.

Garden

Well, the garden sure took a hit this week. The African violets are toast and you already know about the geraniums. I am happy to report that the orchids, however, evidently weren’t all that tasty for the caterpillar as they seem to be unharmed.

These gorgeous bloomers are the plants that I bought this fall. Inside the garden, under the grow lights, the plants that bloomed last year are flourishing with lots of new growth, an explosion of air roots, and new stems for blooms are emerging!

The green shoot pointing upwards is a new stem for blooms. Yay!! The silvery new growths on the leaves below are a couple of new air roots. Yay! Happy plant.

A couple of other orchids are also putting out stems; one plant has three new stems on it. What is that liquid on the orchid, you ask? I sprayed Neem oil on all the plants left in the garden after the caterpillar was escorted out the door…

Books

I’m back to reading science fiction. The main character in the book I’m reading right now is a sentient space ship called Trouble Dog and of course the captain of this ship is a woman facing down the monsters in the dark of space. I just finished the first book in the series called Embers of War and I’m hooked. Luckily I get the audiobook for no additional cost so I can listen to the books at times while I’m knitting away on the hats and PICC line covers. I have to laugh a little as I knit and listen to Trouble Dog’s tale as I manage my yarn around my own little Trouble Cat…

Who, me?

That’s it. 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 44, 2021

And just like that, blue skies and warm sunny weather returned.

All the leaves are off the trees and the little wooden bear is longing for some snow, but the potted flowers are still blooming their hearts out.

Today was the last sunny day before the next cold front; sadly these flower are in their last bloom for the year. I plan to plant the snapdragons into the gardens in the back yard this coming week and the geraniums will be coming in to live with the cats over the winter.

Let’s hope the geraniums fare better than the potted palm has.

Huge flocks of geese now fly over my house each dusk. Squirrels chase each other down the back fence and over my roof; one got caught in a downspout of the rain gutter yesterday, setting off a panic with the cats. The last leaves are still sailing past my windows, but in my yard my trees are bare. Even though the flowers are confused, fall is now hard upon us.

Knitting

I’m still knitting hats like crazy for the Kaiser infusion centers. Yesterday I finished weaving in all the ends, took some pictures, and bagged each hat up with a little note telling the new owner about Frayed Knot, the group that I joined that handles the donations. Tomorrow I will drive them to the drop off location.

So far I’ve produced 4 Barley Light hats using MCN yarn, 2 Deco Beanies with superwash merino in DK weight, and three Anrheg hats using single ply merino wool. All the yarn came right out of the stash, and I have to say that it is kind of exciting to dig around and pull out yarns that have been languishing in there waiting for their purpose to arrive. All of these yarns were loved when I bought them, but somehow never used. Now their time to shine has arrived and I am on fire to produce as many as I can to help the group meet its goal (600 hats) this year.

Books

I finished this book after all!!

I was up into the wee hours of the morning finishing The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penney. I was a little worried that it had a topic that hit too close to home for me, but it was handled so well that I really came to love the book, and the eclectic cast of characters, as the chapters flew by. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I think that it is okay to say that this book drew heavily on the Covid pandemic (which is still going on and not ended as the book supposes) and created a character that argues, persuasively, that in a world that is limited in resources it is a duty for those who are a burden to society to submit to mandatory euthanasia. Um… wow. Pretty outrageous, don’t you think, but I can almost see it happening. There were hints of this in the worst of the surge last year before we had a vaccine when I heard people dismissively argue that the people who were dying from Covid were all old or had a comorbidity that contributed to their death. It was almost like… hey, they were going to die anyway, right? Why should this affect me? There were people who seemed to believe that healthy people should not be inconvenienced in any way to protect the vulnerable. There were policies enacted by leaders in positions of power that were designed to magnify the outbreak in an effort to reach herd immunity with little or no considerations for the vulnerable…

You know, if you think about it too much it is depressing. Enough of that. On to the book!

So, since this is a murder mystery, there is a murder that is associated with the charismatic individual who making this argument and who is heading up the movement. And the murder happens in Three Pines, of course. And there are a plethora of candidates that bring an array of social messages to the situation, and memorable richness to the story. Chief Inspector Gamache is on the case with his team from the Sûreté du Québec, his highly gifted neighbors, and some distinguished visitors. And a duck.

I really am glad I read it.

Hannah and the CoalBear: So Many Hats

Hi. I’m Hannah.

The Mother of Cats has been making hats all week.
CoalBear: She spends more time with the hats than with me. I need more toys!!!

The Mother of Cats went off and left us all weekend long and let me tell you, I had a really hard time controlling the kitten while she was gone. He left his toys all over the house. He ate all of the kitten food. He pulled one of the quilts off of the wall. I was pretty exhausted by the time the Mother of Cats came back, and after all of that the kitten and I refused to let her out of our sight. We made her feed us as soon as she got home and we loaded up on some cookies, too. The kitten made her carry him around for some time, but I’m a big girl now and I didn’t do that. We did make her play with us with the laser light: seriously, that’s the least she could do for us, right?! It was a long weekend!

Then we hung out on the bookshelf in the bedroom keeping watch the whole time she was unpacking her bags…
And then we settled in up there to keep an eye on her while she slept. All night.

We’re still keeping our eye on her but mostly this week she has been good and stayed with us to knit more hats.

The kitten has been especially helpful while she has been working on the hats. He is a lot of work, but he has a good heart and is lots of fun.

He’s my best friend.

Bye.

I need to go have a talk with that kitten. Again.

>^..^<

Note from the Mother of Cats:

Behold, the downed quilt and probable culprit…

Is he laughing at me?

The Scleroderma Chronicles: The BLZ gets a CPET

The BLZ had some anxiety going into this test…

Last month I had a right heart catherization that showed an unexpected problem with my heart… there is a cardiac shunt that is allowing blood from the left side (you know, the one that is always colored red because that blood is rich with oxygen) to shoot over into the other side of the heart where it disrupts blood flow and adds pressure to the (blue) right side of the heart; that is a little tough on the right side because it isn’t built to handle the extra pressure. Houston, we have an explanation for all that blue panting that is going on.

Cool. Finally we were getting some answers and my doctors were taking my symptoms more seriously. My cardiologist ordered up some more tests to collect data and clarify the issue.

The test that I have been the most concerned about was the cardiopulmonary exercise test that was scheduled for last Monday. I hunted for some cool links to explain the test to use in this post and came up with a bunch of technical articles for physicians and specialists. Okay. Let’s not go there. I’ll try to explain what this test was all about. I was hooked up to a bunch of monitoring equipment that tracked my breathing and heart while I was riding a bike. As part of the test my lung function was tested, my heart monitored (like in an EKG), my blood pressure was tracked, my respiration rate, and the actual amount of oxygen I was using and the carbon dioxide that I was expelling for each mL of blood pumped. It was a lot!!

I was a little concerned because of my bad boy hip, but that wasn’t really a problem at all.

I shared my catnip with the Mother of Cats so that she wouldn’t have any trouble with the test.

The test went great for about 7 minutes: then there was an emergency stop. My blood pressure had suddenly zoomed up into the stratosphere at about 6 minutes into the test, and then 30 seconds later I began panting like crazy and the technician pulled the plug. Remember that cardiac shunt they found in the cath lab? When I exercise the direction of blood flow in that shunt reverses and blood from the right side is shooting into the left side where it interferes with the pumping of oxygenated blood to my body. No wonder I turn blue and pant.

The BLZ is both happy and sad at the same time.

The specialist who did my CPET was great at explaining the data to me; when he sent the report to my doctors he also included me in the email group. For the last week I have been reading the back and forth discussion by my doctors about the test and what the next steps for me will be. I am really pleased to be included in this process and feel that this option should be available to everyone; it is also kind of scary as I get a glimpse of what is coming down the road for me later in the testing department.

The gear and set-up for the CPET was pretty impressive. I joked with the specialist about it and he told me that there was an even more extreme version of testing that included a right heart catherization at the same time as the exercise test. Yep. You guessed it. That’s what my docs are considering to do next. It is clear that I have a cardiac shunt but they haven’t located it yet. The BLZ is pretty bummed. The word “profound” was used to describe my symptoms. There has also been some speculation about neuroendocrine tumors… The good news here is that no one is even considering sleep apnea or me needing antidepressants because, you know, I complain too much…

The BLZ is both happy and sad at the same time.

I keep my eye on the Mother of Cats while she reads her email.

So, it was a kind of tough week. I pulled myself together on Tuesday and went to a new yarn store for a little pick-me-up and was so distracted I missed my turn twice and had to detour through Starbucks before I actually pulled up in front of the store. I almost didn’t go in I was so worn out by then, but I did a little mental slapping to put myself into motion, pulled out my cane, and went in…

…to discover a woman dragging out three big bags of yarn that kind of screamed “community knitting” because they weren’t the yarn being sold in the store. “Hey! I want to community knit! Please, can I come play with you guys?” I immediately said.

That is how I ended up in a new local yarn store this morning knitting with the most wonderful group of ladies in the world. They are all current or former employees of the Kaiser medical system that I go to for my care, and they are producing hats for all of the Kaiser clinics that have infusion centers; I know those centers because they are the same ones that rheumatology patients go to. These ladies are all vaccinated and they all wore masks because they knew I was taking a risk to come. They had donuts! I have found a new knitting home when I needed it like no other. I actually cried a little with joy and relief as I drove away at the end of the meeting.

If I hadn’t made all those bad turns and the Starbucks stop this wouldn’t have happened.

My yarn stash is full of yarn that wants to turn into hats. Hats with happy colors and a dash of cashmere. I am on fire with purpose to produce as many hats as I can for other people who are facing down serious medical situations. I want to make them arm warmers and fingerless mitts. I have tapped into the best, most perfect group to produce useful gifts for other people like myself just when I needed to be grounded, inspired, and calmed by the peace of knitting.

The BLZ is happy.

The Saturday Update: Weeks 39 and 40, 2021

The days are still warm, dry and sunny, but the nights are finally getting a little cooler. I spend my afternoons in the swinging garden chair on the deck, reading and knitting in the strange silence that has now descended on the garden: no more crickets, cicadas, migrating geese, or even the pit bull next door. All are now gone, and the only sounds I hear are the squirrels racing through the trees and the occasional drifting fall of leaves. The maple tree out back, usually a blaze of red color by now, is slowly turning a golden brown with a few flashes of red. Seriously? This is how you are going to finish up the year? Figures.

This is as good as it is going to get this year I guess.

The ground is covered with dead leaves as these sorry examples of autumn glory drift off the tree. We never had a freeze, and I think that these brown leaves coming down are the result.

The baby bunny of the summer has found a mate.

Over the last weekend I noticed lots of digging in the yard from the bunny, and then one night the flood lights revealed that there were two bunnies in my yard! My little guy was not all alone any more! Now my bunny, all grown up, is gone.

Next week we will finally get colder weather and perhaps some rain. There will be snow in our mountains and all of my leaves will be gone off the tree.

Summer, truly, is finally over.

Knitting

I finished the second Rock It Tee this week!

Can you see how I blended the three skeins of yarn from light to dark as I alternated them through the sweater? The lightest is at the top.

I am now down to only one knitting project left, the second Snark-O-Meter that I am rapidly finishing off with lots of cat help.

I finished up clue 4 last night and will start clue 5 today. This baby should be done in just a few more days of knitting.

Yesterday I cleaned out my little project bags, sorted yarn in the stash, and organized myself for a prolonged sweater knitting campaign. I’m tempted to start the Stephen West MKAL (Shawlography), but as I sorted I realized that I had the yarn to make several sweaters all stocked up and waiting to go. It isn’t all that cold yet, but eventually sweater weather will get here and it is time for me to switch over to sweaters and to start working my way through the stash again.

I also, through great serendipity, located a community knitting group last week that makes hats for patients going through chemo at the infusion center where I used to go to my (old, kicked to the curb) rheumatologist’s office. I know that center, located between oncology and rheumatology, as I used to sit in that waiting room every rheumatologist appointment. Why is the infusion center next to rheumatology? Because, little known fact, many rheumatology patients (along with other people struggling with autoimmune disease), receive chemo and infusions of biologic drugs. I know, only too well, what a struggle it is to control Reynaud’s Phenomenon while hooked up to an IV in air conditioning. I’m joining the knitting group and will be knitting as many little fingerless mitts and arm warmers as I can for drop off to the center along with the chemo hats.

There. Knitting plans for the rest of the year all worked out. 🙂

Garden

This is ridiculous, but all of my mental energy is focused on planting all the potted plants into the gardens (Where should I put them? This is a big decision.) and making an indoor home for the jade plants that have been outdoors all summer.

This plant tripled in size over the summer. I moved it to this large pot, but now it is… large.

I recently discovered that jade plants are poisonous for cats. Oh, no. I have had jade plants in the house for years with my cats, and never had an issue, but now that I know I’m worried about a cat/plant interaction. I have an indoor garden shelf system established to keep the plants indoors over the winter, but this pot won’t fit now. I’ve decided to use chicken wire to keep the cats away from the shelf with the smaller jades, but this one plant is going to be challenging. Ugh. I can move shelves to create more space, or I can build a cage to put over the plant, or… these are the days when I miss the greenhouse I had in my biology classroom.

Books

This is an amazing book!!

I loved, loved, loved All the Light We Cannot See, so when I saw this book was coming out I preordered it right away. When it dropped into my Kindle library I forced myself to take a break from The Murderbot Diaries to read this. Holy, Moly! Best decision ever. Cloud Cuckoo Land is a book to read and savor.

So you probably have already guessed that I am really enjoying this book. It is the tale of a ridiculous comedy written by an ancient Greek author that is preserved over time and that connects people separated by centuries who are caught up in the jaws of history. Sounds improbable when I write it down, but this works and it is really good! I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but the story moves right along at a perfect pace, going back and forth between the characters and the Greek tale in a way that links them together and brings meaning to their lives and the Greek comedy in an unforeseen manner that eerily connects to my life also. Owls are a recurring element of the stories in the book: as I read in the night it is to the sound of booming “who-who’s” from the Great Horned owls in my neighborhood. (Bunnies: make good choices tonight!!) I read on in this book that is essentially about the power and of legacy of books as I consider which of my books to leave in one of the community Little Free Libraries next week. The power of books, the legacy of lives, the preservation of who we are: a big message contained in a book that immerses you in a powerful story.

Have a good week, everyone.

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

Mateo the CoalBear: and hug a cat!