The Saturday Update: Week 4, 2021

It was a crazy, crazy busy week with lots going on. I had medical testing, an online court appearance to give testimony in a neighbor’s custody case, and a nail in one of my car’s tires. My medical status continues unchanged (blue lips, chest pain, shortness of breath), but the machinery to get to the bottom of things is now in motion. The first couple of rounds of testing have generated a referral to cardiology and hopefully that will happen this week. My neighbor won her custody case, and the car tire is now repaired. Whew! I spent the bottom half of the week relaxing with my knitting because I was completely pooped by all of that running around.

The Kitten Mom left me all alone THREE times this week!!

Knitting

I did make some good progress this week in spite of the trips out of the house.

My Geology socks are done!! I’ve decided to try to make at least one pair of socks each month, so these are January’s pair.

I also buckled down and did the blocking and finishing work on my Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) shawl by Sharon from Security (Casapinka). This is the longer shawl version of the project; there were also options to make a cowl or a scarf. Fun color for gloomy days, huh! I’m actually thinking that I may be giving this one away to someone who loves purple and bright colors and a scarf version made with scrap yarn from the stash may be in my future.

It snowed this week I so gave in to the urge and cast on one of the sweaters that I have been dying to get going on. I have wanted to make Goldwing for a long time, and bought the yarn a couple of weeks ago with my stimulus check. Here it is, finally started:

Look at the absolute quality help that I am getting from Hannah!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: The Pulmonary Hypertension Edition

I few weeks ago I posted about my systemic sclerosis, Covid-19, and my decision to donate my DNA to the 23andMe Systemic Sclerosis Research Project. My DNA has safely arrived and is in the lab getting sequenced right now. I was motivated to contribute because Covid-19 is creating so many new patients with fibrosis that may benefit from this research in addition to people like myself with autoimmune disease or people with other fibrotic diseases.

Monday I had an urgent echocardiogram done and once again an eerie connection between my disease, systemic sclerosis, and Covid-19 appeared. My test was started a little late so I asked the technician if things were busy. He told me that they were very busy because there were so many Covid-19 long haulers who needed testing. After a while, thinking things over, I asked if these patients were getting heart damage. “Well, not their heart muscle, but they were developing pulmonary hypertension,” he said. Oh, oh. That is the very reason I was there getting an echocardiogram; as a systemic sclerosis patient I am high risk for pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary arterial hypertension, and I know that those are serious and life altering/ending conditions. After thinking a little longer I asked him how many Covid-19 long haulers were getting that diagnosis. “It’s in double digits,” he replied…

Double digits. At this one medical center in the heart of Denver. That means that there are potentially hundreds and hundreds of patients getting that diagnosis across my state.

I wished that I had thought to ask him how old those patients were…

The next day my rheumatologist called to let me know that I was being referred to cardiology as my echocardiogram results suggested pulmonary hypertension and that further testing was required. There is also an issue with fluid around my heart… It was what I expected, but not exactly what I was looking forward to. The only problem right now is getting me into cardiology, because, all of those Covid-19 long haulers…

It has been impressed on me that I need to double mask now each time I go out into public. I have a nice N95 level mask, but I’m also putting a medical grade mask on top of it.

Be careful, people!!

Stay safe and wear your masks!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Coming Full Circle

Systemic Sclerosis is a rare, chronic, progressive, and incurable autoimmune disease that is included in the family of rheumatic conditions. It is characterized by blood vessel damage and the scarring and thickening of skin due to excessive collagen production (fibrosis). The internal organs can also be damaged by inflammation and scarring: the digestive tract, heart, kidneys, and lungs.

There are two main types of systemic sclerosis: diffuse and limited.

I was diagnosed with limited systemic sclerosis 6 years ago.

Hannah: Do you like my circle?

The Circle Starts: In high school I developed a mystery illness that involved intense itching, lots of rashes, sensitivity to sunlight, and swollen digits. I was a mess. It went on for a few years and then the worse of the symptoms faded away.

First Quarter Circle: In my mid twenties I was a researcher working on a scleroderma project for the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado. The principal investigator that I worked for was interested in isolating the targets of the autoantibodies that scleroderma patients made; if we found the actual proteins that the antibodies characteristic of this autoimmune rheumatic disease were targeting we would be closer to understanding what they did, and eventually closer to understand the disease process of scleroderma. Let me be clear here: my boss, Dr. Angeline Douvas, was the brains of this little research outfit and I did most of the bench work.

One morning Angie had the hot idea that we should see what happened if we did an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test on the polytene chromosomes of the fruit fly Drosophila, a common lab experimental animal. We knew that the antibodies produced by the scleroderma patients were sticking to the chromosomes in the nucleus of cells… what would it look like if we checked this test on the chromosomes of fruit flies which were enormous structures that were easy to look at under the microscope?

After staining we could see that on the entire chromosome a few distinct bands were stained: only a few genes were targeted by the antibodies of the scleroderma patients. What was the function of the genes, and what were those proteins, the clear targets of the antibodies made by these scleroderma patients, doing? Something important that was linked to this disease that we call systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). How was all of that tied to the damaging fibrosis going on in these patients?

Here’s the other interesting conundrum that we kicked around: what changed in these genes/proteins that made them trigger the immune system to make antibodies? There are lots of things that can change genes and the proteins that they make. Things like radiation, chemicals, environmental triggers, viruses…

Hannah: Viruses?! The Kitten Mom and I spend all our time at home hiding from viruses!!!

Second Quarter Circle: Now in my 60s, and diagnosed as a scleroderma patient myself, I began writing letters to my congressman asking him to support the National Commission on Scleroderma and Fibrotic Diseases Act, a bill which would coordinate and organize resources to study the process that is involved in the formation of scar tissue in scleroderma and other diseases/conditions. Two summers ago I met with a representative of my congressman, Jason Crow, with other scleroderma patients to make our case. Scleroderma is special, I argued, because our antibodies are a tool that can be used to unpack the process of fibrosis. Representative Crow did support the bill.

Hannah: Now, are you ready for some really crazy stuff? Hang onto your catnip mice, this gets a little wild!!

Third Quarter Circle: It is 2020 and Covid-19 has arrived. Early on we learned that this is a serious virus that causes an extreme immune system response in some individuals that is life threatening. There is severe lung involvement, blood clots, scarred lungs, injured hearts, failing kidneys… this is no joke if you are already dealing with all of this, so I and other scleroderma patients are avoiding it like the plague and retreating to our online support groups even more than usual. We share observations and experiences in these forums, and it wasn’t very long before we started to notice that these severe Covid-19 cases seemed to be awfully similar to severe systemic sclerosis. We laughed about “Covid Toes” since dealing with blue fingers and toes is a daily struggle for us. Then the news reports about Covid-19 long-haulers started to emerge, and we all started to say to each other… wow… fatigue, brain fog, muscle/joint pains, lung and heart problems… sounds a lot like what we deal with… Then some people started to arrive in our support groups who were newly diagnosed scleroderma patients who were also Covid-19 long haulers. Now every week new people, shocked and frightened by their life-altering diagnosis of systemic sclerosis, are showing up in our forums. “Gee, there are a lot of new patients arriving,” someone wrote last week…

Unbelievable, right? I decided to hunt around online and quickly found that there were a number of reports about Covid-19 and systemic sclerosis. I discovered to my shock that people with severe Covid-19 disease do share a lot of documented clinical features with severely ill diffuse systemic sclerosis patients, and there is a connection between Covid-19 and rheumatic autoimmune diseases. When there was an article in the New York Times reporting that some Covid patients were developing autoimmune disease it caught my eye, so a little more work online found this nicely written overview by the Global Autoimmune Institute that listed specific research reports and the autoantibodies being discovered in Covid-19 patients and Covid-19 long-haulers. There in the reports are listed the same, exact autoantibodies that are the specific hallmarks of my two autoimmune diseases, systemic sclerosis and Sjogren’s Disease. 2020, shame on you. This is really, really bad, even for you.

All of a sudden it is really important to understand fibrotic diseases and how to reverse the damage caused by Covid-19.

Hannah: The Kitten Mom feels like she needs to do something about this!!

The Circle Closes: The genome sequencing service 23andMe has launched a genetic research study of systemic sclerosis patients. They are screening and accepting 1000 diagnosed patients who will donate their DNA for research into systemic sclerosis. I’m pretty sure that this effort to collect more information about the genes of systemic sclerosis patients is in part driven by the urgent need to deal with an emerging flood of new patients with fibrotic organ damage due to Covid-19 infections. Tonight I completed my application to submit my DNA to the study and to participate in all their additional data collection about my disease. Remember those few, distinct genes lit up on the fly chromosome? “Go get ’em, boys!” I muttered to myself as I clicked the submit button.

Today there were 225,558 new cases of Covid-19 in the US and 3,499 new deaths.

How many of the Covid-19 survivors will eventually be dealing with a chronic, progressive, and incurable autoimmune disease?

Wear your masks, people!!

Wednesday Afternoon Update: I’ve been accepted into the research program and they have already shipped my DNA collection kit to me. Hannah is so excited!!

Footnote: Did Angie and I find a protein using the scleroderma patients antibodies? Yep. We did.

Your Wednesday Sunshine: Breathe and Hope

I am an American. I live in an integrated neighborhood in a diverse city: we are in an uproar right now.

I am a biologist. We are in an uncontrolled outbreak of a new, highly contagious virus with a high fatality rate.

I am the daughter of parents who were raised in the Great Depression.

I am an autoimmune disease patient. My latest blood results just came in, and I am losing ground.

I can see the storm clouds on the horizon, but right now I am maintaining my peace and making plans for my future as I knit in the garden, surrounded by shafts of sunlight coming through the leaves of the tree above me.

There is a single, perfect, dandelion seed puff in the lawn…

and this leaf was on the ground beside my swinging garden chair…

as I knitted away on my current knitting project, Breathe and Hope by Casapinka.

Out in front of my house there are baby squirrels frolicking in the grass and my brand new Apricot Drift roses are starting to bloom. 

In the eye of a perfect storm, I am outdoors seeking peace in my garden with the sunshine all around me. In a little while I’m going to head into the house and do what I can to address the issues swirling around me.

In the meantime,

Get some sunshine for yourself, and

Breathe and Hope, people!!

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.

A Little Wednesday Sunshine #3

Happiness is something that can be a little elusive these days. Are you totally tired of being home and seeing the same things all day long? Obviously it is time to make something good smelling and yummy in the kitchen.

I made bread pudding this week. I can’t tell you how wonderful and comforting this dish was; cinnamon and butter flavored heaven! The recipe is here.

I also got my latest quilt finished early this week. It is now chilling at the foot of my bed where it makes me feel happy every time I see it.

Happy colors and roses hanging out on top of my white linen comforter. See. Happiness.

Today the day started out a little gloomy with threatening rain showers. No. Just NO!! It was Earth Day and I was determined to break self-isolation to go to the local nursery to score some plants. So I did!

I bought some new little plants for my kitchen window sill greenhouse. How happy are these?

I had some ideas for putting new roses into the front flower bed and was on the hunt for small landscape roses that would bloom all summer. I hunted online, found some promising candidates, and then searched through the roses at the nursery where I found…

These guys. I actually was thinking of another color of this exact rose type for the front of the house, but once I could see the actual plants and the labels that showed a better representation of the colors and the bloom, the apricot rose won me over. The perfect purchase for Earth Day.

I loaded three of the rose bushes onto my cart, and dodging around other people (some of whom were not wearing masks… what is up with that?), I got though the check out okay and loaded everything up in the car. There were some Clorox wipes involved along the way as I handled the cart, keys, and door handles… Hey. In my case a little paranoia is a good thing. Big time paranoia is even better!

Here are the new roses hanging out with the other plants I have parked in front of my sliding glass window catching some afternoon rays. The three compact plants in the cardboard box are the new guys; everyone else is a plant that wintered indoors and is now getting ready to move out full time for the summer. Most days they are outside and only come in for the night, but today I was too lazy busy to lug them out. That blooming lantana plant at the front is especially eager to move outside…

On the way home from the nursery I decided I might as well go wild while I was out wearing my mask and gloves, so I checked out the parking lot of the grocery store.  It was almost empty, so I ventured inside, grabbed some groceries of the perishable variety, got gas for the car, and even put it through the car wash. Totally successful outing! While I was on the way home again the sun broke out and the afternoon became just beautiful. Sunshine! I can’t tell you how happy I was driving home with the sunroof open in a clean car carrying groceries and new rose plants. It felt almost normal. 🙂

As I drove up to the house I realized that the phlox in my front yard is now looking really nice.

Once I was in the house again (and all my groceries had gone through the Clorox wipe routine…), there was the monster orchid all lit up in the afternoon sunshine, glowing happily in the living room. The perfect happy lift at the end of a happy outing.

There were some orchids at the nursery that looked like the monster, but they were only half its size and only had a few blooms each. Go, Monster Orchid, Go! Clearly he is some type of orchid winner here!

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

Afternote: Why all the paranoia and Clorox action, you ask? I’m an immunosuppressed senior citizen with kidney and lung disease thanks to my multiple autoimmune diseases. Still, sometimes you just need roses…

The Saturday Update: Week 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.

A Little Wednesday Sunshine #2

Here we are, deep in a pandemic, isolated, bored, longing for good food and lost outings, and worrying about those we love. Hard days, huh. How about some happy things that I encountered this week? A little sunshine in the middle of the week, so to speak.

I bought some little bulbs to plant in my front garden in a school fundraiser a couple of years ago. I have no idea what this is, but after the snow melted this week there it was. Look at how cute it is!!

My neighbor put fertilizer on his lawn last fall and it has greened up with a vengence. Look! The first bunny of the year has shown up to snack on the lush grass. Try to imagine me sitting in the street for several minutes waiting for this bunny to get used to me so I could take this picture. Yep, that happened. I was out there so long a squirrel arrived to check on me.

I’ve set up the sewing machine on the dining room table in front of a sliding glass door so that I can sew in the afternoon sunshine. Doesn’t this springy quilt make you feel happy?

Finally, I finished up my Pebble Tunic this week. The pockets are sewn up, the ends are all woven in, and as you can see, I put on the cat paw buttons.

and they look fabulous!!

It’s actually a day here with little sunshine. In a few hours the clouds will finish closing in and rain will start, changing to snow before morning. Tomorrow and Friday it will continue to snow and carry on outside. I will get to wear my new sweater! That flower outside evidently is able to handle snow, and the bunny is hopefully tanked up on grass and will do okay in the icky weather. By the end of the week I should have that quilt done and I’ll be casting about for new projects to work on. In spite of everything, there are happy things and sunshine in the week.

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

 

The Saturday Update: Week 15

Big Blue looking in the window of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.

It’s right at 8pm here at my home in Colorado, and I’m typing this listening to a cacophony of howls (haroooo….) and fireworks. The Colorado Howl has really taken off as the Covid-19 pandemic heats up in my state; we also made the national news this week as politics interfered in our governor’s efforts to secure us the supplies that we need for Covid-19 patients. There are some serious outbreaks occurring in the state, and the huge convention center in downtown Denver is currently being converted into a field hospital for 2,000 Covid-19 patients in the days to come. I smile to think of Big Blue looking in the window to cheer up patients in the field hospital, but I wish so much that this wasn’t happening. I hope that everyone else is doing okay and had a good week.

Knitting

I’ve been knitting away on a couple of projects at once; one demands my attention and the other is kind of low level knitting. Check them out:

My first Sweet & Tartan sock now has a heel.

Once past the heel the tartan pattern is maintained on the top of the sock and the bottom becomes striped. I’m so enjoying this sock and can’t wait to wear it. I’ve already gone stash shopping to find a few more yarn contenders to make some other Tartan socks.

Most of my time was spent knitting away on the new V-Neck Boxy sweater, although you wouldn’t know it from the heap of stitches…

The V-Neck Boxy sweater is constructed seamlessly from the top down, but it has some interesting features. It starts with the back yoke stitches knit down from the shoulder CO, which are placed on a holder once you are ready to join in the round. The front stitches are then picked up at the original CO at the top of the shoulder, and then down to reach the same point as the back stitches. I like this modular approach since there is kind of a “seam” at the top of the shoulder that gives the sweater more stability when you wear it. I’m now knitting the second front section and soon I’ll have everything all joined up for knitting in the round. Yay!

Garden

It was sunny for most of the week so I took the miniature roses outside for some sunshine excitement. They responded by bursting out some new growth.

Towards the end of the months indoors under the grow lights the miniature roses are really dying for some quality sunlight. Look at how this one responded to just a week of good sunshine.

The orchids are still hanging in there, but the weeping fig tree that I pruned last week is now dropping leaves (!!) and look at what happened in the kitchen…

Remember my excessively cute miniature kale plants?

This week this happened. I overwatered them and they got moldy… There was no saving these little guys. I should have not closed up the little glass house on them.

My miniature African is still hanging in there or the kitchen window sill would be really sad looking.

Books

This week I’ve been reading books with blue covers. 🙂

I still need to finish American Dirt, but it got paused for a while as I was just too sad to read a book about a woman dealing with desperate times last week. I jumped to the newest book by an author that I really like, Jack McDevitt, and cruised right through the latest book in his Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath series. I really like these books. They are fun and kind of unique; Alex runs a business that deals in ancient artifacts of historical significance, and Chase is his starship pilot and girl Friday. There is always a mystery to solve, philosophical questions to answer (What is life? To whom does history belong?), and a cast of interesting characters. The books are set far in the future, and the historical artifacts that Alex pursues are from people and lost colonies/ships that exist far in our future, but long ago in Alex and Chase’s past. There is astronomy in the books; who knew stars and plants could have all of these things happen to them? Chase takes insane risks and wrecks a lot of flyers. Alex is always a couple of steps ahead of Chase in solving mysteries and has a habit of just whipping out significant details when it seems they have run out of leads. Chase serves as a moral compass from time to time. Alex is a celebrity, and Chase writes best selling autobiographies of their adventures. The AI of the interstellar ship is my favorite as she provides the adult voice warning them to not do insane things, and then has to rescue them when they ignore her. You know, like a mom, or those scientists in disaster movies. Can you see why this is a series that I enjoy a lot?

In this book, Octavia Gone, a research station studying a black hole abruptly vanishes, and an artifact with an unknown language is found in the belongings of one of the lost crewmembers. What happened to the station? Where did this artifact come from, and how are they connected? Is it possible that aliens did this? Was the wormhole near the black star involved somehow? As the team chases answers they run into huge moral and ethical conflicts that complicate their investigation: secrets and promises that have unknown consequences.  Eventually they discover what happened to the station, and achieve some resolution to their ethical dilemmas while providing answers to the families of the lost crews.

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.

A Little Wednesday Sunshine

This week mild weather with bright sunshine arrived in my town, and the people of my state (Colorado, USA) began to howl into the night every evening at 8pm in a show of support and unity. Flowers are starting to appear in my beds, and I am opening windows to air out the house. In the midst of bad news and scary times there is still sunshine, unity, and moments of beauty.

I hope that everyone continues to stay safe and that you are enduring the days of isolation in good humor. Here’s a few glimpses of some of my happy moments this week.

I made some pumpkin bread! 

I ran out of milk and bread last week. I didn’t want to eat my cereal dry so I went hunting in the pantry and found… a can of pumpkin in the back. I picked a recipe online that would use the entire can of pumpkin, and used oil instead of butter since I’m hoarding those last two sticks to make shortbread cookies later on in the week. One recipe was discarded because it used too many eggs… hey, those guys are precious right now. Ta-daa! This recipe did the job. You know, pumpkin bread with a slice of white cheddar is a pretty tasty lunch, too! A couple of days later I had gotten my delivery of groceries and I now have milk again for my morning latte. The pumpkin bread is really nice with that, too.

Can you see the great horned owl?

I went grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago and saw a large bird arriving at a nest in the top of a tree a couple of blocks from my house. I walked down there this week in the nice weather to take a picture. I was expecting to see a golden eagle, but I kind of think that this is a great horned owl because it’s standing straight up and then there are those ears…. What so you think?

I saw the pattern for Sweet & Tartan socks last week and you know that I had to cast them on right away. A quick trip to the stash located the yarns I needed and I’m knitting a little section each evening. How can these socks not make you feel happy? Wait until I get to the hot pink heel!!

I’m still ignoring the finishing work that needs to be done on the Pebble Tunic; looking for easy knitting for stressful times I wound yarn and cast on another V-Neck Boxy sweater. This sweater is lightweight, extremely comfortable, and the perfect project to generate the peaceful Zen of knitting that I need right now.

Do you like this color? It was a February special made for my local yarn shop (Colorful Yarns) by Chasing Rabbits called “Valentine”. As soon as I saw it I had to have it!

I bought a beautiful variegated yarn that compliments this color with an idea to put some Fair Isle work on the sleeves. Now I’m considering making a cowl or small shawl to go with the sweater. Not to worry… I have days and days before I need to make a decision on that. For now I can just knit away and binge watch Netflix shows. Perfect plan for now.

We have a few more days of sunshine here before the rain/snow makes a comeback over the weekend; while I can I’m reading and taking naps in the front room with the plants. Good days in a sad time.

Have a good week everyone.

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.