The Saturday Update: Week 30

Are you ready for this? I’M OUT OF THE FLARE!!! Whew. I was starting to get a little depressed with the whole flare experience when suddenly I turned the corner and I was finally on the mend. I’m crediting the improvement to the change in weather here in Colorado: the monsoon started and we have had days of cooler weather with rain and absolutely no smoke. I’m up getting things done again, I’m eating real food, and life is good. Just in time, too, because this week has totally been the Hannah show.

You’re talking about me?

Suddenly Hannah is brave and exploring; getting into trouble everywhere. She climbed into the refrigerator. She attacked the orchids. She pulled my knitting out of a bag and ran through the house with it. She rushes through the door into the backyard each time I open it. She ambushes me from hidden locations as I walk by… and she helps me with all of my projects, of course. She’s pretty sure that I just exist to play with her, which is kind of accurate.

Quilting

Hannah and I have returned to the craft room where I’m working on a quilt and listening to audiobooks while Hannah bats at everything that she can and tortures the orchids.

I’m almost done with the first block of the Calling Me Home quilt by Pine Needles. This is the detail work on the left side of the block.

This is an art quilt that is created by fusing little pieces of fabric down and then stitching around each little piece when you do the final quilting. I still have to build a little log cabin and an eagle on this block, and then it is on to one with bear cubs climbing up a tree. This is so much fun! Hannah is having the time of her life and I have developed new levels of materials management.

Knitting

I am just rolling in knitting projects at the moment with 4 different WIPs going at once: two shawls, a cowl and a pair of tipless gloves. I buckled down and focused on one project this week; I finished the Breathe and Hope shawl today. It’s not blocked yet, but it is done!

Here it is, an unblocked heap. Still, you can get an idea of the colors and different textures that make up this shawl.

I was first drawn to the shawl by the corrugated sections which are actually mosaic knitting as you knit only one color at a time and slip the other colored stitches as you knit along. Between the mosaic sections there are blocks of knitting that are built on variations of garter and stockinette that feature knit below stitches. I kind of knew about “knit below” but this is the first time I’ve actually created something using them. They kind of mimic brioche, and I’m now a fan!

Sections of garter separated by K1, K1B sequences which build the lacy look of the variegated yarn.
Now that I’m done with the shawl I have to say that my absolute favorite part is this bind off with the knots inserted into the purl stitches of the K2, P2 ribbing. So cute!!

I still have those three other knitting projects to work on in the coming week, but I have to admit that I am champing at the bit to cast on another Breathe and Hope. Maybe one with brighter colors?

Garden

After weeks of hot dryness the garden had been struggling, but this week the cooler days and rain really turned things around. Plants are growing again and I think that there are some buds appearing on plants. I’m very hopeful of blooms to come! In the meanwhile, let me show off the bunny that has brazenly taken over the back yard and teases Hannah at the back window.

As you can see, this bunny is being pretty brave and has been cruising the back yard eating all of the plants that I have been nurturing for Miss Pitty-Pat’s snacks. Hannah is a fan of these visits, however, so it’s all good. Sorry the window is dirty… as you can see, it is at ground level and the rain splashes up dirt. On the other hand, if it wasn’t at ground level the bunny wouldn’t be looking in at Hannah!
Books

I’m still working my way through the science fiction series from last week, but last night I switched over to a new book for my book club. I’m not too far into it, but it is starting out strong.

I’m back in Mexico!

I lived for years in a city located right at the border with Mexico along the edge of the Pacific Ocean; reading this book makes me long for good Mexican food and the colors, smells, and sounds of the city I came to age in. I want a good taco!! Is it too much to ask for fresh fruit and ocean spray? Maybe a little barbacoa? Anyway, starting this book makes me remember the abandoned American Dirt sitting on my shelf. Guess I’m going to be in Mexico instead of outer space for the next week.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Footnote:

Where is this city that I’m waxing nostalgic about? It would be Imperial Beach, California. Here’s a shot I stole off Facebook of the street I used to live on…

Doesn’t this make you long for tacos, salty air, and the call of seagulls? Of course, classmates who had gone to Mexico City told me that our version of tacos was pathetic compared to the authentic, street cart versions they discovered there.

The Saturday Update: Week 29

Ugh. I’m still struggling with the heat and I’m STILL in a flare. I spent another couple days in bed, talked to my rheumatologist, and really didn’t get too much done. The nightly news is just awful (seriously, how much worse can 2020 get? Don’t ask!), Hannah has decided that all of the best toys are KNITTED, Covid-19 cases are surging in my state, and my doctor has re-emphasized that I am totally on lockdown. No visitors. None. Well, if they stay outside, keep their mask on, and stay 10 feet away maybe one of my sons can come… Sigh. My joints are not getting better, and it is still too risky for a joint injection. I have to admit to some sadness here… what good are doctors if they can’t just wave a magic wand to make you feel better??! There was, however, some good news this week.

My governor has ordered everyone to wear masks in this state. At last!! I went to the grocery store late this evening (which I am not supposed to do, but the kitten needed more food, and I absolutely needed cheesecake…), and every single person in the store had a mask on. People made obvious efforts to give each other space. Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone!! Don’t tell my doctor you saw me, okay, and thank you so much for being kind to me.

Also, the store had some cute orchid plants for sale, but more about that later.

Knitting

I started out the week working on my Breath and Hope shawl, but as the heat outside built and my flare intensified, I just wasn’t able to keep my attention on it. I decided that I didn’t have the brain power to work on my other glove either, so Hannah and I headed up to the yarn stash to see what I could find to knit some simple, mindless projects.

I forgot all about this yarn! I bought it to use with my latest V-Neck Boxy sweater. I decided to make a simple little cowl that would be small and easy to stuff into a Hannah-proof project bag.
I decided to make a Willow cowl. I always wanted to make one, and it would be simple to do as it uses a very simple lace with no chart. My project notes are here.

I has also found a great shawl pattern, Far Away Dreams by Joji Locatelli,  that starts out with lots of simple garter stitching. I had some yarn left over from a sweater that I knitted last winter, so I dragged it out and wound it up too. Hannah helped.

Yarn to knit Far Away Dreams shawl.
Yarns to knit Far Away Dreams shawl by Joji Locatelli. The pink will be the garter stitch interior of the shawl and the lace border will be knit using the pink and the gray.
It doesn’t look all that appealing in the indoor light this evening, but this pink garter is easy, soothing knitting that I’m cranking out with a little help from Hannah.
Garden

Yeah, I’m not going outside in this heat. Poor garden. It got some water and I’m pretty sure that it’s still alive, but that’s it. Let me offer up a poorly shot photo of my new orchid. 🙂

The light for this photo is just awful, but you can sort of see it. It’s a creamy white with beautiful purple and rose highlights. 
I was taking the picture really fast because Miss Hannah was all over the new orchids. They had tissue paper and ribbons on them… “new toys,” thought Hannah. I have those ribbons off the plants now!

By the way, I did notice that my potato plant in flourishing in spite of the neglect that happened this week. Figures. It’s growing taller than the dead rose twig coming up through the plant. I think that it’s growing to just spite me now.

Books
I’m back in Outremer learning all about King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Footnote:

What is this flare that I am whining complaining about? A flare is a surge of symptoms in both number and severity. In my case my constant fatigue gets a lot worse, my joints and muscles become pretty painful, eczema eruptions appear, and my gastrointestinal symptoms intensify. If I walk into the hot air outside I can’t breathe. Bad scleroderma, bad!! I’m on more drugs at the moment, staying on oxygen through the day, and surviving on yogurt and simple carbs. Next week has a better forecast and I’m looking forward to eating some great green chili!!

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 13

Wow. Week thirteen already. That is a quarter of the year. Things are going by quickly, or incredibly slowly, depending on how you look at it. I do hope that everyone is doing well.

Knitting

I showed off the Pebble Tunic a few days ago in my last post, so I won’t subject you to another picture now. Truthfully, it only has had a couple of pocket linings added to it at this point. It will be much more interesting to show off once there is some sleeve action, right? Stay tuned for further updates on the pink tunic wonderfulness…

The tunic got so little action because I finished up the cat I was knitting.

Do you remember my son’s kitten Jonesy? I’ve been knitting a doppelganger of Jonesy for a few weeks now. It was a real challenge to get yarn combinations that would mimic his coloration realistically, and I even had to dye some yarn to get the stripes right. 

Today I finished sewing the knitted cat together and began to excitedly take pictures of him to send to my son who is staying-in-place in a city north of me.

What do you think?
Those stripes are exactly the way that I wanted them to turn out!! I couldn’t be happier with how this cat looks.
Now MacKnitzie has a friend to hang out with until I can get the cat to my son.

This pattern is Cat by Claire Garland. My project notes on the Jonesy version of the pattern are here.

Garden

Are you sick of looking at my monster orchid yet? Sorry. That is all that I’ve got right now. The big boy had two more blooms open this week and I finally had to stake one of the bloom stems up to keep the plant upright. This plant makes me happy every time I see it, and it certainly is making the living room a cheerful place to read in under my weighted blanket.

There, doesn’t he look really nice with that stake in place?
Remember when I was over-the-moon excited about the rose gold orchid blooming? I have a miniature orchid in the pot with it right now. I know that you don’t get the whole scale of the monster orchid which is now over 2 feet tall with its blooms in a single shot, so I took a photo of the orchids together. See. He’s a monster!!!

Off to the far left in the group orchid shot above is the weeping fig tree. I keep looking at it as I consider what chunks to cut off when I prune it next week. Poor tree. It doesn’t know what’s coming…

Books

Staying home alone, day after day, my mind skitters around jumping from association to association. Right now one of the drugs that I am on is in the news as it might have some efficacy in treating Covid-19 patients. The drug is a derivative of quinine, the malaria drug, and is called hydroxychloroquine.  Hearing about this, my brain immediately took off: How does this drug hydroxychloroquine actually work? How are the protists that cause malaria like the mobile white blood cells that are invading my lungs? Suddenly I was back in the lab I once worked in counting activated white blood cells in my microscope view field. Then I associated that scene with one in the book Lab Girl that I am listening to while knitting (and sewing a cat) in the evenings. The scientist in Lab Girl does a lot of outdoor work with soils… I spent a year teaching about soils and weather to students when I first transferred to teaching in the high school. Weather. I took a summer course at NOAA to learn about weather where we graphed tons of data on maps. Weather is crazy hard to study and teach. So much chaos, so much data, so hard to find the patterns in the data that streams in from a multitude of sources…

I just finished the book Weather: A Novel (by Jenny Offill) before I started Lab Girl. What an amazing experience. I am utterly in awe of how the author captures the brain skitterings and inner voice of our heroine Lizzie as she moves through her life and offers elusive connections that create images and patterns out of the chaos. Just like weather itself, there is a lot of data occurring as single events that create larger patterns and trends through time. The story is created in small text snippets of amazing imagery and tongue in cheek humor that carry us along. Lizzie is a failed psychologist and a librarian; she uses her observations of people around her and her endless access to knowledge in the library to navigate through her world. We follow Lizzie along as her life evolves over a few years while she grapples with her life, her connections and responsibilities to others, and the answers to really big questions that she needs to answer as part of a part-time job. The questions are exhausting and take a tole on her: what is important in a world rolling in possible extreme outcomes? Scary outcomes. Outcomes like climate change, war, and pandemics… What is one little life when all the rest of this is on the horizon?

Maybe this isn’t the best book to read at this moment, but I think that I will remember it for a long time.

The Saturday Update: Week 12

This was quite the week, wasn’t it? I’m home in self-isolation as are many other people who read my blog. Fun times, huh! I have lots of practice with this and have been reflecting on how to share some of my insights and coping strategies in an upcoming blog. Along with all of the news and stress of the week, we also had a major snowstorm a couple of days ago.

This was kind of ridiculous! It was windy, part of my back fence is sagging, and my front porch was buried in a foot of snow.
I went out to shovel the snow the next day after things had warmed up, but after only a few minutes my most wonderful neighbor in the world came out to do it for me. I tried to stay out to shovel with him, but he wasn’t having any of that! Directed to go back indoors since I was limping and panting a little, I finally bowed to the voice of reason and went back inside. I’m making his family cookies later today!!

Here’s what else happened this week:

Knitting

I’m going to admit that I started out the week stressed and a little sad. Times are bad, my doctors have cancelled all of my medical procedures, and I was told to self-isolate like my life depended on it. Since I wasn’t quite up to tricky knitting I retreated from knitting the cat to working on the soothing and mostly mindless stockinette knitting of my new Pebble Tunic. It is growing, people!

I’m about 14″ below the armholes and a couple of inches below the openings for the pockets. The fabric is soft and yummy, and just a comforting piece of knitting in stressful times.

The colors are hard to get in a picture, but this sweater is mostly soft pink with little flashes of grey appearing through the mohair halo. So soft. So huggable. Just what I need right now as I binge watch shows on Netflix.

Garden
My monster orchid now has 9 blooms and is hanging out in the living room.

While everyone around me was loading their carts with toilet paper and spam last week I was filling mine with cheese, Bai drinks and potting soil. You know, essential items! I repotted a small weeping fig tree that I have growing in my front window and then went after the monster orchid; the blooms had made it so top heavy that the plant kept falling over and one of the leaves broke. Fine. I will repot you now even through I wanted to wait until you were done blooming. It’s kind of a risky move, but you’ve given me little choice, monster orchid!

Monster orchid: Thank you, I feel much better now.

So far the orchid and the weeping fig seem to have survived their repotting experiences. I plan to prune the fig in a few weeks if it continues to do okay. Right now it is pretty bushy looking and I am trying to produce an indoor tree.

Books

I spent the whole week reading this entertaining and mindless science fiction book. You have to absolutely suspend all scientific knowledge to make this book work, but it was still engaging enough to keep me going. I became annoyed by the libertarian theme running in the background of the story (rugged individualists escape an over-controlling socialist government and all taxation and regulation to flourish on the moon in scrappy anarchist colonies…) as the week’s events here in the United States made it apparent how central control by governmental agencies is necessary in extreme circumstances like… say… an unfolding pandemic and global economic collapse. Just saying.

But if you want to read about highly intelligent dogs in space suits, deep water ships that can fly to the moon, and racing around in tunnels on motorcycles, this book is for you.

There is another book in the series waiting for me to read it, but I think that I’m ready to shift to a couple of books that are more intellectually engaging. Waiting for me to read them are American Dirt (by Jeanine Cummins), Weather: A Novel (by Jenny Offill), and Lab Girl (by Hope Jahren).

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.

And make something yummy to eat while you are at it!

The Saturday Update: Week 11

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

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

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

Knitting

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

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

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

Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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