The Saturday Update: Week 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books

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

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 19

It’s already the first week in May: how crazy is that?! The days are just kind of flying by now as the sun is getting brighter outside and I have the energy to get lots of little chores done. I’ve been cleaning: the garage, the bookshelves, the craft room, and then I weeded out gardens. I installed some solar powered lights outside and changed the knobs on some furniture. These are all small things, but boy do they make me feel good.

Look at who is now living on my bookshelf! Every time I glance over and see MacKnitzie it makes me smile.
Here’s the whole bookshelf. Doesn’t it look nice and organized now?
Knitting

Because I was up doing things the knitting suffered a little this week and there was no quilting at all. Trying to catch up I knitted pretty steadily for the last two days. This evening I finished the body of my new V-Neck Boxy and got it cast off the needles.

Here it is, just minutes after I finished casting the body off. Try to imagine it with sleeves, a neckline, and blocking. It will be just fabulous!!

I just love this color! I want the sweater to be a tiny bit longer than it is right now, but after blocking I’m pretty sure it will be the length that I’m hoping for. Tomorrow I start the sleeves…  My Ravelry notes are here.

By the way, I just have to mention this: after 6 weeks on oxygen my lips in that picture above are almost normal colored instead of the steady blue they were last winter. Things are getting better for the Blue Lipped Zebra!!

Garden

Things are happening outdoors. I’ve been watering and babying the plants that were injured in the hard freeze that we had a couple of weeks ago. I am so happy to report that every single rose bush has put out new growth and all the shrubs that I suspected were dead suddenly had leaves appear today. (Okay, there is one lilac that I have given up hope for, but everyone else is back!) Things are starting to look pretty promising outside.

I’ve been watering this shrub even though I was afraid it looked dead. Today, these appeared! Yay!  Bud burst!! In a few weeks this shrub will be covered in purple flowers.
This snapdragon plant is a happy reseeding from plants I had in another garden last year. It’s going to look great with these pansys when those blooms open.
This poinsettia from last Christmas is just pitiful at the moment. It hung out by a window in the front room after the holidays, and then I moved it outside a couple of weeks ago. It has new growth appearing to replace all of the old leaves that have dropped off, so I repotted it this week. It’s an experiment!

When I lived in the San Diego area poinsettia grew outside all year long and were huge shrubs. I’m hoping that this plant will rebound and grow to be nice and healthy before I have to bring it back inside in the fall. With luck I will have red flowers again for Christmas and the holidays.

Books

I polished off two books this week while knitting on that sweater after struggling to read for several days.

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”. I put the book aside because it just wasn’t a plot I wanted to deal with at the moment, but when I went back to it this week the message turned and at the end of the book things had been put aright. People who were competent and focused on the good of their population were in power, science had saved the day, and great sacrifices were bringing a new structure to the universe. Yay! That was a message that I wanted to read after all. Feeling pretty upbeat I went back to another book that I had abandoned.

She by Pete Brassett was another book that I had set aside because it was about a serial killer. Ugh. I’m so over sociopaths! I went back, however, and found that after a rocky start the main characters were richly complicated and likable. The lead detective, Munro, had stopped bullying badgering and terrorizing his underlings, and West, his main underling and partner, stopped cringing   started being more secure and honest in her dealings with life and Munro. The story was well paced and had lots of twists and turns.; plot developments were believable, but not obvious, which was great. Even better, the serial killer was not glorified. I was racing through the book (and my sweater) after the midpoint and now that it is finished I have downloaded and started the next book in the series.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 18

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

It’s a plan!
Knitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 17

I’ve been busy this week, and I have almost nothing to show off for it. I did a lot of cooking: more pumpkin bread, cheesy potatoes and ham casserole, shortbread cookies. The cheese grater attacked one of my fingers, though, so there wasn’t all that much knitting going on while I healed up. (Yes, I took a picture. No, you don’t get to see it!) I sewed more masks and gave some away. I got another quilt all sandwiched together to move onto the sewing machine to start quilting. The state where I live is starting to make a transition to opening some businesses very carefully, but the city where I live has suddenly become a Covid-19 hot spot and I’m not so sure that there will be any opening of restrictions for me next week. I am so very grateful that I am better prepared to spend time at home alone then most people are because… yarn stash!!

Knitting

I did manage to get more work done on my V-Neck Boxy Sweater; I’m now about 3″ below the join below the V-neck and am knitting in the round towards the lower hem. This is great binge watching knitting, but not so great to show off until I get much further down the sweater. I do have some nice progress to show off on my Sweet & Tartan socks.

I’m below the heel on the second sock. Gee, it looks kind of sad without that hot pink I-cord added to the top ribbing. I should have this sock done in a couple of days. My Ravelry project notes are here.

Since I wasn’t knitting as much as usual while I nursing my injured finger I spent some time cleaning out the craft room. I located the directions for another couple of quilts. Casapinka published a new shawl pattern created to support local yarn shops called Breathe and Hope. Wow! I really like this little shawl. I dived into the yarn stash and started pulling out several combination of yarn possibilities. I actually have 4 combos in the project box, but this yarn is the top candidate:

I have two mini-skein sets that kind of go together. What if I faded each set as I knit down the shawl in a manner that kept the contrast going. That is, one set faded from dark->light while the other is faded in the light->dark direction. It should work, right?

I have another couple of yarns that are really calling to me too. This will be more subtle and faster to work. What do you think?

There is actually more contrast between the grey yarns in person. As soon as I put that lighter grey down next to the dark one it just burst into life. I think that it will be nice.

I organized the yarns and bought the pattern last night, but I’m not going to cast on until I have made more progress on the projects that I already have going. As soon as the socks are done and the sweater is a little further along it is going to happen!! Besides, Casapinka, who seems to be exhausted from developing this pattern and organizing the LYS event, issued two updates to the pattern today and if I give her another couple of days I’m sure that all the issues will be resolved. The last update swears that all is now fixed and that she was in Witness Protection with a bottle of gin…

Garden

This is the sad transition part of the gardening year for me. Plants that have been indoors all winter are being transitioned to life outside right now. I carry about 10 plants out for several hours each day and let them get some full sunshine. A couple of them are not happy and are dropping leaves and carrying on like babies. Seriously! They will toughen up, but right now they are looking kind of pathetic.

This hydrangea is the worst of the bunch! All of its indoor leaves burnt, died, and dropped off. Now it is putting out lots of new growth and appears to be coning through the transition okay. Once it has the new growth out and is looking more healthy I will repot it.

My outdoor flower beds are all pretty pathetic too. It is still too soon to clear out all of the winter mulch as there is sure to be another freeze or snow event; the lawn is starting to grow but it is still patchy. Ugh. Mostly I have developed a healthy flock of dandelions in all of my flower beds around all of the perennials that are just now starting to put up new shoots. I thought about weeding out one garden but there were a lot of bees swarming among the cheerful yellow dandelion blossoms, so I decided to do the right thing and let them have at it. I’m not lazy. Really, I’m not! Besides, I should give the perennials a little more time so I don’t accidently rip one of them out too.

Books

Yeah. I’ve got nothing. I’m still reading The Splendid and the Vile. We’re all the way up to 1941 and Churchill is still soldiering on through the bombings and scheming on ways to convince the US to enter the war. I am impressed by the drive, clarity of vision, and long range strategies that were employed by both leadership teams in the war, but especially by the British who had a strong culture of service to the nation. I’d feel a little better about things right now in the US if some of that was being projected by the leaders giving our nightly Covid-19 briefings.

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.

 

Knitting Maya

This is Maya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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