The Saturday Update: Weeks 22 and 23

I’m going to be honest here: June has been really challenging so far. My entire right arm is numb and in pain and there isn’t much knitting going on. My appointment book is completely filled up with medical appointments and the bruises are collecting at an alarming rate; did I mention that June is Scleroderma Awareness Month? Yep. I’m aware. Scleroderma has gone into overdrive this month. Gee, if it wanted more attention it should have just asked!

In solidarity with scleroderma there have been other disasters this month. The car that was bringing me home from GI testing this week developed engine trouble (I ended up in an Uber, hopped up on drugs, leaking fluids from an unmentionable part of my nether region… best ride across town ever!) My refrigerator started shrieking in the night as one of the fans failed putting my stash of cheese at risk (yes, I have seriously cornered the market in… cheese). Oh, did I mention that I also had a scary close encounter with my neighbor’s pit bull? Seriously, it has been challenging to do anything except deal with all of this stuff. On the other hand, I have handled things; a new refrigerator is coming (I must save the cheese!), my neighbor has implemented more safeguards to contain her dog, and I have learned how to use Uber!! I’ve completed physical therapy and am walking much better. The car that broke down was repaired at little cost. My arm is in a brace but I am rocking voice-to-text on my phone. I’m knitting again… slowly.

Still, I am warning you, June, knock it off!! I have knitting and stuff to do.

Hannah: June would be a great time to get me a little kitten companion!!

Knitting

I finished my Noncho (Sharon from Security and Casapinka) this week. What a nice, versatile addition to my wardrobe this will be. I also made some progress on a sock but really the big accomplishment this week has been the Noncho. My project notes on Ravelry are here.

Garden

It’s gotten hot and the garden has taken off. I’ve been weeding steadily and it is really exciting to find flourishing plants and emerging flower buds. Look at what is going on right now:

Seriously, the garden is starting to explode with color. My rose plants are covered with buds and the main show is going to start in just a few more days. We had so much rain earlier this year the rose bushes grew really well and things are looking good. Okay, June is picking up a little.

Books

I’m enjoying The Cold Millions while I work on my second sock. So far it is pretty good and applicable to economic issues that we are dealing with today in the US.

Have a great week everyone.

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

PS: The gastroenterologist told me that I can’t eat cheese any more. Or chocolate. Or caffeine. Or carbonated drinks. Alcohol is absolutely forbidden.

I’m pretending that I didn’t hear that part about the cheese.

The Saturday Update: Week 21

Here it is Memorial Day weekend and it is cold and raining outside. Hannah and I have been hanging out indoors knitting, reading a book, and cleaning the stash. Oh, boy. There sure is a lot of yarn in the stash… let’s talk about that another day. Good thing it is raining, because I have a lot of knitting to do!

Hannah has been snoozing while I knit.

It is going to rain again tomorrow and when this is all over the outside gardens and lawn will be looking great. In the meantime, I have lots to keep me busy indoors.

Knitting

I finished up the first of the assigned pooling socks that I’m working on.

I had a skein of yarn from Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co. in the Colorful Yarns colorway designed for my favorite LYS, Colorful Yarns. The skein is mostly grey with short rainbow strips that are about 1/6 of the length of the skein. I started knitting the yarn in my usual ribbed sock pattern and was not happy with the way the colors were just stacking on top of each other. I ripped the sock out and started again with a K2P2 ribbed section at the top of the sock with smooth stockinette after that. I purled the rainbow sections when I came to them and threw in random PSS stitches in the rainbow purl strips in an effort to create some randomness in the colored sections on the sock. You can see in my second picture that I put in 1-3 PSS bumps into the purled/color strips or sometimes didn’t add a PSS at all.

What is PSS? It’s a stitch that I learned while knitting The Sharon Show in section 21 (called Catnip Garden) that is simple, added a little bump to the knitting and was sure to alter the length of the rainbow strips. Basically you purl two stitches together but leave them on the left needle. You then knit the same two stitches together, and then purl them together again before you pull them to the right needle: three stitches are made from two. You then pass the middle of these three stitches over the stitch next to it (closest to the tip) and there is the bump! If that doesn’t make sense, here is a swell video to show the stitch. On the next round I slipped the two stitches from the PSS and then finally knitted them on the next round after that. You can see the little colored slipped stitches below the purled sections in my second picture. I knit the sock from the top down; if you knit one from the toe up the little colored stitches will be above the purled sections. (Hint: because of the slipped stitches put a purl or two between PSS stitches.)

Once I got through the heel section I stopped inserting the PSS stitches in the knitting on the foot of the sock: I purled on the top of the foot while sticking to smooth stockinette on the bottom of the sock (3rd picture). I lost some of the randomness in the line up of the colored strips but that part of the sock will be in my shoe so I’m good with it. The final picture shows the finished sock with its contrast heel and toe; kind of wish now that I had make the top ribbing that hot pink too. I’m now working on the second sock now and should eventually get the pair completed.

The other knitting that is still going on is the Noncho (Casapinka) that I kind of wish was already done because it is cool with all of the rain… Hannah has been a great help.

Garden

It is raining outside!! Here are the cool pictures from the week of my indoor plants.

I’ve taken to spraying my African violets every week and they seem to like it. The leaves have lifted up and the plants are blooming like crazy. Not what I expected to happen, but the plants are responding so well I spray them down weekly now.

Books

I finished Wanderers today.

I was struggling with this book a little and wasn’t sure if I would complete it because… almost 700 pages! I don’t know how much I should say because of spoilers, but the plot involves sleepwalkers who are unresponsive to any efforts to wake them up. They never eat, never stop walking, and it is impossible to get a needle into them to draw blood. “Maybe they have scleroderma,” hypothesizes the CDC personnel attempting to understand what is happening with this flock of wanderers. Scleroderma! They had me at scleroderma. I kept reading.

Of course the wanderers don’t have scleroderma. This book is big, complicated, and pulls in lots of situational elements that are obviously based on actual people and events in the US. Amazingly, the book, which was published in mid-2019, also features a pandemic. I remember looking at the book when it was first published during those happy days when I could just head off to the book store to meet my friends; now things are changed and the impact of the book was that much more. I did like the book, but then I’m a biogeek who reads books about the CDC and outbreaks even before it became our lives.

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 9, 2021

This was a crazy, busy week. I made two major treks across town to medical appointments, pulled out the power drill and made repairs to the indoor garden, polished off two books, reintroduced myself to my spinning wheel, and made some major knitting progress. People, I ordered a new phone with an awesome camera!! And in the middle of the week this other really exciting thing happened…

I got my Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine!!

I’ve been cleaning out the cupboards (this is all your fault, Highland Heffalump!) and discovered some really nice roving that I bought years ago at the Interweave Yarn Fest. Look at it!! This shining softness is handpainted 50% yak/ 50% silk… about time to do something with it, don’t you think? I decided to add a little spinning to my days.

I started with the magenta roving and quickly remembered that I don’t exactly love spinning silk as it is hard for me to smoothly draft in my usual long draw, but the finished product is worth it. Right now I’m just trying to get back into the spin of things and hopefully this final yarn (which will be lumpy and pretty artistic with its uneven twist and thin stretches) will make a stunning (and arty) cowl some day. I am still thinking about how to tackle the multicolored roving… by the way, these fibers are from Greenwood Fiberworks. Anyway, Hannah thinks that the spinning is great fun and I’m starting to enjoy the zen of spinning again as I get the hang of working with the silk.

Knitting

I finished my socks and really buckled down and worked on the Goldwing sweater this week. I’m happy with the socks, and the sweater is slowly growing in spite of the exceptional assistance from my feline knitting supervisor. I have so many sweaters all kitted up waiting for me to get to them, and the cold weather is going to be gone before I know it, so I’m pretty motivated to get at least one sweater done this month. I’m more than half way through the colorwork yoke so the speed should really pick up in a few days when I’m finished with the colorwork and the sleeves stitches are placed onto holders. Of course, that’s when I get to try it on to see if it will fit…

Garden

Hannah likes to explore get into trouble in the indoor garden EVERY SINGLE TIME I work in the craft room. No wonder I’m having trouble spinning a smooth thread. She stands on the light fixtures as she climbs up onto the top shelf of plants, and wouldn’t you know it, both of those fluorescent grow light bulbs burned out last week. Funny. I wonder how that happened?

Hannah: It is a mystery. Also, the plant that jumped out and landed on the floor last night is also a mystery…

I tried to order more light bulbs online and quickly discovered that they are no longer made. I eventually decided to replace the light fixtures and bought LED grow light stands that attach to the shelves in a way that makes them virtually Hannah proof. The light is kind of a funky pink, but the plants seem happy so all is good.

The garden is pretty cheerful these days as my microgreens are looking happy (little do they know that they are going to be jumping into a blender in a couple of days when I make a smoothie…) and my newest African violets are blooming like crazy behind them. I just love that color pink! Perhaps inspired by the violets, the orchids are entering a second round of blooming and the latest plant is just now getting ready to open its buds; as an added bonus it looks like the orchid will coordinate smoothly with the blooming violets. Maybe the plants like Hannah knocking them around after all.

Books

I am completely hooked by this set of mysteries now.

I am completely enchanted by the Gaius Petreius Ruso mysteries. Ruso and Tilla are back in Britannia now, married and looking to settle into a new life together. Ruso wants/needs a job to make that happen, and the two of them become embroiled in a case of two missing tax collectors and the vanished taxes they were transporting when Ruso accepts a job as an investigator. This book sailed smoothly along as I listened to it while spinning and knitting, and I feel that the author has definitely hit her stride with the series. Ruso and Tilla have grown as characters, old friends have reappeared in this new plot, and the murders ( there are always murders, it seems, when Ruso is on the case…) and intertwined conspiracies are well developed and told in a straight-forward fashion that is easy to follow in an audiobook. I was up late into the early morning hours finishing this book and will be downloading the next installment in the series tonight. Hey, I have a sweater to get finished and this series is the perfect companion for me and the kitten as we work away.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Postscript:

Hannah eating microgreens in the garden while I write this post…

The Saturday Update: Week 8, 2021

Wow, the week just flew by again. We had lots of snow in the middle of the week, I had a great appointment with my new rheumatologist, and Hannah got the new toy of her dreams: an electronic flapping fish!

Almost a foot of snow arrived overnight in the middle of the week.

The medical center where I went for the appointment was in the heart of Denver and I had to drive fairly near my favorite yarn store on the way back home. Did I stop to look at the yarn? Duh… yarn addict here! I found the perfect yarn to replace the yarn I swiped from a sweater kit to make a new wrap, some fabulous blue speckled yarn for a fade, and more grey yarn because… I need grey in my life! Having scored more yarn again I buckled down and focused on the knitting to get at least one project done during the week.

I finished up Julie’s Wrap (Joji Locatelli) during the snow storm and it was really nice to throw on to wear around the house the rest of the week (and the weekend!) I used a dusty black cashmere blend yarn that doesn’t photo all the well, but it is extremely versatile and cushy to wear. The ribbed edging is slow to knit but very nice with the garter stitch body of the wrap. Can you make out the additional points built into the edging to give it some more interest and a little flutter detail? That would be the extra points at the top and bottom of the wrap in the right-most picture, but those little added-on points are also on the long edges towards each end. The points and bobbles make the wrap even more fun to curl up in to read a good book on a cold, snowy night. If a kitten joins in it is even better!

The other knitting that was going on this week was my pair of February socks. Okay, they didn’t quite make it, but they should get done in the next couple of days and my feet are totally waiting for them to enter service.

This is my own tried and true 64 stitch sock pattern using Hue Loco’s Phyllis Sock in the color #Trending from their 2020 Fall color lineup. I’m just loving how this colorway looks on these socks.

I polished off a couple of science fiction books that I liked but don’t feel up to discussing until I read another book in the series. I started a book last night, however, that I feel compelled to talk about right away…

Oh, my goodness! I’m three chapters (stories) into this book and it is so compelling and engaging that I am pretty sure that this is going to be the best book of the year for me.

A nice young couple lives across the street from me. Two summer ago they planted a little tree in the front yard of their house and babied it with deep soaks of water using a 5 gallon bucket with a tube to slowly siphon the water from the bucket to the roots of their baby tree. I have to be honest, this tree was kind of pitiful to look at: about 6 feet high, it had only a few bare branches on it. I would look out my kitchen window in the mornings all last winter hoping that this pathetic stick of a sapling would leaf out in the spring okay…

Spring came and the tree produced some hopeful leaves. I have to admit that I was a somewhat amazed. Then we had heavy spring snow that almost did the tree in, but a few leaves hung in there after the melt down, and a couple of weeks after that the tree produced immense white clusters of blooms. Look at that, I thought! This little tree, not too promising at the start of its life across the street, was a little rock star for sure. Those blooms on the stick of a start-up tree totally made my mornings!! One evening I went across the street while they were working in the yard to ask what the tree was: a catalpa tree.

World of Wonders has a beautiful drawing a biological organism to start each chapter/story. This is the drawing for the first chapter.

Unbelievably, the World of Wonders starts with catalpa trees; the author’s memory of sheltering from the heat under these trees, her mother’s place of work, the racism that her physician mother faced in her professional life, how social norms have changed over the last few decades, the immense catalpa tree on the university campus where she now teaches that she passes each day on her way to class, and the strong commitment and joy that she finds today in her work.

Just like that I was sucked into this book. The next chapter features fireflies, and after that peacocks. All of these have strong emotional connections to me and events in my life, and like magic as the author relates her sense of wonder and joy of nature interconnected with her family and life I am propelled into something of the same. This book is amazing, and I highly recommend it based on what I’ve read so far.

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 7, 2021

Hi. I’m Hannah.

The Kitten Mom is taking a nap now and left her laptop out so I will be filling you in on the week, okay?

The Kitten Mom and I spent most of the week hanging out upstairs because it was just stinking cold for most of the week! I mean, I hated to even go downstairs to the best window to watch for squirrels because my feet got so cold… and there were crazy noises in the night, too!! The Kitten Mom was startled awake twice by big bangs downstairs that didn’t scare me even a little bit. Seriously. Well, maybe my eyes got a little HUGE but I was totally cool. Really. I was so brave I went with her when she went downstairs to check things out…

The Kitten Mom left some pop cans in the garage and they exploded. She said that they went ballistic and flew through the air. I can fly through the air when I jump off the bookshelf. Do you want to see ballistic Hannah? Ballistic is my new word for this week.

We spent most of the week knitting and reading under the covers upstairs and the Kitten Mom also made two big pots of soup. I didn’t get any of the soup because it was made of really yucky stuff like green chili and baked potatoes… I like chunky tuna the best of all my kitty foods… maybe we can make chunky tuna soup next week? I will help make it!! I’m the best helper ever!!!

Anyway, here is the knitting stuff that the Kitten Mom did this week:

The Kitten Mom spent days and days working on the bobble bind off for her new shawl. This is soooo boring but I like to sleep under the wrap while she works so it could be worse. She got tired of the bobbles one night and started on a new shawl with nice blue yarn that is fun to chew on a little when she isn’t looking. She also started knitting a new sock in the middle of the week that was more fun for me because I like to whap the needles while she is working. Those needles are really a lot of fun!!!

We also worked on her new mitts that she is making for the lady in California who sent me the lemons to play with. I’m really helping with these mitts and they are coming out looking super good, don’t you think? I think that they should become my newest toy so I can drag them down into my box playhouse. Maybe the Kitten Mom can make them squeak when I jump on them?!! That would be awesome!

For some reason the Kitten Mom kept working in the stash this week digging around in the yarn. It has something to do with this other cat named Sharon from Security who is releasing a new pattern this week named Botanique. What ever. Is that like plants? I like to dig in the dirt of the plants in the indoor garden. Did you know that the orchids have wood chips in them that are great toys to bat around on the kitchen floor? Why do we need more yarn when there are wood chips? Anyway, she found this yarn finally and WE GET TO GO WIND THE YARN TOMORROW which is about my most favorite thing in the world. Next to having the Kitten Mom play with me using the red dot toy… that little red dot is the bestest toy in the universe!!

Do you think that these will make a nice shawl? I get to sleep on the Kitten Mom’s legs while she is knitting and these colors look like they will be soft and warm on my fur…

So that was the week. The only other thing that happened is that the Kitten Mom VACCUMMED the house today and took away all of my dusty paw prints on the tables. I was really brave and watched from under the bed while she worked but it was kind of stressful. Afterwards I got new toys and some kitty cookies!!

I think that the Kitten Mom is waking up and that means that my time at the computer is over. I want to go pull a bunch of clothes down off the hangers in the closet to make a little kitten bed for myself now, anyways. Laters!!

Notes from the Kitten Mom:

  • How cold did it get? It was -17 degrees Fahrenheit when the pop cans exploded. I looked outside while searching for the source of the noise and saw a lonely bunny huddled in the yard covered with snow. Tough night for bunnies and kittens.
  • The wrap with the bobble bind-off is Julie’s Wrap (Joji Locatelli).
  • The garter stitch shawl (blue) that I started this week is another Age of Gold by Joji Locatelli. What can I say. The bobbles were hurting my hands and I needed a nice break to work out the soreness… I should have the wrap finished in another week or so and the left over black yarn can be used to trim the new Age of Gold shawl.
  • The sock is just a homegrown pattern, but that yarn is Smooth Sock in the colorway #Trending by Hue Loco.
  • The mitts are the Mando Mitts (Natela Datura) and are an exercise in yarn handling as some rows use three or four colors. I am doing three at a time and planning on coming back to duplicate stitch in the missing details later.
  • The lady in California who shipped the lemons is my exceedingly knitworthy niece Melissa.
  • The shawl that Sharon from Security and Casapinka released yesterday is indeed Botanique. I bought the pattern and have the yarn all lined up to cast on, but I want to get something finished and off the needles before I do that. Must knit faster!!
  • I am currently in position 6, 231 on my health provider’s Covid-19 vaccine wait list. I have a whole bucket of medical testing coming at me in the next 6 weeks and the race to get vaccinated first is now on…
  • The worst disaster of the week? I somehow sliced some new yarn that came via squishy mail as I battled with the packaging to get it out, and I now have 15 pieces of this yummy pink yarn.

The Saturday Update: Week 5, 2021

It’s Saturday? Seriously? I seem to have spent the entire week taking naps and doing a little knitting on the side. I’m still circling the cardiology airport trying to get a slot to come in for a landing, but my rheumatologist did call them up and chatted with them this week, so I have hopes for an expedited appointment in the near future. (If you missed my previous post about this it is an issue with Covid-19 long haulers with severe heart complications competing with me for the testing that I need.) I became officially slotted on the Covid-19 vaccine waiting list this week, so hopefully that will be coming my way soon, too. Oh. I also bought some more yarn online…

The Kitten Mom is sadly lacking in impulse control when it comes to yarn…

Knitting

I have been knitting steadily all week between naps and I really am making progress, but the projects are so big it isn’t all that obvious. My Goldwing sweater is slowly growing, and my Julie’s Wrap is now into the third skein of yarn. The pictures, however, are kind of underwhelming at the moment.

See what I mean? That is hours and hours of knitting, and the results are less than stunning. Wanting some quicker gratification I started on my Tinsel Mitts and finished the first one in the middle of the week.

The fit of the glove is just perfect, and the flip top for the fingers stays in place on the back of my hand until I pull it over my fingers. Because of the ribbing on each piece, the mitt and the top, the top really snugs up and stays in place. I have extra room in the top around my fingers so I plan to pad the flip top with fluffy wool batting (from my carder) and then will knit a lining for the top to cover the batting and hold it in place. I’m still thinking out how to make it work… maybe a little duplicate stitch basting to secure the batting…

Garden

I have been giving the African violets fertilizer at the first of the month and they are still putting out new blooms! I’ve been looking at the amazing number of blooms on the wine colored plant and I ask myself… how does this plant know that it is summertime in Africa…? Of course it doesn’t; I think what is really going on is that in the summer I put the plants in the kitchen window where they get the afternoon light, but when I move them under the bright grow lights of the indoor garden for the winter they respond and bloom. They get about 10 hours of light in the indoor garden, and obviously they are liking it!

The African violets of February…

Books

I’ve been listening to an audiobook this week between naps and knitting, and I chanced across one that is fun to listen to. I am a fan of Lindsey Davis and her Marcus Didius Falco books; what’s not to like about a private investigator solving mysteries in ancient Rome? I loved the tone and setting of the books; an autocratic and scary society that is shockingly familiar (do you have a permit for that addition to your property?) and yet clearly foreign. I loved Falco’s wit and flexibility with legalities as he solved mysteries and traveled through the Roman Empire through the 20 books in the series. It was with real anticipation that I started another series of historical mysteries set in conquered Britannia under Roman occupation.

Ruso is a doctor working at the medical center of the Roman fort in what is now Chester, England. He is having some financial issues. He has just relocated to this posting from Africa and it has been a pretty bumpy landing so far. He has recently acquired a female slave who is a native and he is definitely having some buyer’s remorse and trouble managing her care and work schedule. There is also an issue with some dead prostitutes…

Hannah kept watch over me while I was listening to the audiobook this week. I think that the bookshelf is her secret spy place…

I really liked this book. It was fast paced with a snappy dialogue, but it also seems historically accurate in how the Romans of the time viewed themselves, medicine, slaves, and familial obligations. Did the Romans keep records of virtually everything and do extensive financial audits? I’m betting that they did. Ruso’s male Roman superiority is just obnoxious at times, but I’m guessing it is also accurate. In spite of that, though, Ruso is a caring professional who really is trying to do the right thing for his patients, his family, and his dependent slave. I’m so glad I found this series and am already into the second book.

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

And wear your (double) mask!!

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!!

2020: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye… and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!!

This is it: it is now late in the evening, I have a huge pot of soup cooking on the stove waiting for me to sample it, and there are fireworks (already) going off outside in my neighborhood. 2020 is finally drawing to a close. This has been a pretty difficult year, to say the least, for me and almost everyone that I know. You all know the highlights: pandemic, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, political craziness, and looming threats on the horizon. For me it was also a year of struggle with systemic sclerosis and the loss of a beloved pet. Unbelievably, I had resolved to make weekly posts to my blog to chronicle this year that can only be considered historic at this point. I still have to read all of the year’s posts again to select highlights, but to be frank once I start to list them all it’s going to be a little overwhelming. Let’s just ignore all the icky things that have gone on in 2020 and focus on closing down the year.

Faced with just a few days left in the 2020 I decided to polish off a couple of unfinished projects and books. I pulled out the knitting project bags and discovered a pair of unfinished fingertipless gloves… totally doable, I told myself.

One finished mitt was in the bag with the start of the second mitt, but since I had been making the pattern up as I went along it was a little bit of a challenge to find my way. Eventually, by counting rows and hunting for some notes that I put into a journal I managed to finish up the second mitt on Tuesday. Pretty snazzy, huh?! I’ve been wearing the mitts in bed while reading in the evenings and they are just the perfect things to keep my hands warm while sipping herbal tea and flipping pages. My Ravelry project notes are here.

I also took the last few days of the year to finish up a couple of books that I started months ago.

You know, I couldn’t have chosen better books to end of the year if I had tried. This is a year where many of us have had to reevaluate our choices and priorities. I don’t know about you, but I have thrown away so much stuff that I didn’t need any more, made changes to my home that made it more comfortable and user friendly, and returned to cooking from scratch like I used to decades ago. I am making do with the things that I already have, and am developing new coping strategies. It’s been a stretch at times, and some of the changes that I had to make this year took some time, but I got there.

Now, imagine that the world as you knew it fell out from under you and you are forced to run for your life with your 8 year old son in a matter of moments. Your family is gone, your resources are few, and you don’t really know how to do it, but you need to flee to a foreign nation to seek refuge: your picture is being broadcast through social media and there is a bounty on your life. You are now caught up in a migration north with other desperate refugees stalked by ruthless predators and constant threats, but also helped by kind people who reach out to you and your son on the journey. At the end, in order to reach safety, you place yourself and your son in the hands of a coyote to take you across the border with a small group of other travelers; not everyone will survive the journey, but if you do you have a chance for a simple life of decency and safety. That pretty much is the plot of American Dirt. All of a sudden, the horribleness of 2020 didn’t seem all that bad when faced with a situation such as this. This book was very well written and I am so glad that I read it now.

The Glass Hotel is another book that had languished on my Kindle for months, but now that I’ve read it I feel like it is a treasure. It is kind of a quirky book, with a cast of characters who are interconnected in ways that aren’t obvious at first, with a plot that bounces back and forth in time as the events and connections are woven to create the fabric of the story. It is a book about a Ponzi scheme, ghosts, an isolated hotel in the Pacific northwest, choices, opportunities, consequences, and what is important in life. This is a book that I’m going to be thinking about for a long time, and one that I’m so glad I read this week at the end of a very, very crazy year.

So that is that. There’s only an hour left in the year, and the soup is smelling really good. I have one, and only one knitting WIP to carry forward into the new year, and it is a really cheerful one. Behold, the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) by Sharon from Security (Casapinka).

These are the wildest colors that I have every knitted together, but this is a knitting adventure and a really fun way to end the year. Hannah has been hanging out with me all evening as I’ve been listening to The Glass Hotel and knitting away and we’re making a lot of progress. I have to laugh to myself about the yarns I selected: Dream in Color, Teenybutton Studio, Chasing Rabbits, and Hedgehog Fibres. Yep. I definitely did dream in color when I put this combo together, and what is up with the fox, rabbits, and hedgehog? This is the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz), but somehow all of those other animals snuck in too. It is hard to not be cheerful facing the new year when working with all of this fun! My Ravelry notes are here.

The African violet has doubled in size over the last year.

Let me close out the year with this picture of my favorite African violet from the indoor garden. Look at this little guy, covered with new blooms and promise for a great new year.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

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

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 49 & 50

What a shock to write down week 50! I have to admit that it is kind of a thrill to get towards the end of this most eventful (and not in a good way) year at last, but it is a reminder of all that I need to get done before the holidays are upon us. I’m trying to get presents finished in time to send off for Christmas and then there are my challenge goals on Ravelry and Goodreads. My Ravelry challenge goal is to get 30 knitting projects done this year and I have only one more to go! Piece of cake. I also wanted to get 50 books finished off this year and that goal is getting close with only three more books to go. We’ll just pretend that there weren’t any plans for the garden, okay? Between heat, smoke, my unhappy lungs and the pandemic there just wasn’t much progress there.

I’ve been reflecting on the year now that we are coming up to the end, but even more so on the last 9 months. I started this year struggling with shortness of breath and sporting blue lips; I felt a little desperate as my symptoms weren’t being taken seriously by my physician team and I pressed for more testing and answers. Exactly 9 months ago today my pulmonologist called to tell me that my oxygen levels were too low overnight when measured in a sleep study: I needed to go on oxygen when I slept. The next day the oxygen concentrator came just as I finished laying in groceries for a few weeks at home alone. By the middle of the next week we were in lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak in my state and little Hannah was born. Three months later I was able to adopt Hannah in a contact-free adoption and today we are rocking the Stay-at-Home lifestyle. This month Hannah is acting like a teenager and I’m feeling a lot friskier myself as many of my symptoms have faded into the background and my blue lips are rarely seen when I glance into the mirror; my latest bloodwork shows that I am maintaining, and I’m meeting next week with my rheumatologist (remotely) to find out what to do about other symptoms that have cropped up. Outside the world is on fire (the COVID numbers are horrific and the drama associated with our election continues…), but in the little world that I’ve built for Hannah and I things are good.

Knitting

I am trapped on Slipstravaganza Island wandering around in the chevron wilderness. I just love this project and worked steadily on it for a week before I had to call a halt to work on Christmas-related knitting. In my defense, the rows are now over 900 stitches each at this point, so the narrow garter stitch chevrons take a few hours to complete. It will be fabulous when it is done and I’m hoping to get back to it as soon as my Christmas presents are in the mail. Wait until you see this thing blocked!!

I love the colors in this shawl so much, and what you can’t see is that there is silk, yak, and cashmere in that yarn that makes it just a joy to work on. Soon, soon, soon it will be done… but not this week.

I can’t show off any of my other knitting projects because… they are secrets! Hello, Christmas presents… I have been working on other undertakings that won’t be named since I also can’t show them off, so… how about I talk about cleaning my yarn stash? I pulled everything out this week to get yarn reorganized again by types, sources, and colors and then put it all away neatly in bins to keep it safe from kittens and moths. Of course Hannah helped me with all of this; if you imagined Hannah racing through the house with a skein of alpaca yarn in her mouth you nailed it!! Then at the end of the clean-up the great “Where is Hannah?” search began…

Do you see her?
There she is! That quilted wall hanging was rolled up before Hannah found it…

Books

I just realized that the color is off on both of my pictures because my Kindle switches to the blue filter in the evenings to help me sleep. Hey, that really does work! If you don’t already know about this, try it out.

I have been reading the Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith (J. K Rowling) since the series started, and I just love the complexity of the characters. In this book, Troubled Blood, Strike and his partner Robin are hired by the daughter of a long missing woman to discover what happened to her. It has always been supposed that she was the victim of a serial killer who was active at that time, but the daughter longs for a definitive conclusion, and Strike agrees to take the case. Over the slightly more than a year that Strike and Robin work this and other cases at the agency they also deal with their relationships with old lovers, family members, each other and ultimately, themselves. I have to be honest here… Strike and Robin are both damaged goods, but during this book they both confront some of their demons, move some things into the past, and begin to gain balance and perspective that makes me eager to get the next book in the series. Oh yeah, they also solve the case!

After polishing off Troubled Blood I blindly started The Last of the Moon Girls without any expectations because… I’m a little ashamed to admit this… it was also an audiobook and I needed something to listen to while knitting. To my surprise it is also a book about an old murder, also has a main character who was “different” from everyone else growing up, and who also has a very fraught relationship with a dysfunctional parent. Cormoran Strike Deja vu!! I’m enjoying this book as I listen to it, knitting away on my mystery presents, but I have to say that it isn’t as rich and complicated as Troubled Blood was. Actually, that is a good thing since it is an audiobook and I would have trouble following multiple investigations and a huge cast of characters in action; as it is this book is perfect for the task at hand as it has a straightforward storyline that keeps layering in additional characters and plot twists in an engaging manner without too many games. I kind of think I know who the killer was, but I’m not absolutely sure…

Must keep knitting and listening!!

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

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

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 38 & 39

Ugh. The last two weeks have been a blur. I’ve been rolling with the punches and trying to make the best of things as I dealt with all the good, bad, and ugly of the last 14 days. My son is better and is out of the hospital. I fractured a rib on the opposite side from my bad hip, and walking with a cane became utter torture for a week. My outdoor roses are blooming their hearts out. I had bloodwork done and I’m happy to report that I am recovering some lost ground with my scleroderma-induced organ damage. Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. The smoke rolled back in from the western wildfires, my symptoms flared, and the weather turned nasty hot again. Inhaled steroids brought my symptoms back under control in just a couple of days! My neighbor repaired the fence between our yards: this is great news because… pit pull in her yard. The Covid-19 death toll passed 200,000 in the US. I bought some wicked cute new clothes. Miss Pitty-Pat, the cutest hamster ever, died. I went crazy and bought new yarn, and I finished knitting my fabulous The Sharon Show.

It is done.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this entire MKAL experience. It was so much fun; the rapidly changing knitted elements in the shawl made it engaging and interesting, and the support and camaraderie of the Facebook group was just amazing. Did I mention that there is cat snark and policing going on, not to mention the multi-state chase of a stolen squad car with a platter of sushi in the glove box? In fact, the whole thing has been so positive that the adventure continues with another MKAL being run by Sharon that is a cowl called The Secret Handshake and the  Facebook group is all atwitter with excited knitters showing off their yarn, the first knitted efforts with Clue 1, their drinks (yes, these clues come with beverage recipes…), and the kittens that they just adopted. If you don’t want to own a cat, this is a dangerous group for you as kitten adoption seems to be contagious right now…

Speaking of kittens, Hannah and I had our birthdays last week and we made cookies to celebrate.  As chance would have it, my birthday and Hannah’s 6 month birthday were the same day.

This is Hannah on the day I brought her home…

And on our birthday last week. Boy, has she grown.

I had planned a post all about Hannah, but it kind of flamed out in the general chaos of the last two weeks. She is growing fast and has really started to develop a personality all her own. Especially when I’m working in the kitchen!

Which brings me back to the cookies. 50 years ago I copied this cookie recipe out of my mom’s loose leaf collection of favorites. It was originally a gumdrop recipe that has been adapted to become my family’s favorite chocolate chip recipe. Here it is for you, as a birthday present from me. 🙂

These cookies are coming to you straight out of the 50’s. Enjoy!

Cream together:

    • 1 cup softened butter
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup white sugar

Add and mix well:

    • 2 large (or extra large) eggs

Add to the bowl and mix well:

    • 2 cups white flour (I never bother to sift)
    • 2 cups fast cooking (minute) oatmeal
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • (1 tsp. salt – I never add this as I am living the salt free life and if there was salt in the butter you may not want it. Suit your own taste.)

Add in 12 ounces of chocolate chips (or about 2 cups) and mix well. If the mixture is too crumply for your liking you can add a little milk.

Spoon cookie amounts of the dough onto the cookie sheet, flatten a little if you like with a little pat, and bake about 10-12 minutes at 350°F. The cookies should be lightly brown on top and will spread as they bake; they puff up while baking and then flatted when they are done. Let them cool before you start eating them!! These cookies freeze well and have survived shipment in care packages many times over the years.

My mom would put all kinds of things into the dough… raisins, chopped dates, nuts, gummi bears, shredded coconut, you name it. It’s your cookie, make it your own!! The total amount of additives should be around two cups. I’ve also used old fashioned rolled oats, but I didn’t enjoy them as much as the instant oats.

Happy cookie crunching, everyone!

I think that I may now go online and buy a little more yarn while crunching my own cookies…