Hannah and the CoalBear: Mateo does Caturday

Hi. I’m Mateo.

Today I am on bug watch!

See that new orchid that the Mother of Cats brought home from the store? It has some little flying bugs in it. Yay!

The bugs are in the bedroom, too!!

The Mother of Cats isn’t as excited about the bugs as we are, but we are on the hunt and before she knows it we will have taken care of the problem. Aren’t we the best kitties ever?

I’ve also been helping the Mother of Cats with her new hat.

Don’t you like the color of that yarn? The color is called “Midnight Orchid” which is pretty cool because the Mother of Cats was knitting on the hat at midnight last night.

The yarn kind of matches the orchid that just started blooming last week.

I try to help the Mother of Cats in the garden but she won’t let me play with the plants. I am a really good digger and I think that she should be more open minded about it, right? Nope. She put up more chicken wire to keep me out of the orchids.

Well, I guess that is all. I have to go play with my new toy that the Mother of Cats got me last week and then maybe I can spend some time pulling down the clothes in the closet. In the evening I plan to watch the bunny in the backyard for a while and then I think that I will chase my sister Hannah around the house. She really likes to play chase-chase! Doesn’t that sound like an excellent Caturday to you?

I hope that your Catuday was good, too!!

Month’s End Report: January 2022

January is gone and we are 1/12th of the way through the new year. Outside it is very cold and snowing: perfect flat snowflake crystals are drifting down and creating a sparkling landscape.

Can you see the sparkles on the bear?

It will continue to snow all night and most of the day tomorrow, and when it clears we will have subzero temperature over the next night. That’s subzero Fahrenheit temperatures. It is eerily silent outside and there isn’t an animal track or footprint in the snow anywhere. I have a big pot of green chili started and lots of knitting plans for the coming couple of days.

I set myself a lot of goals for the year and I thought that I would check in at the end of every month with an update about how I’m doing.

Knitting:

I had this idea that I would reduce the stash by at least 50 skeins of yarn this year. (For the purpose of computing skeins 100g of yarn equals one skein.) I’m knitting hats and PICC line covers for the Kaiser infusion centers in the Denver metro area through a group of community knitters (Kaiser employees, all) that I serendipitously encountered last year. It is still early days but this seems to be a good strategy to use up lots of unloved skeins and left over yarn.

This month I produced 9 hats and 9 Picc line covers. The hats are all Barley and Barley Light by Tin Can Knits, and the PICC line pattern is here.

I have a loose goal of producing 50 hats and 50 PICC line covers this year, so I am definitely on pace.

I also started a new sweater this month. This yarn is Lush Worsted by The Uncommon Thread in the colorway Chrome. The sweater is Cushman by Isabel Kraemer.

All together I used up almost 950 grams of yarn this month, which translates to almost 10 skeins of yarn if I use 100 g/skein to calculate how much I’m reducing from the stash. So far it has been a great start to the destash!

Garden

It’s winter. Three of my orchids are going to bloom and they have been slowly, slowly growing out the stems and now the buds are really starting to look good.

I think that this plant will be giving me purple blooms.

All of the orchids are putting out new roots and I am gratified that they are looking so healthy. Hmm… did I mention that I threw away two plants last fall that were whimpy and failing to thrive? Yep. It’s not that I’m such a great gardener, but that I know when to banish a sickly-looking plant to the garage. All the plants that are under the lights are really looking good and I’m glad that I heartlessly removed the ones that looked sick.

Books:

Okay, the reason there was so much knitting going on last month has to do with me struggling with the weather and annoying symptoms associated with my pulmonary hypertension. I also pulled out The Murderbot Diaries and read/listened to all of the books in the series again.

There are actually 6 books and a short story in this series, and I just can’t seem to get enough of Murderbot. I’ve spent some time thinking about what draws me to the character and the series so much. The books are well written, interesting, extremely well balanced, and the audible books are excellent. Let me unpack the story a little for you.

Murderbot is an intelligent construct created from organic and robotic parts. It is a security unit (SecUnit) designed to handle all security/protection for human clients that contract with the owning company. SecUnits are horrifically dangerous due to their features (energy weapons in its arms, for example) and their ability to manipulate digital networks. To control them they have a governor module that punishes/kills them if they fail to follow directions or screw up in any way. The popular media presents rogue SecUnits as the ultimate threat to humans; “very dangerous, kill on sight” type stuff.

Okay, let’s be clear here. Murderbot is a slave to the corporation that created/owns it. Rogue SecUnits are the equivalent of escaped, extremely dangerous slaves.

Murderbot figured out how to hack its governor module and is now a rogue unit. It doesn’t really know what to do with itself so it conceals its rogue status, continues to work its job, and watches digital media as much as it can. Through luck it works for clients who appreciate how very special it is; they buy its contract and free it. Murderbot isn’t sure what it wants, but it is sure that it doesn’t want to be a “pet”, so it leaves. Slowly, through interactions with others and lots of episodes of The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon, Murderbot comes into its own. It makes its own security contracts with clients and begins to control its own situation. Always in danger of being captured and destroyed, he learns how to “pass” for human. He makes friends, learns how to handle emotions, faces down his demons, and slowly finds his purpose in life.

On bad days I crawl under the covers again and listen to Murderbot. Murderbot binge watches serials with his friend ART (which stands for Asshole Research Transport) and I binge watch Netflix. Murderbot faces down his fears and learns to move around in unfamiliar situations; I face down Covid and take myself into a crowded grocery store to get my booster shot. I definitely channel Murderbot when I shoot someone side eye for not wearing their mask! Murderbot finds its voice and learns to speak for itself, and I learn to ask the hard questions of my medical team.

Murderbot as a role model. I can do worse.

These books are short so I polished off 10 books this month. Wow. My goal is 50 books for the year so I am in good shape.

Hannah: Have a great February, everyone!

The Saturday Update: Week 16, 2021

What a week it has been! I managed to get to 4 medical appointments on 4 different days which used up a lot of my available energy and time, but now that I’m vaccinated I have turned the Blue-Lipped Zebra loose again and it is absolutely determined to get to the bottom of what is going on! (What is going on, you ask? Check out these posts from the BLZ before it went quiet in lockdown: The Blue-Lipped Zebra Report! and The Blue-Lipped Zebra Goes on Oxygen.) This week I met my new pulmonologist, got some lung testing, saw the orthopedist, and started physical therapy for my hip. Whew. It was a rough week with lots of exhausting recoveries but also some great knitting action. Anyway, the BLZ is getting ready for some blogging updates and hopes to share what’s up soon.

In the meantime, here’s all the great stuff that was going on this week:

Knitting

Right after the start of the year I lost control and cast on lots of projects. You know, if you cast them on you have to do them, right? My head was just swimming with ideas and I want to make sure that everything was captured in yarn right away before I was distracted by the latest great potential project on Ravelry. A very dangerous place for people with huge yarn stashes, Ravelry… I’ve been steadily working on all of the projects depending on my mood and interests for weeks; this week several projects finished up at once.

My Goldwing is finished!! We had several rounds of snow over the last two weeks so I buckled down and knitted myself right off of sleeve island in just a few days to get to the final wearable product. There I am wearing it on its first outing to my pulmonologist’s office. Hey, they left me alone in a room with a full length mirror on the door with my new sweater? How could I let an opportunity like that slide by? I made some minor alterations to the pattern as I worked so that the sleeves and the body would be almost the same length and also used a smaller needle then the pattern called for in the sleeve colorwork because I wanted the sleeves to be wrist huggers. The end result was the perfect project to wear on a snowy drive across town. Here’s my notes on Ravelry.

This shawl is Age of Gold by Joji Locatelli; a simple garter stitch shawl that is easy to knit, has good coverage, and sports a showy lace edging. I *loved* this yarn when I bought it, but fell out of love while working on it sometime in February. Ugh. Light blue. What was I thinking. Maybe I was struggling with cold-induced depression, but I was not motivated to work on it at all. Then I realized a couple of weeks ago that it is exactly the color that my grandniece loves, took it back out, and got it finished off to gift to someone who will give it a great home.

The first mitt is done of the Mando mitt set. I’m making these for my exceptionally knitworthy niece who loves The Mandolorian. Of course, in my family I was immediately informed that the little green guy is named Grogew; the left hand mitt does feature Mando. Since I am mailing the shawl to California to my grandniece and think I should get these mitts done and mailed off to her mother in the same box, don’t you?! These mitts have been pretty darn challenging and I plan to post more about the journey later on when I get the second mitt done.

In the middle of the week my favorite LYS posted a message about having all of the assigned pooling yarns in stock. What is this, I wondered and went to Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co. to check it out. Oh, this is knitting designed to make use of skeins that are mostly one color with a section of another color inserted into it that is about 1/4 of the length or so. Chasing Rabbits is developing patterns to make use of the yarn with clever treatments of the color sections that are intriguing; in short, there is a specific stitch or treatment assigned to the short color strip. Here I was knitting some socks with yarn like that from Chasing Rabbits that were… boring and unimaginative (picture on the right). I ripped my sock out and reknit it with an assigned pooling idea that I would purl the colored sections and leave the grey knitted. The other idea that I had was to do something to force the color sections of knitted fabric to be more random so I threw in random PSS stitches to add some fun and change the length of the color sections. I learned the PSS stitch while knitting The Sharon Show in the section called “Catnip Garden” so these are obviously the Rainbow Catnip Garden socks. I’m thinking of using a bright pink yarn for the heels and toes so I can make two pairs of these!!

Gardening

Things are stalled outside because of the never-ending march of snow storms, but all is well inside. My orchids are in a second bloom that is making things really cheerful in the craft room.

The photo on the far right is of my monster orchid last year as CosmicKnitter asked me to show my orchid set-up and this picture did a good job of it. I like to keep the orchids in pots that “breathe” like unfired clay; I prefer the ones with holes in them but they are getting hard to find. It is dry here in Colorado so I keep water below the orchids with the pots suspended above the water on pebbles if the tray isn’t already designed with channels that keep the pot above the water. Anyway, the orchids seem to like the extra humidity and they are putting out more blooms this spring.

Books

I put off writing this post for a day hoping that I would get to the end of the book that I’m currently listening to while I knit: Hamnet. I still have three hours to go so I’m not there yet… but this is quite the book so I’m going to talk about it now anyway.

We learn right away that this is a book about a young boy, an only son, named Hamnet, who dies of the plague. Two years later his father writes a play called Hamlet.

So this is a book about Shakespeare and his family. Oh, that can’t be all that intimidating to write, right? I mean… Shakespeare. Did you every wonder what type of environment produced the man who had such an impact in his field and on his actual language that hundreds of years later we still celebrate his work?

I mean, if you write about this you need to make it kind of believable, and this book does that for me. It is mostly about Shakespeare’s wife, a gifted misfit with an eerie insight into the natural world, people, and the environments around her. The language is rich and descriptive, the story slow in the enfolding, and the events cling to me through my day. Shakespeare wasn’t alone in his extreme giftedness; at the heart of it was his wife Agnes and his children who provided the essential context to his life. Through chance these two found each other and the rest is quite literally history. Shakespeare’s wasn’t an easy life; he did not have a happy childhood and was basically viewed as a failure by traditional standards until he found his niche in London. How hard it is for those among us who view the world through a different colored lens and hear the sounds of music that no one else notices: this is Agnes and her husband. These people, some of whom were in my classroom or even my coworkers, can be viewed as “slow”, “underachievers”, or “at-risk” when the actual truth is they are processing information and viewing the world much deeper than we are. They don’t respond well to the usual pressures and deadlines, but what they produce when they are ready to show their work can be remarkable. The author captures this so well in the book; misfits and geniuses, aware of everything, and yet, oblivious to the obvious. Agnes and her husband.

The world in this book, so far from us in time, is also strangely familiar as international travel and the trade in goods has brought a deadly disease to Stratford on Avon. Shakespeare is hard to locate when illness breaks out because the theaters in London are shut down for plague season and they have taken the show on the road. There are strict rules about burial because… plague. The doctor wears a… mask. There are misunderstandings and lots of misinformation including bogus cures (as in… use this toad).

Well, that’s it. I need to finish the book because it continues to haunt me. Maybe I can get that second Mando mitt started while listening to it this evening.

Have a great week, everyone!

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

PS: I got my degree in biology. I am a biogeek!! Please forgive me it I botched anything about Shakespeare…

The Saturday Update: Weeks 14 and 15, 2021

Guest Writer: Hannah the Magnificent

The Kitten Mom made me this new playground during one of her short times out of bed. Don’t you think that she should paint it hot pink for me?

The Kitten Mom is being lazy and staying in bed to read a book today so I’m just going to step in here to tell you about the last two weeks. The Kitten Mom just keeps going out of the house on errands (leaving me alone!!) and then when she comes home she just sleeps and acts super boring. I need her to play with me!! I love her to use the laser light, and to throw little toys for me to chase, or to just run around the house a lot so I can gallop along with her, but NOOOOO she just reads books and sleeps when she comes home. Still, we did do some fun stuff this week so I’ll tell you all about that stuff, okay?

Garden

It is snowing outside, like almost every single day. The Kitten Mom did go outside to mess with the plants out there while I watched in the window, but she mostly just covered all of her plants with boxes and bags because they were getting cold white stuff all over them.

See what I’m talking about?

We did work in the indoor garden this week because the Kitten Mom decided to move a bunch of orchids from one pot to another one. What is up with that?? Most of the plants have finished blooming so maybe she was trying to make them happy again… I don’t understand why she did this, but I did have a lot of fun playing with the wood chips and the pots, and then there was the WATER! I really love water.

The Kitten Mom moved the plants into bigger pots with this damp wood chip stuff around them. Now she has so many plants on the shelves under the lights that there is almost no room for me anymore. Almost. I mange to squeeze myself in there anyway and it is kind of fun because the Kitten Mom always rushes over to pay attention to me when I do it…

Knitting

I have sleeping on the bed with the Kitten Mom every single evening while she knits on stuff. I like to chew on the the yarn, but she doesn’t like that too much. I also like to groom the knitted stuff until it gets soft and fuzzy, but she kind of gets really excited and takes stuff away from me when I do that so mostly I don’t do it any more. Mostly.

We have really made a lot of progress on her new purple sweater. She is now finishing up the last sleeve and I like this project because it is perfect to sleep on. Except she keeps moving it around a little too much for me to get completely comfy…

It is better when she knits socks because then I can sleep right on her nap without purple knitted stuff hitting me all of the time.

Books

What can I say. The Kitten Mom reads a lot and I like that when I want to sleep too, but it gets a little old when it is time to get up and PLAY for awhile. What is crazy is the Kitten Mom listening to books while she knits. So strange. At least when she is reading I can sleep on top of her, but this knitting and reading thing is kind of weird if you ask me. I bring toys to her to play with, but nope. She mostly just reads.

She thinks that this book is really wonderful!

The Kitten Mom finished that book in the picture this week and I thought that she would get up to play with me, but nope, that did not happen. She immediately bought the sequel to the book and went back to reading. She didn’t even start up my laser light for me before starting the new book!

Now it is almost evening and that means that it is time for me to get my tuna dinner!! I like my dinner almost as much as playing, so this is a great time of the day. Then the Kitten Mom and I will be back to knitting and reading and maybe a little nap or two. I love the Kitten Mom.

Maybe we will play a little after our after-dinner nap.

Notes from the Kitten Mom:

  • I’ve gotten both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and have started making more trips out of the house including shopping trips. I got my hair cut, people!! I’m also getting all of the medical testing that was put on pause a year ago finally done. It is so good to get out there again, but exhausting. Hannah is so thrilled when I get home she just flings herself down on the ground in front of me and wiggles around in joy. Then we get cookies. What a perfect pandemic companion this little kitten has turned out to be!!
  • The sweater is Goldwing by Jennifer Steingass. I’m now finishing up the second sleeve and hope to wear it next week in the next round of snow storms.
  • I have gotten several new orchids in the last few months and decided to repot them now that they are (mostly) done with blooming. I use a mixture of wood chips and sphagnum moss for my potting soil since I live in a pretty dry climate, and mostly my orchids do well after I move them to new pots with this new soil around them.
  • There has been a sting of weather systems crossing the state that bring with them snow for the plants outside and trouble for me. Good thing I had the whole series of The Murderbot Diaries to read to keep myself entertained. I love these books!! I checked them out of the library but now I’m thinking that I should just buy them because I will be reading these books again!
  • The sequel to A Memory Called Empire is the book A Desolation Called Peace. These are really good books; rich characters, complex political intrigue, beautiful writing, spaceships, and cultural dynamics that are an echo of the series of books about the Roman occupation of Britannia that I read earlier this year. I have just arrived at the part of the book where we get to meet… aboreal, water loving kittens. And aliens. Of course. This is space opera, after all.
  • I have to take Hannah to the vet for a checkup and her shots…

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 10, 2021

Good grief, there is a blizzard outside! This has been a crazy week with lots of trips out of the house, but it looks like I’m going to spend the next few days dealing with snow. There is already 15 inches on the ground and more is on the way as the storm is expected to last until sometime tomorrow.

Knitting

I have been making progress on my Goldwing!! Check it out…

I finally made it through all of the colorwork and now I’m just racing along in the stockinette body.

I am really happy with how the colorwork looks and now that I’m going down the body I should take the sweater off the needles to try it on for fit and to see what the length is on me. I laughed to see that there is now a Goldwing KAL being launched by Jennifer Steingass in her Knit.Love.Wool Ravelry group as the pattern just turned 1 year old. Talk about bad timing! If I had only waited a couple of months to cast on this sweater! I struggle with the Ravelry format for groups, but maybe I will check out the group and make a better effort to figure out how it all works. It’s okay to join with other patterns from Knit.Love.Wool, and I have two more of her patterns that I plan to knit this year so I could jump in with one of those. I have to add that I am discovering this pattern to be extremely well written with lots of meticulous detail.

A new KAL launched today from Casapika (and Sharon from Security) that has sent me back into the yarn stash to poke around to see what I can put together for a cute little shawlette (Raspberry Cordial) with two contrast colors. This is the Anne of Green Gables KAL that I am talking about, and it is a short little one that will only last two weeks. I need one skein of tonal or speckled yarn with a couple of mini-skeins as accents to the main color. Of course Hannah helped me as I did this…

Hannah: there was a lot of digging in containers of yarn… I helped!!

I finally settled on three different yarn combos for the shawlette:

Now I have three options. The one on the left will have the raspberry colored yarn for the main color and the purple and gold would be the accents. Cute, huh! However this is not something that I would probably end up wearing a lot… I have had the Backyard Chicken combo for years and it would made a shawlette that I will wear, but it is kind of… not exciting. The third combo, plums and grays, will made something that I would wear a lot and is the more safe option. To be honest, I have lots of knitting already and probably won’t cast on right away, but a knit-along is so much fun, and I love being part of the Sharon Show community on Facebook, and how long would it take to make a little shawlette… I’m pretty sure I can find needles in the size that I need…

Garden

A new orchid has joined my garden. I may be giving away some jade plants to make room for the orchids soon…

Books

I’m still in Britannia.

I’m hooked. I finished the 5th book in this series last night and the 6th book is already downloaded onto my Kindle. To my joy there are several more books in the series. 🙂

That’s it. The snow is still coming down and my area is currently experiencing white out conditions. It’s hard to be certain but I’m pretty sure I have more than 2 feet of snow outside right now so this is going to be a huge storm. It is a mess and there is lots of shoveling ahead when this finally stops. Good times!!

It’s nice to have something to break up the knitting…

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

The Saturday Update: Week 31

August. The eighth month of an unbelievably historic year. This has been the longest year imaginable, hasn’t it?! I have now reached the point where I check the phone before I get out of bed to see what happened overnight; I mean, what else is there? Alien invasion? An explosion of hurricanes? Horrific solar flare? I’m not sure that surreal is enough to describe current events anymore… I saw a tee shirt on Facebook that had a review of the year 2020 with only one star and the words: Very bad. Would not recommend.

Yeah. 2020, we still have 5 months to go. Behave yourself!!

Thank heavens I have Hannah to keep me anchored. You know how kittens are: feed me, play with me, pet me, party time!!

For me in my little world, however, things were pretty good. I’m still out of the flare and I’m getting lots done. The weather has remained cooler and there have been rain showers, so the garden continues to recover. Hannah is growing like a weed and is the best little companion. I’m pretty hopeful about this month. Please, August, be good!

Quilting

I’m cranking away on the new quilt and got another block done this week. May I present to you, bears!

This was a faster block to do then the one with the fisherman. This coming week I’m going to tackle a block with a moose walking through a forest.

This is an art quilt designed to hang on a wall. The name is Calling Me Home and the design (and kit) is from Pine Needles.

Knitting

All of a sudden I am getting projects done. Last week I finished my Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka, and this week I blocked it and did the finishing work.

It is blocked!

As it turns out this shawl is long and not deep at the point so it is challenging to photograph if the colors are subtle and the day is overcast. Please accept this indoor picture that kind of shows off the textures. I’m looking forward to using this as a serious layering piece in the fall and winter.

I also finished the Willow Cowl this week. You can see in this photo the picot hemmed edges and the alternating lace and stockinette sections; cleverly it also decreases as you knit up towards the neck.

The changing textures makes the cowl fall into nice layers when you put it on. My notes on Ravelry are here.

Are you loving my pandemic hair? I don’t know when I will ever get a nice hair cut again. 2020, you can start behaving yourself any time now.

Garden

The garden is recovering in the cooler weather and plants are growing like crazy (well, I did give everyone fertilizer…), but there is very little blooming going on. I can see buds on the plants, but there are some tiny beetles so I dosed the plants with soapy insecticide to protect the growing flower buds.  Maybe next week I’ll have something nice to show off…

Let me instead offer a picture of Hannah trolling for trouble among the orchids. Now that I’ve taken the ribbons off she isn’t using them for toys anymore, but she’s not above batting the roots and stems.

Books

The book picked by my book club this month.

I did finish off Mexican Gothic this week. I’m kind of conflicted about this book. There wasn’t too much about Mexico, but there sure was a lot of gothic in this book. You know, a plot where a young woman  travels to a strange, old and creepy house with silent servants and a graveyard for the backyard. That’s pretty gothic, wouldn’t you agree? The hosts are less than welcoming and the rules of the house are stifling. There is mold everywhere, the food is icky, and the cousin that our heroine has been sent to check on is strangely dysfunctional and hard to access. Along with the house there is also an old silver mine that has been the scene of numerous tragedies; many of the dead are in the convenient backyard graveyard. Did I mention that the family has a history of violent deaths? The sense of menace keeps building in the book until, unexpectedly, the book transforms into a full blown horror novel! Seriously, this was not what I expected, but the plot did hold together and I did finish the book. Not sure I’m recommending it unless you are a fan of the gross horror genre.

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 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.

The Saturday Update: Week 14

It’s been a scary, sad week, hasn’t it? I’m still home in lockdown, sewing masks and missing MacKenzie something awful. The number of Covid-19 cases are skyrocketing in the US, especially in New York. I find myself fighting tears at least once a day now. There’s nothing for it but to keep checking in on loved ones and to stay busy. Luckily I have lots to do, and I have been busy. Before I show off the week let’s just start out with something happy.

The Monster Orchid now has 13 blooms and everyone of them is still going strong. The plant responded to having its blooms staked up by turning them for maximum visual impact. Beautiful plant!! I think that it likes the light in the front room.

Knitting

I completed the knitting of the Pebble Tunic! It fits and feels wonderful. It is also not finished or blocked. Still, you can now see the sweater!

This is a wonderful, long tunic that will be a fabulous light weight and warm layering piece in the fall. I need to sew the pockets into place and to weave in the ends. I think that I will steam block it in the end.

I hate to sew pocket liners into place. They intimidate me and I struggle with the outer edges. 

I’m thinking of sewing a button into the corners to cover the inevitable mess that will be at each pocket edge as I do the finishing. I think that it will look kind of cute with the floppy pocket. What do you think about this button?

I have to be honest, though. Now that I am at the finishing part of the sweater I am in a rush to get started on my next sweater. I want to wind that yarn and cast on immediately. I have three little projects (socks and mitts) that should be finished, but last night I dug through the stash and found the yarn to cast on ANOTHER pair of socks. I don’t want to sew pockets… I want to knit, knit, knit!! Today I packed up the Pebble Tunic to hibernate for a few days while I get the yarn wound for my next project, another V-Neck Boxy.  Eventually I’ll get it done. Besides, I need feedback from all of you about those buttons!

Garden

You already saw the orchid. Seriously, the orchid is the star of the indoor gardening at the moment, but I have been attending to some of the other plants.

For reasons that I don’t understand this jade plant has been growing like a weed, much faster than the other jade plants that I have. They are all clones from one single original plant, so I really don’t quite know what is going on here. The top growth has gotten so heavy that the two largest stems have flopped over. I staked and tied one, and I’m now considering cutting most of the downed section off. I should probably repot this hot jade plant mess, don’t you think? In the meantime I’ve moved the plant under a flood (grow) light by the window to see what happens in better light.

Tomorrow I think that I’ll dig around in the garage to find a nice clay pot for this guy. Since the plant is a super grower I’m considering starting a new plant with the downed stem to see if it will grow really fast, too.

Talking about rapid growth… do you see what this weeping fig has been up to? 

My weeping fig that I have growing in in the light of the front window really put out a lot of growth over the last year. When I repotted the plant a few weeks ago I discovered that the root system was pretty small and I worried that I had damaged the plant when I pulled it out of the old pot. Nope. The plant didn’t drop any leaves and is still putting out new ones so I fertilized it this week,  pruned off a lot of lower growth, and then staked and tied up branches to encourage the two plants to take on a more tree like shape. Here’s hoping it all works out. It’s another experiment!

Books

Maybe I’ve been messing with the plants this week because of the spring sunshine. Or maybe I’ve been looking at the plants with new eyes because I read this book this week.

I read another book about science and plants this week.

I loved this book. One of the things that I learned in the few years I worked in a research lab is that science people, really memorable people who do science, are originals. They think out of the box, they have wicked senses of humor, they listen to a singular internal muse as they work, and they have a casual relationship with rules and conventional schedules. I learned to write well while working in the lab. I learned to never take anything for granted in that lab, became endlessly creative as we designed original experiments, built our equipment, and collected the data. Science follows a timetable of its own sometimes… if the data arrived at 10pm I was in the lab ready to get it. I did some crazy stuff, and some of the best, most intense relationships of my life were developed in that time. This book captures the science behind plants and Hope Jehren’s work, the craziness of securing funding, the work of building a lab, and the unique and enduring relationships that are formed in collaborative research teams. A friend recommended this book to me, and I am so glad that I read it.

Jade plant, prepare to become an experiment!

Quilting

Look! A new category. Early in the winter on impulse I bought a huge roll of batting to make quilts. I have several quilt tops all pieced together waiting for the final quilting, and I have more quilt kits that need to be sewn. Now that I am trapped in the house I have this work to keep me busy. Behold. The first quilt got done this week.

Here’s the whole quilt.

and a close-up of the cats in the focus panel.

Next up: a green quilt with roses on it.

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 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!