A Little Wednesday Sunshine #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

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

A Little Wednesday Sunshine #2

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

I bought some little bulbs to plant in my front garden in a school fundraiser a couple of years ago. I have no idea what this is, but after the snow melted this week there it was. Look at how cute it is!!
My neighbor put fertilizer on his lawn last fall and it has greened up with a vengence. Look! The first bunny of the year has shown up to snack on the lush grass. Try to imagine me sitting in the street for several minutes waiting for this bunny to get used to me so I could take this picture. Yep, that happened. I was out there so long a squirrel arrived to check on me.
I’ve set up the sewing machine on the dining room table in front of a sliding glass door so that I can sew in the afternoon sunshine. Doesn’t this springy quilt make you feel happy?
Finally, I finished up my Pebble Tunic this week. The pockets are sewn up, the ends are all woven in, and as you can see, I put on the cat paw buttons.
and they look fabulous!!

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

Good days in a sad time continue.

Have a good week, everyone. Be safe.

 

The Saturday Update: Week 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.

Surviving the Stay-At-Home Order

So, here we are.

I don’t know how everyone else is doing, but here in my state we were just ordered to stay at home for another 2 weeks. At first they asked us nicely to socially isolate as much as possible; now the gloves are off as things are getting more serious. Many other nations have been dealing with lockdown situations for longer than we have, and for some of you this situation may be coming. Times are really getting tough: an invisible enemy, stress, grief, loss, and economic uncertainty. And now you need to stay home for who knows how long…

Well, as it turns out I have some experience with staying home in self-isolation. I’ve been social distancing for months now; it started last summer when I switched to “night shift” to avoid sunlight, and then I doubled down when the flu season started. Hey, sunlight activates my scleroderma, and I was blue-faced and panting for air, so catching the flu was a really terrifying thought. Rats! I contracted the flu anyway, and just as I recovered I became aware of this looming new coronavirus…  I was motivated to self-isolate, which may be or not be the case for you, but I do have some insights and strategies to pass on to anyone who wants them.

Okay, I just want to acknowledge that this is really, really tough. I absolutely understand that my situation, under no circumstances, should be confused with the stress of a pandemic and the coinciding economic repercussions. Still, in case any of this helps, here it is.

  1. Make lists. Lots and lots of lists! It helps so much to bring some internal structure and purpose to your days. I make lists of things to do each day, and more lists of long-term projects that I think I might like to tackle. Make lists of blog post ideas. Add new things that you think of to your lists, and reorganize them as needed. Keep yourself going, and make plans for the days to come. Really, it helps!

    One of the projects that I put on the long-term list is to knit at least one sock from each of these books. There are a lot of technically challenging socks to choose from: should keep me busy, huh!
  2. Structure your time. When I lost my work-day structure I just didn’t know what to do with myself at first; creating a new structure helps with that. Plan a daily walk, watch a set show each night on the television, create blocks of time for specific tasks (like knitting!), do a puzzle or read each day; don’t forget to stick in yoga, meditation, or journaling if they appeal to you. Just don’t spend all day on one thing that will be finished at the end of the day. It actually is better to chunk multiple tasks over several days so you won’t hit a dead zone.

    Right now I am working on this quilt every afternoon for a couple of hours.
  3. Exercise and get sunshine. Unless of course the sunshine will make you sick. I can’t emphasize how calming and peaceful some time outside can be. Even gardening inside helps. Get some exercise! That can be one of your daily blocks of time, even if it is only your physical therapy and the number of steps daily on your Fitbit.

    Spinning is exercise, right? I thought that an hour treadling my wheel was a good idea. My hip begs to differ…
  4. Create zones in your home to keep you moving around. Right now I have transformed the dining room into a quilting area, and there is a reading zone in the living room with a weighted blanket (and my monster orchid) waiting for me. I have a desk with my computer in the room that used to be my office, and I have a knitting area all set up. The trick is to keep moving, and link your movements to your activities. Maybe staying on the couch works for you for awhile, but it is not a good long term plan, people!!
  5. Plan and make nice meals for yourself.  Oh, look! Another list! Does anyone have any yummy recipes that I can cook in a crock pot?
  6. Record your days and your progress. Keep a journal, or maybe just a day planner. Write on the calendar. Try not to write on the walls, but if that makes you happy, go for it!! Sign up for challenges on places like Goodreads or Ravelry. Maybe create your own challenges. Do it!

    Every night I record my knitting progress into my day planner. It’s kind of cheesy, but it helps me keep going. Last night I cast off the sweater and made sure it would fit me: it fits!!! Tonight I will start on the pockets.
  7. Clean and organize stuff. In a world where we don’t have a lot of control over what is happening, it sure helps to create a nice, clean, tidy environment for yourself. Go after the cabinets and clean the closets! Organize the pantry. Arrange your books, or games, or whatever you have cluttering around in your living area. Clean up your music, photos, or the files on your computer. You’ll be so happy that you did. I cleaned the garage last week and I am still riding the wave of good feeling. Next week: the yarn stash!!
  8. Connect with everyone you can. Talk to neighbors from your doorstep. Chat with family and friends online. My book group is working out how to meet virtually next week. Remember to text to check in with people often. Being isolated doesn’t mean that we need to be all alone.
  9. Don’t forget to shower, people!!

So that is my list. A list! I made another list, look at me go! Take any of this that is of use to you, and absolutely ignore the items that aren’t. Feel free to chime in and add any other ideas that you have to cope with being forced into inaction during a time that screams for action.

Be safe, everyone!

MacKenzie Speaks: Big Project Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat
Would you believe it is 80 degrees out here in the middle of November? That’s a nice thing since the Mother of Cats has been spending all of her time with some NEVER-ENDING projects instead of spending time with me.

First it was the quilt. She completely ignored our needs and sewed and sewed for days. Then she laid everything out on the floor to make a sandwich of some type with this fluffy stuff called batting (That she would not let me roll in! Hello! Cat bait!!) that involved a lot of pinning and muttering. I even got stuck with a pin. NOT nice, Mother of Cats…

Quilt
Look at all of those pins. Why did she have to go and ruin a perfectly yummy cat bed?

Then the sewing started. It went on, and on, and on…

Quilting details.
Somehow she felt compelled to sew around all of the details in the quilt. All of them. Usually the Mother of Cats is pretty balanced, but this was just ridiculous.
Cat on quilt.
I hardly had time to catch a nap between sewing sessions!
Cat helping sewing effort
Finally she finished with the machine and spent a whole day binge watching Longmire on Netflix while she “sewed on the binding”, what ever that means. I really enjoyed hanging out with her while she stitched. It would have been better if she hadn’t moved me around so much. For some reason she just couldn’t settle down and leave the quilt in a comfy position. What is it with her obsession with pins?
Finished Quilt
Whew! It is done. Hey, wait a minute! What is my comfy new quilt doing up on the wall? Thanksgving? Cats don’t care about Thanksgiving. They want cat beds!! Mother of Cats, what are you thinking of?

Then she went shopping for some new toys for us and came back with a big heavy box. Boxes! Yellow Boy and I love boxes! We helped her unpack the whole thing and then she laid out all of these strange wooden pieces. Huh? Strange cat toys…

Cabinet pieces
What a mess. 

She got out tools including the POWER DRILL and that was that for me and Yellow Boy. We evacuated to the outside while she spent the afternoon and early evening putting her new mouse trap together. She says it is to hold her working stash and projects in the television room… whatever. We went out to chase squirrels and hunt bugs after dark. Ha! She totally forgot about us until an hour after our usually coming-in time.

Cabinet
And this is what she ended up with. How are we supposed to play with this? And all of the yarn? It’s put away where we can’t get it! Why isn’t she more sensitive about our needs? Cats need constant attention and entertainment. Yarn entertainment is quality time for cats.

Thank heavens there is still yarn out because she is knitting a sweater. She has been knitting this sweater forever. The yarn she is using is the absolute best for chomping, and I love squishing it with my paws. Imagine how I felt when she dumped all the pieces into the sink and then got them WET.

Cat on blocked sweater
 Oh wait, I do like the smell of wet yarn. Don’t you think it’s the best thing since day-old fish?
Cat
Then the Mother of Cats and I sewed all the pieces together…
Finished sweater
and suddenly it was done! Look! She wore it to her knitting group meeting yesterday.
Detail of sweater back
Check out the back. Don’t those textured stitches look like they belong in a cat bed?

And just like that, after weeks of work, three big projects got done this week. OK, the cabinet was only a day, but it was part of the “get ready for the holidays” effort. For some reason she thinks that the holidays are a big deal. Really, it is a lot of commotion. Cats don’t like commotion.

Hiding cat
See what I mean? This is what just a mention of Christmas does to Yellow Boy. He is not a fan of commotion…

Still, the Mother of Cats cast on several new projects last night to start on the Christmas knitted-presents drive. Lots of bits of yarn. Beads! Loose knitting needles and crochet hooks. Hey, I can help! I’m such a good boy. I love to help with all the Christmas fuss.

Cat face
Can I have some cookies now?

 

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The Grand Stand quilt (pattern 328 by Mountainpeek Creations) was bought as a kit from Holly’s Quilt Cabin. While the original fabrics are long gone it is still a cute design.
  • The sweater is the Guernsey Pullover by Norah Gaughan. This sweater has been going on and on for weeks with lots of help from MacKenzie. The yarn that he loves (as do I) is Malabrigo Rios. You can find my Ravelry notes here.
  • That cabinet was on sale at Target. Having cut my teeth on IKEA furniture I felt empowered to buy it, have them load it into my car and the rest is history. Take that loose knitting projects!

MacKenzie Speaks: The First Week of June

 

Cat
Hi. I’m MacKenzie. The Mother of Cats has spent the day reading a book, so I’ve taken over here to share the week with you.
Living Room
She has been cleaning this week. Crazy. She kept muttering about cat hair, vacuuming, the importance of guarding against wool moths… Impossible to understand! Yellow Boy is very upset because the furniture got moved around…
MacKenzie Waiting for Blanket
and she even washed my cat blanket. Sigh. It took forever for it to dry. I know. I counted.
Flowers
She hung out new flowers on the deck…
Quilt and socks
and sewed a quilt top with roses on it. It’s OK, I guess; the green highlights my eyes. Instead of quilting it, though, she stopped and made matching bed socks.  I don’t know why she stopped quilting. I only messed with the machine a FEW times…
Cat stink eye
She said I was exhausting her. Hey. She washed my blanket. I need to lay on something!!
Cat at door
All the neighborhood children are out of school now and playing out front. She, however, won’t let me go out to play with them.
Cat asking nicely to go out.
I even asked nicely!!
MacKenzie in Cat Mint
Thank heavens I get to play in the backyard. The catmint is coming right along…
Cat in catmint
Sigh. I told Yellow Boy to stop doing that!!
Cat in grass
Well, that’s the week. Its nice and hot outside now, and the Mother of Cats is in the lawn chair reading her book and eating leftover Chinese take out. I’m in camouflage waiting for a moth. Or maybe a garter snake. If that darn squirrel comes down I’ll give him a chase that he won’t quickly forget…

June is for cats!

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The socks are Om Shanti bedsocks by Alice yu.
  • The yarn is Crazy Zauberball in the colorway 2170_Blasser Schimmer
  • The quilt is a kit I found years ago at the Great Amrican Quilt Factory called “Leading Ladies”. Fast, simple, fun. Even with cats who help a little too much.
  • The book is The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. All knitting activities are basically on hold while I finish this book.

Christmas Make #2 and More MItt Madness

It’s been a crazy holiday week here with more snow, deep cold and bored, house-bound kitties. We spent the week getting another bit of Christmas sewing done and continued with the mitt making. Well, I sewed and knitted; the kitties chased, chomped and shed fur over everything. Still, it was a productive week. Here’s everything: sorry about the dim light but I haven’t seen the sun for a few days and I finally decided it was best to take pictures inside under the grow light in the sewing room.

Placemat
I finished up all six of the place mats that I started last year and found again when I cleaned out the craft room. I originally had planned to make them as a gift, but now that they are done I realize that they do look pretty nice with my Christmas dishes… The pattern is one that my aunt made for me years ago and no one in the family now knows the original source. 
Pur;ple MItts
Remember these purple Sugared Maple mitts (by Melissa Schaschwary) that I had just started in the Mitt Madness post? 
Purple Fingerless Mitts
They are done! OK, I am still in the grip of mitt madness:  I made them a pair of friends that coordinate in a matching handpaint. These guys are joining the Christmas Makes pile as they are presents for sure. The yarn is Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK which has 10% cashmere and is big on the yummy scale. Here are the notes on Ravelry.
Start of Red Mitts
I can’t help it. I have one more skein of the Serenity DK in this red mix, so I just cast on ANOTHER pair. 🙂 See how the edge looks a little rounded? The CO for this pattern is one that I had to learn using an online tutorial (by Isolda Teague) called long-tail tubular cast on. It is crazy to learn, but nice and stretchy and allows the mitt cuffs to be knit on size 3 (3.25mm) needles while the body of the mitt is done with size 5 (3.75mm) needles. Now that I understand it I may make it my go-to ribbing CO.
Yarn
Here are the 4 original skeins of the Serenity DK that became a collection of Sugared Maple mitts. I couldn’t help myself; it’s kind of a study in color and texture as I made each of the mitts. It’s madness, I tell you, Mitt Madness. I highly recommend this pattern if you a feeling a similar urge to produce mitts. I think that I have enough yarn left in each color to make one more (shorter) pair of mitts to add to the mitt bin for sale/gift down the road. I mean, look at those colors. How can I not keep turning out mitts with this yarn??
Mitts on the needle
As if the Sugared Maple mitts weren’t enough I also started another pair of mitts like the ones I made for my sister with the thumbs moved underneath. I wanted to see what the design would look like with a wider rib at the top and the bottom of the mitt. I kind of like it, but I wonder if I should try the long-tail tubular cast on in this K2,P2 rib… The yarn is Malabrigo Rios from the stash. I love my stash!! It is a source of instant gratification when these mitt making urges hit me.

It is still snowing here and won’t get above freezing until sometime next week. Guess you all know what I’ll be doing…