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: 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: Week 21

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

Knitting

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

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

I’m still fussing over yarns to knit a Breathe and Hope shawl by Casapinka. I finally decided to cast on with these two yarns to make a first shawl that I can use to learn the pattern. These colors are ones that I like a lot and will go with most of my wardrobe.

Here’s the problem: reading over the pattern I didn’t have a clear idea of how the yarns display in the shawl. I’m using these two yarns that I like but don’t desperately love to learn the pattern before I cast on again with the yarns that I love immensely…

These guys!! The plan is to double fade these guys as I work on down the shawl. Now that I’m working it I’m wondering if I can break the color changes by sections in the shawl. Stay tuned… I just realzed that I need to be weighing the balls of yarn while knitting the practice shawl…

I’m also making some good progress on my Garter Snake Cowl. I’m almost to the point where the garter stitch begins. My Ravelry notes are here.

Garden

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

Today the first  bloom on my ice plant in the front flower bed opened. Yay! Soon there will be 5 feet of this blooming happiness along my front walk.

This snapdragon plant, a runaway from a flower bed, is now blooming like its life depends on it. Which kind of is the situation as this guy just appeared in a rocked section of the front yard. I’m watering and feeding it anyway because… well… just look at it! This one little plant is almost the size of the big tub behind it!

Finally, I am happy to report that my rose bushes, which were heavily frost damaged a few weeks ago, have all rebounded and are putting out new growth. This bush, a Home Run rose, was a big one covered with blooms all last summer. Last year’s canes are mostly lost, but there is an abundance of new growth coming up from the roots.. Yay!! I won’t be completely sure about what I have until this plant blooms, but I’m pretty sure it was not a grafted plant, so I should be getting the rose blooms that I want.

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

Books

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

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 19

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

Look at who is now living on my bookshelf! Every time I glance over and see MacKnitzie it makes me smile.

Here’s the whole bookshelf. Doesn’t it look nice and organized now?

Knitting

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

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

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

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

Garden

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

I’ve been watering this shrub even though I was afraid it looked dead. Today, these appeared! Yay!  Bud burst!! In a few weeks this shrub will be covered in purple flowers.

This snapdragon plant is a happy reseeding from plants I had in another garden last year. It’s going to look great with these pansys when those blooms open.

This poinsettia from last Christmas is just pitiful at the moment. It hung out by a window in the front room after the holidays, and then I moved it outside a couple of weeks ago. It has new growth appearing to replace all of the old leaves that have dropped off, so I repotted it this week. It’s an experiment!

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

Books

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

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi is set in a scenario where civilization as they know it is collapsing and the rich, powerful corporations are all scrambling to secure as much profit and security as they can in the unfolding chaos and uncertain future. There are machinations, betrayals, assassinations, and blantantly unscrupulous business practices that completely ignore the welfare of “the little people”. I put the book aside because it just wasn’t a plot I wanted to deal with at the moment, but when I went back to it this week the message turned and at the end of the book things had been put aright. People who were competent and focused on the good of their population were in power, science had saved the day, and great sacrifices were bringing a new structure to the universe. Yay! That was a message that I wanted to read after all. Feeling pretty upbeat I went back to another book that I had abandoned.

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

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 18

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

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

Sigh.

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

Books

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

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

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

It’s a plan!

Knitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden

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

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

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

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

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 17

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

Knitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden

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

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

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

Books

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

The Saturday Update: Week 16

The pandemic goes on. My country continues to act in alarming and perplexing ways; not only is there zero chance that I’m ever going to be able to leave self-isolation, but I despair of getting a new kitten. My joints are very ill-behaved and I don’t think that I will be getting that injection of steroids into my hip anytime soon. I used Instacart to buy my groceries for myself this week and the shopper, who wasn’t wearing a mask, substituted my order for fried rice with steaks (?!).  I MISS MACKENZIE SOMETHING AWFUL!!! (sniff) Okay. Enough of that. On a scale of 1-10 I’m somewhere around a 2. I have food, yarn, books, and my garden. I have steak!

Knitting

I’ve been knitting like crazy all week, but I’ve been bouncing around between three projects. Check it out.

I finished the first Sweet & Tartan sock! The designer created 3 different sizes of this sock; each size has a slightly different pattern for the tartan mosaic knit. This sock is the Medium version, and you can find my Ravelry notes here. I added an I-cord topper in the bright pink to the top of the sock after I finished. What do you think: too much or the perfect balance?

This pile of knitted mess is my new V-Neck Boxy sweater. I am now below the arms and the V-neck and am knitting the body in the round. Next stop, many inches from now, will be the bottom ribbing and the bind off. This is the mindless (and boring) part of the sweater, but it is perfect knitting while listening to a book or binge watching Netflix.

As a little break I started knitting the Maya cat. The black mohair yarns will continue to cover up the purple as the halo develops. Right now I’m pretty happy with how it looks.

Garden

Are you tired of my Monster Orchid yet? It just keeps going and going; it has become the centerpiece of my living room and I feel a rush of happiness every time I glimpse it. Much smaller, and no where as showy, is this miniature orchid that I have stationed on the china hutch.

This plant also is really healthy looking and is churning out new air roots while it blooms.

Do you see the new growth emerging on the stem that holds the blooms of this orchid? Yay! I think that we are looking at the beginning of new stew offshoots that will produce more blooms. This plant is an overachiever!! Yay orchid!

There is lots of sunlight coming into my downstairs rooms now and I have moved miniature roses to collect that light. They are really putting out the new growth and are champing at the bit to be let outside. Not yet, roses, as it is still below freezing some nights, but your day is coming soon!

Books

I have to admit that I am in a mood right now. We are living in extreme times and I yearn for clear leadership and well articulated goals. Is it too much to expect long-range planning to deal with the current situation and the next several stages to come with the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic impacts? I’ve had a somewhat less than rosy outlook about what is actually happening because…

I read this book a few years ago and it totally freaked me out!

You are looking at the reason why I bulk buy everything. This book was just gripping in its presentation of the event of the 1918 Influenza pandemic and presented many lessons. Medicine needs to be science based. The suppression of information during a disease outbreak leads to deadly outcomes, and quarantining works. Community actions and public health measures can make enormous differences in outcomes. Pandemics come in waves. Viral mutations are evolutionary events; we can take actions to lower our risks, but biology is relentless, mutations do happen, and assigning blame is pointless. Pandemic planning is all. The identification of the infected and their isolation is an absolute necessity. Some politicians in the US are calling for the country to reopen right now; their logic is that some people need to die in order to maintain our way of life. I wish I could zap this book at them right over the airways to be directly transferred into their brains…

So what am I reading while the news is filled with conflicting and overwhelming news reports?

I’m reading about another time of extreme threat and supreme leadership.

and this novel about extreme political machinations in an environment of unhinged leadership.

Both books are well written, very compelling, and validate my sense of how things should be right now in our time.

Well, that’s all for the week.

Please, please, everyone, be safe!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 15

Big Blue looking in the window of the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado.

It’s right at 8pm here at my home in Colorado, and I’m typing this listening to a cacophony of howls (haroooo….) and fireworks. The Colorado Howl has really taken off as the Covid-19 pandemic heats up in my state; we also made the national news this week as politics interfered in our governor’s efforts to secure us the supplies that we need for Covid-19 patients. There are some serious outbreaks occurring in the state, and the huge convention center in downtown Denver is currently being converted into a field hospital for 2,000 Covid-19 patients in the days to come. I smile to think of Big Blue looking in the window to cheer up patients in the field hospital, but I wish so much that this wasn’t happening. I hope that everyone else is doing okay and had a good week.

Knitting

I’ve been knitting away on a couple of projects at once; one demands my attention and the other is kind of low level knitting. Check them out:

My first Sweet & Tartan sock now has a heel.

Once past the heel the tartan pattern is maintained on the top of the sock and the bottom becomes striped. I’m so enjoying this sock and can’t wait to wear it. I’ve already gone stash shopping to find a few more yarn contenders to make some other Tartan socks.

Most of my time was spent knitting away on the new V-Neck Boxy sweater, although you wouldn’t know it from the heap of stitches…

The V-Neck Boxy sweater is constructed seamlessly from the top down, but it has some interesting features. It starts with the back yoke stitches knit down from the shoulder CO, which are placed on a holder once you are ready to join in the round. The front stitches are then picked up at the original CO at the top of the shoulder, and then down to reach the same point as the back stitches. I like this modular approach since there is kind of a “seam” at the top of the shoulder that gives the sweater more stability when you wear it. I’m now knitting the second front section and soon I’ll have everything all joined up for knitting in the round. Yay!

Garden

It was sunny for most of the week so I took the miniature roses outside for some sunshine excitement. They responded by bursting out some new growth.

Towards the end of the months indoors under the grow lights the miniature roses are really dying for some quality sunlight. Look at how this one responded to just a week of good sunshine.

The orchids are still hanging in there, but the weeping fig tree that I pruned last week is now dropping leaves (!!) and look at what happened in the kitchen…

Remember my excessively cute miniature kale plants?

This week this happened. I overwatered them and they got moldy… There was no saving these little guys. I should have not closed up the little glass house on them.

My miniature African is still hanging in there or the kitchen window sill would be really sad looking.

Books

This week I’ve been reading books with blue covers. 🙂

I still need to finish American Dirt, but it got paused for a while as I was just too sad to read a book about a woman dealing with desperate times last week. I jumped to the newest book by an author that I really like, Jack McDevitt, and cruised right through the latest book in his Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath series. I really like these books. They are fun and kind of unique; Alex runs a business that deals in ancient artifacts of historical significance, and Chase is his starship pilot and girl Friday. There is always a mystery to solve, philosophical questions to answer (What is life? To whom does history belong?), and a cast of interesting characters. The books are set far in the future, and the historical artifacts that Alex pursues are from people and lost colonies/ships that exist far in our future, but long ago in Alex and Chase’s past. There is astronomy in the books; who knew stars and plants could have all of these things happen to them? Chase takes insane risks and wrecks a lot of flyers. Alex is always a couple of steps ahead of Chase in solving mysteries and has a habit of just whipping out significant details when it seems they have run out of leads. Chase serves as a moral compass from time to time. Alex is a celebrity, and Chase writes best selling autobiographies of their adventures. The AI of the interstellar ship is my favorite as she provides the adult voice warning them to not do insane things, and then has to rescue them when they ignore her. You know, like a mom, or those scientists in disaster movies. Can you see why this is a series that I enjoy a lot?

In this book, Octavia Gone, a research station studying a black hole abruptly vanishes, and an artifact with an unknown language is found in the belongings of one of the lost crewmembers. What happened to the station? Where did this artifact come from, and how are they connected? Is it possible that aliens did this? Was the wormhole near the black star involved somehow? As the team chases answers they run into huge moral and ethical conflicts that complicate their investigation: secrets and promises that have unknown consequences.  Eventually they discover what happened to the station, and achieve some resolution to their ethical dilemmas while providing answers to the families of the lost crews.

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.

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!