The Saturday Update: Weeks 11 & 12, 2021

Life has been busy and I’ve really gotten behind on everything. Hannah had her first birthday last week:

Hannah: I’m a big girl now!!

Seriously, I was so busy and worn out over these last two weeks I barely got any reading or knitting done. Adding to the energy drain was my second dose of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and three weather fronts that barreled across the state last week. I am grateful that the snow that these storms dumped was manageable this time, but each one took a toll on my joints and breathing. That’s okay though… did you notice that I got my SECOND VACCINE SHOT!!! This is just huge! I am starting to schedule medical appointments right and left as it is finally time to get some attention for my very badly behaved hip and breathing issues. Bring it, Mother Nature. I am ready to take you on!! The Blue-Faced Zebra is emerging from a year of strict lockdown and is on the move again!!

Also, it is now spring and the birds are back and I am so happy to see green shoots of grass again. It has been a really long year, but it is finally getting a little better.

Knitting

I’ve been pretty sporadic with the knitting and I’m kind of limited to simple stuff right now because my hands are NOT HAPPY with all of the running around and weather events, but still I am making some progress.

My Goldwing sweater is getting longer in the body and I am debating how much more to knit before I start the ribbing at the bottom. I often finish the sleeves at this point and then come back to finish off the body as I’m always running short of yarn, but this time I think I can do things in the usual order as I bought an extra skein of yarn.
I’ve also been working on these simple ribbed socks using yarn that one of my sons gifted me with for Christmas. This yarn is Classic Sock by Spun Right Round in the colorway “Hellbent”. I really wanted this yarn, but it looked awful after I wound it… all brownish and muddy looking with some color sadly peeking out. I stuck the wound cake back into the stash to hide it for a few weeks. Needing a small project to take with me on my adventures out of the house, I pulled the cake out last week and cast on socks; it was already wound and I was in a hurry. As I knitted I fell in love with the yarn again. Now the colors sparkle in the mostly grey field and the brown elements have receded into the background. Who knew that would happen? Today, in the picture, the sock looks mostly pink. This sock yarn has been a learning experience for sure.

Garden

Poor garden. It has been so neglected lately, but the plants are still hanging in there. The best thing that is happening garden-wise are the microgreens that I have growing under the lights with the orchids.

I have been eating lots of microgreens these days. Full of nutrients, easy to digest, lower in fiber, this has been a great thing to add to my diet. These greens are broccoli and taste great; I’ve discovered that they work well added to almost everything so I manage to eat some every day. Take that, scleroderma!! I’m growing them in the Hamama system that I got for Christmas and I just reordered more seed quilts because I’m really liking them.

Books

I finished up several books over the last two weeks; let’s just chat about two of them, okay?

I was so in love with World of Wonders when I started reading it. I just loved the way the author blended her joy with the natural world with her family and life experiences. Then as I read more I began to become less charmed as her interactions with nature seemed more forced and some of the magic was slipping away in her writing. By the end of the book I had gotten over her and was thinking that I could do better job writing about my own love of nature and my blended experiences. The author shared experiences from trips around the world; for me the continual moments of joy that have been my encounters with nature that are truly home grown. I was thinking of all of this as I drove east last week and passed a big herd of pronghorn antelope grazing in the Plains Conservation Center near my house. Pronghorn antelope!! I love pronghorns… I could tell you stories about pronghorns… I hadn’t seen pronghorns for at least three years, and there they were, two large groups, just as I was thinking about writing about my lifelong love of all things biological. It’s a sign. Be prepared for some upcoming “Tales of a Biogeek” on the blog.

Now to chat for a few minutes about We Begin at the End. Why did I read a book with a quote on the cover about breaking readers’ hearts? Oh, it also said that it was impossible to not keep turning the pages. Well, that part was also true. This book, constructed so cleverly that even the most astute mystery reader will miss some of the underlying themes, is a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. The town in this book and the inhabitants are, quite frankly, broken. Badly broken to the point of being almost incapable of functioning, and yet they do somehow. Tragedies in the past have set in motion a series of events that bring unintended consequences that are both catastrophic and ironic for all of the main characters. My heart was broken, but at the same time there was a type of peace and balance in the ending. What a mess these people made of their lives; what a story this book tells. I miss my book group sooo much as this was absolutely a book that should be talked about with other readers.

Hey, did you know that today is National Respect Your Cat day? Yeppers, it is. Here are all the cats in my life in their most “You may now respect me” poses.

Hannah and my Grandkitties Jonesy and Maya will now accept your respect!!

Have a great week everyone!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 9, 2021

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

I got my Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine!!

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

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

Knitting

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

Garden

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

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

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

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

Books

I am completely hooked by this set of mysteries now.

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

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

Postscript:

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

The Saturday Update: Week 8, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week, everyone!!

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

The Saturday Update: Week 4, 2021

It was a crazy, crazy busy week with lots going on. I had medical testing, an online court appearance to give testimony in a neighbor’s custody case, and a nail in one of my car’s tires. My medical status continues unchanged (blue lips, chest pain, shortness of breath), but the machinery to get to the bottom of things is now in motion. The first couple of rounds of testing have generated a referral to cardiology and hopefully that will happen this week. My neighbor won her custody case, and the car tire is now repaired. Whew! I spent the bottom half of the week relaxing with my knitting because I was completely pooped by all of that running around.

The Kitten Mom left me all alone THREE times this week!!

Knitting

I did make some good progress this week in spite of the trips out of the house.

My Geology socks are done!! I’ve decided to try to make at least one pair of socks each month, so these are January’s pair.

I also buckled down and did the blocking and finishing work on my Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) shawl by Sharon from Security (Casapinka). This is the longer shawl version of the project; there were also options to make a cowl or a scarf. Fun color for gloomy days, huh! I’m actually thinking that I may be giving this one away to someone who loves purple and bright colors and a scarf version made with scrap yarn from the stash may be in my future.

It snowed this week I so gave in to the urge and cast on one of the sweaters that I have been dying to get going on. I have wanted to make Goldwing for a long time, and bought the yarn a couple of weeks ago with my stimulus check. Here it is, finally started:

Look at the absolute quality help that I am getting from Hannah!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: The Pulmonary Hypertension Edition

I few weeks ago I posted about my systemic sclerosis, Covid-19, and my decision to donate my DNA to the 23andMe Systemic Sclerosis Research Project. My DNA has safely arrived and is in the lab getting sequenced right now. I was motivated to contribute because Covid-19 is creating so many new patients with fibrosis that may benefit from this research in addition to people like myself with autoimmune disease or people with other fibrotic diseases.

Monday I had an urgent echocardiogram done and once again an eerie connection between my disease, systemic sclerosis, and Covid-19 appeared. My test was started a little late so I asked the technician if things were busy. He told me that they were very busy because there were so many Covid-19 long haulers who needed testing. After a while, thinking things over, I asked if these patients were getting heart damage. “Well, not their heart muscle, but they were developing pulmonary hypertension,” he said. Oh, oh. That is the very reason I was there getting an echocardiogram; as a systemic sclerosis patient I am high risk for pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary arterial hypertension, and I know that those are serious and life altering/ending conditions. After thinking a little longer I asked him how many Covid-19 long haulers were getting that diagnosis. “It’s in double digits,” he replied…

Double digits. At this one medical center in the heart of Denver. That means that there are potentially hundreds and hundreds of patients getting that diagnosis across my state.

I wished that I had thought to ask him how old those patients were…

The next day my rheumatologist called to let me know that I was being referred to cardiology as my echocardiogram results suggested pulmonary hypertension and that further testing was required. There is also an issue with fluid around my heart… It was what I expected, but not exactly what I was looking forward to. The only problem right now is getting me into cardiology, because, all of those Covid-19 long haulers…

It has been impressed on me that I need to double mask now each time I go out into public. I have a nice N95 level mask, but I’m also putting a medical grade mask on top of it.

Be careful, people!!

Stay safe and wear your masks!!

The Saturday Update: Week 26

Week 26?! Do you realize that we are now at the halfway point for the year? I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been just horrendous so far. I do hope that it decides to straighten up and fly right for the second part of the year…

There has been a lot going on for me this week, but I think that I will just start out with the Hannah update. Hannah, who is almost certainly the last kitten that I will raise, is turning out to be the perfect mix of all the cats I have loved in the past. She is affectionate and attached to me, easy to distract and train, smart, talkative, and fearless. She ignores the plants and hasn’t gone after my knitting all week!!

She is particularly fond of little stuffed toys that she can fling around and carry from room to room in her mouth. 

Okay, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. She climbs into the refrigerator and dishwasher every time I open them.  She started climbing the screen door and curtains today. She pestered me to wake up this morning because she wanted me to turn off the oxygen machine so she could play downstairs… I’m hoping that that doesn’t turn into a thing! Still, I am so happy to have my little buddy now that it appears that Covid-19 won’t be going away any time soon in my part of the world.

Knitting

I’m making some progress on my socks! The first sock is done, and now I’m cruising through the second sock. I’m focusing on small projects that I can quickly stuff into a project bag because… kitten!!

Look at how much progress I’ve made!

I really like the way the knitted fabic looks!

I love the stripes so much that I’ve been daydreaming and trying to work out how to knit tipless gloves by adapting my usual fingerless mitt pattern to put on the half fingers. Wanting to maximize the amount of leftover yarn I dug through the stash and located the purple yarn that I’m using for the heel and toe portions of the socks. I’m pretty pleased with the look, and now I’m wondering how to incorporate the purple into the gloves. My Ravelry notes are here.

Garden

The week has been one of gloomy afternoons and thunderstorms. Luckily I haven’t had damaging wind or hail, and the roses continue to strut their stuff. My Princess Alexandra of Kent rose in particular continues to shine.

This rose is a David Austin English rose and I keep thinking that I should get some more. My neighbors and I fixed the fences this summer, so maybe those new fences should have some climbing roses planted near them. Something to think about. I really like yellow roses…

Books

I finished The Mirror & The Light this week. I hardly know what to say. This is a rich, rich book that will continue to haunt me in the weeks to come and I may need to read the entire Wolf Hall trilogy again. Maybe it is because I am entering my fourth month of isolation, and I have lots of time on my hands to reflect on things, but the richness of the characters and the subtle connections of the past to the present as the story plays out, but never really ends, are just astounding. Cromwell ponders on how images painted in the past bleed through new paint to show in the present as he remembers violent actions in his past.  Memories of his years as a soldier rise as he marches into meetings and dinners. Near the end of his life, imprisoned in the Tower of London, he recaptures that transformative moment, broken and bloodied in the street, when he abandoned his childhood to launch on the path to who he was now. At the start of this book one of the standout lines is, “if you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?” At Cromwell’s own beheading there is a sense of truth and transition again; I was dreading the end of the book, but you know what, it was actually hopeful and a befitting closure to a great life.

After a book like that, what next? Science fiction, of course! I launched right into a fun little space military opera that is a three book series and I’m happily working my way through it.

There are a number of characters who are slowly being developed and connected as the story line progresses. There was a war. One planet lost. The losers are suffering under harsh peace treaty stipulations. There is some type of rebellion brewing. I sniff corporate greed and political machinations on the horizon. Must keep reading…

Quilting

Look at this! A new category just appeared again. This week has been kind of tough on me joint-wise, and I have finally made myself admit that I need to lay off the knitting for a while. Okay, my joints are really kicking up a fuss, and my shoulder is the biggest complainer. Sigh. It’s like all of the tendons and ligaments are under attack at once, and my drugs aren’t keeping up any more. I’m already on a lot of drugs, and in the world of Covid I’m fearful of getting steroid injections into the worse joint complainers because it increases my immunosuppressive load. Scleroderma, you need to behave yourself!! Anyway, I need to lay off the knitting, so I dived into my endless stash of “projects that I want to make someday” and…. pulled out a really cute art quilt!

This is the first block of an eight block quilt. 

This is the first block to build “Calling Me Home” by McKenna Ryan. The picture is built by tracing the pattern onto little bits of fabric that are then fused together. No sewing at all until I get the whole quite top put together. I’m thinking that my shoulder can handle this…

All of these little bits of fabric, to be exact.

It’s like an adventure! All I have to do is figure out which little fabric bit goes with what. Luckily I have that picture to help guide me. This is going to be a little like building a jigsaw puzzle! I hope that Hannah behaves herself while I’m cutting all of the pieces out.

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 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 8

Knitting

Have I mentioned that it has been snowing a lot here in Colorado? I have several projects on the needles at the moment, but my feet were cold Sunday night and I needed more bed socks of the cashmere persuasion right away! I hit the stash, found a nice cashmere blend yarn from Western Sky Knits, and hunted around for the pattern I used for a previous pair. Oh, yeah. The pattern is in a book that is full of wonderful socks: Socktopus by Alice Yu, and the pattern is Om Shanti Bed Socks. Once I had the pattern, book and needles located I cast on and got to business; two days later I had my socks!

How cute are these? The socks are knit toe up with an unusual treatment that allows the perfect shaping in garter stitch that is repeated in the heel. I like the lace even though it messed with my head while I was doing it, and I added the garter to the top of the sock to make things look even. My project notes are here.

Do you like the slight haziness of the picture? That’s because I had a big, fat fingerprint across the lens of the camera on my phone. Sigh. Anyway, you can almost imagine how comfy they are on my feet just looking at them, right? The lace makes the sock hug my foot and they are just perfect to keep them warm while I try to fall asleep. These socks are knit on a larger gauge then you would usually use for a sock, so they aren’t tough, but they are comfy!! I couldn’t help but drool over all of the nice patterns in the Socktopus book and I’m thinking that I will be making some more socks from the book before it goes back on the shelf.

MacKenzie really likes the mohair and sock yarn mix that is making the fabric of the sweater.

MacKenzie and I continued to work on the Pebble Tunic and made some good progress on that too this week. The construction is top down in an interesting fashion; the back is completed to the bottom of the armhole, then the front is knit to match. I’m now on the front knitting down to the point where the two sides will be attached to knit in the round. MacKenzie is not impressed… he just wants the sweater to be a blankie for him while he naps.

Garden

This must be starting to become a little old for all of you… I have some orchids blooming. I’m really kind of childish about them; every morning I rush to the craft room to see if I have a new bloom. Anyway, the miniature orchid opened its first bloom this week and the monster orchid has buds forming that are just… well… they are monstrous! I can’t wait for one of them to open… any day now!

Here are the four bloomers. 

Here is the new bloomer. It is my smallest plant and the magenta bloom is a perfect addition to the garden. I’m not sure, but there appear to be two more stems emerging from the main stem holding the buds below this flower. Yay! Blooms all spring!!

As soon as the monster orchid blooms I will post the picture!

Books

I finished The Water Dancer last night and I’m still thinking about the book. Sometimes I’m not sure I liked it all that much, but at other moments I am sure that it may be one of the most impactful books I’ve read in a while. It is a book about slavery, freedom, the eternal harm of broken families, and the power of purpose and mission. There is cruelty and loss. There is magic. There is the peace of freedom and reunions. There is an enduring question: what is a good life? When I got to the end I thought: this is the end?! Later on I decided that the ending was actually pretty darn good. This book will stay with me for quite some time.

This is Black History Month here in the US, which contributed to my choice to read this book right now.

The plantation in this book is set in Virginia on the eastern coast of the United States. The plantation in this book is dying as the soil is exhausted and the crops are no longer productive enough to maintain operations; owners are going west to the state of Tennessee, and slaves are sold or relocated as operations ship to the new state. Tennessee. My dad’s family was from Tennessee, and I know that my dad was born and raised on a farm. There was that story about the runt piglet that he made a house pet out of, and the time the cow came down with rabies… Out of idle curiosity I googled my maiden name and the word “plantation” to see if I would get a hit.

Suddenly Black History Month took on a whole new meaning for me. There was a return on the search that told me that there was, indeed, a plantation that carried my maiden last name. It is located in North Carolina just below the border with Virginia, the location of this book. There are testimonials from slaves with my last name in the National Archives. There is a town that has my last name, and it is located in an area of North Carolina with a lot of Dutch influence, which matches my maiden last name’s history. I know that my father’s family relocated to Tennessee from an eastern seaboard state. The history of America that is in this book is part of my history, too.

Suddenly the book had a lot more meaning for me. I am crushed. I am full of sorrow. I am only responsible for the actions of my own life, but I am burdened now by the thought that the pain, struggle, need for autonomy, and recognition of personhood that these slaves lived is also part of my history. I was raised in another part of the United States, California, and live and worked in integrated communities, but my roots on my father’s side go back to this.

I mentioned The Water Dancer last month to another member of my book club as one we might want to read. “Oh,” she said dismissively, looking at the book, “I think we should only read books by authors whose names we can pronounce.” Seriously? Ta-Nehisi Coates is not a big deal. Just sound it out!! You should have a last name like mine, or a chronic disease that no one can pronounce (scleroderma). Whatever. I took her comment to be racist or xenophobic.

I let it go. I wish now I had not. I’m glad I read the book, I’m not happy that I did that google search, but now I’m on the hunt for the story of my family in America. Ancestry.com, here I come.

The Saturday Update: Week 1

Have you ever gotten to the end of a week and wondered what you had accomplished? Yep. Me, too. As a New Year’s resolution I’m going to try to do a weekly update every Saturday about all the little things that were going on that week. You know, all the stuff that has to do with yarn, books and my garden. Here’s the first update.

Knitting

I just made the best socks in the world! I’m not kidding, these babies are just great! I’m talking about the Snowshoe Socks by Emily Foden that I knit this week. What is nice about them, you ask? I’m so glad you wanted to know: they are heavier socks that are knit by holding two fingering strands together. One strand needs to have nylon in it, but the other can be a softer yarn like 100% superwash merino or maybe something with cashmere. I have a lot of yarns that I bought to feed the stash thinking that they would be great shawls or whatever someday. Right. Those yarns are still lurking in the stash laughing at me. I can now use them to make socks when combined with a tough sock yarn. Together the two fingering yarns make a marled DK yarn that blends through the sock as you swap in different fingering yarns. This can be a stash buster or you can just use 2 yarns that you love marled together. The pattern is simple and pretty easy to adapt if you need to. My project notes for this sock are here.

The navy and gold are yarns that I had left over from previous sweater projects. I hate yarn chicken, so I always have an extra skein of yarn. The light blue mix is yarn that I bought to feed the stash. A year later I’m still wondering what to use it with. Since it went with the other two yarns I decided to use it as the main yarn with the other two jumping in and out.

The gold yarn has some cashmere and both the navy and the gold contain nylon. The light blue multi is 100% superwash merino and could never survive as a sock on its own. This strategy allows it to become a sock by hanging out with the other two yarns. It’s kind of mysterious, but the resulting fabric is much better than a sock just knit from DK yarn. I think that the twisting of the two sock yarns plus the added nylon makes the difference as you knit.

Look at the cool fabric that is being produced by these three yarns in combo.

Here they are all finished up: hearty socks that are amazingly warm, soft and kind to my feet right when I need a little help to get through the winter.

In spite of gloves with mittens over them I lost circulation in my hands and feet while trying to get into the grocery store… this is Raynaud’s.

What’s up with my feet? Ugh. Where to start. I haven’t made too big a deal about it, but I’ve been struggling to walk for a year now and finally have transitioned from limping, to using crutches, to mastering a snazzy purple cane. The opposite foot to the bad hip has developed a slew of problems of its own and now needs to be babied also. My toes hurt and need to be cushioned. The fat  that people usually have on the bottoms of their feet is now gone on mine (thanks, scleroderma) and I’m walking on the bones of the outer side of my foot and they are not happy campers at all. I’m developing benign tumors in the big tendon on the bottom of my foot (the plantar fascia), and to top it all off I struggle with loss of circulation in my toes because of the cold. Not to worry, people, I am a knitter and these socks are going to be big helps for me in the weeks and months of cold weather to come. Bring it, winter, I am ready for you!! Note to self: knit more of these socks!!

Garden

The first orchid plant has started blooming! This is a plant that puts out lots of smaller blooms. Four more orchid plants have growing stems and those flowers will be larger. I can’t wait to see what the color of the blooms will be: you’d think I’d keep notes, but no, this is going to be an adventure. I’m pretty sure I’m in for purples and rosy gold blooms.

All of the orchids are thriving under the indoor growth lights that I bought for them last winter and I gave them more fertilizer and a spritz of Neem oil this week. I felt sorry for a couple of little roses that were still in the garage and brought them into the indoor garden. To thank me for taking pity on them they gifted me with white fly: those brats!! Everyone got sprayed with Neem and we’ll see if that does the trick.

Books

This is why my socks were completed in three days flat!!

I’m trying to listen to audiobooks more while knitting, and I started this one early in the week while knitting in bed with MacKenzie. Good lord! Don’t start this book if you don’t have time to put your life on hold while obsessively reading (or listening) it from cover to cover. It’s compelling. It’s horrifying. It’s best described as a psychological thriller that involves a cult-like psychopath, abused and abandoned children, a murder mystery, lies, poisons, inheritances, families lost and found, or a take home lesson to not let strangers come live with you. Okay, this is flat out unbelievable and more than a little disturbing, and the characters aren’t all that likable, but you can’t help feeling like, maybe, this could actually happen… I read this book for my book club and I can’t wait to go talk to some other people about it.

I’ve been thinking of Australia this week. If you are there, please stay safe. I feel awful complaining about cold while you are suffering through extreme heat and fire behavior. Hugs to all of you.

A Month of Crutches and Panic Knitting: The Destash Project Update

It really has been a quiet month for me as I’ve been more housebound than usual as I slowly recover from bursitis and tendonitis in one (thank heavens only one!) hip. I’ve been doing my physical therapy, faithfully using my crutch whenever I have to do any prolonged walking (like going to the grocery store), and even started a gym membership so I can start on the reclined bike for the prescribed 5 minute workouts. It helps that it has been cold and I’ve been very motivated to get some projects done. I cleaned up my sewing room and started on some quilts, joined another book club, and began some serious panic knitting to get my yarn destash project back on track after a disastrous September shopping spree.

I entered the month with only 33.5 skeins out of the stash, and my goal is 50 skeins out of the stash before the end of the year. Yikes! I settled into the knitting chair, started an audiobook and began to catch up on knitting projects every afternoon into the evening.

I had two sweaters that were close to completion at the start of the month: the Climb Every Mountain (upper left) and the Koivua (upper right). I finished them up rather quickly (3 skeins used) and then cranked out the Understated sweater (bottom right) in less than two weeks, using up 6 skeins in the effort. Pretty productive!

This week I pulled out several skeins of yarn that were kind of rustic (not superwash), paired then with some mohair that I’ve had stashed forever and make MacKenzie (my very spoiled and demanding cat) a cushy padded sleeping blanket in three days flat while a series of cold fronts dumped a foot of snow and drove temperatures into single digits. It helped that I used big needles and 4 strands of yarn held together for the project.

Another 7.5 skeins of yarn used!!

I also managed to polish off a couple pairs of socks (very simple, mash-up socks that are winter workhorses…) that aren’t all that much to look at, but they used up another couple skeins of yarn.

See what I mean? These are just simple ribbed socks with a sturdy heel.

I have a couple of other projects on the needles at the moment, a cowl and another sweater that will take me through next month, and then before I know it I will be at the end of the year. The destash project kind of hangs over me so I have been knitting steady.

This sweater got started this evening and should really use up most of my Heilo stash. I have 20 skeins of the Heilo, so I have been saving this sweater back as kind of a ringer for the destash project. This is Barn from the book Knits About Winter (Emily Foden). It will be nice and warm for me as winter weather really arrives in the weeks to come.

This evening I totaled up the skeins used this month on my little spreadsheet (yes, I am that big of a geek!) and to my shock the total now is…

52 skeins!!!

I have made it! The destash goal is polished off and I will be way over it when I finish the Barn sweater. Whew! I can now shift attention to getting more sewing done and maybe even will be able to spin a little or do some weaving before Christmas if the hip behaves itself. Maybe bake some cookies. You know, go wild with the relief of having made my goal. Who knew that bursitis, tendonitis, and being on crutches for a few weeks would turn out to be a blessing in disguise? Every cloud does have a silver lining after all!

I will, however, be staying out of the yarn store until the end of the year! No more slips, no more slips, no more slips (chant along with me, people!), no more slips…

May your knitting be good, your books exciting, your chronic illnesses (if you are a member of that club with me) well behaved, and all your New Year’s resolutions met. Have a great weekend, everyone.

MacKenzie Speaks: First Day of Fall

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats says that the seasons changed today and that fall has arrived. Whatever. Is that a type of cookies?

The Mother of Cats and I went outside to water all of the plants today and I must say that the flowers all look the same to me, and the squirrels are as frisky as ever, but there IS something going on with the trees…

The leaves are starting to look funny!! 

I’m not sure why fall is a big deal, but the Mother of Cats is knitting faster then ever. She says crazy stuff like Winter is Coming! and I need more sweaters! The Mother of Cats can be really confusing sometimes… Anyway, she worked like crazy over the weekend and look at what she got finished:

That’s right. Soft fluffy cashmere blend mash-up socks. 

If the Mother of Cats loved me she would let me have these socks to put in my bed, but NOPE! she won’t take them off her feet. Why is the Mother of Cats so very selfish? She says that they are for her to sleep in on cold nights, but it isn’t even a little cold and she is wearing them right now. Selfish Mother of Cats!! I want my own cashmere sleeping socks, too!! Well, I want them to sleep on, but you get the idea.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

These socks are a mash up of three other socks patterns. The details are on my Ravelry project page.

Check out the garter stitch heel on these babies. They aren’t sturdy, but boy are they soft, comfy, and warm! Look at that cashmere halo on them!

To MacKenzie’s disgust I haven’t started knitting the second sleeve on my Koivua sweater. I went crazy and cast on another sweater. It’s too soon to talk about it, but here’s a teaser showing off the knitted fabric and one of the stitch markers I made to go with it.

I had to start this sweater right away because it kind of screams “Fall!” Seriously. I need this sweater immediately. I’ll get that other sleeve finished before the end of the month…

Happy Fall, everyone!