Ups and Downs

It’s been a tiring day. Had a bunch of running around I had to do when I’d rather be sitting at home knitting.  C’est la vie.  My first stop this morning was at my mom’s and she told me that my cousin EJ, the one we stay with when we go down to Pearland, had called to say that her older brother (my mom’s nephew) BY had passed earlier this morning.  He had been in poor health for some time, in and out of  hospital and rehab places.  Very sad.  Cousin though he was to me, there was a pretty big age difference (not just between me and him, but between his mother and my mother), and I did not know him anywhere as well as my mom did.  Mom knew him from when she still lived down there, and from when he and his younger sisters were kids.

The new kitchen light fixtures are in as of Tuesday, I love them, and they put out more light than the old ones did, so total win.

I was doing a  worked-on-the- diagonal “washcloth” from cotton thread, had been working on it for some time at knitting group, it had mistakes in it, was too big, and  Wednesday, I frogged it.  Restarted it.  Realized I hadn’t finished writing the pattern for it. Can’t finish writing the pattern for it until I finish it.  Sigh.

This is the yarn I’m using for the cobblestone lace shawl I also haven’t finished writing the pattern for.  I’ve got two skeins of this stuff, but that’s OK.  I love the color and it has a nice hand.   I’ve got to wind another ball out of it for the garter stitch lace shawl I’m doing.   What I don’t use in that shawl I’ll use in something else.  I’ve got the increases and the decreases (it’s a triangular shawl knitted sideways), but there’s a transition bit in the center that goes behind the neck.  The way the stitch pattern of the body works is that it’s got to have two rows with an even number of stitches, and then two rows with an odd number of stitches, which you get by increasing/decreasing 1 stitch every other row.  I’ve yet to work out how to get the odd/even stitch count without a net gain or loss in stitch count.  I think I know but I’ll have to sit down and do a test piece to be sure.  Which I haven’t done.

It’s been a long day.  I’m tired.  I’m going to bed.  Night, y’all.

Popcorn Shrimp For Breakfast

I woke up craving breaded shrimp to the point I could almost taste it.  I had a package of frozen popcorn shrimp in the freezer, so I fired up the oven and cooked it, snarfed them down with tartar sauce, and it was so good.  Had some cole slaw with.  Thing is, whenever I strongly crave a food like that, I choose to interpret it as my body’s way of telling me it needs some nutrient(s) that food contains, and I try to obtain and eat that food if I can.

I finished the body portion of my modified Cable Edge Shawl yesterday and I’ve started putting the edging on.   When you finish the body, you don’t cut the working yarn.  Right after the last stitch of the body, you do a knitted cast on of 22 stitches and start the edging, joining it right onto the body of the shawl (at left) with ssk’s.  You have to have a long (32 inches or more) circular needle to knit this shawl because when you start the edging, you have the 260 live stitches of the bottom edge of the body, plus the 22 edging stitches you cast on at the end of that row all on one needle. The edging pattern has a 16-row repeat.  I quickly discovered that there are two rows that have a yo (yfwd) right before a C6B cable cross, and you have to pay close attention that you don’t drop the yo as you are shifting the three stitches off onto the cable needle to hold behind your work.  Found that out the hard way.  Because it’s lace, and the lace has a scalloped edge, the number of stitches in the edging varies from row to row, so if you do drop that yo, you’ll catch it on the very next row — but it’s still a PITA to have to go back and fix.

I am definitely going to have to get another couple packages of dental floss, what with two shawls needing lifelines.  I go get my teeth cleaned Monday; I may ask the hygienist if she has some free samples she’ll give me.  I’ve got a bunch of other running around I’ve got to do Monday as well, including a Walmart run.  Monday will be a busy day.

I can’t work on the Cable Edged Shawl at my computer any more because it’s too hard to consistently mark my place in the edging pattern when the pattern is being displayed on a computer screen.

I scrounged out a UFO* (a small baby afghan) I had tucked in the bag I take to knitting group, got out my big ball bowl, and I’m working on that at the computer now.  It’s a baby afghan sized to work with a baby carrier/car seat.

(A crib sized afghan is just too big and impractical.)  It’s a really simple pattern (the body pattern is just a two-row repeat– TV knitting at its finest!) with stockinette stripes on one side (above) and a pebbly texture on the other (at right).

The picture  above right is more color true to the shade of minty green yarn I’m using.   It’s an acrylic yarn — I never use anything but acrylic yarn for baby stuff.  In the first place, it’s hypoallergenic.  In the second place, it doesn’t stain, and in the third place, it’s machine washable.  Besides, the baby’s not going to be able to wear whatever it is for very long anyway before it’s outgrown. I can’t see spending big bucks on some fancy-schmantzy, “artisanal” snob yarn, plus the time and effort to make the garment, and then have the little tyke come unfed on it and stain it down the front.  And what mom with a new baby that’s keeping her up all night is going to appreciate having baby stuff with “special care instructions” to hand wash it in Woolite in the sink and spread flat to dry?  (or worse, have to pay for and fool with having to have it dry cleaned!)

This yarn I’m using came in a big one-pound skein.  I don’t like to cut the big skeins up to make smaller balls unless it has already been been knotted in the skein (which happens),  but I lucked out and there were no knots in this skein.   Even though it winds up into a huge ball (whence the need for a “big ball bowl” in the first place), an unknotted skein means I can make the whole afghan from one continuous, unbroken strand of yarn. Besides, I have a big ball bowl . . .


*UFO – UnFinished Object.

A Busy Tuesday

The “Oz water” guy was supposed to come today at 2 pm to change the filters on the reverse osmosis water unit under my sink that supplies the drinking water tap, and I needed to take out garbage, empty the dishwasher, put the dirty dishes that had already accumulated into the emptied dishwasher, and wash at least one load of clothes today.  I wanted to make a bowl of chicken salad and I also needed to call the AC guy to come check out the AC and get it ready for summer (and finally remembered to actually do it on the day with a high of 90 F/32.2 C) . And then planned to (and did) go to knitting group tonight.

I’ve still got to call the electrician to replace the kitchen light fixtures because they keep blowing light bulbs, but before I do that, I’ve got to buy a pair of replacement fixtures so that I will have design input into the process and to make sure they have the same footprint as the old ones. (I will then deduct the cost of the fixtures from my next month’s rent by prior agreement with my landlady.)

I ate breakfast at the computer, reading blogs, watching videos, and playing games until nearly noon.  Of course by the time I had corralled the garbage and was ready to schlep it out to the dumpster, it was hot out.  I had cleaned out and shredded a bunch of files in my filing cabinet, and had three big bags of shreddings, and boxes from a pole lamp besides the contents of every wastebasket in the house and it took three trips.  I was going to start in on the dishwasher, but the Oz water guy came early.  It didn’t take him 20 minutes to do what he needed to do to maintenance the unit, I scribbled something “signature-looking” on his iPhone with my index finger, and ticked him off as “done” on the to-do list.

I got the clean dishes emptied out of the dishwasher and the dirty ones put in.  Then I remembered to call the AC guy.  He was on a job but he said he could stop by after he’d finished it, and that he would give me a call when he was on his way.  So then I started a load of clothes, sat down and watched TV a while and knitted on the Malguri Morning shawl I’m making for me, because after schlepping garbage in the hot sun, emptying the clothes hamper, hauling the clothes from one end of the house to the other, and starting the washer, I needed a sit-down.

Long about 3 p.m. I decided to perform chicken salad and gathered the ingredients and utensils required.  I diced the chicken into bite-sized pieces,  diced a small white onion, diced two kosher dill spears, drained and added a small can of mixed peas and carrots, added most of a small can of chopped black olives and cut up a heaping handful of cherry tomatoes into either halves or quarters depending on the size of the tomato.  Since it had all those vegetables in, it really was a chicken salad.  I dressed it with a big squirt of Ranch dressing and two (serving) spoonfuls of mayonnaise and put it in the fridge to chill.

By then the AC guy had called and it was time to take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer which I had just finished doing when he arrived.  He had to add coolant, changed the filter (which I had neglected to do), and made sure the condensation drain was draining freely.  (Wouldn’t have mattered today if it wasn’t.  Our humidity was 5%.)  By then it was sneaking up on 4 o’clock.  I made a sandwich with my chicken salad and ate that while watching TV, then demolished a pint of vanilla cinnamon gelato for dessert. After he left, I hung up the clothes out of the dryer, but I still haven’t folded up the rest of the load (socks, unmentionables, singlets, and kitchen hand towels), nor taken the hung up clothes back to the bedroom closet, which will likely get done mañana.

During the day, HGTV does “binge watches”running multiple back-to-back episodes of various of their main lineup programs.  I had the TV on this  afternoon because today was “binge watch afternoon” for a favorite program, “Fixer Upper, which is shot in and around Waco, Texas, (about a six-hour drive southeast from where I live in the TX flatlands, and almost exactly halfway between Dallas and Austin).  The Waco area is gradually becoming gentrified from both directions, up from Austin and down from the Dallas Metroplex area, and in each episode, this couple (she’s an interior designer, he’s a building contractor) find and renovate a house in Waco or one of the surrounding towns for a client, with the big reveal at the end of the program.   Waco is located on the banks of the Brazos River. (My cousin WM has some ranch land beside the Brazos much further downstream (Rosharon, which is southwest of Houston), and has nearly gotten flooded out by the river two years in a row what with the heavy rains in 2016 and Hurricane Harvey last year.)  The area surrounding Waco is still largely rural — farming and ranching — and while it’s north and east of the hill country, it’s still considered to be part of “bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) country” in central Texas.

I did go to knitting group (I nipped out during commercials to brush my teeth and change clothes so I could finish watching the “Fixer Upper”  episode that ended at 6 p.m. and still get to knitting group on time).  I worked on the body of my modified version of the Cable Edged Shawl and helped a beginning knitter — showed her how to start a new row, helped her with technique, gave her some tips and pointers, etc.   My friend LB was there.  I hadn’t seen her in several weeks and we had a nice long visit.  She has learned stranded color work knitting, — which I intend to learn once I’ve finished all three shawls I’m working on! — and brought several hats she’d made using Fair Isle patterns.

The trick to doing stranded color work is to be able to manipulate the working yarn with either hand, so you can hold both colors of yarn at the same time, one in each hand.  If you only hold the working yarn in one hand, you have to keep dropping one color yarn and picking up the other color yarn every time you change colors,  It’s inefficient, laborious and time consuming. With a color in each hand, it goes much faster and it looks way cool. The hangup is that I need to teach myself how to hold the yarn in my right hand the same way I hold it in my left, which means I have to also learn to control stitches as they shift from left-hand needle to right-hand needle with my middle finger instead of my index finger.  In order to do this, I have to acquire a new set of fine motor skills and build them into muscle memory, which takes a good bit of practice to master.  Then, the way is open to do two single-color socks at the same time on the same needles, one inside the other, which is mind-blowingly cool.  Once I start this process, it’s going to occupy my knitting agenda for at least a month while I perfect the technique.  That’s why I want to finish these three shawls and clear the deck before I start in on it.

I’ve got 3 more rows to do on the modified Cable Edged Shawl to complete the body portion, and then I can begin putting on the border, which is attached as you knit it because every other row, you ssk together a live stitch from the bottom edge of the shawl body to a live stitch on the border.  Once I start putting the border on, I won’t be able to work on it at my computer any more because, while the shawl body is essentially TV knitting*, the border has a complicated 16 line lace and cable pattern repeat. I will not be able to divide my attention between following the border pattern repeat and doing anything else like blog reading or watching a video, without a high risk of totally screwing up the lace pattern.  I’d better pick up another roll of dental floss.

Tomorrow, I’m going to have to make myself sit down and do some serious adulting.  I’ve got a bunch of financial forms I’ve got to locate, fill out and then take to where they’re supposed to go.  I should have done it last week but I hate filling out paperwork and I keep putting it off.  While I’m out, I’ll pick up the two new light fixtures for the kitchen so I can call the electrician and get him to switch them out.  Then I will reward myself for all the adulting I’ll have done today and tomorrow by starting the border on the modified Cable Edged Shawl.


*TV knitting -- a knitting project that has a very short, simple pattern, or one that involves a short, uncomplicated pattern repeat that can be easily learned and followed without paying much attention to it, so that you can easily divide your attention between knitting and doing something else, like watching TV, with a relatively low risk of messing up what you're knitting.

Easing into a Saturday Evening

What with one thing and another, I decided to coddle myself today. We’re having roller-coaster weather (for months now) — it warms up to the 80’s F/26 C then cools down into the 60’s F/ 15 C, then warms up again, and cools down again.  We’re in a trough at the moment and it’s a little nippy (high of 70 F/21 C today, predicted low of 36 F/2.2 C tonight).  Later in the week, we’re heading for a predicted high of 90 F/32.2 C on Monday, then back down into the 70’s again. . .  It’s still bone dry with no precipitation and a humidity of 18%, and we’re under a wildfire watch because it’s windy (22 mph/35.4 kph).

I got a late start to the day because I had a good long lie-in, not stirring out of my snuggly warm bed until noon.  Didn’t have to get up, didn’t want to get up, so I didn’t.   I had cinnamon toast for breakfast, and made a big carafe of hot Stash Spiced Chai with almond milk, followed not long after by a can of Amy’s Kitchen vegetable soup for lunch which was major nummy-noms.  (Amy’s Kitchen has a line of Mexican frozen entrees which I love, and I saw they had soups, so I got some to try.  This is the first one I’ve tried and I really like it.) The bread I was using for toast is “artisan,” which is to say, it is fresh-baked in the store from frozen dough, and is sold as “English toasting bread.” It’s a white bread with a nice taste and some substance to it — it doesn’t dissolve into library paste like the crap the Big Bread companies pass off as white bread. (Wonder Bread! — if there’s any real food value in it, it’s a wonder!) This stuff toasts up nice and crisp, so I had two more pieces with just margarine on to go with my soup.

Blue Diamond packages their almond milk in little quart packages that don’t need refrigeration, and that have a nice long shelf life, which I really like.  I don’t use that much “milk,” just on cereal and in tea. (I do not like cow’s milk and it doesn’t like me either.  The only actual “dairy” I eat is yogurt, cheese and the odd bit of gelato or ice cream.)  I like being able to keep a couple of cartons of it in the cupboard without having to sweat the “use by” date.  I get the vanilla flavor because the vanilla makes it sweet enough I don’t need to add sugar to my cereal (Kashi Cinnamon Harvest), and I like it in tea — Spice Chai, Earl Grey, English Breakfast — both hot and cold.

I noshed my soup while at the computer working jigsaw puzzles I created from pictures of Anne Bachelier‘s paintings which I’ve downloaded off her blog to make puzzles with.  I love her stuff.  I just took it easy, listening to SomaFM’s Drone Zone music channel, eating my soup and toast, drinking my chai and almond milk, and working this puzzle of one of Anne Bachelier’s paintings, with her wonderful palette and magical-surrealist imagery, and it was very, very nice.   Just a total chill out.  Nice way to spend a lazy Saturday.

I leave you with this little parting shot:  In searching out links, I ran across this clip from my man Sam Elliott.  What he has to say about almond milk struck me as LOL funny.  Be warned, though.  He drops a couple of F-Bombs, too, if that kind of language bothers you.

Life Has Been Keeping Me Too Busy To Blog

Sorry for the unintended hiatus.  As I noted, I have been having some health problems, which have not been helped by having had some adverse reactions to some new drugs my docs seem to think I need to take — not very nice side effects which necessitated changing things around.  That took about two weeks to get sorted out, and things were smoothing out and settling down.  Then out of the blue, I had a violently allergic reaction to something.  I ended up in the ER with hives and ITCHING from one end of me to the other.  Not fun.  I was taking several new meds and we didn’t know which might be the culprit that caused the reaction. I had to stop taking everything except two meds I’ve been taking for years that I was in the middle of bottles of, so I knew they were unchanged, and one I couldn’t stop taking.  I had to wait about a week to make sure that one new one was OK, which it was.  Then, one at a time, I added each new one back in until I identified the culprit.  Turned out it wasn’t one of the new meds after all.  The manufacturer of a supplement I’ve been taking for years decided to change the type of capsule they put it in to some kind of “vegetable capsule” to which I was wildly allergic.  Thankfully, I was able to find another manufacturer that put theirs in gelatin capsules, as it’s a supplement that makes my life a lot easier when I take it.

And then there was the matter of getting my car fixed. It did take right at two weeks and the guy’s insurance had to pony up over $4000, but Big Daddy got’er done.  I got a rental “loaner” to drive while it was being fixed, a little 2018 Chevy miniSUV, but it was one of those “keyless” ones.  So long as you have the little remote thingie in your purse or pocket, you can unlock the car by just opening the door and start the car by just pushing a button.  But I’ve got the Greyola back now, all fixed up, and my ride is back to normal again.   I missed it.

Not much to report in the knitting news, I’m afraid.  I’ve been batting around so much dealing with one issue and another that I haven’t had much peace and quiet to sit down and enjoy a good knit except when I’ve been at the computer.  I’ve got probably another 15-20 rows on the body of my (slightly modified) cable edged shawl (above) before I get it to the point where I’m ready to start the cable edging. As for the other one, I simply haven’t had the concentration it takes to work on it.  Thank goodness I’ve had the discipline to put in my lifelines after every pattern repeat, as I had to frog out a repeat and a half the last time I tried to work on it.

There’s a new Sebastian St. Cyr Regency murder mystery out by C. S. Harris (#13 in the series), and I’m reading up onto it from #7 to refresh my memory.  (Each of the books is stand alone, so you can start with any book in the series, but the reading experience is greatly enhanced by reading them in the (chronological) order in which they were written.)  The books  are well written and meticulously researched, and the characters are very three-dimensional and engaging.  One of the things I like about the books is that Harris sets her works, not in the romanticized glittering Regency of the romance novel, or the sequestered, self-contained world of Jane Austen, but in the gritty historical reality that was the Regency period in England (1811–1820) — warts and all —  the crime, the poverty, the inequities of the class system and the legal system, and the aristocratic attitudes and privileges that reinforce the status quo.

Another of the things I like about her books is that she sets them within their historical context, both in Europe and America.  Leading up to the period in which the novels are set was the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the loss of the American colonies, as well as the social upheavals of the French Revolution, which began in 1789, and the subsequent influx of French refuges into Britain fleeing the Reign of Terror.  During the time the books take place, Britain is fighting Napoleon on the continent (1803-1815).  In the first book, the hero, Sebastian St. Cyr, formerly a captain in the Duke of Wellington‘s army fighting against Napoleon in Spain and Portugal, has sold his commission and returned to England.  In one of the books, a plot point involves the British practice of stopping American merchant ships at sea and impressing American sailors off them into the British navy, one of the causes of the War of 1812, and we briefly meet Franklin, fils.   Another mentions a popular new novel called Pride and Prejudice, by the (at that time unknown) author of Sense and Sensibility,  and a certain black cat finally acquires a name.  Another involves a 3-year-old boy who will grow up to write a poem called “The Lady of Shalott.”   At the end of each book is an Author’s Note, in which Harris, who has a Ph.D. in 18th and 19th century European history, tells you what is actual history and what she changed, added, or manipulated to serve her plot — which is usually very little.  She also provides sources where you can read more about the particular issues or events featured in the plot.  Though the man character is a man, one of the historical themes that weaves through all her books is the issue of women’s status and women’s rights in Regency England and the roles society demanded that women play.  These themes are highlighted not only in plot points and the characters they involve, but are “made flesh” in one of my favorite characters in the books, a certain grey-eyed young lady named Hero.

You can read the Sebastian St. Cyr books on several levels.   They are entertaining and well-plotted, with engaging, well-rounded characters, a “good read.” But there’s plenty of meat on the bone — historical, sociological, psychological — to give you something of substance to chew on afterward, and maybe explore further.  Enough meat that they hold up to rereading very well.  And, yes, what Sebastian has (Bithil syndrome) is a for-real (though quite rare) genetic mutation.