It Fooled Around And Got Cold On Us

We had a high of 92 F (33.3 c)(!) on the 17th, a high of 88 F (31.1 C) on the 22nd, a high of 61 F (16.1 C) yesterday and, ya’ll, our high today was 28 Fricking degrees! (-2.2 C!) Our lowest low since summer was Saturday night, which was right at freezing — until today.  A while  ago, my arms were feeling cold and when I looked over at the clock by my computer desk (one of those fancy day, date, time and temp jobs), it read 66 F degrees! (18.8 C)  To be fair, all I was wearing was this long-sleeved, ankle-length flannel “leisure dress” and a lap robe, but I have since added a flannel vest and a pair of half-handers.

I’d put my little twin size  fleece blanket on top of my bedspread, and had been using it on and off for a couple of weeks now because nights had been getting down into the 40’s F (4+ C) occasionally, but I only actually switched the HVAC unit over from AC to heat yesterday because I knew it was going to be downright cold today.  (I surfaced briefly from sleep at about 3 a.m. last night, heard the whoomph of the gas jet that presages the heater actually coming on, which was followed shortly thereafter by first-use heater stink as the gas jet burns off all the dust that’s collected on it over the summer.)  Now I’ve got socks on and my baffies on over them.   And not to put too fine a point on it, our current humidity is a whopping 97% (yearly average here is around 44.5%), which is probably why it feels colder than the proverbial wedge.

I suppose I shouldn’t whinge about the weather.  Winter storm Billy is dumping feet of snow all over the Rockies (as bone dry as it’s been this year, they’re probably breaking out the champagne!).  Still, the weatherbeans say the flatlands could get 2-4 inches of snow out of the current meteorological shenanigans.  A hurricane named Zeta (which means we’ve officially gone through the hurricane alphabet twice! this year), and a winter storm named Billy are happening at the same time, and there are still people who say climate change is not a real thing.  Of course, there are still people who insist the Earth is flat.

Because  of COVID19 and the government mandated social distancing policy, the VA changed the format of its annual walk-in flu shot clinic to a “drive-by” clinic, which was held Thursday week ago. (Only in America. . .)  It was from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.  I got there at quarter after 3, and there was already a line of cars.  I tried to find the end of the line, only to discover that it went up the street, around the corner, up another street, around another corner and up another street for least three intersections!  That was when I said, to heck with it, gave up and went to Market Street to get one.

Market Street is not your grandma’s grocery store.  We’re talking one-stop-shop here:  They have an in-store pharmacy, an in-store bakery, an in-store cafeteria,  an in-store sushi-teria, and an in-store Starbucks.  You can cash checks, pay your utility bills, get your car registration sticker, buy gas and vote there — and they deliver!  The pharmacists give flu shots, and they accept most forms of medical insurance including Medicare.

Upon inquiring at the pharmacy, however, I was informed that they were all out of the plain-vanilla  3-valent regular-strength flu vaccine, which is the kind I usually get.  All they had was the heavy duty 4-valent industrial strength vaccine.  I decided to go for it.  (At this stage of the game, I’ll take all the immunity I can get.)  The little pharmacy clerk warbles, “There will be an approximately 25-minute wait while we process the paperwork.  If you’ll give us your cell number, we’ll call you.”  Well, I hadn’t yet done my grocery shopping for the month, and since I was already there . . . .  So yrs trly gave her my cell phone number, fished my cell phone out of my purse, dredged up the matching ear buds, connected same, put the cellphone in my pocket, the earbuds in my ears, grabbed a freshly-sanitized-for-my-protection shopping cart, and headed off into the store.  (I might add in passing, that was the last significant Samsung Galaxy event.) Five bags of groceries and an armful of flu vaccine later, I was on my way home again, home again, jiggity jig.

The new case for the iPhone came the next day and I ported my number to the new phone. I have been iphoning for over a week now, and have since discovered yet another moue-provoking feature of the iPhone.  It uses the same jack for both the charge cord and the earbuds, so I can’t listen to music with the iPhone on charger so as not to run the battery down like I did on the Galaxy.  Unless I buy a wirele$$ charger, that is.  Sigh!


Happy (as much as can be expected in an election year) New Year 2020!

May you and yours be safe, healthy, and near.

May you and yours be fed, clothed, housed and free from want.

May this be the year the world’s downward spiral FINALLY begins to at least level out, if not start to trend upwards. (Yes, I am a wild eyed optimist. . . )

Having a Ball Making Balls

I’ve been getting into watching videos by Arne & Carlos, two knitting mavens who live in Norway.  They are famous for their balls –Christmas balls, that is.  You can download free patterns for 24 miniballs from their blog here, which I did.  I’ve been wanting to get into stranded color work, and this is a way to get my feet wet without diving in.

In order to do stranded color work, you follow a chart (that’s one above), which is a lot like a needlepoint pattern, which tells you which color to knit which stitch with.  I’ve done needle point so there’s no learning curve there.  The tricky bit is carrying two strands of yarn.  The bit where you carry the yarn from one stitch of that color to the next stitch of that color is called a “float.”  A basic rule of thumb is that you don’t want to carry a float for longer than 5-6 stitches.  If you’ve got to carry it longer than that, you have to secure it, which is an art in itself.  I’m lousy at floats, but then I’m just starting out.

I’m using a set of sock needles (five 6-inch long double pointed needles) from my ChiaoGoo sock set, which are really nice and come in a lovely zippered case.  If you’re really heavy into sock knitting, I can recommend them.   You get six sets of stainless steel needles (US sizes 0-3, or 2.0-3.25 mm) together with the carrying case.

I’ve made three balls so far and there’s one on the needles that I’m nearly finished with.    These haven’t been stuffed yet.  They do look more ball-like once they’ve been stuffed.  You leave a tail at each end to sew them shut, and the tail at the top you use to crochet a chain loop to hang them with.   I think I’ll make a couple more.  They’ll be nice to give as tokens of appreciation to friends.

Yup.  They’re addictive.

Tricks, Treats, and Tributes

According to ancient Celtic traditions, Samhain, which we had yesterday, marks the time when the veil between this world and the next becomes thinnest and it is easiest to communicate with those who have gone on before us.  I think my dream about the white cat was his spirit telling me that he is OK with how it went down and that I need to stop beating myself up about it.

Sometimes wearing earbuds while knitting with circular needles can be tricky.  Oh, what a tangled web I wove — but just until the end of the row! I was doing a proof of concept piece for this shawl pattern I’m trying to work out for the Mandala “Spirit” yarn I got, but it’s fighting me.   That tells me I need to put it aside and finish some of the (many!) things ahead of it in the queue.

I tried again on the Najidama Bay  shawl pattern and I’m still not 100% happy with it.  It’s on the back burner for now, too.   Grumble.  Grumble.  One bright light in this tunnel is the fact that I did finish the semicircular shawl

I was working on that was going to be a September gift, and now is going to be a Thanksgiving gift . . .  It’s a lovely shawl, but it just doesn’t shawl the way I like to be shawled.  I have modified the pattern to have five “rays” instead of four, but it’s a WIP* that’s on the back burner with a bunch of others right now.

What I need to do ASAP is finish the three hats and four cowls that go with the above shawl and several other pieces.

I’ve been watching some knitting vlogs, and I have come to several conclusions.  One is that my yarn stash which I think is so huge is nothing compared to the walls of yarn I see in these vlogs.  They do a show and tell, and whip out these especially made fabric project bags that people make and sell and buy, and it’s OK.  Whatever floats their boat.  I prefer zip-seal freezer baggies (the kind without the little slider thing, please).  They’re dust proof, waterproof, and you can see what’s in them without having to open them up.  They natter on about yarn made from this breed of wool and that breed of wool, and all these little independent yarn company yarns that feature this alpaca blend and that cashmere blend.  And it’s fine.  I’m allergic to wool, so that cuts out about 99% of what I call “snob yarn” (i.e., anything that costs more than $10 a skein!)   Compared to some of these ladies (and gentlemen) I’m just a dabbler.  But that’s all right.  Like the man says, “different strokes for different folks.”

My Halloween treat was this sunshiny little salad made with cottage cheese and mandarin orange sections.   Snarf city!  Mandarin oranges are the same thing as Satsuma oranges, BTW.  I’m having chai tea with vanilla cream in.

As The Wheel Turns

Yesterday was full of low grey clouds that drizzled on and off all day, and it was down-right cool.  Same again today, with a predicted high of only 78 F/25.5 C.  The Wheel of the Year is finally rolling this long, hot summer into the past.  Mabon (the Autumnal Equinox, and my mom’s 94th birthday) is tomorrow.  My mom promised me steak at Outback for my birthday (four months ago) this year, but I spent that birthday in the hospital having pneumonia.  Tomorrow, dear friends are taking both of us to lunch at Outback for steaks for her birthday.  They’re buying hers and she’s buying mine.  Works for me.

Because I went to bed at 9 o’clock last night, knackered from having spent all morning at the VA  then wandering all over Wal-Mart buying groceries, etc., getting dampened, frizzled and chilled every time I went outside, and being ganged up on by the  flu shot in my left arm and the pneumonia shot in my right arm, I bobbed to the surface about 5 o’clock this morning and knew I was done sleeping for the time being.

I’m starting my third year of living in this duplex, and I’ve noticed there’s something bird-ally attractive about the part of the roof where the vent for the range hood comes out.  Even in deepest, hottest summer, if I’m puttering in the kitchen early in the morning, I’m liable to be inadvertently eavesdropping on a mourning dove having a quiet little boohoo by the vent pipe . . .

Cue the Prince reference. . .

Now Is The Time For All Good Knitters To Be Thinking of Winter

Winter cometh, y’all.  A fact of life.  This post is for all you knitty folks who live up in the colder climes, what we here in the flatlands call “up narth.”   I have mentioned before that my town is at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco.  Yes, it does get cold here, but not all that cold compared to the feet of snow and minus teens of, say, Montana or Vermont, or Minnesota.  Still, we do get knitted hat weather here, particularly because our cold almost always comes liberally laced with wind chill*.  Even though you don’t lose all that much heat through your head (7-10% is what they say now), you still have structures like ears that are more susceptible to cold than other, larger body parts.  Sitting as they do on the tallest part of the body, they are also susceptible to wind chill.

I put my little knitty mind to the problem and came up with a toboggan that I think fills the bill.   the bottom of the hat has a hem that puts a double thickness of knitting over the ears, the inner layer of which is ribbed, for even more insulation.   Yes, you can turn up a cuff in the bottom of a stocking cap or watch hat and have the same effect, but all you have to do with this hat is just put it on.  The cuff is permanently turned for you.

This toboggan uses a provisional cast-on, which scares most knitters until they actually do it and see how simple it can be. (You can find all kinds of complicated, fancy-schmancy, with crochet hooks, provisional cast ons, but I like the one I’ve linked to because it’s super easy.)

Why do you need a provisional cast on?  It allows you to “turn a hem” in the bottom of the cap.  That can also be kind of tricky.  I pick up the stitches of the provisional cast on about 20 stitches at a time with a double pointed needle (DPN), pull out the scrap yarn that I’ve used for the provisional cast on,  and knit them together (k2tog) with my working stitches, a stitch at a time to form the hem.

I take a provisional stitch purlwise off the DPN, transfer it to my circular needle, then knit it and the working stitch behind it together.   It’s a simple, straightforward process, so long as you don’t load too many provisional stitches on the DPN.

Of the two stitches you knit together, the provisional stitch must always be the stitch on the right with the working stitch on the left, so that when you knit the two stitches together, the working stitch ends up on top with the provisional stitch behind it.  That way, you get a seamless join.

You can find the complete pattern and demonstration pictures here on my knitting website, “Knits From the Owl Underground.”

If you’re a serious knitter, you can turn one of these toboggans out in an afternoon, or a long evening.  Apart from the “turning of the hem” bit and the decreases at the top of the hat, the rest is TV knitting** at its finest.   These make great gifts not just for the skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers in your life, but for those who have to work outside in the winter weather.


*whence the expression, "Ain't but one fence between us and Canada, and it's down." **Knitting that is so simple you can do it while watching TV and still not mess it up.

Why I Have So Many Projects Going At Once

Happy Summer Solstice, y’all! 

I was working on this little baby blanket (left) for car seats a while ago.  It has a vertical “eyelet” border — where you do (k2) on one row and (k2tog, yo),  on the next row, and it leaves a little hole.  The way most patterns “mimic” this for the horizontal borders is with a row of (k2tog, yo).  I used that on this blanket, but since it plays into the pattern, I don’t mind it so much.  However, in other instances, I have never been happy with how it looks.

I got to thinking as I was knitting on it how I could recreate the look of the vertical border for the horizontal border and had a brain wave.

Naturally, I had to stop what I was doing, go boot up the computer,  and try out what I was thinking (writing it down on the computer as I went).  It took a bit, but I finally got it worked out — a way to get that “two twisted strands of yarn” look on a horizontal border.

I like the way it looks so much better than the (k2tog, yo) look.

It’s hard to take a good picture of it, but the way I do it mimics the look of the vertical border so much better, I think.   I had to invent a couple of stitches in order to do it, though:

psro = pass the stitch to the right over the last stitch knitted. (Unlike the traditional “psso” where the first stitch is slipped without being worked, BOTH stitches are knitted.)
sspbl, kbl = insert right needle as though to purl through the back loop and slip the stitch to the right needle, put the slipped stitch back on the left needle and purl through the back loop.
nbs = number of stitches in vertical border.

Row 1:  k(nbs), *k2, psro, repeat from * until (1+ nbs) remain, k2, psro, knit to end of row.
Row 2:  k(nbs), *yo, sspbl, kbl, repeat from * until (nbs) remain, yo, knit to the end of the row.

I’m posting this in my knitting blog.  I’ve written it so you can modify a pattern you already have, as well as incorporate it into a new pattern you’re writing.

Say “Hello,” to my little friend.

In other news, as I mentioned before, I’ve been on home oxygen since 30 May, but I’ve managed to wean down from 2 liters to 1 liter successfully.  Now I’ve gotten to the point where if something will be a PITA to do while I’m wearing the oxygen thingie with its 50-foot long tube that I have to drag around, I take it off and do the thing without oxygen, going up to 10 minutes without it sometimes and most of the time staying above 90% oxygen saturation (the amount of oxygen being carried in arterial blood = blood oxygen level or O2 sat.   100% is as good as it gets).  I had to get this little pulse oximeter (see above) on my way home from the hospital so I can keep track of my O2 sat.  On the gizmo’s readout, the top number is my pulse, the second number is my blood oxygen level/O2 sat.

Just now, I got up from the computer, threw an empty apple juice bottle away in the kitchen trash, took a potty break, went back to the back bedroom and took a couple pictures of the Car Seat Baby Blanket (green one above) I was working on earlier, and came back and sat down, all without my oxygen on.  My o2sat did fall to 88% (anything below 90% is too low), but once I sat down and took a couple of deep breaths, it went back up to 90% before I even put my oxygen back on.  I’m making progress.  I’m bound and determined I’m going to ditch this oxygen rig for good before I go see the pulmonologist on 11 July.

I have a collection of “sleep shirts” (teeshirts with shirt tails that go down to my knees) that I wear around the house in the summer because they’re cotton and cool.  Three of them happen to have a little pocket on them, and I’ve been rotating between having one clean, wearing one, and having one in the wash since I got out of hospital.  This is so I can keep my little friend, the red pulse oximeter, in the little pocket where it’s always handy.

I’ve decided that tomorrow I’m going to start exercising again (with oxygen on).  I’m going to do the postsurgical rehab exercises for my legs that they gave me when I broke my kneecap, as well as some exercises for my upper back mostly to help me stand up straighter and pull my shoulders back.

I went to knitting group Tuesday for the first time in over a month.  I had planned to go and had intended to drive myself — I’ve driven several times with the oxygen tank in the passenger seat.  But then, my good friends LB texted me asking if they could come pick me up and take me to knitting group.   As it was a great opportunity to visit with both LB and her husband C, I agreed to go with them.  She is unable to drive due to vision problems from her multiple bouts of chemotherapy  (she now has stage IV breast cancer with metastasis to her bones) and C drives her to knitting group.  They are such a sweet couple.  We had a really nice visit.   LB has been knitting baby blankets.  She’s finished the pink one, and is now working on a blue one.  Apparently, both the blankets already have homes.  As I’ve said before, “There’s nothing a knitter likes better than an excuse to knit something.”

I might also mention that LB is now on a new type of chemotherapy that is in a pill form.  This is the very latest thing in cancer treatment.  They had such good results with it with lung cancer, achieving  a high remission rate even in more advanced stages, that they are now trying it on breast cancer, and it looks to be equally effective.  She has been on it for a couple months.  Now that she no longer has to go to the cancer center to receive IV infusions of chemotherapy but takes her chemo in pill form, they have been able to travel once she felt well enough.  They’ve taken several trips, to Florida and to Taos, New Mexico.  She said Tuesday that she is now feeling better than she has felt in over four years.  This is a good sign.  There is a possibility that with this new treatment, she might achieve remission, even with stage IV disease.  We are all hopeful.