Hello, 2022, or: A Sign of Life and It’s Cold AF

I didn’t expect to go almost 2 months without a post! I tried opening up my WordPress app a few times in that span, but for some reason, the words just weren’t coming.

Anyways, it’s the day before my best friend, The Lady Bryan’s, birthday and right now it is what we would call in Florida, “Cold AF”. It’s not supposed to get above 50°F today and where I’m at lows are going to dip into the 20s tonight. My readers in the Northeastern U.S. and Atlantic Canada (where, yes, I do have a few Twitter followers) are experiencing a heck of a Nor’easter complete with blizzard. I hope all of you are keeping safe and warm in these very cold conditions. Currently, I’m under a fleece lap blanket trying to keep my feet warm.

Before I get into 2022, let me share how we ended 2021. When I last posted, it was just a few days after Thanksgiving. My dad and I spent quite a bit of time last month getting ready for Christmas, which included trying to figure out what to get for two girls. I did get a gift for Nipote, but as he was only about 5 months old at the time, safe toys for a baby that age are a bit scarce. I ended up getting him a rattle and teether set, with the rattle in the shape of a donut and the teether was a chain of plastic macarons. I later saw a toy piano that would have worked nicely for him, but I haven’t gotten it for him at this time. For the girls, we ended up getting them dolls, dinosaurs, drawing toys, a toy makeup kit and a toy fish for R., a fire truck and Potato Heads (both Mr. and Mrs.) for The Bambina, and both of them got toy airplanes, too. I wrapped every single one of them and took them over on Christmas Eve.

While we were there, my brother and sister-in-law gave my dad a set of towels and washcloths, a blanket, and coffee thermos and matching keychain that both have the same “Scat Pack” logo as his Dodge Charger. I got a fleece blanket (which immediately went right onto my bed), a wall hanging, and a USB reading light. I don’t normally use reading lights, but it will be incredibly useful for when I do visit my brother’s house and the political discussions start to get so awkward that I need my “in case of emergency” book to mentally tune it out, especially after dark. We didn’t get them anything in return (totally our fault, we just got caught up in getting stuff for their kids), but my SIL’s birthday is coming up next month, so there’s an opportunity there.

My dad ended up taking the first week of 2022 off from work as a vacation/reset week. I don’t mind those weeks, but it’s always nice to get back to a normal routine.

What else? I had some spare cash on hand and I got myself a gift card for more ebooks because I hadn’t gotten one in a while. I still haven’t spent all the money from that one, but here’s what I’ve gotten so far:

  • Lovingly Abused by Heather Grace Heath. This is a memoir written by a woman who was raised in the same (for all intents and purposes) fundamentalist cult that the controversial Duggar family also belongs to, IBLP/ATI. I actually heard about this book from a podcast, Leaving Eden, whose co-host was a former member of a similar fundamentalist cult called the IFB. I read this book in about 11 days and Heather’s story is just incredible. She lived in a different state from the Duggars and she does not mention them by name in her book (but does reference them a few times), but she provides a great, first-person account about how the IBLP/ATI and similar groups cause more harm than good, and in her acknowledgments at the end, I found a few more podcasts to check out. (Side note: I kind of have a fascination with cults, from real ones like The People’s Temple and the FLDS to fictional ones like The Chosen from The Tribe.)
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. My third Murakami in my ebook collection, but I want to read Kafka on the Shore first before I take on this one, which is nearly 1000 pages long and was originally published in 3 volumes in Japan)
  • Me by Elton John. Yes, his own memoir…I’ve heard a lot of great reviews for this one, but as I have memoirs coming up in my physical TBR, I don’t know if I want to be reading two memoirs at once)
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This one has been on my Bookstagram radar for a while. From what I’ve gathered, this is a historical novel set in Ghana (where the author and her family are originally from) and traces the stories of two half-sisters, born in different villages and sent on two very different paths. One sister ends up being kidnapped and sold into the transatlantic slave trade, while the other marries an English man and lives a life of privilege on Africa’s Gold Coast.

And finally, I did finish two shawls, but I have not yet woven in the ends and gotten them ready for pictures. What I’ve been primarily working on is a pullover sweater in some heather gray yarn, although I’m currently only on the body portion. I still need to work on the sleeves, too, so it’s not ready to wear yet. But it is coming along, and I promise to share some pictures when it’s finally ready!

So, anyway…that’s what I’ve been up to lately. There just hasn’t been a ton going on lately. But I am on the countdown to a milestone birthday now…less than two months to go until I turn…gasp 😱…thirty-five. What?! That also means my five-year blogiversary is coming up! I might have a lot of reflecting to do soon! Until next time, readers!

Finished Object: Nipote

It took me six months from cast on to last end woven in, and missed its recipient’s birth by a month and a half, but the baby blanket I have knitted for my nephew, lovingly called “Nipote” (both the blanket and the nephew), is finally finished.

I would have loved to give this a nice photo shoot outside, but the last couple of days were rainy and cloudy. Today it’s been sunnier, but the ground is still damp.

Anyways, let me introduce you to my latest finished object, Nipote.

Yes, that’s a router box it’s sitting on.

Here are some of the specifics:

  • Pattern: I didn’t use a pre-designed pattern for this one, but I used this tutorial as a template, and the base consisted of 13 triangles of 8 stitches each. All of the tiers and side and end triangles also have a base number of 8 stitches. The tutorial is free and also has a YouTube video embedded if you’re more of a visual learner or just need a visual refresher on certain steps.
  • Yarn: Caron Simply Soft, in Soft Blue and White; I ended up using maybe a skein and a half in the blue and 2 full skeins and part of a third in the white. (You’ll learn why I used more white in a minute.)
  • Needles: U.S. #7 (4.5 mm) circular needles, 29 inches. (This project is worked flat, but the cable supports the weight of the knitting better than straight needles do. Believe me, I learned that the hard way.)

I cast on for this blanket back in March, when my sister-in-law would have been around 5 months pregnant. The technique I used is called “garterlac”, which is entrelac worked in garter stitch. The primary difference between the two techniques is that while entrelac uses stockinette stitch to give the short row blocks a woven texture, the garterlac uses two different types of garter stitch to achieve sort of a harlequin style appearance. Depending on which side I was picking up stitches from, the blue tiers were done in knit garter (stitches were picked up and knit, and the short rows were worked with knit stitches and ssk — slip, slip, knit — decreases); the white tiers were done in purl garter (stitches picked up and purled, with the short rows being worked with purl stitches and p2tog — purl 2 together — decreases).

Now you may notice that the stitching in the white blocks looks a little looser than in the blue. This is due to my knitting style. I tend to purl looser than I knit, and unfortunately switching to a smaller needle to work the purl rows would have proven too cumbersome, as I would have had to slip all the stitches from the previous tier from one circular needle to another one before I could begin working the next tier. When taking a look at the white tiers compared to the blue ones, I realized the visual difference wasn’t all that jarring. So I just decided to work with the same needle all the way through. The only major issue was that I needed a little more yarn to work the white tiers since the looser gauge used up more yarn. I ended up getting two skeins in the blue and three skeins in the white.

As of this post, I have not yet met Nipote. He’s almost two months old (he’ll reach that mark in a little over a week). My sister-in-law has been especially cautious about COVID possibly getting into their home, and hasn’t really let anyone visit. Also, with any newborn there’s usually some chaos going on as everybody starts to settle into a new routine. At least this is the last baby they plan on having, so the chaos is going on one last time. I’m hoping once my dad and I are fully vaccinated (which should be by the second week of October), they’ll finally let us come over and meet him. Anyway, at least this blanket is finally finished and ready to give to the recipient and his parents when we finally do get to meet him!

Before I go, I’ve got a couple of quick updates of what is currently on my needles.

I’ve been working on the Study Hall shawl by Sarah Schira, which is available for free on Knitty. The original pattern calls for some fancier yarn on size 6 and 7 needles, but I’m using Red Heart Ombré (in True Blue, which is a gradient yarn) and Red Heart Super Saver (in Black) and size 9 and 10 needles. I’ve gotten most of the second section done, but I’m excited to get to the slip stitch section. Should be nice and cozy when it’s done.

I’ve also resumed work on my Neapolitan blanket after it was in hibernation for the better part of a year. I’m currently working on a round of brown rectangles, which will then be followed by a round of white rectangles, and then I’m thinking of adding the final large corner squares and finishing with a narrow brown border.

What have you all been up to? I’d love to hear about your latest projects (be it yarny, or written, or even just some sort of renovation project). In the meantime, I’m off to get ready to cook a slow cooker stroganoff. I’ve made it before, it’s delicious.

An Announcement

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions, this announcement does not involve me personally, but it involves my family.

I will be becoming an aunt for the third time. In fact, it will be happening in the next few weeks.

And this time, I’m gaining a nephew! That’s right, my brother and sister-in-law are having a boy. Which means I have to come up with a new code name!

Luckily, I already have a good code name for the little guy, thanks to Assassin’s Creed II. I’m going to refer to this one as “Nipote” (pronounced “nee-PO-tay”), which is Italian for “nephew” and is also what Ezio’s uncle Mario referred to him as in the game rather than by his name. Also, since one of his sisters has an Italian code name (my younger niece, who I usually call “The Bambina” on here), going with one for my nephew makes sense.

So, why did I wait so long to share the news with you? The simple answer is: my sister-in-law (the one carrying this baby) has not posted about her pregnancy this time around. Her pregnancies have caused her to become kind of withdrawn every single time. Also, in between her pregnancy with The Bambina and this one with Nipote, she suffered a miscarriage. My dad and I didn’t find out about the miscarriage until right around the time we found out she was pregnant, which was late last year. She suspected she was pregnant back in October, but they (she and my brother) didn’t confirm the news with my dad and I until around Christmas of last year. My brother also confirmed with my dad and me a few weeks ago that this pregnancy will be their last. I haven’t asked my sister-in-law why she hasn’t posted anything about her current pregnancy, as it’s her choice and she’s not obligated to justify anything to me.

(And if you’ve been paying attention to my past posts, this means that yes, she contracted COVID while she was pregnant. Thankfully she has since recovered, and the baby will likely be born with COVID antibodies in his immune system.)

Nipote is due to be born later this month. I actually have two old friends/classmates who have also been pregnant during this time, and one of them is about 2 weeks ahead of my sister-in-law in her pregnancy (the other one gave birth to a baby boy just a few days ago). Based on that, I suspect my sister-in-law is due sometime in late July, which opens up the possibility that he could be born on my mom’s birthday (July 17th, which would be an appropriate tribute to her, I think) or my dad’s (which is July 21st; my parents’ birthdays were four days apart, but my mom was 7 years older).

Before this post, I had actually only revealed this news to a handful of people outside the family: The Lady Bryan (aka my bestie IRL), our mutual friend/my closest guy friend, the old friend of mine who is due two weeks before my sister-in-law, and a handful of people on Ravelry and Instagram. As with my nieces, I will not be publicly revealing my nephew’s name on here. But I will still be referring to him as “Nipote” on here even after he’s born.

I actually do have a project in the works for the little guy, although I don’t know if it will be done in time for his birth, but it’s an adorable blue and white garterlac blanket (that can also be big enough to become a play mat when he starts crawling) that I am fittingly calling “Nipote”. As of this post, it’s a little over halfway through the length I’m going for (enough to make roughly a large square). I won’t be posting pictures of it right now, but I’ll probably write up a dedicated post for this blanket once it’s finished. I will say, the white tiers have been harder for me to knit in one piece because it’s done in purl garter stitch (to give it a right side and a wrong side), and I tend to purl looser than I knit. So these tiers end up looking slightly bigger and looser gauge than the blue tiers (which are done in knit garter) because I’m too lazy to move all the stitches to a smaller needle for the whole tier. But the difference isn’t so jarring that it bothers me visually, so at least I’m at peace with that.

I hope to be able to let you know soon when my nephew has arrived. Here’s to hoping mother and baby do well when the time comes! I can’t wait to meet him.

Hat-A-Palooza

I have something to confess: since December, I’ve been obsessed with knitting stranded colorwork hats (otherwise known as “Fair Isle” knitting). I have affectionately branded this “Hat-A-Palooza”.

It started innocently enough: I had a significant amount of smaller balls of yarn to stash bust (from what The Lady Bryan sent to me for Christmas 2019), and it was around Christmas and I wanted to knit myself a hat with snowflakes on it. So, I took some balls of blue and white yarn and I knit myself a snowflake hat…

The Snowflake Hat

…and there was still some yarn in both colors left over. Then I got the desire to knit myself a TARDIS hat (which is supposed to evoke the TARDIS craft that The Doctor uses to time travel on Doctor Who), which I did…

…and I still felt like I needed to knit something. First I tried a brioche hat, but it became clear that two-color brioche and I haven’t quite come to an understanding yet. So decided to abandon the brioche hat, and I started on a colorwork beret. And I even figured out how to purl in Continental (where the yarn is held in the left hand) so I could make this gorgeous two-color ribbing. The hat itself wasn’t too bad once I got into the stranding on the charted section. However, when the time came to decrease for the crown, the chart got all wonky and I still can’t figure out what exactly I did wrong. But…I decided to leave the crown as-is and call the wonky colorwork in the crown a “design element”.

The Béret Généreux, stretched over a dinner plate to better show its shape.

I had these all knitted by the middle of February, but I was too lazy to weave in the ends and didn’t do so until a few days ago. So, here are my hats on my head, and I will link to the Ravelry pages of the patterns I used, all available for free.

Pattern: Snowflake Hat by Evan Plevinski / Yarn: Premier Yarns Just Yarn in Blue and White / Needles: U.S. #8 (5.0 mm) circular and DPNs

Pattern: TARDIS Beanie by Alena Ruman / Yarn: Premier Yarns Just Yarn in Blue and White, Mainstays Basic Yarn in Black /Needles: U.S. #6 (4.0 mm) circulars, 16-inch and 29-inch (for the crown decreases)

Pattern: Béret Généreux by Isabelle Allard / Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver in Baby Pink, Mainstays Basic Yarn in Black / Needles: U.S. #6 (4.0 mm) circular needles, 29-inch (and I think used 16-inch needles for the ribbing section)

In case you’re wondering, I took these pics while standing in the front doorway, all while my dog was sniffing around in the front yard!

I do have another project on the needles, but I can’t really talk about it right now. I’ll let you in on it when the time is right.

I know I haven’t posted much since the beginning of the year, but honestly not a whole lot has been happening…just life. However, my birthday is a week from tomorrow, and then my blogiversary is coming up after that…so we’ll see if anything good enough to write about happens at that point! Until next time, everybody!

People on Tinder Have Had Better Luck

So, the last couple of times I’ve gone to the store, I’ve ended up getting cakes of Lion Brand Mandala in “Spirit”, which is a gorgeous blue and gray colorway that really goes well with my eyes (which are…blue and maybe have a hint of gray).

What I didn’t realize is that I would start and frog this yarn (which was begging to be made into a shawl) somewhere around fifteen times. I thought I’d make the Solitude shawl (a crochet shawl pattern I found on Ravelry), but not only was the shawl not going to be the size of my liking, some of the stitch pattern also kept failing to line up. I got frustrated and by the time I got to the end of the cake, I decided I wanted to try and knit a shawl out of it, so I cast on with the other end…and quickly grew bored. So I set that yarn down. I still have not frogged either one of these yet.

WIPs that will eventually be turned into frogs.

So I started with the other cake. I basically started trying all sorts of knitting and crochet patterns to see which one would stick. This sort of “speed dating” went so badly that honestly…people looking for one-night stands on Tinder have had better luck. (Note: I have never used Tinder or any other kind of online dating service; I have this recurring concern that I’m gonna end up being catfished, because when it comes to love and relationships my luck is ridiculously bad.)

I was able to start a pattern a few days ago that has stuck so far…once the pattern is set up, it’s only a five row repeat that produces a surprisingly interesting texture and look combined with the self-striping. I did cut the yarn once so far, since it was kind of a jarring color switch from blue to the first gray in the colorway. Other than that, it’s looking pretty nice.

I’m about halfway through this cake; once I finish the first cake, I will probably unravel the other projects and join that yarn. Hopefully, if this sticks, this shawl will be a nice size when it’s done.

At least I have better luck with shawls than I’ve ever had with men. Shawls don’t ignore me or think I’m just “cute”.

Yellow…Lots and Lots of Yellow.

So, I finished a thing. It’s mostly yellow. It’s “Don’t Huffle the Puff”.

And I’ve started another thing. It’s going to be a cabled bag. I started it with a provisional cast-on using some old dishcloth cotton in the stash and a crochet hook.

Once I cast on my stitches (I cast on 81 with my provisional cast-on, then decreased by one stitch to 80 a few rows into my base), I started knitting the base of my bag in the main yarn.

Once I got the base to the size I wanted it, I started to pick up and knit the stitches around it, placing markers to mark each corner of the bag.

I should mention that for the base I used two separate needles because I purl looser than I knit, so I used a size 8 needle to work the knit rows and a size 7 needle to work the purl rows.

These were part of a set of Woolworth bamboo needles given to me by The Lady Bryan and her mother before they moved to Georgia. The needles only had diameter measurements in millimeters on them, so I used a needle gauge to approximate their U.S. sizes and then I wrote the U.S. needle size equivalent on the top of the needle ends.
My corner stitch markers (the white one marks the beginning/end of the round) and the band of my digital row counter.

I’m only a couple of repeats into this one, but I’m hoping this bag will stick as a project. Here’s a sneak peek.

The actual color is closer to the pictures above this one, the lighting kind of lightened the vibrancy of the yellow here. I’m normally not a huge fan of yellow, but I felt the color would pair nicely with the honeycomb cable you’re starting to see here.

Will this project stick with me? Watch this space.

Death Stuff and Life Stuff

It’s been sad times in the knitting and crochet community lately. We’ve lost two major designers to cancer in the past month, and a little more closely to me a couple of acquaintances I had made on Ravelry also died from cancer. I’d like to talk a bit about some of them.

You may remember that I mentioned Cat Bordhi in my post “Searching for Knitting Mojo” back in August. Sadly, she died on September 19th, a month or so after she had revealed the news of her terminal cancer to the world. Her loss was such an impact on the community that The New York Times published an obituary about her. I’m not sure if there’s a paywall involved, but I will link to it, which you can check out here. I am still working on the Rio Calina cowl whose pattern she posted about a month before her death, but I’ve only managed about a foot or so of it (it’s knit flat).

Another designer, Annie Modesitt, lost her own battle with cancer on October 1st. While I was not as familiar with her work as others may have been, her passing has been recognized on Ravelry. Looking at her pattern collection on Ravelry, she was a master with both the needles and the crochet hook and designed patterns that were eye-catching and things of beauty. Her blog can be found here.

The other two people I’m going to talk about weren’t people I had ever met in person, but were part of a Ravelry group that was one of the first ones I’d joined when I signed up for Ravelry three and a half years ago after slowly coming out of a self-imposed sabbatical from computers and technology. This group is called “Atheist and Agnostic Crafters” (or “A&AC” for short). As I’ve mentioned in the past, I live near the very southern edge of the “Bible Belt”. While people here in Central Florida aren’t as steeped into religious fundamentalism as they are in the rest of the South, telling people you outright don’t believe in God will probably still get you either some side-eye or a “bless your heart”. It’s not necessarily something that’s comfortable discussing with family. So it felt good to have a place to go to online where I could meet likeminded people and not feel shame for it. Some users I’ve been a little closer with than others. Last month, two of our group died just a few days apart. One of them was one of the few men in our group, who was married to another Raveler (who was also in our group, but left…not due to a change in religious beliefs, but due to some posting drama that I’d rather not get into; but she’s always welcome back in my book if she ever wants to), and the other was a young-ish lady in her 40s. Her Ravatar (slang for “Ravelry avatar”) was a pair of cats snuggling, and I always kept misreading her username because I kept mistaking a lowercase L for an uppercase I. I wasn’t incredibly interactive with either of them, although I did enjoy discussing video games with the man I’ve mentioned. We were both Assassin’s Creed fans and it was always great to discuss the games with him. We as a group were greatly saddened to hear of their deaths, and if you’re wondering how an atheist approaches the subject of death, here it is: since we don’t believe in an afterlife, we see death as closure, the end of our one life. We grieve for the loss of a person, surely, but we also recognize that if the person was suffering in their final days, that they are now at peace and their suffering is over. We don’t think of them as being in a “better place”, but we remember the impact they had on our lives. Even if they touched the hearts of just a few people, they will never be forgotten for as long as those people who loved and remembered them live. I approached my mom’s death in the same way. For most of the rest of my family, the thought of her “being with Jesus” comforted them. For me, knowing she was no longer suffering comforted me. I raise a glass to those we’ve lost.

I saw this on Annie Modesitt’s blog, posted during the last months of her life as she was battling cancer. I thought it was a nice perspective on how she saw the eventuality of death.

None of us will beat death, it will get us all in the end. I’ve become much more at peace with that truth over the last few years. I’ve lost so many folks who are close to me, maybe that’s why I have such a strong desire to see a grandchild. Or maybe it’s just that I love babies. At any rate, I feel that as fine as my kids are, there are rough edges to be smoothed, more lessons to be taught.

Annie Modesitt, “Anti Climax”, Mode Knit

Steering away from the topic of death, here is some life stuff.

I ended up getting three more ebooks since my last book update:

  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: A fellow bookstagrammer recommended I read this one first whenever I decide to take a dive into Murakami. (I also want to eventually get a copy of his novel 1Q84.)
  • Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut: Since reading Slaughterhouse-Five last year, I have been on a mission to find and read as much Vonnegut as I possibly can.
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Not to be confused with The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, this book is considered a landmark work in African-American literature.

I haven’t voted yet in this year’s election, but I plan to. Early voting starts in about a week here, but I may end up going with my dad to vote on Election Day morning (which is when he usually goes to the polls).

Now, before you get worried about me catching the COVID while waiting to vote, hear me out:

  1. We have masks. I will be masking up, no matter what. In fact, my hometown requires them by city ordinance. I just hope my dad will go along with it, at least for going to the polls.
  2. Our polling place has been changed from a small church lobby to a much more open school gymnasium. Hopefully this will give us a chance to make more space in line, too.

We in all likelihood will vote for different candidates, and that’s okay (he jokes that we’ll “cancel each other out”, which is probably why we also don’t do lawn signs). I’m thinking of asking if we can go to the bookstore after we go to vote. After all the shenanigans and the bombardment of ads and the name-calling and the “my guy is gonna whip your guy’s ass because your guy means the end of America as we know it”…I’m gonna need something to look forward to. I still have some spending money. I’ve been wanting to go back to this bookstore for a while, but I just couldn’t figure out when the opportunity would pop up.

The diet is going okay at the moment; I can’t tell you if I’ve lost any weight because I’ve decided not to weigh myself at this time. I do have some pants and shorts in smaller sizes than what I wear now. If I find myself fitting into them, then I’ll know that I’ve lost weight. Then maybe I’ll reevaluate the whole weighing myself thing.

Most of it is portion control, which has been going okay. We do allow ourselves to have one “cheat meal” a week (although I’m not craving a cheeseburger every week, thank goodness), but for the most part I’ve been trying to stick to the meal plan, and when I do feel like I still need something to eat, we’ve gotten some extra snacks (fruit, some cottage cheese, whole grain crackers) or I eat a salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing (less fatty than the commercial stuff) to try and stave off the feeling of not feeling full. I’ve also usually had a protein shake with my snacks for the day (I eat a snack in between main meals). For dinner tonight (which I’ll also put together for my dad when he gets home from work in the morning), I’m trying to recreate one of the dinners we had, which was chicken breast with brown rice, peas, and tomatoes. My recreation ended up missing tomato sauce, but otherwise I think it might work. With portion control in mind, I think I’m gonna use a smaller plate.

I think I’m almost finished with my “Don’t Huffle the Puff” shawl, but I’m going to save that for another post. While it was kind of sad reasons why I started this post, I’m glad to have gotten a chance to give you all a bit of an update. I think I’m gonna go and put together my dinner right now, and then after I eat it’s back to work on the shawl while I watch Roman Empire on Netflix.

In Search of Knitting Mojo

I have to admit something: one side effect of mourning the death of my mom was that I kind of lost the desire to knit for a while. It wasn’t really her death itself that caused it, but it just seemed like for the last couple of months, I just felt no desire to pick up my needles or hooks. I tried a handful of projects, but nothing stuck. I don’t think it was depression, more like fatigue. Like, there was a lot of feelings I had to sort through before I could start to feel some sort of joy again. And my body just felt tired after all those years of caring for her. I mean, I even sacrificed sleep and my own self-care to make sure she was taken care of.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this month that I started to wade back into trying to knit again. Strangely, it took a designer admitting to the world that she is dying to motivate me to pick up my needles and cast on.

If any of you are familiar with the designer Cat Bordhi, you may know that earlier this month she posted a letter on her website in which she revealed that she has terminal cancer. You can read the letter here, and the letter also provides an email address where readers can send her messages as well as a link to an organization that people can donate to on her behalf if they wish. The letter itself is worth a read. The letter posted on her website also has a link to a free downloadable pattern for a cowl pattern she designed but had not yet published. It’s called the Rio Calina Cowl. It’s basically knit flat in 2×2 rib (k2, p2) and you can choose when, where, and in what direction to place cables. I only have a foot or so of this cowl knit so far (the pattern calls for around 34 inches before seaming), but I love how it’s looking so far.

My take on Cat Bordhi’s Rio Calina Cowl in progress.

I also got some more work done on my current shawl project, Don’t Huffle the Puff!. I may be getting to the point where I’m ready to add another black stripe, but I’m still currently on the yellow.

The “Don’t Huffle the Puff!” shawl is still currently in progress.

My Neapolitan blanket is currently in progress as well, but I will need to get some more white yarn for it, so it is on a bit of a hiatus right now. Hopefully with me finally being able to go shopping on a more regular basis, that will be sooner rather than later. I think I have enough pink yarn to complete that part of the project, not so sure on the brown portion.

The phone I had been using (an iPhone 5s, which was originally my dad’s before he decided to upgrade) basically decided to bite the dust. Basically, whenever it was off whatever was charging it, the phone would overheat and crash whenever I’d try to use an app…any app. It was a 6 or 7-year-old phone, so it definitely had a long life, but much like the Toshiba Android tablet I used to use, the battery and processor in this iPhone were probably seeing their last days. Once my dad realized what was going on with it, he decided to order me a new phone, and it was delivered the next day. It’s an iPhone SE, which is a budget-model iPhone that’s based off of the iPhone 8 (I don’t really need a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to a phone), but it’s got the same chip and guts as my dad’s iPhone 11 (actually his is an iPhone 11 Pro Max). And while he didn’t ask me which color I wanted, I think he read my mind and got me the (PRODUCT)RED model (proceeds from the sales of this model are donated to charities dedicated to fighting and eliminating HIV/AIDS in Africa). He’s not really the kind to donate to a charity unless he really believes in the cause it’s supporting (he’s donated to a children’s camp that was co-founded by Paul Newman that provides children with serious illnesses a fun and medically-sound place for them and their families to have fun; he’s also made donations to the Toys for Tots initiative, which is run by the Marine Reserves and they collect toys and other popular items to give to kids for Christmas that they might not otherwise get during the holidays because their families are poor or facing financial struggles). I also do love the color red, but I’m glad that some of that money is going towards efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, which is still a problem in parts of Africa.

This phone holds its charge well, and it barely drained any battery power while I was at the store this past weekend, and that included me texting and sending a picture to my dad (he texted me that he needed me to get some clear packing tape while I was there, so I took and sent him a picture of the tape to see if that particular tape would work). We still need to get a case for it, but luckily there is a version of the case my dad uses for his phone that will fit the iPhone SE. He hasn’t ordered it yet, but he told me he’d do so at some point.

While I was at the store, I also decided to treat myself to an Apple gift card, which I pretty much only use to get ebooks. So far, I’ve bought three with this one, two of them on sale:

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (she’s from Hawaii, and is of Japanese, Korean, and Native Hawaiian descent)
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (probably one of the most popular authors to come out of Japan; side note, I keep wanting to sing this book’s title to the tune of “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors)
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi (this one is nonfiction, exploring the history of racist ideas throughout American history and how those ideas have played a role in the discrimination of African Americans and people of color)

I’ve also been reading a few other books, although the primary one is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (about a Black teenage girl who sees her childhood friend killed by a white police officer and how she responds to the aftermath of it all). I also finished the first sequel novel to The Tribe (called A New World) and I’m a few chapters into the second sequel novel, A New Dawn.

I’m glad I’m finally starting to get some mojo back into my life. Now, this isn’t Austin Powers-type mojo (because sexuality and me are basically a paradox), but more of the positive energy-type mojo that people within the LSG group on Ravelry (LSG stands for “Lazy, Stupid, and Godless” and is one of the largest and most irreverent groups on Ravelry…my kind of people) send each other in times of sorrow and need. It’s sort of a “thoughts and prayers” for people who don’t necessarily believe in or use prayer. (Hey, if you believe in the power of prayer, more power to you. For me, encouragement and the channeling of positive energy from others works just as well.) Now that life has kind of settled down for us, maybe my sense of creativity is finally coming back. I hope I can showcase more of my knitting soon.

Before I post, I’m going to leave the song I referenced while talking about Kafka on the Shore, “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors. Don’t you want to sing that book’s title to the tune of that song, too?

On Lockdown: May 2020 Edition (Plus, A Finished Object)

As the nation enters its third month or so of social distancing measures, I figured it would be a good time to give an update on how my family and I have been doing in isolation.

Save for a couple of days last week when he went in to write up performance reviews for a couple of his techs, my dad hasn’t been to work in over a month (he had to go in for a few hours on those days because the database he and the other leads and supervisors use to evaluate their performance is only accessible from his workplace). Those two nights he went in, there was hardly anybody there and he was home by midnight both nights. His workplace is closed through at least the end of the month, but they are currently evaluating plans to possibly re-open at a limited capacity so the crowding isn’t so dense. Employees will also be subjected to temperature checks upon arrival (as fever is a notable symptom of COVID-19), which is a smart move (I’ve mentioned before that when my dad has brought home a cold or flu in the past, he’s almost always gotten it from someone who may have come to work sick). Florida is already starting to reopen some businesses, although I think most private businesses are still gonna be cautious about how they reopen and operate.

We’ve been getting our groceries delivered as of late, through one of the major wholesale clubs. Basically I’ve been trying to keep track of what we’re running low on and my dad’s been ordering the items online (although I’ve been letting him take charge of what protein items/meat to order), and then the club has a shopper pick up the items and deliver them to the house. We actually got pretty lucky on toilet paper this past week. We had been running dangerously low on TP recently (which, trying to find the stuff recently has been like mining for diamonds), and instead of trying to gamble on trying to get it at a store in person, my dad decided to order some through Walmart’s website. It took a few days to deliver, but we managed to get it delivered. Then we hit the jackpot again when we were ordering groceries, as the wholesale club actually had a pack of toilet paper in stock! So, between a dozen rolls in the first pack and 36 in the second, we should be set for a while now.

We are all doing okay at the moment, none of us are sick and we’re still in relative isolation. It’s prevented me from returning some Tupperware to a neighbor, but other than that it’s been business as usual. The fact that my mom’s care requires us to stick to a routine has actually helped us from really developing cabin fever (although technology helps, too). Before we get too bored, it’s usually either time to give her something to eat or time to clean her up. In between, I’m usually either watching YouTube videos, taking a nap, or cooking.

I’ve gotten about 100 pages into Children of Virtue and Vengeance, though I could put a little more energy into my reading. I’ve also been working my way through Series 5 of The Tribe, hoping to finish a rewatch of the show that’s taken the better part of two years for me to try and finish. I’m near the halfway point of Series 5 (which was the final season produced for television), and I plan on reading the three sequel novels that have been released once I finish Series 5 (I have all three of them in my e-reader). I’ve only managed a few chapters in Dune thus far, but I’ll probably come back to it every so often. Luckily, if I’m having trouble understanding some of the stuff going on in the book, I have one Facebook friend I can message if I have any questions since Dune is one of his favorite books ever…and there is always Google as well.

Before I post this, I’d like to talk a bit about a project I worked on recently. As you may recall, my best friend (The Lady Bryan) and her mom sent me a bunch of yarn as a Christmas present a few months ago. There were a few large skeins of a golden yellow (which I’m using in another project), and then several smaller balls in all different colors. I decided I was in the mood to make a hat, and I initially wanted to make a two-color brioche beret, but I attempted two different patterns and the process was just not cooperating with me. And then I found the pattern I ended up using, which used a simpler colorwork technique called mosaic knitting (which is typically done flat, one color per set of two rows, and the stitches in the color not being worked are slipped with the yarn on the wrong side to make the visual pattern). This version, though, was worked in the round and also used two-color cabling in addition to slipped stitches in order to make the beautiful colorwork pattern that results. The designer named the pattern in honor of the British chemist and crystallographer Rosalind Franklin, whose photographs of the DNA molecule were essential in proving that the structure of the DNA molecule was a double helix. You can learn more about her role in this monumental discovery by watching this video. She sadly died at the age of 37 from ovarian cancer, possibly caused by working unprotected around the x-rays she used for her crystallography.

Pattern: Rosalind Franklin Hat by Mat Kladney (also known by his handles thathatoverthere and that.hat.over.there, a take on the slang term T.H.O.T. — pronounced “thought”, which is short for “That [Gardening Implement that Rhymes with “Sow”] Over There) / Yarn: Premier Just Yarn in Black and Pink / Needles: U.S. #7 circular needles, 29”, knit using a modified Magic Loop (which I may post a description of at a later time)

As far as I know, Kladney currently has this pattern available as a free Ravelry download for the time being, as he said it was “free during the pandemic”. The pom-pom is optional, but I just felt like attaching one because I thought a pink pom-pom on top would look nice on it. It ended up attaching a little more loosely than I would have liked, but I can always come back with a sewing needle and thread later to further secure it. It’s still gonna be a few more months before the weather will be cold enough for me to wear it.

I didn’t expect a hat to help with my knitting cravings, but after two years of shawls and blankets, it felt nice to work on a hat for once. I don’t know if this is the start of a hat-knitting phase, but this one was actually a lot of fun for me. And yes, it did help hold off the cabin fever, too. I have enough stash yarn to make more colorwork hats if I feel like it. We’ll see there’s any more yarn or patterns that speak to me.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!

🎶 Happy Birthday to Me, A Viral Apocalypse, Maybe? 🎶

Even at the beginning of this year, I did not think I would find myself celebrating the weirdest birthday of my life so far. As you all may know by now, the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus (a type of virus that was also responsible for the SARS virus in the early 2000s) has been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization. This has sent life all over the world into a frenzy. All of Italy is under quarantine, and many businesses and entities here in the United States have basically had to shut down, even including pushing Opening Day of the 2020 Major League Baseball season to mid-May at the earliest. (As a huge baseball fan, this makes me a little sad.) I ended up deciding not to vote in the Florida primary last week out of an abundance of caution, since both of my parents are over age 60 and my mother is bedridden and at higher risk of developing complications if she caught it. My party seems to have a presumptive front runner for its presidential nominee anyway, and I have decided that I will support its nominee in November, no matter who it is. (I’m hoping the virus threat won’t be as high by then.) I will still do grocery shopping, but at a smaller store that is usually less crowded than the larger one I usually shop at…although this has seemed to bring out the worst in people when it comes to panic buying. And I’m from Florida, the Panic Shopping Capital of the World (thanks, hurricanes)!

My dad’s workplace (a major theme park in Orlando) is closed through at least the end of the month, with most of its employees being told to stay home. However, my dad’s job takes place during the night shift and he is not in regular contact with park guests. He’s the lead technician on a crew that performs maintenance and repairs on one of the park’s attractions. Being that all hourly employees at the park (including technicians) will be paid for any time they are forced to miss during the closure (it’s owned by a large corporation, so they can afford to do this), coming in for the technicians is optional (but the attractions still require maintenance in order to meet mechanical and safety standards, no matter what). So, he’s been going in to work, but depending on how many people show up, the situation each night dictates whether or not he needs to stay. Being that whenever he does get sick, he usually gets it from someone at work, it’s probably a good thing at times (especially if any of his coworkers get sick, it’s definitely a good idea to stay home rather than try and tough it out). He’s only been staying at work for as long as the job requires and has come home early some mornings.

I know this whole pandemic situation has got everybody on edge, and me being a highly sensitive person, I tend to have the urge to want to deal with something this distressing by letting it get to my head and I end up feeling incredibly anxious. I’ve been actively trying to avoid panicking, though. So…how have I been coping?

  • I haven’t been watching the news on a regular basis. I’ve been watching some local news, but I’ve primarily been following the news through online aggregate sources like Google News and Apple News. If I need to get away from the buzz for a bit, I close the tab or the app!
  • When my dad has been sleeping to prepare for a work night, I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which is set in Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian Wars (which took place in the fifth century BCE and was the time when a lot of Ancient Greek notables such as Socrates, Pericles, Aristophanes, Euripides, Herodotus, and Leonidas flourished). In the game, you can play as either Alexios (a male character) or Kassandra (a female character), and the character you play as is a misthios (basically a mercenary). The story to start the game is kinda long and complex, but it involves a prophecy, an oracle controlled by an organization called the “Cult of Kosmos” (a forerunner to the Templars of the series’ universe), a cliff, and a boat that eventually ends up on the Greek island of Kephallonia, where our hero (the Misthios) starts their journey.
  • We’ve been watching a lot of movies when my dad is home and awake. And we finally watched Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a couple of weekends ago. It wasn’t too bad. Not quite as glorious as the original trilogy, but it did play upon the same themes of love and redemption. In order to bring balance to the Force, a character we thought of as good had to confront their Dark Side, while a character we thought of as evil had to confront their Light Side. I thought that was an interesting twist. It’s a little sad to see the Skywalker saga come to an end, but I’d love to see some more adventures with the newer characters. And just today he was watching A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, but he went to bed before he could get to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
  • I’ve got a couple of projects on the needles right now: the ever-active Neapolitan, which is currently in its second round of brown rectangles, and a new project called Don’t Huffle the Puff, a heart-shaped garter stitch shawl in the house colors of the Hogwarts House Hufflepuff, which is the House I was sorted into when I took the Sorting quiz at the Wizarding World website (formerly known as Pottermore). I’m using Walmart’s Mainstays Basic yarn in Gold (three skeins worth, which was lovingly gifted to me by The Lady Bryan and her mom for Christmas) and Black (I bought one skein of it with the intention of adding random black stripes to the mostly gold-colored shawl). I used the project as an excuse to finally add size 10 circular needles to my knitting arsenal.
  • I’m still reading. The last time I made a regular blog post (middle of last month), I was reading Beloved by Toni Morrison (a revisit of a novel we studied in AP English my junior year of high school) and Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. I’m still reading the latter in my e-reader, but I’ve not only finished Beloved, but I also read The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale) in a span of 18 days. It was a pretty good book! I’m currently reading The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys, which is set in 1950s Madrid during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. And although this pandemic is seeing a lot of isolation and “social distancing”, it hasn’t stopped me from stepping outside every so often and sitting in the sun, reading while Roxy either runs around chasing lizards or sitting in the sun herself. I can usually get a couple chapters in this way. But it is starting to get warmer out there. 🥵
  • I’ve been trying to resume my binge watching of The Tribe, whose very premise is about kids and teenagers trying to rebuild their lives and the world around them after surviving a viral apocalypse that has killed off everyone over the age of 18. I’m about halfway through series 4 right now (of five). I also have all three sequel novels in my e-reader, ready to read once I finish watching the series. One of the show’s stars, Meryl Cassie (who played Ebony, a character who I like to think of as this show’s version of Professor Snape), has been getting a lot of shoutouts from fans on Instagram lately due to the pandemic, and she’s been incredibly gracious about it. Her Stories are always interesting to follow along with.
  • And most importantly, I’ve been trying to face this with a sense of humor, however dark it may be. Perhaps we could all use some laughter in these trying times…otherwise, the whole world will be miserable.

I don’t know what my birthday will hold in store for me, but I hope to come out of this whole situation in one piece. I leave you with a song that is strangely appropriate for my birthday today, given the circumstances: “Happy Birthday” by Weird Al Yankovic.