Catching Up

I just finished reading the late Sue Grafton's final book, "Y is for Yesterday."  I'd put off reading it.  I've followed the Kinsey Millhone series for years and years, ever since I was fresh out of college and employed at B. Dalton Booksellers at a mall outside of Hartford and my boss introduced me to the series.  I used to own them all, but over time I've downsized a lot of things, including books, for various reasons, and I don't think I have any of them any more except, now, this last book.

Sue Grafton died in 2017 as far too many people do – after battling cancer.  I was…I don't know the word…it's not "crushed" or "devastated" – nothing so debilitating – but, well, really, really sad when I found out she'd died.  Not so much because her famous alphabet series of mysteries was incomplete, but because her books were woven into my life, my relationship with my mother, my childhood, books, my grandfather…my history, I guess, and now that thread has been cut.

When I was a kid – I don't even remember how young – my mother gave me a used copy of the first Trixie Belden book.  It was hardcover, with some illustrations, slightly faded pages, and a wonderfully musty old book smell.  I was a reader.  I was shy.  I was – though I don't know if the word was tossed around back then – an introvert.  And a tomboy.  The book was a perfect gift.  I remember looking at the illustrations and thinking that the person with the short, curly hair was a boy and the person with the shoulder-length bob and dress must be this girl, Trixie.  But no, Trixie was the one with the short curly hair.  She was imperfect.  She had chores.  She complained.  She was like a normal person, compared to Nancy Drew.  I couldn't relate at all to Nancy.  For one thing, she was older, she had a rich father, and she could drive, and she had a boyfriend.  Nothing there I could relate to.  But Trixie – she wasn't as shy as I was, but she was only 13, so much closer in age, and like I said, she had chores to do, and she complained.  In fact, that's how the book opens – something like this - 

"Oh, Moms," Trixie wailed, "I'll just die if I don't have a horse!"

(I wanted a horse, too!)

And her mother says something like "You declared you'd suffer the same fate if we didn't buy you a bike three years ago, remember?"

They were outside, her mom was weeding the garden.  Trixie "picked up a fat little worm, watched it wriggle around in the palm of her hand, then gently let it go" – or something like that.  My mom had a garden.  I wasn't afraid to pick up worms.  Or toads.  Or grasshoppers or crickets.  

Trixie never gets a horse of her own (neither did I), but she gets a rich friend (the girl in the dress in the illustrations) who has horses, and they have adventures, and they don't age more than a year or so.  And they solve mysteries.

I loved these books.  I craved them.  And my Mom did everything in her power to add to the collection.  They weren't wildly popular, and they weren't always easy to find.  I remember any time we went on any sort of vacation (which was rare), I would search the book stores for any missing copies in my collection.  My mother hunted them down for Christmas and my birthday.  I was horribly possessive of these treasures, to the point that I didn't want my sister to read them (not that she had any interest in them anyway) and when she made friends with a couple of girls in junior high who !!! also read Trixie Belden, I was thrown into a pathetic panic, afraid that because of them Mere would now want to read these incredible books and I would have to share them with her.  I was Gollum, and the Trixie Belden mystery series was my Precious.  I even hid the whole set up in the attic for a time.

I was awful.

Anyway, jumping ahead a whole bunch of years, during which time I like to think I matured and relaxed a bit but probably not, when I started reading Sue Grafton's books, I felt the same connection to the character of Kinsey Millhone.  Not entirely – I was still shy, I didn't have the same history – but there were things I could relate to.  She was happy when she could spend a whole weekend home, reading a book.  She didn't wear makeup and she cut her own hair.  I didn't like wearing makeup really, and never felt like I did it right, and while I didn't cut my own hair, I was at my best (I eventually discovered) when I just had it tied back in a pony tail.  I admired her relatively simple life.  I admired her independence.  I just liked her.  I liked to think that if she was real and we lived in the same neighborhood and somehow knew each other we could meet for coffee every once in a while, even though we tended to keep to ourselves most of the time.

My Mom read the books, too.  I'd loan them to her, plus anything else I was reading.  Working in a bookstore was wonderful – access to everything and an employee discount to aid in the addiction.

I got my reading gene from my mother, who got it from her father.  I don't know where it came from before that.  All three of us liked murder mysteries, and in addition to Trixie Belden and, yes, I read all the Nancy Drew stuff, too, I also read the Toff books by John Creasy, the Saint series by Leslie Charteris, and a bunch of Agatha Christie's books.  These were while I was in junior high and high school.  Around the time I was starting to read Sue Grafton, I also met Patricia Cornwell's books and those of Sara Paretsky.  And, later, Faye Kellerman.  And others.  But those are the main ones.  

I remember going to the library regularly as a kid, usually with my mom, but also on my own or with my best friend on our bikes in the summer.  I read a lot.  When I was in high school my mom and I would go so she could pick out books to bring for my grandfather, her father, to read, especially after his heart attack.  He could do a whole lot at that point, but he could devour books.  His short term memory had been affected, so reading the same books exact books every few weeks didn't matter.  I think it was the familiar language, the familiar characters, the familiar (English) settings that probably made him feel comfortable.  

I am like that too.  Well, minus the heart attack and the advanced age.  There is a comfort in reading a series and meeting up with familiar characters.  They are a bit like old friends.  Maybe that's what I found appealing.  They gave me just enough of a (pretend) social life without my having to really interact with people too much.  I was fine at work, but things like parties or any sort of get-together where you were just supposed to relax and talk were never relaxing for me.  Still aren't, unless I'm mentally prepared before I go or it's with people I've known forever.

In more recent years I hadn't faithfully bought each new Kinsey Millhone mystery the day it came out like I'd done before.  I think the addition of a husband and children slowed that down for me.  I think I put away some of myself for a whole bunch of years and I've only recently started unpacking that part of me again.  My kids are (gulp) both in high school (wait, what??) and they are doing their own things a lot and I have found myself with a bit more time on my hands and an odd feeling of not knowing what to do with myself or who I am or what I'm supposed to be. 

The deaths of both my parents within the last five and a half years has also served to shake me up and wake me up.  Trying to clean out their house was overwhelming, but interesting at times, as my sister and I dug through countless boxes of stuff from our childhood, our parents' childhoods, our lives as a family, just…everything.  I don't think my mother ever wanted to part with anything.  She was an only child and all her cousins and aunts and uncles were in England; maybe it was her way of having a bigger family. At times it felt like she would have preferred to live over there.  Especially after her parents had both passed away.  Hearing English accents was probably comforting in a way our American voices could never be, no matter what words we said.

At times over the years when I've been especially depressed I have given away my books.  At first, just the books I truly didn't need or plan to ever read again, but then, eventually, the books I loved.  Maybe it was an attempt to get rid of parts of me I didn't like, in an effort to like whatever was left.  Maybe it was a way to fight the pain I already felt and couldn't pin down with a pain that was very real and very identifiable – getting rid of books – characters – friends – who were safe and comforting at times in my life.  Maybe even they couldn't help me get away from the mean voices I'd allowed in my head, so why keep them around, collecting dust, pages fading, taking up space?  My kids don't seem to have inherited the reading gene either.  Maybe I didn't read to them enough.  Maybe it was my fault somehow that they didn't enjoy – need – books the way I did.  Maybe my attachment to all these books wasn't healthy, maybe that was part of my problem – preferring the worlds in books to the real world around me – so maybe I needed to get rid of these distractions so I could do a better job of being a person.  

I don't know.  But that's what I did.  I got rid of books.  If I think about it too much it hurts.  But I understand, sort of, why I did it.  And it's over and done.  I could rebuild my library, which is appealing because it's so nice to have books…but then I think about the endlessness of cleaning out all the stuff in my parents' house…and I don't want to leave that sort of experience for my kids.

So I occasionally buy a book.  

I know, I can also go to the library.

But you know what?  I don't enjoy it like I used to.  When I was growing up, I LOVED our library.  It was old and mysterious and full of dark wood and musty book smells and it was quiet and a teeny bit scary for some reason.  Like there could be ghostly characters that stepped out of the pages when no one was around and wandered from room to room, stretching their folded limbs and checking out the latest bestsellers.  

That library has changed.  It is bright and clean smelling and has lots of computers available.  There is nothing dark or musty or cozy or scary about it at all.  And the library closest to my house here is just the same.  There are probably comfy chairs I could sink into for an hour or two with a book I might want to bring home for two weeks (if that) to finish if I like it…but the whole space is too bright.  Too busy.  Not enough dark wood.  There is nothing intimate about the experience.  I guess that's what I'm getting at.  The lack of intimacy in these modern libraries.  How can you develop a good relationship with a book with all these bright lights and people everywhere and desks and computers?  There should be cozy corners and dark nooks, and at least a hint of a musty old book.  Maybe Yankee candle could work on that….

I could probably explore that idea for many paragraphs but I have already been babbling on for a while now.

I finished Sue Grafton's final book, "Y is for Yesterday," a little while ago.  I'm missing my Mom, and my grandfather, and Trixie Belden, and some part of myself that I'm still trying to get back, but I'm not even sure what part it is.

All I know is I have a strong urge to start reading "A is for Alibi" and go through the whole series once more, and pretend there will still, eventually, be a Z. 

Cats and Crochet

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Otis and Scratchy

Scratchy will be 11 in May, and Otis is eight months old.  I got a few pictures of them hanging out together – peacefully – this afternoon.  About four or five times a day Otis decides he needs to play, so he attacks Scratchy and they wrestle around from room to room, on and under furniture, grappling and separating, sometimes sitting, still but ready to pounce, tails lashing, eyes locked.  Otis enjoys this more than Scratchy does.  In fact, at times, Scratchy just seems so over the whole "babysitting the new kitten" thing.  He will be quietly walking across the room, minding his own cat business, when he's tackled from the side by our mini panther.  Or from above, as Otis leaps off a chair or table.  And other times, when Otis approaches head-on, Scratchy will just raise a weary paw and cuff Otis upside the head and roll him over.  I'm always rather impressed with that because until now Scratchy had been the lazy one.  I didn't know he'd have fighting skills.  But he does.  

Skills…and love.  Other times when they are locked together in simulated mortal combat, Scratchy will pause from holding half of Otis' face to rapidly lick the top of Otis' head.  And Otis will hold still for this.  Then, after this brief moment of loving care, they resume the biting and grabbing and rolling around.  Weird creatures.

Otis adores Scratchy.  We watch the two of them walking across the floor at times and Otis presses himself against Scratchy's side so they move as one.  He nudges his head under Scratchy's chin as he purrs snuggles.  Then he tries to eat Scratchy's food right out from under him.

Before we had Otis, Scratchy had his own ways of urging us to get up and feed him if one of us didn't spring out of bed when the first alarm went off.  He would chew on stuff.  Plastic stuff.  Crinkly stuff.  His favorite device in our bedroom is the thick paper tag on an extension cord on my side of the bed.  (Of course, I could just remove the tag, but it never occurs to me until, say, now.) Anyway, He would chew and chew until I finally threw myself out of bed and either booted him out of the room or gave in and fed him.  

But that hasn't been happening lately.  Instead, around oh, 4:59 or 4:19 or 3:20(!!!) in the morning I will feel a gentle little paw patting me on the face.  My cheek.  My nose.  My cheek again.  I will feel the faint tickle of whiskers against my face.  Pat, pat, pat pat.  I will hear very loud purring, relentless and adoring.  And I will feel a cold little nose bump against me.  Worst case, I will get a whiff of cat breath, but that doesn't always happen.  Just the other stuff.  And mostly the little paw patting my face – "wake up, Jayne! wake up!" – and the purring.  Then a seemingly boneless warm, silky mass will throw itself against my head.  Or under my chin.  Or against my face.  

Gentle, soft, loving, relentless.  Otis.

The other morning, after being battered about like this, I checked the time – around 3:30 – and though I was not planning to feed anyone, I did have to pee.  I got out of bed and Otis raced out of the bedroom to where Scratchy was sitting at the top of the stairs waiting.  Like he'd sent Otis in to do his old job.  Another time Scratchy didn't even bother coming upstairs.  He sat at the bottom of the stairs instead, perhaps giving Otis a bit more responsibility – not just to get me out of bed, out of the room, but to see if I could be persuaded to come downstairs to where the cat food is.

~~~

My hands (I had the surgery on my left hand on January 29th and that went just as well as the right hand) are doing very well.  The incisions have healed nicely and the right hand one is barely noticeable. They are both still rather tender to the touch, and as I type, I feel a sort of thickness on the heel of each hand where they rest against the laptop keyboard.  BUT.  The horrible numbness/tingling/other weird Carpal Tunnel sensations are gone.  Gone!  I don't even remember what the feeling was like.  Kind of like giving birth, maybe – there is no real memory of pain, just knowledge that there WAS pain.  

I have, however, developed a frozen right shoulder.  I haven't been able to raise my right arm above shoulder height, and moving it in certain ways sends sharp, stabbing pains down my arm.  Apparently this isn't uncommon in women between 40-60, and it also can occur if a person has had their arm immobilized for a period of time, and I guess because I wasn't using my right hand for a while, the freezing started.  So I've started physical therapy and after just two sessions I feel things are loosening up, so I'm pretty optimistic. 

Anyway, because my hands are doing so well, I've been gradually doing more and more crocheting.  I've got some big projects going on – several blankets.  And I've also got a LOT of yarn.  

I read an article recently – 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose – and question #7 is "If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?"  My thoughts in response to the question ran off in several directions, and I ended up thinking about all the stuff in the house, and how do I get rid of it, and yeah, maybe I should have Marie Kondo'd the house while I've been home for my hand surgeries, but I didn't, so I'm still just as overwhelmed with stuff as I was in December.  So I took that "one year from today" time frame and decided to focus on working my way through all the yarn I have.  I have lots of works in progress.  Crochet projects, sewing projects, jewelry-making ideas….lots to do.  So the goal is to work my way through the works in progress AND clear out my surplus of yarn and fabric and wire and beads.  Right now I'm in a joyful crocheting mood, so in between working rows on this blanket or that one, I'm making smaller projects.  So far I've used a bunch of cotton yarn to make a couple of bags and a couple of little bowls.  

Bag #1:

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Otis likes to be involved in anything anyone is doing at any time ever.  Always.  Unless he's sleeping.

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Bag #2:

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Let me try again…

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And then the bowls:

First the yellow one, which I did while Julia was at a guitar ensemble rehearsal:

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Otis is clearly suspicious of it.

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And then this blue one with a couple of thin ribbons woven through the crocheted stitches:


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Otis is not interested in the blue bowl whatsoever.

Anyway, those are my recent little projects, and I find them very satisfying.  I use the bags for grocery shopping, and next time I make some bags I'll go smaller, as they stretch quite a bit when filled.  

For a change, my current little project is a shawl.  It's not as little as bags and bowls, but it's satisfying because I'm cranking through skeins of yarn.  I'll show it to you when I've got a little more done and it really looks like a shawl.  

That's it for now.  What's going on with you?

Lizard Hand

My stitches are out!  The Dr. took them out on the 21st, last Friday, and said I could go without a bandage, could get the hand wet, could start doing exercises to strengthen my hand and regain mobility and all that.  So – yay!  Within a couple of days the stitched area had dried up (it was kind of creepy and pale and a bit swollen from the Neosporin and bandage on it constantly) and for the last few days it's been starting to peel.  My scar looks like how our lizard looks when she starts to shed. And it itches!  It itches like crazy.

I'm doing a lot of normal things again, and two days ago we went to NH for the day so Bill and the kids could go skiing and I could hang out in the lodge and read and I actually did a very small bit of crocheting.  Two shortish rows for a hat.  And I stopped because my left hand was going numb/tingling/not happy.  My right hand, I am ecstatic to say, was not bothered at all.  I also stopped because I don't want to overdo it with the right hand, either.  So there we are.  And I didn't do any crocheting yesterday but I may try a bit again today. Yay!

Sky from nh

This was the sky on the way home from NH, by the way.  The photo doesn't do it justice.  

~~~

I woke  up with an incredibly stiff neck on the left side and it's VERY annoying. Just wanted to share that.  

It didn't help, though.  My neck is still stiff.

~~~

Oh!  Christmas.  Well for Christmas Eve we had my husband's nephew over and his three little boys, which was fun because they're, well, little, and cute, and easily entertained by Otis (the kitten) chasing a little scrap of fabric on a stick while everyone waits for the Yorkshire Pudding to finish cooking and for dinner to be served.  

Since I'm slightly out of commission, I had some help making the dinner – Julia made the Yorkshire pudding pretty much solo, with just me telling her what to do.  And – best part – we saved some of the fat from the Roast Beef and made a second huge Yorkshire the next day.  Because there are never enough starchy leftovers.  It's either the stuffing is all gone the day after Thanksgiving, or the Yorkshire Pudding is all gone after Christmas.  This year we had plenty.

Christmas Day was a departure from the norm – we went to my sister's house for breakfast and hung out there for a while.  She and family have moved into a beautiful new house with wide plank hardwood floors, exposed beams, coziness and warmth.  She went happily crazy with the holiday decorating with beautiful touches everywhere and I really didn't want to go back to my own house.

But we did and had a lazy afternoon of leftovers and laziness.

~~~

I haven't done a whole heck of a lot of writing over the past couple of years, and I can feel it.  Stuff isn't flowing.  don't know what to type here or how to say it.  It all feels rusty and, well, kind of like my stiff neck.  I'm not the same person I was when I was writing here all the time.  I don't take pictures of the food I cook, unless it's really, really awesome.  I cook for a living, and to write about cooking now seems…pretentious.  I've learned that I know some things, but there's a lot I don't know, and plenty of people who are certainly way better at all this stuff than I am.  So writing about something old me cooked and elaborating on all the steps or whatever…who am I to tell anyone what to do or how to do it?  And the carpal tunnel messed with my hands so much that I stopped making all those fun cakes.  Stopped decorating cookies.  Nothing to write about there.  And my kids are getting older and so I am respecting their privacy now by not posting pictures.  Well, Julia probably wouldn't care – now – but might some day in the future.  So…I don't know what to write about.  But I'll figure it out.

 

 

Observations While My Hand Is Like This

*  At rest, my right hand looks like a Barbie doll hand, minus the long slender fingers and tiny but perfect manicure.  If Barbie had a short, square-handed twin, that would be me.

*  With that immobile hand, I can now do the Royal Wave pretty well.  

*  I can drive, but everything leading up to the car in forward motion has become a circus act.

*  Yesterday I needed to do something, so, of all things, I decided to do the dishes. At first I thought I'd just empty and reload the dishwasher, but that wasn't satisfying, because there were still all the pots and pans and utensils taking up space. Things I ordinarily require two hands to do. Then it occurred to me that there are people who permanently only have one hand, and presumably they do the dishes, so I should make it work. And I did! All I left in the sink were two sheet pans that needed to soak. And I was very proud of myself until I realized that hey, the only reason I'm having surgery on my hands is so OTHER people will have to do those chores. 

But it gets boring NOT doing things. And overdoing things just leaves my current working hand on fire. So I am trying to find a middle ground.

*  I really want to crochet. I have never participated in a CAL – Crochet-a-long – but I really want to do this one because even though pinks and purples aren't my thing, I love sweet peas, the pattern looks fun, and I only have at least 39 unfinished projects, so why not make it an even 40?

*  When I brush my teeth, left-handed, my right hand goes up and then moves up and down while the left is navigating my teeth, kind of the way I used to open my mouth encouragingly when spoon feeding my kids when they were babies.

*  There's a part of me that is afraid of all this time off with not much I can do. It leaves my mind with a lot of down time, and that's when my Anxieties like to slip in. They are not new ones, so they know their way around my head. They know where to hide, and wait, and gather together behind the sofa and then jump out and yell "Surprise!" Only that image makes them sound fun. I'm sure that is how they see themselves, but really they slither in with the shadows and whisper and hiss in my ears.   

At least I recognize them for what they are.

*  I watched Bruce Springsteen's one man show on Netflix the other day and I bawled my eyes out at times. Very cathartic.  

*  We have no ornaments on our Christmas tree this year because the first day the tree was inside, in the tree stand, Otis tried to climb it a bunch of times and got high enough to throw the balance off and yay! water everywhere! So the tree spent a few days outside and then we set it up and anchored it with 60 lb test fishing line from one end of the (heavy) curtain rod, looped around the trunk, to the other end of the curtain rod.  We put white lights on the tree and that's it. Otis curls up – actually both cats curl up – on the blanket we are using as a tree skirt, and all is calm, all is upright.

Okay, that's about enough excitement for one day. 

I'll talk to you again soon.

 

One Week In

I can make do pretty well left-handed with most tasks.  It's not pretty, though.  Last night eating soup I realized that I'm about as tidy as a toddler, but most of the important stuff made it into my mouth, so it's ok.

The surgery was exactly a week ago, and then on Friday I went back for my post-op visit and the original bandage was removed and I got to see my bruised hand and the five stitches at the base of my palm.  Very pretty.

The surgeon told me I could start moving my fingers a bit, and he put a dollop of bacitracin along my incision and slapped (okay, gently placed) a giant band-aid over that and said I could change that as little as once a day or as often as I liked, and I could get my hand wet as long as the band-aid sides were sealed to protect the stitched up area.  I could wrap it back up with an ace bandage if I wanted to.

Later that day, I wanted to.  My entire wrist was very sore and the little wrist bones felt loose and when I flexed my wrist it felt like I had a bag of rocks in there banging around.  My whole hand was stiff, and I tried gently touching my thumb to my fingertips and all of them made it but the pinkie was very reluctant.  I stopped after one try.  I don't want to rush things.  I want this to work.  

I found an ace bandage and wrapped my hand back up, but I wiggled and curled my fingers now and then, just to remind them that they won't be allowed to slack off forever.

At this very moment my ace bandage is off and I am actually doing a little typing right now.  

I was given a prescription for Tylenol 3, but I only used it the first day and a half.  It didn't do much for the pain – just made me sleepy.  I've just been using OTC meds as needed.  

And rest.  Difficult, necessary rest.

Speaking of which, that's it for now.  

 

Enforced Rest

An hour ago I had carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand.  When this heals, I'll have it done on my left hand.

Right now I'm typing with my left hand, hunt and peck style, with my tingly fingers and my thumb. who is not used to operating a space bar, is going half numb from the CTS and boredom.

My right hand is swathed in a festive white and gold bandage. My fingers are still numb from the surgery, and I know that when the numbness wears off there will probably be pain, but I'd rather have the pain.  I've had enough numbness, thank you.

I'd put off doing anything about my hands. I adapted. I worked through it. I sucked it up. I stopped doing the things that aggravated it. Like decorating cakes. And cookies. And that worked. Until a couple of months ago when suddenly it just got worse. Worse to the point where I just wanted to cry from frustration and sucking it up.  

I work as a cook.  Its a good fit. I like what I do, but more than that, I love the people I work with. They have been there for me through the deaths of both my parents and the smaller things in between. They are family. They are always there for me. And my boss is the one who pushed me hardest to have this surgery. I will be out of work during our busy Christmas season, but that is okay.  My job right now is to "relax and heal."

It's an incredible feeling, to be ordered to take care of myself.

~~~

My sister and my niece brought me to and from surgery, which made it fun, and we drove to Dunkin Donuts immediately after so I could finally have a cup of coffee, which has made the numb fingers bearable.

Anyway, I will be out of work for a while, so I figured this was a good time to get back in the habit of posting on a regular basis, even if its just to give you updates about my hands.

Plus, I can't crochet one-handed.

Yet….

Temperature Afghan 1917 Jan Feb March April

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When I first started this blanket I was young and foolish and imagined that 730 rows of crochet would fit perfectly on a bed.  Actually I didn't imagine any of that – I didn't really think about how big the finished project would be until I'd finished the first month and measured the length and multiplied by 12 and realized that 2017 was going to be a big year of yarn.  At first I thought I could just do two blankets of 6 months each, but even that would be a bit big for a normal-sized bed, so I divided the year into three sections, and here is the first one.  As of this post, I'm in the end of July in the next portion, so almost 3/4 finished.  Hopefully I'll finish the whole thing before my kids graduate high school.

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Some of the temperature blankets (or scarves) I've seen on places like Pinterest have brighter colors, but I prefer blues, greens – the cooler tones.  The colors are soothing, like a walk along one of our Rhode Island beaches after the tourists have gone home.  

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April brought us a few stripes of warmth, as you can see above.  The darker greens, those couple rows of yellow, those show first hints of Spring.


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My colors:

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I used a different color for every 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and this scrap of paper was my guide throughout the first four month segment.  And hey – if you scroll back a few posts you can see my initial post about this project.  Yay!


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Here are my tools for the next four month afghan, beginning with the color range and samples of all the yarns wrapped around some clothespins.  A couple of shades of green are pretty close and I still have to double check which is which if the lighting is bad.

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Below, my progress so far, sitting in a rumpled heap on top of my box of in-use yarns.  In the top left of the picture is another project, a sampler afghan done in bright, warmer colors.  I started working on it during Julia's softball games this past season.  I'd do a square in one stitch…then one in a different stitch.  I'll pick it up again as her off-season indoor games begin next month.

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These are my backup yarns for the current temperature project, so I don't run out mid-row. 

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And this is my temperature calendar.  Each date has two temperatures, and above each number is a letter that stands for the corresponding yarn.  As I finish each row I put a check mark above the letter.  I filled in all those temperatures with help from the Weather Underground app.  You can do a weather history search based on your zip code and look up all sorts of things.  

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And here is Otis, looking deceptively quiet and peaceful.  

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He's been sleeping on this blanket (which is on top of yet another project so that the cats don't get cat hairs all over it or poke themselves with pins) for the past several hours, but after I was done taking these pictures, he wandered over to where I was typing (and watching the Red Sox parade through Boston on tv) to try to distract me from my task.  He likes to walk on the keyboard, and when I don't let him do that he heads for my uncovered water glass in order to make me lunge across the couch.  

He has the loudest purr.  🙂

Gotta go now.  Happy Halloween!

One Year and Eight Months Later

I have a corned beef in the oven, rubbed mostly all over with black pepper, coriander, and paprika.  It's perched on a rack over a 13 x 9 inch pan of water and will, in around 3-4 hours, be magically transformed into pastrami.  

I wasn't planning on giving it a smoky flavor, but the drippings from a whole roasted squash recently have had other ideas.  I've got windows open despite the wintery temperatures in an effort to get MOST of the smoke out of the house.  My eyes are stinging slightly.

We have a new member of the family.  But before he joined us, we lost my Dad's cat, Audrey, to breast cancer.  I'd never thought of cats having breast cancer, but what do you know.  It's very aggressive in cats – apparently dogs respond better to treatment – and so with a lot of second guessing and guilt and sadness, I had Audrey euthanized earlier this month.  She had two good years with us, almost a full year with my Dad before that, so I should feel good about that, but still, it's never an easy decision.  

A week or so after that horrible evening Julia told me that Bill had been looking at Scratchy and said to her (Julia) that he thought Scratchy looked bored.  Now, Audrey and Scratchy weren't off on daily adventures, and Scratchy has always been a pretty sedentary cat even before Audrey came along to boss him around, but they did have moments of play – or battle – that must have kept things interesting for him.  Without Audrey there was no one to argue over whose turn it is to hang out in that empty box in the living room.  Or…well, that's pretty much where their play time and battles happened.

A day or so later Bill said the same "Scratchy looks bored" thing to me, and Julia and I decided that Bill thought Scratchy needed a companion but was too…something…to come right out and say it, so "bored" was a hint.  I spent a morning looking at pet adoption sites.  And I decided (because I am the authority on cats in this house) that Scratchy would do better with a kitten than with another adult cat.  When I brought Audrey home, Scratchy fled to the basement for three months until he got brave enough to venture back into the rest of the house WHERE THAT SCARY NEW CAT was living.  The scary new cat who was less than half his size physically, but triple his size in self confidence.  I didn't want Scratchy to feel displaced again.  So – a kitten.  I checked in with a lot of animal shelters in our area, and showed Julia pictures of adorable little kitten faces, and saw, sometimes, that there were SIBLING kittens that would, ideally, be adopted TOGETHER, and I was extremely tempted by the thought of two little kittens chasing each other around the house.

But.

Again, I didn't want Scratchy to feel overwhelmed.  And it was within the realm of possibility that two kittens would be too many for him.  

We ended up adopting a little ten week old foster kitten by someone who knows someone who my therapist knows.  He is all black with just a few white hairs near his throat.  He is friendly, loving, purrs like a tiny jackhammer, and adores Scratchy.  Within three days of their first face to face meeting, Scratchy accepted the kitten as an annoying but not intimidating member of the clan.

(And because I am in a sharing mood, I ask you how is it possible to suddenly split the backside of a pair of pants that are TOO BIG? I got up from my chair to shut the windows just now because the smoke has cleared out and UPS just dropped off two boxes and as I stood up my pants split.  I don't understand that in the least.  But there you go, a little glimpse into my world today.)

Oh, and by the way, Bill said "Scratchy looks bored" meant nothing more than "Scratchy looks bored," and after several days of feeling too much peer pressure and not wanting to give in to the evils of kitten adoption, he caved.  And tells us all that the kitten loves him best.  Naming the kitten – his foster human had given him a name, but we wanted to do our own naming, and really, he's a cat, he will answer if he feels like it, no matter what we call him – so anyway, after many name suggestions on which all four of us could never agree, I suggested to the kids that we let Bill name him, because we have all named one or more of all the other pets, and Bill hasn't named any.  Unless he's secretly named the assorted fish in his tank.

I was going to post a picture of him just now, but I have a new laptop and for some as yet unknown reason I can't insert photos just yet.  I'll put a couple pictures on my Facebook page later.

Anyway, at this point, a couple weeks into the adoption, Scratchy and Otis are getting along well.  As I type, they are both sleeping on the big tan chair in the living room.  Otis, when awake, can be very pesky and annoying, just like a younger sibling, and Scratchy is tolerant up to a point, and when he passes that point he'll thump Otis on the head with a soft but solid paw and hiss, and follow that up by licking Otis vigorously in the same spot.  Kind of stern discipline followed by a hug.  Mostly, there is peace. 

And I don't think anyone could say Scratchy looks bored.

That's it for my first post in a really, really long time.  

I've missed you.

 

Temperature Afghan January 2017

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I finished January's rows a few weeks ago. I had thought about adding in a row of black to separate each month, but that would disrupt the color flow, and my sister said not to,  so instead I just tied in a little black fringe on each side. 

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I'm happy with the look so far, and I'm very happy with the colors I'm using.

I thought it would be a good idea to measure the length, now that I've got the first month finished, so I could calculate the length of the finished afghan. So I did. January is 14" long.  Yeah. Which means that 12 months X 14 inches equals a 14 foot afghan. A nice size if you've got two big beds situated foot to foot and you want to cover both with one blanket. Unfortunately, we are unable to make this work in our puny normal-sized bedroom, so I think I will make two afghans – a January-June and a July-December. 

Of course, this bothers me because I would prefer a different dividing line. Maybe November-March and an April-October.   Cooler months and warmer months.

But maybe that wouldn't matter. I just had to add three more colors to my February line-up because I hadn't expected to get into the 60s and even into the 70s just yet.

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Temperature Afghan

Toward the end of 2016 I was looking for a new project for 2017. I wasn't going to make any resolutions because I won't keep them. Instead I was toying with the idea of posting a photo a day, something to get me back into that part of me. But I didn't want the pressure. 

I thought my project could be to FINALLY finish all the repair projects and works-in-progress that I look at and feel guilty about and then continue to ignore. And actually I'm sort of working on those, too. I wrote each one on a piece of paper, folded them up and put them all in a mason jar. I pick one out, realize I'm not in the mood to repair an older quilt just then, so I unfold the paper until I find a project I'd rather do. Oddly enough, I'm getting things done that way. 

BUT  I wanted a NEW project, too so I scrolled through Pinterest and saw a lot of tutorials for Temperature Afghans or blankets, and scarves. The basic idea is you crochet or knit a row for each day of the year using the temperature as your color key. Some suggest the high temp for the day, others the low, and some suggested using the high and the low. You use yarn colors to correspond with temperature ranges that make sense for your  Climate. I saw a lot of ten degree temperature/color charts, but I wanted more colors, so my temperature and color chart is in five degree increments. And, I've only set it up for the colder part of the year. I'm thinking of adjusting the colors as the weather warms up, because fifty degrees in January is different from fifty degrees in June. At least it is in my mind. 

Anyway, here is my color chart for January and probably February:

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And these are the yarns:

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At first i was was thinking of using two strands of yarn – the high temp and the low temp together – for each row, but I wanted each color to be more visible in the end result, so I am crocheting a row of the high temp color and a row of the low temp color for each day.

I am keeping track of the temperatures for each day and the yarn color for those temperatures in this daily planner.

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I work on this Afghan about twice a week. That way I get to do a bunch of rows in one sitting but I could just as easily do the rows daily. No pressure, which is nice.

Anyway, here are some progress pictures from this month.

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And that's about it for today.