After all the rain, the weather this week has been beautiful. At work, I’ve been eating on the deck by the creek (and surprising a squirrel one day) and reading and writing at the table on the porch at home. And Kilele has enjoyed the porch and the bush right outside where the birds hang out!

On the deck at the office

On the deck at the office

On the porch

yarny update

Looking back through the blog, I noticed that there was a distinct lack of knitting. And as the blog was originally all about the knitting (and gardening and pets), I thought I’d update.

The last project I talked about was the sock yarn leftovers blanket, which I’m happy to report is all done and has been put to use. It’s a great size and a nice light weight.

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Of course, now the question is what to do with leftover sock yarn, since I’m still knitting socks. Actually, the only thing I’m really finishing is socks, except for a string of accessories over the winter (3 pairs mitts, 2 pairs mittins, beret, scarf, cowl. I was on a bit of a roll and also needed some quick gifts. And it was cold.). And I am just nuts enough to embark on another blanket.

I’ve started four or five different options and I think I’ve finally found one. I used a Drops design as a starting point for large squares knit center out and after a whole lot of knitting and ripping, I think I’ve found something I like.

Having just done a huge blanket in garter stitch, I took the pattern above and knit it in stockinette. And it came out more circular than square, which really wasn’t the look I was going for. I tried blocking it out, but it was pretty hopeless. No pics of that, it’s been ripped.

Which brought me back to garter stitch — garter in the round is one round knit, one round purl. I did a sock once with the foot knit in the round and then switching to stockinette flat for the leg. It was an utter disaster; my purling must be much tighter, because there was no way to make the leg of the sock go around my leg, even though the foot fit perfectly. So I wondered if doing garter in the round would pull things in. And it did — perfectly.

Sock Yarn Leftovers Blanket 2.0

A quick soak, a little stretch at the corners, and a perfect square was had. Yay!

Although I wasn’t happy with the blob of stockinette in the middle, from the cast on. I had used Judy’s Magic Cast On – which of all the options, I was liking best as it was least fiddly. And considering how fiddly it is, that’s saying something. Emily Ocher’s Cast On wasn’t bad, but made a bit of a belly button which wouldn’t block flat (no pics, ripped. lots of ripping happened).

There’s also that oh-so-attractive line in the middle of the right triangle where I switched from knit to purl and back at the beginning of each row. So this afternoon I watched My Neighbor Totoro and did a lot more casting on and ripping out and came up with this:

Sock Yarn Leftovers Blanket 2.0

Which I think I can live with! Still using Judy’s Magic Cast On, but in the very first row did k1 p1 rather than all k. It sets up the corners and they make a nice X through the middle. The orange marker shows the beginning of the round, but I’m waiting to make the switch from knit to purl or purl to knit until the corner (the green marker). The corner looks a little different from the others, but not much, and it’s much better than in the middle of a side! So I’m quite pleased. I’ve made lots of notes, and now I have a pretty much mindless long term project on the needles again.

It’s mindless knitting, but it can’t be too mindless. At one point a certain cat got a paw on the cable of my circular needle and yoinked it out of my knitting. I’m learning to be a defensive knitter when she’s around.

Speaking of…

Kilele on an Adventure

We did a fourth of July road trip to PA to visit the parents. Someone was allowed out of her crate during rest stops, and while it was fascinating it was also scary (Fortunately, I was able to get her out from under the driver’s seat to get her back in her crate).

the Dependable Ninety-Two, well, wasn’t

It’s been an interesting week here at Nyumbani ya Linnakat.

First, it’s been incredibly hot, hotter than usual for June. The weather map Wednesday morning was solid red (ugh). So of course, this was the perfect time for my furnace – “The Dependable Ninety-Two” – to stop being dependable*. Although it turns out it was 20 years old, so I really can’t complain (too much).

So on Thursday a new system got installed, sans catchy model name (it’s simply “Amana”). And the coolness, it is glorious. I also know now how much the old system was struggling. The old one would run for close to an hour trying to drop the house a couple degrees at bedtime. This one? Less than 10 minutes.

World's Fair Park, Knoxville
World’s Fair Park, walking back to the car from the opening reception. Yes, I played in the fountains a little!

Part two of interesting week was work-related. We had our first “educational conference” here in Knoxville, so Wednesday through Friday were busy. We had an opening reception in the Sunsphere (tres cool!) and then sessions Thursday and Friday morning at the convention center, and wrapped up with one-on-one trainings and a cookout at the office. It was a small group, but really a good size for a first year. People were very enthusiastic and had lots of ideas how to use our software more efficiently and extensively, and I actually had a great time leading some small group session trainings.

hydrangeas in the frontWith the heat, the garden is now past it’s spring prime, but the hydrangeas are going great guns still. This year I wacked the old dead stalks down to the ground; the internet isn’t agreed on whether that’s a good course of action, but they seem very happy!

Kilele strikes a pose.

Kilele strikes a pose


*My furnace matters in the summer because I have a split system – natural gas furnace/blower system in the basement and AC unit in the backyard. So no furnace, no AC.


Earlier in the month, my sister and I did a big trip to Scotland – two weeks of traveling around. We visited the highlands…

The Three Sisters, GlencoeThe Three Sisters, Glencoe

Saw lots of lochs…

Loch LevenLoch Leven

Loch LinnheLoch Linnhe

Loch nan UamhLoch nan Uamh

As well as beaches…

Traig BeachesTraig Beach

And some monuments…


Glencoe MemorialGlencoe Memorial

On to Perthshire. More sheep…

Glen Lyon, Perthshire

Some Red Deer…

Meggernie and Lochs Estates, PerthshireOn the Meggernie and Lochs Estates

more stunning scenery…

Glen Lyon, PerthshireGlen Lyon

and a castle.

Scone Castle, PerthScone Castle

Onwards! Edinburgh! With its Castle…

Edinburgh Castle

And its many many hills and steps…

EdinburghMilne’s Court, walking home from the Portrait Gallery

Just a day or so in London…

On the London Bus Tour

Before heading back to Heathrow to drop off the trusty Clio and head back home. Thank you, Google Maps, for taking us the scenic route…

Tower Bridge

The entire album is over here (clickity click!).

Lazy Saturday

Daffodils in the backyard 032815

This past week has been wonderfully spring-like, until yesterday when it the temperature dropped and then today it’s only gotten up to the 40’s. Not that I’m complaining – I’ll take chilly toes in my flip flops as I do laundry over the snow they had up in PA!

The early flowers are blooming here. As you can see, the daffodils are going to town. The crepe myrtle is in full bloom, and evidently one of the plants I keep hacking back is a forsythia. Oops.

The longer days are very welcome. I’ve been able to get out and start cleaning up the flower beds, including hacking back the very overgrown holly bushes. I wanted to get them cut back before the birds took up residence and succeeded. They seem to be nesting in the smaller bushes in front while the bare branches of the holly are useful lookout spots, much to the enjoyment of the cat.

And yes, I said cat. There as been further news on the pet side of things that I haven’t shared. Right before Christmas Mack developed some health issues that I didn’t catch until a mass in his abdomen ruptured. So the Sunday before Christmas he had to be put down. Very sudden, very unexpected.

I honestly couldn’t face getting another dog. And logistically, dogs are difficult. After two months of coming home to an empty house, I broke down and got a cat. Another shelter rescue, as usual (all my pets have been rescues).

Claire Kilele Kidogo

This is Kilele, a four year old, well, cat. :) She came with the name Claire, which just doesn’t seem like a cat name to me, so her full name is now Claire Kilele Kidogo, which is what she gets called when she’s in trouble. In Swahili kilele means “noise” and kidogo means “little”. Which is very fitting – she’s a tiny but very noisy cat. The vet, upon hearing her, mentioned that many black cats are part Siamese (which I did not know!). So we have very many fine conversations.

extra toeses in need of a trimExtra toeses, in need of a trim

She also has hemingway toes, which offers the additional challenge of keeping her extra claws trimmed. On each “thumb” on her front paws she has two normal cat claws and one large claw that looks more like a dog claw. The scratching post doesn’t help with these claws (her thumbs don’t actually work like thumbs HALLELUJAH) so they don’t stay short. She’s clicking around the house now – I tried trimming them this morning but I think I need at least two more hands. Since this morning’s effort resulted in me digging out the Neosporin and band-aids, I’m going to be giving the vet a call on Monday.

While laying in bed this morning trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep in, I realized the difference between cats and dogs. Dogs may be high maintenance but they aren’t demanding. Cats may be low maintenance, but gosh they’re demanding. It was 6:45 (breakfast time) and I was being poked by a paw. Regularly.

Kilele assisting

She also likes to assist with all the yarny things that happen here at Nyumbani ya Linnakat.

herd of celli before the concertHerd of celli, tucked in a safe corner between rehearsal and concert.

In other news, I’m playing cello again! I’m playing with the Oak Ridge Community Orchestra and enjoying it very much. My first concert (in December) was very much being thrown in the deep end – we played Prokofiev Cinderella Suite No. 1 and that was very challenging. I didn’t master the music for this month’s concert, but I got a whole lot more of it, and it was also much easier to see how to play it. In other words, I could play it well at slow speeds – it all fit in the hand nicely, I just needed to work on getting everything fast enough. The Prokofiev? Oy. Hard to figure out and hard to hear what was right. This month’s concert was the 2nd and 4th movement of the Dvorak 9th, Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances, and an aria (with soloist) from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. We’re doing almost the same program at the Knoxville Dogwood Festival next month, but I’ll miss the May concert due to some upcoming travel. I miss playing but I’m enjoying having my Saturday mornings at home!


out my office window

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There are, as usual, lots of things to catch up on after a long blog hiatus. But I caught this pic out my office window yesterday. Which means I once again have an office window – it seems that if I’m not moving house or switching jobs, I at least have to shift myself around from place to place within the office.

This latest move has been very welcome. After a friend left to get married I moved downstairs and into the customer support room. This was the right thing at the right time and was a good thing, but after about six months it was enough, if for no other reason than I was facing a wall for eight hours a day and then leaving the office in the winter dark. I now have my own space again, can think, have things to think about (more on that later), and have a window. I shouldn’t be amazed but am how much that has helped.

And *someday* I will get that spot off my lens. May have to send the camera body back to Nikon again, as I think it’s on the mirror…

when in Rome…

Sunday football

…you do as the Romans do. Which in this case, is wear orange (Mack is thrilled, as you can tell). College football starts this weekend, so all of Knoxville is flailing a bit. UT plays Utah State here at home and the game is sold out. Neyland Stadium capacity is a smidge over 102,000 — I can’t imagine the traffic. The game is on the brand new SEC network, so those of us without cable don’t get to see it. I’ll follow on twitter so that I can follow the office conversation, but here at Nyumbani ya Linnakat it’ll be the continuing Bablyon 5 rewatch (*waves geek flag*) or possibly go to Kroger (no lines!).

Speaking of Babylon 5, this weekend is DragonCon and I’m not there. I went one year back in 2012 and it’s just too big. But in that one year, I got to see Mira Furlan and Bruce Boxleitner on a panel. Woo!

DragonCon 2012 - B5 panel
This week has been a fairly normal week. My enthusiasm for the Couch to 5K program is losing steam, but I’ve got someone checking up on me so I’m sticking with it. Plus the runs to Mack lots of good.

Knitting continues as well. Remember the sock yarn short row afghan? The one that first appeared on the blog in 2007 as little mitred squares but later reappeared during the election mess in its present form? I think the last time you saw it, all the strips were done and ready to be sewn together (lots of Murphy pics in that post!). Well at this point all the strips are sewn together and after several false starts, a 5-stitch i-cord border was decided upon (musician error: I keep wanted to type i-chord HA).

short row scrap yarn blanket 08312014

I’m almost there. Three blocks and a smidge, neaten up the corners, fix the spot of moth damage that I had missed earlier, and it is done! I cannot tell you of my love for this project, although maybe that love is because it’s been through a whole lot with me.

short row scrap yarn blanket 08312014

One neat thing – the long circular I picked up the stitches with was bought at Buttons and Bows in Yaya Center in Nairobi. The white dpns I’m knitting with were my grandmother’s.

On to the adventures of Mack…

Mack and his escape route

The back gate is in sad shape. There’s a chain on it and a lock that I don’t have a key to, so I don’t even think of it as a gate. But evidently it is enough of an opening that he could slip through. It is now blocked off. You’ll have to imagine the hound dog bark on your own here (just awooo awooo back, that’s what I do).

Mack has a seat

Look out the window at the lawn chair. Look closely at said chair. Yes, he is sitting *on* the chair. Goofy dog.

So about that not-getting-a-dog thing…


Meet Mack.

I made it almost two months without a dog. When friends (Caesar’s owners) offered to take my dog if I got one and then went overseas, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. We headed over to the shelter and found Mack, a two and a half year old hound/shepherd mix who gets along great with Caesar (we did a meet and greet before adopting, as the dogs needed to be okay together). He’s made himself right at home, to say the least. You’ll be seeing more of him on the blog, especially as he’s working on his photobombing skills, although he’s not at Murphy level yet…

socks, done, with a side of pawsocks, done, with a side of paw

puppy time!

I am really doing my best *not* to get any pets. Because of the possibility of teaching overseas again at some point I really can’t commit to another animal (they live a long time!). The danger is that if I go near an animal shelter, I end up with pets. So instead, I’ve been helping out with the local border collie rescue a little, because there is no way that they’ll allow someone with my work schedule adopt a dog – bingo!

Today was an adoption event at a local pet store. I just show up and hold a leash, as there are always more dogs than people. Today I was helping with Harvey.

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Harvey is a border collie/australian shepherd mix, about 4 months old, absolutely adorable…

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and OH SO MUCH ENERGY! He very much wanted to play with all the dogs (whether they wanted to play or not) so we did lots of trips outside and laps around the store to try to keep him from jumping all over everyone. With all the other dogs around he wasn’t very aware of me at the other end of the leash, but when we got away from them he was better.

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It was a fun morning, and fun to see all the Murphy-like dogs. Border collies and border collie mixes are great dogs!

a brief update (that ended up longer than I thought it would)

The pear tree in my front yard went a little crazy this year. According to the internet you pick pears before they’re ripe, chill them for a week or two, then let them ripen at room temp. I ate the first one today, and oh my! Nothing like a grocery store pear. I picked the rest when I got home from work before the squirrels or neighbors got them.

Lover's Knot Afghan

On the knitting front, I knit a small afghan for a friend who got married this past weekend (daughter of friends from Kenya, who told me about this job). It was a short engagement; handknit gifts really need a longer one, but deadline knitting was achieved! It’s the Lover’s Knot Afghan (Ravelry link) in Lion Brand Wool-Ease. On a related note, I don’t have someone to IM in Swahili with at work anymore (she’s moved out of town).


And this is one of the last pics I took of Murphy back in June, hanging out by the piano while I practiced. He was having kidney/bladder issues which the vet couldn’t pin down a cause for (thus the “male dog wrap”). We treated a UTI, but that didn’t completely solve the problem. Those issues became more persistent. He had some other digestive tract issues that he didn’t bounce back from. Then he stopped eating — and for this dog not to eat, that is just not good. So on Monday, June 16, we took that last ride to the vet, while he was still strong enough to stick his head out the window, at least for most of the way. And you know you’ve got a special dog when the vet tears up, too.

Even while I’m enjoying the flexibility of not having a dog, I miss him so very much. He was 14 years old, and I rescued him 13 years ago. He was an amazing companion but also a catalyst for growth on my part. His reaction when I lost my temper (even about things completely unrelated to him) helped me understand the impact of my anger on others and as I worked to control that, made me a better teacher when I ended up back in the classroom. When I was upset, he would always stick close until I told him I was okay. And there also won’t be any more photobombing. Murph was a *master* photobomber…

piano and Murph 20131014

piano and Murph 20131014

So I’m adjusting to a new way of doing things, and we shall see what the future holds.


Murphy 20131104