Operation Comfort

Two years ago we bought a little tent trailer. It is perfect for our weekend camping trips in state parks. Last year though, with the shutdown, we didn’t get to use it at all. So this year, we got the camping bug early and went last weekend.

We had a great time. Even the teenagers, who are always reluctant to leave their electronics, seemed to have some fun. Fire always helps with that.

Our youngest dog has never been around people or other dogs much as we got her just a couple months before the first lockdown – she rather resented other people sharing the campground, but she loved the woods. Theo, our anxiety ridden other dog, actually thrives on camping and loves walking in the woods.

But . . . this shakedown trip to remind ourselves how to camp did highlight a few flaws in our set up. An 8 foot trailer base means there is almost no storage. Even on a weekend trip, we are people of stuff. So much stuff.

I bought stacking drawer units the first year, which handle all the dishes and pots and much of the food, but the clothes and shoes are everywhere.

The other issue is the beds. The mattresses are just thin foam, which we stuff camping pads under, but it doesn’t cut it for me. I’m not young and flexible anymore. I need real padding!

So, when we got home, Operation Comfort began. I researched, and read pop-up trailer discussion boards, and poured thru Pinterest, and made some decisions.

First, I ordered some foam floor mats from Costco. Those came today and we immediately started cutting them and putting them in place.

That should add insulation from cold underneath and get us off the boards.

Next I did the tissue box test, where you put an empty tissue box in the trailer and close it up and then measure how much it is crushed to know how much space there is between the mattress and ceiling – that tells you how much height you can add to the mattress. I was able to order a dense three inch thick bed foam that we can add under the original mattresses. The two changes are going to make a huge difference to our sleeping!

A lot more measuring and figuring and it turns out I can fit also another couple of storage drawers in when the trailer is closed, so I can go higher with our drawer stacks.

I also did some sewing this week, since we were off for spring break. I bought this pattern to make hanging bags.

It was very clearly written and simple to sew. (Just don’t look too closely at my top stitching – not one of my strengths.) I made the large size, with a modified loop with Velcro. I used a sheet and a curtain, both Goodwill fabric finds. It was a decent size – enough space for my pajamas and wool socks. But I needed more room if we are going to do away with the duffles. So I had the pattern pieces blown up 150% at a copy place. I used a Goodwill tablecloth the second time, flattened out the bottom a bit to make it wide but not too long, added a second tab, and it was just right!


And we hung them in the trailer today while working on the beds, and they are going to work just as I envisioned.

So now I need to make lots more. . . At least four for each end.

And I have ideas for hanging shoe storage that will fit on the sides of the stacking drawers. Some more mulling needed there, but I think there are possibilities.

Spring green


The official name for this yarn color is 111. Not a lot of poetry there! But a perfect color, despite the name, for this time in spring when all the new leaf buds are coming forth.


Almost the color of the fresh vinca minor leaves. . .

Or the newly emerging irises, at the base. . .

Or the almost blooming tulip flowers. . .


The yarn is Huasco sock yarn from Araucania, and I’m knitting an Arrowhead Lace scarf for my sister. She asked for a bright green and this yarn had arrived in the mail the day before. It was fate!

I added an extra repeat for more width, and I think I will add an edging to the ends when it is long enough. A very quick 4 row pattern that I memorized by row 8.

Though it hasn’t all been easy. The young-and-dumb dog dragged the new skein off the table and turned it into a jumble. Luckily she didn’t have too long with it and it only took an hour+ to get it untangled.

That dog has been through more yarn. I’ve fished skeins out of bushes and from under beds. She can’t help herself, and apparently I don’t learn. It only takes dropping my vigilance once and the yarn is doomed.

March is all about the linen stitch

The bright scarf continues to grow. More autumnal than spring colors, really. The next one needs to be leafy greens, I guess.


March’s knitting has been all linen stitch. My previous project was also a scarf, made with a bunch of yarn spun by a friend from fiber I sent to her and some sock and sweater yarn remnants. I haven’t been spinning at all, but the stash is still slowly going down thanks to her work at the wheel.

There were a lot of different colors in the yarns that went into it, but the overall impression is very brown toned.


With these linen stitch scarves I always knit them wider than the final version I want because the long rows stretch a lot when blocked, making the scarf narrower and longer. I dry them over the shower curtain rod and while they hang there I also cut the fringe. They need to be dry for that so the yarn has sprung back into its natural state. I cut one once when the fridge was wet and it was very uneven when it dried.

I used Zimmerman’s sewn bind off, which took a long time with almost 400 stitches! It is supposed to closely resemble a long tail cast on, which it might have, but because I was using a different color than the previous row, it doesn’t really. Having the row before the bind off as a slipped stitch row probably messed with the tension as well. Something to play with on the next scarf.

The brown edge on the left is the cast on. The orange and brown on the right is the sewn bind off.

Overall, I learned some lessons and the finished scarf is just the right length and weight. Drapey and soft and warm.

I’m going to give it to my co-teacher tomorrow. He’s been an absolute saint the last couple of weeks when the whole school went back to the classrooms in hybrid mode, except for me. I’ve been a talking head on a giant TV, zooming in to teach the history half of humanities until my first vaccine shot kicked in. He rigged up the set up and even a camera and microphone so I could see and hear the class. The set up looks like this:

We do have more than one student – this was before class started.

It is a ridiculous way to teach, but I wasn’t able to go back until I had at least partial immunity from the first shot. Almost half our students are staying remote, so we’ll still be teaching one humanities class over Zoom and some electives with mixed in person and remote. School is weird these days.

Tomorrow will be my first day teaching since March 2020. A whole year! I hope it lasts. The bigger high school in our district had to go back to remote temporarily after only a couple of days in person due to a big COVID spreading party some of the high schoolers threw. Fingers are crossed. . .

Switching between crafts

For a long time I didn’t do a lot of knitting. I was spending my available time with quilts, and just didn’t pick up the needles much. And there was a time in there as well when I was spinning and spinning.

But now I seem to be back to knitting. I have several WIP quilt tops that I can’t be bothered to complete somehow, other than a baby quilt back and the start of summer. And my spinning wheel is getting pretty dusty. But the yarn keeps my attention, whether soft as a breeze garter stitch scarves or actual sweaters.

And I have a finish! After a lot of trauma with the pattern, restarting and revising multiple times, I’ve finished a sweater that I absolutely love.

This sweater is a combination of a Caramel cardigan for the background sweater and the floral chart from the Papa sweater.

More accurate colors in this daylight picture.

I tried really hard with the actual Papa sweater pattern. I knit the body almost completely twice, and a third time halfway. But I couldn’t get past the puckery gathers. Because the sweater is designed not to have any increases in the space where it is charted for the flowers, there are a TON of increases in a short space. And it just was too much for me and the yarn I’d chosen, a wool/silk blend from Cascade called Roslyn.

I tried variations on the increases, but it was never going to be something I’d wear.

Attempt number three to like this pattern

So, looking for alternatives, I found the Caramel cardigan. I’m always going to wear a cardigan more than a pullover anyway, and I liked the idea of moving the flowers to the lower border. I’d always planned to do them as duplicate stitch rather than stranded, so the number of stitches not matching was not a worry – I could fudge the chart when it came time to stitch them in.

Caramel is a simple and drapey pattern so it went smoothly. Then I had to audition a lot of reds for the flowers. A red Roslyn didn’t cover as much, and doubling up fingering weights didn’t give me what I wanted, but worsted weight did. So I ordered a couple different Cascade 220 bright and deep reds and one of them was perfect. (I just wish I could remember which one was the winner – I seem to have lost the ball band.)

I ended up trying five different red yarns.

I watched a lot of BritBox shows while doing this duplicate stitch. I’m a huge fan of Gardener’s World, and when I ran out of new episodes and had to wait, I switched to a favorite low-budget sci-fi show, Red Dwarf. There have also been a lot of district meetings about online teaching, so I added flowers during those too. (It helped with the despair created by that many Zoom meetings and training videos.)

The finished sweater fits, it is slouchy and comfortable and bright and cheerful and I am so happy I persevered through all the rows and rows of yoke increases that went nowhere.

And now a new sweater is being born on the needles. I like to try new construction methods and I don’t like to sew in sleeves, so the Spøjs cardigan is perfect. It is knit in two halves and then those are knit together while binding off the provisional cast-on. I’ve learned a new stitch making it: the half fisherman’s rib, which is easy but interesting to make. I’m using Roslyn again because I enjoyed its feel so much that I ordered two more colors (and a third just found its way into my shopping cart).

The color is a dull, dusty brown, and given my mood when I cast on – the PNW on fire everywhere and confined indoors because of the horrendous air, after months of being confined at home because of a still worsening pandemic, the latest weather news that they’d run out of letters for hurricanes and had to switch alphabets, and then RBG died . . . last week was like the world couldn’t get any worse. I’m basically waiting for the Big One earthquake or an alien abduction at this point. So I’ve named this sweater the Ashes of 2020. I’m hoping 2021 will arise like a phoenix from these ashes. Or, at least I’ll have a new sweater to wear as the authoritarian order cracks down and I have to join the resistance and live in the woods. The part that hasn’t burned down anyway.

It’s just a rectangle

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My sister moved into a new house near us last spring, and her attention has been focused on fixing up the inside to make it not just a white box. But as summer arrived she started to take a look at the outside, specifically the little side yard that is her main outdoor space. When she bought the house, she paid for a fence to be put around the yard, and the builders spread bark there, but it was otherwise barren and ugly. And she complained of bark splinters in her bare feet.

She got some quotes on having a paving stone patio laid, but they were crazy expensive. And she started thinking about a deck, but she was a little intimidated about the building process. But it’s only a rectangle! How hard could that be?

So we made building her a deck a summer project.

She hired my boys one morning to scrape away most of the bark to use elsewhere, and then deck building commenced.

What we discovered early on is that apparently a lot of people in America right now have decided to do home building projects. And, with factories sometimes closed or shipments delayed due to Covid, the local stores were cleaned out of a lot of what we needed. It was a two state search to find 10 foot pressure treated joists. Luckily the 16 foot lengths for the beams on the long edges were easier to come by, and we needed fewer of those.  I have a battered but useful utility trailer that made it possible to haul in the 16 foot boards.  

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While the 10’ board search went on, we dug down and packed gravel for the cement blocks.  A friend helped her jackhammer away the cement steps in our way.

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(Let me tell you now that I don’t know most of the technical terms for any of the things we used. Pressure treated wood, joist, nail, that’s about the extent of my building vocabulary. The words “support thingy” were used a lot and about more than one part.)

My husband helped with delivery, and my sons helped with the hammering of two by eights together to make support beams for the long end. They also helped us get the first joists hung to create our rectangle.  We also made a lot of construction-question phone calls to my brother, who lives on the East Coast, and builds house additions in his spare time.

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At times my hammering skills were not up to par. But most of the nails went in all the way in and straight.  For a given definition of straight.

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We stretched it 16 feet along the side of her house, and then right up against the fence, just 10 feet out from the house. We made it a floating deck, using post blocks that could be leveled, because I was pretty sure the two of us wouldn’t be able to get posts in the ground and make them all the same height.  According to local codes, any deck less than 18 inches high doesn’t have to be permitted, and because it’s not attached to or touching the house, she didn’t have to go through the HOA approval process.

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Our proudest moment was when we successfully used my small and slightly wobbly portable table saw to rip a flexing, flopping 16 foot Trex board down to fit the final gap at the fence edge on our first try.

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Least proudest moment is the support brace between two joists that bent five nails and three screws before we gave up and figured there must be a hidden knot.  We were relieved when that one disappeared from sight as the top Trex boards went on.

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it isn’t perfect, but it’s level, sturdy, stable, and a great size. Now we’re starting to think about what kind of deck furniture we might build to add to it, and what the step up should be made of. It takes up about half the length of her side yard, so she also has another area that we can make into a patio at some future point.

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The happy new deck owner.

Life as a dog

Sometimes it is good to be a dog.  When you get to spend time exploring at the sea, for example.

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Sometimes, though, it is hard.  Like when you eat a bee, despite all the warnings.

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Or you try to take a nap and get stuck in the couch.

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Or someone you thought you could trust leaps on you from a height.

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But then it goes back to good times in the sunshine, and all is well.

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Venturing a bit further out

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We had to cancel most of our summer plans to be safe, but we were able to substitute in one long weekend at the Oregon coast.  A rental cabin with a private backyard, so still socially distanced.  I’m getting a chance to knit by the sea and count sea lions.  It’s lovely.

Twenty-four sea lions this afternoon, bobbing where a river opens into the sea.

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A bit excessive

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I’m still spending a lot of time in the garden each day.  I am really loving the spiral vine anchors that the various vegetables are putting out.

But I have learned a lesson about not scouring under every leaf when harvesting. These zucchini grow fast!

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These seem to have grown overnight!  So much for my plan to pick them when they are small.  I only turned my back for a minute!

And the summer squash have started as well.

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We’ve made zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, and breaded zucchini fries.  It didn’t even make a dent.

And now the cucumbers are beginning. . .

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It is smaller than my pinky now, but there are at least 12 plants! I may not have thought out this out carefully enough.  I’m going to have to start sneaking veggies onto my neighbors’ front steps and running away.

When not out watching my vines grow, I managed to finish my caramel/papa sweater. After ripping it out three times, I finally got it right. (Switching to an entirely new pattern helped.)

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The second sleeve went quickly, and I really love the useful new stitch markers I got recently.  Usually I use coil-less safety pins, but they’ve been disappearing over time as all small things do, so I ordered this colorful set of bulb shaped pins.  I like to leave them in the sleeves to show where all the decreases are so that I can make sure I’m matching the sleeves as closely as possible.

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I’ve been auditioning red yarns for the duplicate stitch.

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It looks like a worsted yarn looks the best, so I’ve ordered a skein of dark red Cascade 220 to be sure I will have enough.  All the red I had in quantity were more of a fingering weight.  And I really didn’t want to get 2/3 of the way through the one small ball of worsted I had and run out and not know where to get more.

The duplicate stitching is going to be my evening TV watching project, so it probably won’t finish too quickly.  It is too hot for sweater wearing right now anyway, so no hurry.

Looking closer

The patio knitting continues.  I’ve gotten the first sleeve on my caramel sweater done since the pic below was taken and gotten the double points in for the second.  The yarn is Roslyn from Cascade, a wool/silk blend.  The plan is to duplicate stitch around the bottom in a red design once I’m done with the knitting.

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The knitting would go faster if I wasn’t distracted by the garden.  This time it started with trying to see how close up I could get with my phone and iPad cameras to various surfaces:

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My jeans, the table top, a patio paver, and a slightly blurry zucchini.

Then I went for more zucchini elements.  (Honestly, the zucchini and I are absolutely bonded at this point.)

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From there I was pretty much crawling around on the lawn and patio trying to get as close to various flowers as the camera focus would allow.

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Meanwhile, no-longer-a-puppy Maxx kept watch.

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Well, when she wasn’t messing up my shots by barging in and trying to eat the bees.  That is a lesson soon to be learned.