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July 2009

Summer Salsa

When my kids were younger, their summer vacation used to just wipe me out!  Hockey camp.  Theatre camp.  Music lessons.  Enrichment classes.  Swimming lessons.  The driving, alone, could send a mom over the edge!  Add to that the incessant "Moooooooooom. . . can I have a popsicle?"  "Mooooooooom. . . do we have any spare 2x4s?"  "Moooooooooom. . .can me and 24 of my friends make an obstacle course for our bikes through our yard?  It'd be really cool.  And we'd pick up."  Although we had a lot of fun, I was always one of those moms dancing a jig when the school bus drove off on the first day of school!

Now, their summer vacations look a lot different.  They manage their own schedules and activities.  They have their own cars.  I'm involved -- but only on the periphery.  They do, though, tend to take over my "space."  I might wander in to my kitchen to find that. . .

Erin Makes Pancakes

someone feels like pancakes. . .

or . . .

Erin and Mr. Bent 001

that we now have a fish!  Meet Mr. Bent (he's a bit misshapen. . .).  He'll be going back to school with Erin in a month (if he survives).

Erin and Mr. Bent 003

Yesterday, I discovered Brian and his girlfriend making salsa in my kitchen! 

Salsa 003

"Moooooooom. . . do we have any sharp knives?"  "Moooooooom. . . how do you cut garlic?"

Yep, the summer is different now, with older kids.  I get used to their goofy schedules, the tones their phones make when they receive text messages, the explosive sound of Call of Duty 4 resonating from the Xbox in the basement.  I'm delighted to have them home; to be part of their lives; to have us all together - as a family - for at least another summer.

Salsa 006 

And - bonus - I get really great salsa, too!


Mutual, I'm Sure!

When my sister, Diane, and I were little girls, we played and hung out together all the time.  We had big imaginations, and we usually had elaborate "games" going -- with our Barbies and dolls, mostly, and frequently involving homemade "tents" and other hideouts.  We spent our downtime together reading, listening to our records, or watching television.

Kym and Diane 1966
Here we are in the summer of 1966 with our kitty, Sylvester.  I'm the dark one; Di's the light one.

Our tv-watching evolved over the years.  We started out watching Gilligan's Island and the original Batman, moved on to The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, and eventually graduated to All My Children and The Midnight Special.  Along the way, we discovered old movies - which we loved - and, in particular, we discovered. . . this:

Yes, this classic scene from White Christmas became our Sister Theme Song!  We have sung this song together many, many times over the years.  Sometimes with dance steps and props, but usually without.

My sister and I have a very close relationship.  We always have.  (Time helps us overlook the scuffles, doesn't it, Di?  Like the time with the spatula?  Or the fights in the backseat of the car?  Or the time you took my. . . never mind!)  We were siblings who actually LIKED each other!

Easter circa 1970
Here were are in our Easter finery in 1970. 

Through the years of our lives, we've been there for each other -- supporting, advising, cheering, laughing, crying, remembering.  Even now, as adults who live Very Far Away from each other, we remain close.  Friends.  Sisters.

K & D Bid Day 1980 

Here we are in college, where our paths crossed for a brief semester.  I was a senior; Di was a freshman.

This past year, when I was diagnosed with lymphoma, my sister rallied around me in a huge way.  Huge.  She couldn't be physically with me during diagnosis and treatment -- but she was with me spiritually.  For almost 6 months, my sister emailed or phoned me every single day.  She sent cards -- funny, inspirational, beautiful -- a couple of times a week.  She kept track of all my appointments and treatments and demanded complete follow-up details after each one (she and Tom usually had hilarious email exchanges going while I was having my chemo treatments)!  Since she couldn't physically bring dinners over for my family, she sent restaurant gift cards and take-out menus.  She had flowers delivered after EACH of my chemo treatments -- they were always waiting for me when I got home.  She sent thoughtful gifts - somehow knowing, intuitively, when I would need them the most.  Two days after I lost my hair, a box arrived on my doorstep --- inside was a small hanging mirror etched with the words "You Look Fabulous!"  Before my first chemo treatment, I opened a buttery soft wrap so I could feel her hug during my treatments.  At Thanksgiving, she had a box of baking mixes sent so I could still host Thanksgiving dinner without having to tire myself with baking.  She kept me comfy with a Pajama-gram.  She sent me a necklace featuring a tiny super-hero cape and tiara (becuase you can do anything with a cape and a tiara. . .).  She sent a spirit candle.  The list goes on.

In short, my sister kept me going.  Every day.  I never doubted she was with me every step of my journey.  Every day.  Despite being far away, she stayed close to me.  Every day.

There was never such a devoted sister! 

Di 

Thanks, Di.  I couldn't have done it without you!


Dreaming and Scheming

I'm planning a new garden bed for my backyard, and I thought it might be interesting to follow the process from start to finish. . .

The Dreaming.

I love to plan and design new garden areas, but it takes a lot of time and brain-energy for me.  In the early planning stages, I spend most of my time looking at other gardens -- in books and magazines, mostly, but I also spend time looking at real gardens for ideas and inspiration. 

Once I get serious about planning, I gather all the books and photos together. . .

Garden design process back bed 006

and let the ideas begin to gel in my mind.  I'm fortunate to have a garden design work area.  I can spread things out and not worry about them being in the way while I dream.

Garden design process back bed 004

There are so many things to consider when beginning a garden design project.  Purpose. Color scheme. Sun or shade.  Existing landscape. Budget.  In my case, I want to design a new garden area that will pull together two existing - but separate - gardens AND create a privacy screen at the back of my yard.  (When our house was built, about 20 years ago, I'm sure there WAS a privacy screen.  There is a line of Austrian Pine trees along the back fence, and I'm sure they were just the right height to screen the view.  Now, though, 20 years later, those trees have grown very tall -- and the trunks just don't screen very well!  Plus, right after we moved in 6 years ago, the Austrian Pines got "tip blight" and we lost several of them.)

So. . . for weeks (more like months!) I've been dreaming and thinking through different ideas for my new garden area.  This weekend, I was finally ready to put it down on paper!  

The Scheming.

When I have my garden idea in mind, the next step is to sketch it out.  I take an as-is photo of the area I'm designing, and print it out on regular-sized paper. 

Garden design process back bed 001 

Then, I lay a sheet of vellum paper over the top of the photo and sketch my design idea right over the photo.

Garden design process back bed 003 

At this point, I don't worry much about scale or measurements.  I'm just trying to capture on paper whatever garden ideas have been floating around in my brain.  So I can see for myself what it might "look like" -- and so I can show others (Tom) what the heck I'm talking about.

My final sketch looks something like this. . .

Garden design process back bed 002 

While I'm sketching, I keep a running list of specific plants I might want to include in the design.  But sometimes I just note plants in a more general sense --- like, I need a mid-sized, vase-shaped flowering shrub.  I tend not to get bogged down in the specifics at the sketching point.

The next step, though, is where "specifics" start to matter!  You can't plant a new bed based on a rough sketch, so now it's time to measure and get the "real" plan drawn.  Because I'm creating an entirely new garden, there are no existing boundaries -- I need to determine my own.  I needed to lay out my new garden in the yard -- so I could visually see it, and then actually measure it.  I used cones to plot out my new bed, shifting and shifting again until I got the space I wanted.

Garden design process 001 

Once I was pleased with the shape and size, I gathered my trusty tools (two measuring tapes, paper and pencil, and a helper -Tom), I needed to get the exact dimensions of my new bed on paper.  This is a very tedious task -- because I want the exact depth measurement of the bed at 2' intervals.  Why?  So I can draft my plan to scale.

Garden design process 004 

Using two tape measures really helps with this process.  I just lay one tape measure across the length of the new bed, and then move the other tape measure in 2' increments.  

Garden design process 005 

Tom reads the depth measurement as we move along the length of the new bed, and I record measurements on paper.

Garden design process 006

Now I can translate the measurements in a scale draft.  Which I'll be doing. . . later today!  Stay tuned for future installments!


Culinary Delight

This weekend, it was all about the food!

Farmers Market July 25 2009 011

Tom and I visited the farmer's market on Saturday morning.  We always have a great time at the market. . . it's a feast for the eyes. . .

Farmers Market July 25 2009 005 

the bounty of Michigan is spread out before you. . .

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it's just a happy, upbeat place to hang out for awhile!

Farmers Market July 25 2009 014 

And even though Jenny has to stay at home, she is not forgotten!  One of my favorite booths at the market sells gourmet dog treats.  Jenny loves the banana bread biscuits -- you can see them in the far right display stand toward the back of the table.

Farmers Market July 25 2009 009

Then, on Saturday evening, Tom and I headed to the Taste of Kalamazoo downtown . . . where the main event, of course, is food!

Taste of Kzoo July 25 2009 006 

There was a feast for the eyes here, too, but it was a bit different than the farmer's market!  Here in the beer tent, for example, we caught our first glimpse of a Utilikilt worn in the wild!  (Based on the website descriptions, I believe the one we saw is the "Workman" style.)

Taste of Kzoo July 25 2009 001 

Mmmmmmm.  Lots of good food.  A great beer selection.  Michigan wines.  Music.  A pleasant evening outside.  I think my favorite of the evening was the burrito. . .

Taste of Kzoo July 25 2009 007 

or maybe the gyros. . .

Taste of Kzoo July 25 2009 012

but the curry was good, too!  Let's just say. . . I had a GREAT taste of Kalamazoo!

Then, on Sunday, I put some of my farmer's market purchases to work making The Barefoot Contessa's Peach Blueberry Crumble.

YUM nectarine and blueberry crisp 006 

YUM!  My taste buds are in overload!


Chasing the Moonlight

Last week, I explained my problem with lace.  This week, I am happy to proclaim. . . I have conquered!

Cinnamon Girl Fini 010

Here she is -- my Cinnamon Girl.  Named after the Neil Young song. 

Cinnamon Girl Fini 012

When I started using Ravelry to organize my knitting projects, connect with other knitters, and generally feed my addiction, I started to be more thoughtful about what to name my projects.  After a while, I settled on naming my projects after songs in my iPod playlist.  I'm often inspired by the color of the yarn, or the the style of the pattern, or the season, or even my mood.  But the project often. . . sings to me!

Cinnamon Girl Fini 006

I love my Cinnamon Girl!  The yarn is light and soft.  The pattern is great.  The fall colors are some of my favorites.  The lace is just lovely -- totally worth giving up wine for!  In fact. . . (as the song says). . . I could be happy the rest of my life with a Cinnamon Girl!

What next?  I'm swatching for Uhura, Connie Chang Chinchio's divine tank from the summer issue of the Twist Collective.  My Ravelry project link is here.  I'm calling it. . . Brown-Eyed Girl.

Brown eyed girl 006

Can you hear it?  Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-dee-dah!


The Ultimate Peter Pan

Have you ever heard of the Peter Pan Syndrome?  The term is usually used in a not-so-positive way to describe men who can't quite (or flat-out refuse to) grow up.  Like Peter Pan.

Meet my husband, Tom.

Tom

Now, I would never accuse Tom of suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome!  He takes his roles as a parent, life partner, and contributor-to-work-and-life very, very seriously.  He is, most definitely, grown up.  With one exception.  When it comes to sports and games, Tom has his feet firmly planted in Neverland!

Tom has always been an athlete.  He ran track and cross country in junior high, high school, and college.  (In fact, he's still running!)  Here's a very old photo of Tom running when he was in college.  (At least, I think it's college -- because that's the Boise State University stadium (before the grass was blue).  But he has on his old high school singlet. . . so I'm a bit confused.) 

Tom running

Besides the running, though, Tom likes sports of all kinds.  Over the years, he's played softball, baseball, football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, disc golf, and Ultimate frisbee.  He skis.  He works out at the gym.  He's always challenging himself with new sports -- this year, for example, he discovered curling!

Three years ago, Tom decided that he'd like to get involved in the Ultimate disc league here in Kalamazoo.  Now, mind you, Tom hadn't played Ultimate since his grad school days --- almost 30 years earlier!  He was on the cusp of his 50th birthday.  But. . .Neverland called!

Ultimate Man 026

You can find him on Wednesday nights now, playing in the KUDL competitive league.  Most of the folks that play in this league are in their early-to-mid 20s --- closer to our daughter's age.  There is an extremely talented 12-year-old on one end of the Bell curve. . . and then there is Tom, at 50, on the other end!  I don't think, though, that the other players know that Tom is 50!  I'm sure it's obvious that he's . . . old.  But I think they'd be surprised to find out HOW old!

Ultimate Man 061

In fact, once Tom asked one of his teammates who a particular player on another team was --- and his teammate described this other player as "that old guy, over there."  That "old guy" is 28!  I'm pretty sure they have no idea that Tom is . . . old enough to be that "old guy's" dad!!!

Ultimate Man 088

Living with an athletic Peter Pan has had a huge impact on my own thoughts about growing older -- and taking care of myself.  I've folded many of Tom's attitudes into my own, and these attitudes have served me well as I went through chemo and now. . . as I figure out how to be a survivor.  Tom has shown me that you don't need to be defined by your age -- or your disease.  He's demonstrated that, when things get tough, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth, dig deep, and push through.  He's taught me the importance of setting goals, finding fresh activities, and the value of rest (and proper stretching!).

I'm lucky to be along with him in Neverland. . .

Ultimate Man 097 

of course, I do have to keep up!


Taking the Macro View

I've reached that point in the gardening season where my "should haves" really stand out.  As in. . . I should have divided those hostas.  I should have replaced that ailing butterfly bush.  I should have planned for more color in mid-summer.   Other garden problems are cropping up about now, too.  The dreaded Japanese beetles have arrived.  Many of my containers are fading.  It's clear that one of my perennial beds needs to be renovated (STAT!).  Some of my roses are suffering from black spot.

My garden "to-do" list is about a mile long.

Rather than get discouraged, though, I decided to take the macro view -- and look at the beauty of individual blooms, rather than the big picture.

Bee

My daisies are starting to look a bit bedraggled. . . but the bees are happy!

Nasturtium

The nasturtiums have absolutely taken over the herb garden this year. . . but they add a bright spot of color to an area devasted by the four-lined plant bug.

Stokes Aster

My Stokes asters are decidedly thinner this season than in years past. . . but a single bloom catches the sun in a pretty cool way!

Berries

Weeds are cropping up everywhere, including this unknown and unwanted viney thing growing up my fence. . . but sometimes weeds bring a little beauty of their own.

Cone Flower 

The purple coneflowers are creating havoc near my mailbox this year. . . but they will soon attract Monarch butterflies.

By taking the macro view, I can remind myself of the beauty of the plants around me . . . instead of being overwhelmed by my ever-lengthening garden "to-do" list! Even the Japanese beetle looks interesting under the macro lens!

Japanese Beetle 

Well.  Sort of.


Groovin' at Woofstock!

On Saturday, Erin and I took Jenny to the Woofstock Fest!  Sponsored by the Southwest Michigan SPCA, Woofstock was billed as Kalamazoo's Grooviest Pet Friendly Event ---- and it was!

Woofstock 001

Woofstock was held in downtown Kalamazoo, on the Arcadia Creek festival grounds (we really like our festivals here in Kalamazoo!).  The event was fun, quirky, and very well organized, especially given that the target audience was, well, dogs!  There were contests and demonstrations, workshops, live entertainment, arts-and-crafts, dog adoptions, food -- even a beer tent.

Woofstock festival cropped

The turnout for the event was HUGE!  Lots of people.  Lots of dogs.  Dogs of every size and type imaginable; many in costume.  It was so crowded that I had a really hard time taking photos at the event.  Let's just say that Jenny had plenty - PLENTY - of butts to smell (unfortunately, not all of them belonged to dogs. . .).

Our local SPCA is in the midst of a capital campaign to build a new shelter.  There were many fundraising opportunities at Woofstock, including a paw-print mural.  For $2, you could include your pet's paw-print on a canvas wall hanging to be installed in the new shelter.

Woofstock with jenny paw printing cropped

Jenny was an eager participant.  So eager, in fact, that she initially stuck her nose right in the paint!   We managed to get her paw print, though.

Woofstock with jenny july 18 009

We had a great afternoon.  The SPCA is one of my favorite organizations -- and I will always support them in any way I can.  Jenny was a shelter pup (born at the SPCA), and our previous dog (Jake the Wonder Dog, who was with us for 14 fabulous years) was also a shelter dog.  If you are considering adding a pet to your family, please check out your local shelter.  There are so many wonderful pets waiting for good homes.  You can also support your local shelter in other ways.  In hard economic times, shelters really take a double (or triple) whammy.  Donations are down, more people are abandoning their pets, and fewer people are willing to adopt.  Consider a financial donation, or donations of food, toys, or other pet items.

Woofstock with jenny july 18 003

It's a groovy thing to do!