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August 2012

July 2012

Doing Good


I'm a firm believer in . . . Doing Good.  You know.  Making the world a better place.  Smiling at people.  Making eye contact.  Really listening.  Volunteering to help.  Donating money.  Lending a hand.  Spreading sunshine!


 This week, Carole has us thinking about the Good Deeds we did this week.  Here are a few of mine:

  1. When I was putting gas in my car last week, the guy next to me was having some serious problems with his debit card.  And he was stuck.  Really stuck.  And it was 103°.  I gave him some money for gas -- and a cold drink -- so he could be on his way.
  2. My friend Sandie's garden was part of a Garden Tour last week.  I helped her with last-minute weeding and deadheading before the tour.  She told me I was like a little bee . . . flitting from plant to plant and working magic with my little pruning scissors.
  3. I packed Tom's suitcase for his trip to India last weekend.  He's perfectly capable of packing his own suitcase, but I like to help him get ready for his trip.  It keeps him calm, and I can make sure that his shirts are folded and packed with love. 
  4. I complimented a woman's new hairstyle at the gym.  She beamed.  I don't know her, but it didn't matter.  It's always wonderful to hear something flatters!
  5. I provided a listening ear for my sister.  Sometimes people just need to be heard, y'know?
  6. I volunteered to work a Saturday shift at the yarn shop next month.  I don't mind a Saturday once in a while during the winter months, but it's a big sacrifice for me during the summer.
  7. I remembered to ask a proud new Grandma if she had any photos of her new grandson.  (She did.)
  8. I pick up Jenny's . . . leavings. . . on our walks.  (Always do. . .)
  9. I repaired a split seam on Tom's very favorite (and very oldest) pair of shorts. (Now they should be good for ANOTHER 15 years.)
  10. I recycled . . . and composted . . . and took a load of stuff to Goodwill.

How about YOU?  Did you spread some sunshine this week?




Right Now . . . July Edition

Here's what's going on in my life  . . . RIGHT NOW.


Watching . . . the Olympics.  But, so far, I've only watched about 30 minutes worth.  (That Ryan Lochte is pretty dang adorable, non?)

Reading . . . Broken Harbor by Tana French.  (Also very intrigued by the newly-released Man Booker Prize longlist.  I always try to read most of the Man Booker nominees, so now I have a whole, new list to work from.)

Knitting . . . I'm working on this little tank/sweater from this little magazine.  Also up:  a pair of socks (gasp!) and a lace scarf (yet to cast on . . . but soon!) from Anne Hanson.

Humming . . . Tunes from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!  (Tom and I saw it at Farmer's Alley Theater last Friday night -- and it was so much fun.)

Thinking about . . . So very, very, many things.  All at the same time.


Listening to . . . Amos Lee.  So nice.

Dreading . . . You probably don't want to hear this . . . but over the weekend, while "helping" us transplant some things in the garden, Jenny discovered a bunny nest.  We covered it back up before any damage was done, but. . . I dread what will happen if the mom-bunny doesn't come back.  Or our neighborhood hawk finds them.  Or other nature-y unpleasantness.

Planning . . . The rest of the summer. . . and how to make hay while the sun shines.

Excited about . . . Redecorating!  It started with some painting Up North . . . and now, I'm getting all excited about plans to re-paint and re-format and re-do . . . everywhere.

Drinking . . . LaCroix sparkling water.  (I'm especially fond of the orange flavor.)

Itching to . . . Paint!

Needing to . . . Thin out my Yarn Stash.  I have some yarns (nice yarns!) that I just know I'll never knit with.  Ever.  I'm needing to have a Stash Sale.

Organizing . . . I've been working on a better calendar system for myself.  Although I love the calendar on my iPhone/iPad, I just don't use "digital" calendars as effectively as I do "Old School" calendars.  For me, there's just something about "penciling-it-in. . ." and actually writing things down.

Inspired by . . . A lampshade.  (Pottery Barn.  This one.)

Delighted by. . . My succulent container gardens . . . and my frogs!  (The rest of my garden looks pretty darn crappy this year.  I blame the weather.)


How about you?  What's happening for YOU . . . Right Now?

Dog Days . . . Up North

Last week, we spent several days up north at our cottage.  A couple of those days were "work days" (painting inside, staining the exterior, "lumberjack-ing," organizing, sorting through, and more organizing -- I'll fill you in some other day).  But.  We were also able to spend some time relaxing on the lake and getting our fill of Up North time.

I found these to be surprisingly tasty out on the lake!

Jenny loves being Up North with us -- whatever we're doing.


She likes going out in the pontoon boat.  She likes hanging out at the fire pit.  She likes going for walks in the woods.  She likes to swim and wade in the lake.  She likes to just crash and watch movies with us in the evenings.

But most of all, she likes . . .


dock jumping!

In the past, we have tried taking Jenny out in the canoe or kayaks, but it just hasn't worked.  She likes the water too much to sit still.  She rocks the boat. . . with her moving about.  She tries to take drinks from the lake . . . while IN the kayak.  She jumps out mid-ride.  She has not been a reliable passenger --- but, of course, she also doesn't like to be left behind.

Last weekend, Brian wanted to take the kayak out.  Jenny jumped right in.


And wouldn't get out!


She behaved better than ever, and Brian was actually able to take her out for a little spin.


I have a feeling. . .


that we'll never be able to get in the kayak without Jenny again!


Adventures in St. Petersburg - Installment 5: Sailing Into the Sunset

And so, it was time for us to leave St. Petersburg.


Our ship pulled away from the dock at 11:00 pm . . . (yet look how light it still was that evening!)


We sailed off, comfortable on deck, wine glasses in hand. . . saying goodbye to St. Petersburg. . . and Russia. . .


and into the MOST BEAUTIFUL sunset of the the entire journey



ON!  To Estonia!


And now. . . A Special Travel Contest!

In Russia, my sister and I purchased several sets of Matryoshka dolls for ourselves, our families, and our friends.


I happen to have one unclaimed set . . . the little set shown above . . . so I decided to offer it as a prize to my blog travlogue readers!  

Here are the rules:  Leave a comment on this post or any of my remaining travelogue posts (brace yourselves -- I still have Estonia, Visby, and Copenhagen to go!) for a chance to win this little Matryoshka doll set.  I'll announce the winner on August 10.

If you can't think of a comment to leave, just answer this:  "Where in the world would YOU like to go?"



Adventures in St. Petersburg - Installment 4: RVR VU

Was that enough of a "travelogue break" for you?  Ready for more St. Petersburg coverage?  Because. . . Here . . . 


we. . .




On our last evening in St. Petersburg, my sister and I went through Russian Immigration one. more. time. and boarded (yet another) tour bus and then . . .

climbed aboard a canal boat for a trip through St. Petersburg's canals. . .


and out into the Neva River (which empties into the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea).


This was, hands down, our favorite thing of all the things we did in St. Petersburg!


And it wasn't because of the vodka . . . 


(poured and served here by Dmitri)


Or the fresh salmon (and caviar, too!). . .


Or even the champagne toasts out on the river!


No.  We just loved seeing St. Petersburg . . . from a river view!



And the bridges!


So many . . .


beautiful bridges!


Our little canal boat passed under so many bridges on our 2-hour tour that I lost count.  The clearance was incredibly low on some of the bridges  (DUCK!)


This little sign was posted on the boat:


And . . . in case you can't read Russian. . . here's the English translation:


They aren't kidding.

We even had entertainers on our boat!  Russian "folkloric" singers.  They also danced around and played the accordian . . .


and some of us (ahem. . .) got to play along on this nifty Russian noise-maker instrument!  (No rehearsal required!)


It was such a lovely way to wrap up our time in St. Petersburg!


Such a beautiful city!


Especially from a RVR VU!

Market Fresh


I love visiting the Farmer's Market here in Kalamazoo! 


On Saturdays, Tom and I like go to an early spinning class at the gym . . . and then head over to the Farmer's Market on our way home.


This week, Carole has us thinking about Ten Great Things About the Farmer's Market:

  1. Fresh, local, in-season fruits and vegetables (That's really what it's all about!)
  2. Supporting local farmers  ('Nuff said!)
  3. Fresh-baked pies and breads (Tom can never resist the baked goods.)
  4. Lovely cut flowers (I especially love to pick up bunches of gladiolas!)
  5. Home-baked dog treats (Jenny doesn't come with us to the market, but she is a Very Happy Dog when we come home.)
  6. Running into friends (Although it's always too crowded for more than a quick "hello.")
  7. Atmosphere (It's just such a pleasant way to spend a bit of time on a relaxed Saturday morning.)
  8. Inspired cooking and baking (Sometimes I shop with a specific list, sometimes I just let the veggies call to me!)
  9. Sense of community (There's more of a sense of . . . being with others and feeling part of a whole . . . at the Market; so different from the grocery store.)
  10. Sample trays (I love the booths that let you sample their berries and peaches and tomatoes as you shop.  Mmmmmm!)


How about YOU?  Are you a Farmer's Market shopper?  What do you especially enjoy?


 Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

Adventures in St. Petersburg - Installment 3: Just Between Us Angels

Pssssst. . .


Wanna hear a secret?


The churches here in St. Petersburg are amazing!

Really and truly amazing.  And maybe even a little . . . over the top!


Sometimes, it's hard to decide whether they're more impressive from the outside. . .

or the inside.


And, yeah.  People get real excited about the whole "spilled blood" thing. . . but take our own digs here. . . at St. Isaac's Cathedral . . .

The biggest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city!  Why . . . just look at that dome!

And inside?


Why. . . there's no denying it's BEA. . .


YOO . . .




You know the icons?  Yeah. . . those big guys . . . hanging on the wall?


I hear some people think they're paintings!  You and I know, though. . . that they're all mosaics!  Millions and millions of tiny little tiles.   Just like this guy . . .


From the floor. . .


to the ceiling. . .





Adventures in St. Petersburg - Installment 2: The Tsar is Giving a Ball!

When my sister and I were little girls, we waited (kind of breathlessly, actually) each year for Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella to show on television.  What an event!  We LOVED it!  Do you remember . . . the scene when they show the palace gates opening . . . to the song. . . "The Prince is giving a ball!  The Prince is giving a ball!"  Oh, so exciting!

Maybe . . . this is why my sister and I love to visit palaces so much*!


The Tsar is giving a ball!  The Tsar is giving a ball!  (Yes.  We sang it to each other.)

The first place we visited (once we cleared Russian Immigration and climbed aboard the tour bus) was the Catherine Palace (the Summer Palace of the Tsars).


When we visited Versailles last year, it was a madhouse!  There were throngs (absolute throngs!) of visitors EVERYwhere.  If you remember, we were "Versailles'd ourselves". . . ).

There were throngs of visitors here at the Catherine Palace as well.  But the only lines were OUTSIDE the palace.  There was a very systematic and organized system for actually touring the inside of the palace.  It was quite refreshing (once you got inside), because you could actually SEE the rooms and hear the tour guides (not the case at Versailles, trust me).

There was plenty of time for photos while we waited in line to get in!

I was particularly awestruck by Those Domes!


Once inside, we had to don these little protective booties to wear over our shoes during the tour.


So chic!  (There were blue booties, too.  We wore them at another palace.)

The palace was gorgeous.  The ballroom was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.


We had a little fun with the mirrors. . .

(Oh! Those booties!)

My favorite thing (other than The Amber Room -- which was INCREDIBLE ["Eighth Wonder of the World" wonderful!] -- but we weren't allowed to take photographs**) was this collection of oil portraits. . .


all framed (all walls of the room) "collage" style.

Such a beautiful place!

The "back yard". . .

The next day*** we visited the Peterhof Palace (the "Russian Versailles") built and designed by Peter the Great.


Photos were not allowed inside the palace, so you'll just have to imagine with me  . . . incredible beauty. . . amazing shiny objects. . . stunning wonders . . . and blue paper booties covering our shoes.

There were a lot of people at Peterhof, but (again) the tours were incredibly organized.  (I think those Russians have people-moving down to a science.)  Once outside the palace (just in time to see The Cascade . . . a series of amazingly impressive fountains from the palace all the way to the Baltic) . . .


we lived in fear . . . of losing sight of our tour group's "lollypop" sign!


We may have gotten a little silly out there . . .


in the midst of the cascade. . .


and had a little too much fun posing for photos. . .


with golden man-bits above our heads!

Anyway.  The Cascade was lovely. . .


and perfectly fitting for a Tsar. . . giving a ball!


* We've visited Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace in London, and Versailles in Paris, in addtion to the Summer Palace, the Winter Palace, and Peterhof in St. Petersburg.

** The Amber Room inspired us both to purchase several pieces of Baltic Amber jewelry on the trip.  Oh so beautiful.

*** Trust me, there were many other sights to see on the first day . . . after the Catherine Palace. . . but they weren't palaces.  See other Adventures in St. Petersburg coming soon!

Adventures in St. Petersburg - Installment 1: Not in Kansas Anymore

When my sister and I first started talking about a Scandinavian vacation, we really didn't think about visiting St. Petersburg.  (For me, it was a matter of geography.  I just didn't realize it was Right There!)   But once we realized it WAS . . . Right There. . . we definitely wanted to include a visit on our trip.

Russia has always been intriguing to me.  The language.  Those domes!  The big fur hats.  Dr. Zhivago.  Nicholas and Alexandra.  Anna Karenina.  It was a "forbidden" country for so long!  Oh, I longed to go!  Oh, please!  Oh, please!

And so. . . we went!

We woke up one morning, pulling in to the docks (very busy docks, I might add) of St. Petersburg.  Yes, that's St. Petersburg, RUSSIA.  It became very clear . . . right away. . . that we weren't in Kansas anymore!

The view from our ship. . .


We could also see. . . an Immigration trailer . . . right there off the gangplank of our cruise ship.  Every time we got off the ship (or back on the ship), we had to go through Russian Immigration.  Every time.  (And the Immigration officials Do. Not. Smile.)  (Just for comparison, we didn't have to go through immigration at ANY of our other ports.) 

We knew that we would only be allowed off the ship and through Russian Immigration if we were part of a booked, official day tour.  You can only explore St. Petersburg on your own if you have a Visa.  (One look at the complicated application form and the expense, and we decided to just stick with a booked, official tour!)

The first time through Russian Immigration was slightly intimidating (which I attribute to the lack of smiles AND . . . too many movies), but after that, it was just a formality.

Other signs that we were . . . no longer in Kansas?

The domes.


The signs.


The vodka.


The buildings.


Sights like . . . The Hermitage Museum (aka The Winter Palace)!


And The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.


And, well, there was my phone, too!  It was so funny to pick it up and see where my signal was coming from. . .


No, we weren't in Kansas anymore.  We were in St. Petersburg!  Let the adventures begin!