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August 2015

Right Now . . . August 2015

August . . . Oh, August.  You've been such a challenging month.

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Hot.  And Cold.

Dry.  And Wet.

On.  And Off.

And yet . . . we've made it through.  Here we are, still standing at the end. 

Here's what's happening for me . . . RIGHT NOW.

Watching . . . Rain. And a little fog.  Capping a very chilly week.  A harbinger of what's to come, I'm afraid.  (Although they say Very Hot all of next week.)

Reading . . . Just finished Nature of the Beast.  (The newest by Louise Penny.)  (Very, very good.)  I'm also reading Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling.  Also So Big by Edna Ferber (for my book club).  And - drum roll, please - with a bit of poetic license (ahem), I'm going to have a Summer Book Bingo blackout this year after all.

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Knitting . . . I probably ought not be writing about my knitting right now.  Because Frustration and Disillusionment.  (Plus knitting with linen for several weeks now.)  But here goes: I'm nearly finished knitting this.  But so frustrating.  Because it is torquing like CRAZY.  (And knitting with linen is so dang ugly.)  (I'm not sure blocking will help.)  (Cross your fingers that it behaves after a bath.)  Next up . . . this or this.  (Both are in my lineup.)  (But not in linen.)

Listening to . . . More John Mayer.  Turns out . . . I'm a fan.  (Who knew?)  (This is a great cover of my favorite Tom Petty song.)  (Although I'm not so sure the link will remain live, so watch it quick!)

  

Dreading . . . Another week (at least) of the pool being closed at my gym.  Yeah.  Now that I've made swimming a regular part of my fitness routine (thanks to my oinky knee), they've closed the pool for regular maintenance.  Only . . . not so regular.  Because they Found Something.  And now they have drilled out all the tile from the pool deck, revealing only sand.  And pipes.  And an empty, lonely pool. (I'm afraid this won't be a quick-fix.)

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Drinking . . . It's been unseasonably chilly here.  And wet.  So . . . chai, please!

Planning . . . A little October adventure.  (She said, with a wink.)

Humming . . . (We're just ordinary people, you and me. . . ) 

  

Wondering . . . How it can possibly, possibly be September tomorrow???  Already.

Itching to . . . Plant All the Bulbs!

Organizing . . . Yarn.  And fabric.  And art supplies.  (But not really.)  (Right now it's all just laying on my basement floor.)  (Completely undone.)  (But Progress.)

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Delighted by . . . Releasing my "own" Monarch into the wild.  Yep.  This guy (or gal???) emerged from a crysallis in a Mason jar right in our library.  Unfortunately, we missed the final emergence when we were up at the lake last weekend.  But this is what we would've seen, there at the end, if we'd been home.

 

Celebrating . . . Our 34th wedding anniversary on August 22.  We were up at the cottage, scouting a river, on our actual anniversary, but we went out for a special dinner this weekend to celebrate.

Celebrating MORE . . . This weekend was JoJo's "Gotcha Day" . . . August 28.  She's been part of our pack for two years now!

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

 


Find a Patch of Beautiful

Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.
                                                                            ~Alice Walker

 

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My front garden border is bursting with beautiful blooms right now.  PeeGee hydrangea.  Autumn Joy sedum.  Some greenery I can never remember the name of.

So I gathered some together and brought them inside.

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I challenge you to do the same.  Find something beautiful.  Bring it closer to you.

Restore your soul!


Just What I Needed

Hello friends.

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Earlier this week, my mom and I visited the new Japanese Gardens at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  While we were there, I picked up this little Jizo for my own garden.

Jizo Bosatsu (Japanese Buddhism) is known for his vow to benefit all suffering beings and his commitment to stay with them until “the hells are empty."  He is the special protector of women, children, and travelers -- helping those at important life crossroads who may be facing new challenges.  Jizo, especially, helps children that have died navigate the transition between life and death.  Possessing unflagging optimism, courage, gentleness, and a nurturing love for all beings, Jizo plunges fearlessly into any place or situation to aid those in need. 

I have always been drawn to the Jizo, and having this little statue in my garden makes me smile. He will be a reminder to me, as I continue on my JOURNEY, that while life gives us many challenges and brings us to many crossroads, we are not alone.

Just what I needed!


Soak Up the Sun

Summer is waning, my friends.

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Oh, it's still plenty hot.  Humid, too.  But I can sense the change coming.  I see it in my garden.  And in the clouds.  The days are getting shorter, the sunsets are coming earlier.  

There is still much of summer to enjoy and savor, though. 

I'm feeling the need for a little blogging vacation -- to refresh and reenergize . . . and to soak up every moment of what's left of my favorite season.

I'll be back in a week or so.

See you then!


Leaves of Three. . .

Let it be!

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Most of you probably are familiar with this garden scourge . . . but some of you might not be.  This, my friends, is poison ivy.*

Ugh. I hates the poison ivy.  And, unfortunately, I find it in my garden all the time.  I went on a fairly extensive "search and destroy" mission over the weekend - with good success.  (And by that, I mean no rash.)

Inspired by my gardening mission, and being a creature of habit, I decided to bring you my own** Ten on Tuesday today - Ten Facts/Stories About Poison Ivy:  

  1. Poison ivy only causes an allergic reaction in humans.  (This is why my dogs can run around and then poop right in it and never have a problem.)
  2. Urushiol (the oily organic allergen in poison ivy) is what causes the nasty, itchy skin rash when you touch the plant.  (When I showed Tom the chemical structure for the usushiol compound, he said, "Oh, it's a catechol."  Apparently also an ortho-hydroquinone.)  (See how it is here?)
  3. According to this website, most people get the rash from touching leaves while gardening, hiking, or looking for a ball lost in the weeds.
  4. Tom can attest to this.  Once, when he was coaching Erin's soccer team, he kept retrieving out-of-bounds soccer balls in the weeds.  A couple of days later, we discovered "the weeds" were thick with poison ivy.  He was miserable for days and days.  (It is one of the only times in his work-life that he has had to take sick days.)  (Because it's hard to go to work when you can't put on pants.)
  5. Brian would add that shooting-your-BB-gun-in-the-woods-up-north-with-your-friends can also lead to contact with poison ivy.  (Spring in his sixth grade year was really miserable.)
  6. I am really careful when gardening.  In certain areas of my garden, I always wear my garden shoes (yeah, most times I garden in flip-flops. . . ) and gardening gloves, and I poke around a lot before I do any heavy-duty weeding.  When I find poison ivy, I carefully dig it out and move on.  When I'm finished gardening, I jump in the shower and scrub.  (So far, so good.) (Although at any Master Gardener gathering I've ever been to during the summer months, there will be someone in attendance with an incredibly nasty poison ivy rash.)  (Because we all think it will never happen to us.)
  7. I think I've been pretty lucky, because according this website, urushiol can stay potent (on objects) for up to 5 years.  (I probably shouldn't touch my garden trowel with my bare hands for awhile after this last weekend.)
  8. It takes direct contact with urushiol to cause a poison ivy skin reaction.  That means . . . if you touch someone with a poison ivy rash, you will not get it yourself.  You only spread the rash if you have the urushiol on you . . . and then you touch someone else.
  9. You can get a skin reaction, though, if you touch SOMETHING that has touched poison ivy.  Garden tools, for example.  Or dogs.  Or your shoes.  (So be careful.)
  10. Do NOT try to eradicate poison ivy with a lawn mower or a weed wacker, or by burning it.  Because then . . . the urushiol will be airborne.  (And then you'll really have trouble.)  (I've heard horror stories.)

My advice:  Keep a close eye out for those leaves of three.  (And don't go chasing soccer balls.)

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* Although this post is focusing on poison ivy, there is another garden scourge in today's photo . . . bindweed.  Not poisonous.  But really awful all the same.  (Despite it's sweet little morning glory-like blooms.)

** Carole is off on vacation for the next couple of weeks, so no "official" Ten on Tuesday posts until September.


My Weekend With Nick

I enjoyed just an ordinary weekend here at home; a good balance between chores and kicking back.

But I did spend (nearly) every minute with Nick.  
(As in Nicholas Nickleby.  My "over 800 pages" square for Book Bingo.*)

Nick and I took the dogs for a long, long walk on Saturday morning.

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And then, we spent quite a bit of time out in the garden, weeding and deadheading mostly.  (But we also got rid of quite a lot of poison ivy together.)  (Because Nick is always ready to lend a hand.)

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Nick was right there by my side as I took got on with the usual household drudgery.

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And he didn't mind hanging out with me while I got ready for a night out.  (He may have enjoyed the movie - Mr. Holmes - but I made him stay home all the same.)

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On Sunday, when it was altogether too hot and humid to spend more than a few minutes outside, Nick and I organized my yarn stash and recorded it all on Ravelry.  (Photos, too.) (More on that another day.)

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And then, Nick and I treated ourselves to a fair amount of knitting.

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Still.  It wasn't enough.  Nick and I will be hanging out a bit more today!  
(Like . . . for about an hour or so.)

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*  Don't feel too bad for me, because I LOVE Charles Dickens.  He is brilliant!  A bit wordy . . . but wonderful, once you get into the rhythm of his writing.  (And no one, absolutely no one, does "come-uppance" or "karma" better than Charles Dickens.  Always so satisfying!)

 


Bloomin' Friday

It's the middle of August, and my garden is really winding down.  

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Still plenty of blooms . . .

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and lots of activity from the bees and butterflies . . . 

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But -- definitely a garden in its last gasp before the season changes!  Still, there is much I love about my end-of-summer garden.

My hydrangeas are really something this year.  Out front, I have peegees . . .

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and "Pinky Winky" (my favorite).  (The bees love this one so much.)

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And my little herb garden is wonderful.  I visit every night when I cook dinner.  (Even though something is eating my basil, and my dill never really took off this year.)

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We're getting some hops on the vine.

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Even though it's winding down, my garden is still a vibrant and happy place to be.

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And working in it . . . brings me relaxation and a sense of grounding.  (Even though the work is never done.)

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My garden is my happy place.

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(And we all need one of those!)
Enjoy the weekend.


BINGOs: Fast and Furious

I've been reading and reading all summer (which, really, is nothing new) -- and, finally, those BINGOs are coming.  Fast and furious.

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Shall we check them out?

First column on the left:

Banned book - I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird.  Loved it when I read it as a kid; loved it when my own kids were reading it; loved it now.  Highly recommended. (And, just for the record, I'm not reading Go Set a Watchman.)

Revolves around a holiday - I read Thanksgiving by Ellen Cooney.  I wasn't expecting much with this little book (chosen for the title alone, truth be told), so I was completely surprised to love it as much as I did!  Highly recommended -- and especially if you're a fan of short stories, because although there is a common family history thread throughout the book, it's really a collection of short stories.  (Follow the link above for a free ebook download.)

From the Harvard Classics 5 Foot Shelf - I read the play She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith.  Delightful!  I can see why this classic has endured on the stage and in classrooms.

That your parents didn't/wouldn't have let you read as a kid - I read Lolita, and you can read about it in a previous BINGO post here.

With only words on the cover - I read Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. If you're interested in beginning or expanding a daily meditation practice (and I am), this is your book.

BINGO!

Third row down:

From the Harvard Classics 5 Foot Shelf - See above.

Romance or love story - I read The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman for my book group, and it was (sort of) a love story, so I'm counting it here.  (I'm not big on the romance genre, generally, so needed some poetic license for this square.)  This one was . . . meh.  (And I usually like Alice Hoffman.)

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Recommended in a BOTNS episode - I read In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.  The fact that I finished this book at all is a testament to Judy Blume's storytelling skills.  (And that's all I'm going to say about this one.)

Short story anthology - I read This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.  I thought it was fabulous, but I will guess it's just not going to be for everyone.  

BINGO!

Last column on the left:

That you've pretended to have read - I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.  This was one of those goofy squares for me -- because I've actually read enough books that I don't need to pretend to read books.  Y'know?  But I chose Tinker Creek for this square because I have frequently quoted from the book even though I hadn't read it.  Anyway, it's a classic for a reason, and I'm glad to have finally actually read it.

Set Before 1800 - I read Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors.  Or . . . I should say I read HALF of Beneath a Marble Sky before giving up in utter frustration.  Just not my story.  The books is highly rated nearly everywhere you look, though, so it is clearly many people's story.  Just not mine. (And I'm counting it for a bingo square even though I didn't read the whole thing because pain and suffering.)

Short story anthology - See above.

That involves magic - I read Buried Giant, and you can read about it in a previous BINGO post here.

Sports related - I read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  This is another book I've had in my "to read" queue for several years.  What a delightful book filled with fabulous characters.  I highly recommend this one.

BINGO!

And, finally . . . Diagonal, from the upper right hand corner:

That you've pretended to read - See above.

With food as the theme - I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (who was also born in the same year as me, so bonus points for that).  Eye-opening, fascinating, and rather gruesome.  Let's just say I will never eat a fast food ANYTHING again.

Free Square

With a protagonist/narrator over the age of 50 - I read A God in Ruins, and you can read about it in a previous BINGO post here.

With only words on the cover - See above.

BINGO!

As you can see, those BINGOs are beginning to pile up.  Surprisingly, I only have 4 squares to go for a total cover.  Don't hold your breath though, because the square I'm working on now . . . is At least 800 pages.  I'm reading Dickens - Nicholas Nickleby.  It's going to take awhile . . . 


Country Roads

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This week, Carole has us visiting the country for Ten on Tuesday.

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When I think about "visiting the country" . . . I think about heading up north (which really is "visiting the country" in Michigan-speak).

Here's what Tom and I love about being up north:

  1. The pace.  Everything slows down once we arrive up north.  Our schedules are free and uncomplicated.  (Even if they're not.)
  2. Seeing all the wildlife.  While we share our backyard at home with all kinds of birds and critters, nothing compares to what we see up north!  Loons, eagles, racoons, mink, porcupines, deer, fox, bats, skunks, hawks, grouse, woodcock, herons, sand hill cranes, muskrats, pileated woodpeckers, snakes, owls -- all right there.  (Sometimes right on our porch, even.)  
  3. Being unconnected.  Yeah, it's kind of hard at first . . . but it's rather nice to be without wifi, cable, or telephone service for a little while.  (Every year, we talk about getting wifi.  Maybe next year. . . but not yet.)
  4. Paring down to the bare essentials.  We have just the things we need - and no more - when we're up north.  It's always good to find out how little we actually need.
  5. The water.  Boats, kayaks, fishing, swimming, just gazing.  The water is relaxing and soothing.
  6. Going "organic" for a few days.  True confessions:  Sometimes we wear the same clothes for days when we're up north.  (See #4.  Bare essentials.)  Tom doesn't shave.  I don't wear mascara.  We don't always shower every day.  We don't care.
  7. Scrabble.  We never play at home, but we often play up north.  (See #1.  Pace.)  (And #3.  Being unconnected.)
  8. Campfires.  We have a little firepit in our garden here at home, but it's just not at all the same as our huge and long-lasting campfires up north.
  9. S'mores.  (See #7.  Campfires.)  So much fun -- and tasty, too.
  10. The tools.  Tom gets many more opportunities to use his chainsaw and axe up north.  

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How about YOU?  What do you like about visiting the country?

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