3-fer Thursdays

Three on Thursday, Random Style

I call this Still Life with Primer . . .


(And, sure.  Red wine goes with everything.)

Try as I might, I've got no clever or even mildly entertaining Three on Thursday ideas this week.  How about some random instead?

1 -- The sun is shining!  This lifts my spirits in a major way.  I'm always amazed at how glorious the sun really is . . . when it shows up after a too-long hiatus.  Welcome to my world, Mr. Sunshine!  Please stick around for awhile, okay? 

2 -- We have reached the painting stage of the dining room re-do!  It's been a long haul, this project.  We'd be able to finish it up this weekend, but we won't be here.  (And I don't guess our dog-sitter will surprise us by painting another coat. . . )  Next week, though.  Just in time for a little gathering we have planned for next Friday.  (That's me.  Always cutting it right to the last moment no matter how much time I give myself up front.  I'll be hanging the pictures on the walls again as our guests arrive, just you watch.) 

3 -- Finally, this KnitStars thing that Ann and Kay are involved in sounds rather intriguing to me.  I like the selection of workshops, and feel like I could really learn some cool things from teachers I'd never have access to otherwise.  Still, I'm on the fence.  I haven't signed up.  (Early bird registration - with a special price - ends tomorrow.)  Thoughts?  Have any of you signed up?  Are you thinking about it?  

And that's a wrap . . . random style . . . on a Thursday.


(Carole is doing a bit of boot-stompin' down in Nashville, so there is no Three on Thursday host today.)


A 3-Point Pact

A couple of years ago, I started taking colored pencil drawing classes.  (We have a great art school program here in Kalamazoo - for adults and kids.  It's a year-round program with a huge variety of class offerings.  I'm so grateful.)  I've learned a lot over the years, and I've created some drawings I'm really proud of -- and some real duds, too.  

I like picking out challenging projects for myself in my classes -- because I'm there to learn and develop my skills.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to try to draw something shiny.  Something with a lot of metal in it.  (Because there is a colored pencil technique called "burnishing" that makes wax-based colored pencil drawings "shine" like metal.)

So I decided I'd draw Tom's car.

And it has been the bane of my drawing-life ever since.


Because it is hard.  And my drawing is big.  And I'm not actually all that fond of drawing cars.  And it is taking me so very long.  And I have wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

But then, something interesting happened.

My instructor (who is also a friend) asked me to teach her how to knit.

So I did.

And she is determined to make (as her first project) Jared Flood's striped scarf in two contrasting colors of Noro Silk Garden.

Although she caught on to knitting immediately (she had tried it once or twice in the past, so wasn't completely new to to the task), she struggled a bit.  Because it is hard.  And she can't fix her mistakes.  And she wasn't completely sold on the colors she chose.  And it is taking her so very long.  And she has wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

Sound familiar? 

Over a glass of wine, we laughed at ourselves . . . old dogs learning new tricks.  And we made this 3-point pact with each other:

  1. We will allow ourselves time and space to learn and improve.
  2. We will ask each other for help without apology.
  3. We will throw perfection out the window (instead of our projects).

I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish my car drawing before the end of my next "semester" of colored pencil drawing class.  And she is hoping to finish her scarf in time to wear next winter.

I'll keep you posted!


To read more Three on Thursday posts, be sure to hop on over to Carole's!


The Sparkle Bonus

We have three stained glass windows in our house.  One is embedded in a cabinet in the kitchen, and two of them are in a corner of our bathroom.


They are definitely a unique feature - and I wish I knew their story.  But I don't.  (It's one of those things I wish I'd asked the sellers about the house - they were the original owners and had the house built to their specs.  But I never even thought to ask at the time.)

When we moved in, and up until 3 years ago when we did The Great Bathroom Renovation (because the shower leaked), the bathroom was covered in busy, dark wallpaper and had dark carpet on the floor.  I would notice the stained glass windows, but not much -- because the room was so dark and rather like a cave.

Something totally unexpected happened, though, after our renovation.  We replaced the carpet with a light, neutral color and removed that dark wallpaper, substituting a soft neutral shade on the walls.  We also replaced an old and unused jacuzzi tub with a "fitness corner" that includes my meditation spot.  So, the bathroom was suddenly light, open, and . . . sparkly!

Because in the morning, when the sun is shining, my stained glass windows do these three things:

1 - They reflect the bright colors of the windows on the floor (which move across the room as the position of the sun changes through the morning).


2 - They create dancing rainbows on the carpet (because those small circles in the window are prisms).


3 - They create a moving lightshow on the walls.


It's magical!

I love walking into the bathroom on sunny mornings.  It never gets old.

And to think . . . we lived with this for 12 years before discovering it!  The dark wallpaper and carpet completely hid the beauty and magic of those windows.  We only discovered it when we lightened up the room in the Great Bathroom Renovation.

I call it . . . the Sparkle Bonus!


To read more Three on Thursday posts, hop on over to Carole's.

Cutting the Cord?

Early last November, right before I left for the Alabama Chanin workshop, I did something I never thought I'd do:  I went on a Facebook "fast."  I decided to just . . . take a break.  I even deleted the app from my phone.

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I never intended for my Facebook break to last that long.  I just wanted to see if I could do it, really.  I thought I'd just . . . take it off my phone, and then check it now and again on my laptop.  

Why?  What was my intention with this Facebook "fast"?  Well -- I had identified Facebook as one of the major contributors to a general sense of annoyance and irritation in my life.

I was reading too much news.
Clicking into too many enticing headlines. 
Watching far too many humorous videos.
Spending a lot of time "liking" friends' posts and photos . . . that I was also "liking" (and maybe even "triple-liking") over on other social media platforms.
Monitoring the activity on my own posts.
And becoming more and more aware that Facebook had become a swamp of garbage.

Really.  I was making myself kind of nuts.  

It was super, super hard for the first two days.  (Which made me realize how addicted I'd really become to my time-sucking, brain-numbing scrolling.)  But after those first couple of days, I hardly missed it at all!  (Kind of like giving up sugar.)

By the time I got back from Alabama, I found that I didn't even think about Facebook anymore.  I didn't miss it.  It just became a non-issue for me.  (And you know what else?  No one missed me either!  No one even noticed that I was gone!)

And now.  Here we are.  Four months later.  Still not missing Facebook.  After this latest Facebook "indiscretion" unfolding in the news before us, I've decided to reduce my "Facebook footprint" even more.  If you're confused about what's happening over at Facebook, or if you're considering the rather drastic step of shutting down your account, here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. If you have an account at Facebook, make sure you've got the facts about what happened.  This article from the New York Times is a good place to start.

  2. Understand that simply deleting your Facebook account won't necessarily "erase" you from Facebook.  It's a complicated web out there!  You may actually be better off doing a serious review of your privacy settings.  Here's a great article that explains why you can't just hit "delete" -- and it includes excellent links and descriptions of how to modify your privacy settings.

  3. Try a "Facebook fast" like I did.  You might discover . . . that you don't need Facebook as much as you thought you did!

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What am I doing now with my Facebook account?  I'm cleaning it up -- downloading things I've "saved" there (photos, videos, etc. that I want to keep) and then removing them.  I'm getting rid of personal information (my contact information, my birthday, where I went to school, how I'm related to people, etc.) that I really don't need to share.  I'm putting the most strict privacy settings in place.  I may even "deactivate" my account.  But I probably won't delete it all together.  Yet.

How about you?  Are you thinking twice about your own Facebook account?


Head over to Carole's to read more Three on Thursday lists!


Push for Progress

"I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples."
 ---Mother Teresa

Today - March 8 - is International Women's Day.


Here are three simple things you can do right now to celebrate and acknowledge this special day:

Say thank you.  Get in touch with women who have made a difference in your life and acknowledge their influence.  Let them know!  Write a note, make a call, send an email.

Read a book.  Be intentional about the next book you pick up to read.  Choose a biography about a woman you'd like to learn more about.  Or choose a book by a woman author.  Better yet, pick up a book by a woman author from another culture.  (If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.)

Put your money where you mouth is.  Make a donation to an organization that improves the lives of women in your community, your country, or the world.  Support women who are running for office -- they need every penny they can raise.  (Maybe start by supporting my friend, Carole Julius, who is launching her political career with a run for Selectman of her community in Massachusetts.)

Be sure to check out the International Women's Day website for more information, additional ideas, and other links.
Push for progress, my friends.  Demand it.


Read other Three on Thursday posts over at Carole's.  (And, yeah.  That's the same Carole who is running for Selectman of East Bridgewater, MA!)





3 Blooms on a Cold, Dreary Day

Last fall, I ordered 6 amaryllis bulbs from White Flower Farm.  Bulbs from WFF are stupidly expensive -- but worth every penny to me.  I consider it an Investment . . . in my health and well-being during the Dark Months.

Now, every amaryllis is a beautiful amaryllis -- don't get me wrong.  I have purchased many a box-store or grocery store bulb over the years, and I have enjoyed their blooms immensely.  But they tend to be rather short-lived, and in my experience, seldom get another bud after the first is spent.  That's why I started ordering my bulbs online.  (There are several other great online amaryllis sources out there.   I just settled on WFF.  It's where I order all my bulbs -- spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips and the amaryllis.)  When it comes to blooms -- color, variety, bloom-time -- you really do get what you pay for.

I like to have some sort of amaryllis blooming beginning in January and continuing right on through February.  They do an amazing job at brightening up my house -- and my spirits.  This year, my choices are doing the job splendidly.  One of the bulbs is just now opening for its first bloom, and two of them are in the process of blooming from their second set of buds.  

Here are the 3 blooms bringing light and hope to the dreary day outside right now:

One. . .


(This one is in its first bloom.  The blooms are smaller and more compact than the more "standard" amaryllis -- and the colors are very intense.)

Two . . . 


(This one is beginning to bloom from its second bud.  It takes a few days for this amaryllis to completely open because it's a "double" -- it has two layers of petals.   You can see the interior layers just beginning to unfold.)

Three . . . 


(This one is just beginning to burst open, also from its second bud.  The blooms are deep red and kind of shiny -- living up to its name "Ferrari.")

This year, I think my blooms may take me all the way into March.  

You see, I have two other plants that I thought were finished after their initial set of buds.  They started putting out their leaves, which is usually a sign of  "done-ness."  But the other day, as I was giving them a water, I noticed these . . . 


Each plant has a second bud coming.  

Bring it on!  
(Because these dreary days of winter will be hanging on for a while yet, I'm afraid.)


Be sure to hop on over to Carole's today to read more Three on Thursday posts!


A Focus on My Reading

I've been a Reader ever since I discovered I could read at age 5.  As a child and throughout my adolescence, I always had my nose in a book.  I checked out books by the stack from the library, and my favorite classes in school were always "reading" or "English" or "literature."  The college years were tough on me -- because while I had plenty to read, it wasn't of my own choosing.  I missed reading-for-pleasure -- and always looked forward to semester breaks when I could dive back into my piles of books.

And . . . this reading habit just continued as I became an adult.  I read books.  Lots and lots of books!


But one thing concerns me about my reading:  It seems like I don't have the retention that I used to.  I remember reading particular books, and I'll be able to recall key characters and plot points -- but I won't be able to go much further than that.

I know.  I know.  I'm getting older.  And my brain is getting full.  And my memory is not what it used to be.  And - after reading thousands of books in my lifetime (I estimated at one time that I've probably read over 3,500) - I guess it's not surprising that I can't remember all of them.  But still. . . I'd really like to remember more than I do.

So I've decided to . . . focus . .  on my reading this year.  Not reading more.  Not reading "harder."  Just reading more attentively. More mindfully.  With the intention of savoring - and, hopefully, remembering more details about the books I read.

I think it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the books out there in the world -- especially when you're a Reader, and so many titles appeal.  (So many books, so little time . . . and all that.)  But I've decided to change three things about my reading habit this year to try to improve my retention and savor the books I read:

  1. Fewer books.  I know that it's "normal" in a goal-setting way to try to increase the number of books one reads in a year.  But I've decided to . . . just say no to quantity-based reading.  I'll still read a lot of books, sure.  (Because that's what I do.)  But I don't want to be driven by a number -- and I don't want to challenge myself to read MORE.  I want to choose fewer, high-quality books that really appeal to me this year.  And I'm not going to be concerned about hitting some arbitrary goal I set for myself.   (Disclaimer:  I still set a Goodreads Challenge for myself this year -- at 60 books.  Which is 15 books fewer than what I've typically read for the last few years.  I'll likely remove it altogether, though.  Eventually.)
  2. More time.  Rather than rushing through the books I read, I'm going to allow myself more relaxed time to read -- and build in occasional pauses for thinking-time.  Research (from one of my alma maters; Hook 'em Horns!) shows that hitting pause now and again while you're reading - actually allowing some time to rest and reflect on what you just read - can really help your brain connect the dots and synthesize the new information.  It turns out that giving yourself a mental rest and a little time to reflect on what you're reading really helps commit new material to memory.  (Here's a link to an article about the study.)
  3. Take notes.  I am not talking about outlining chapters here!  I'm just looking for a thoughtful way to ... pause and reflect while I'm reading.  Lately, I notice that I hurry to crack open my next book as soon as I finish my current book.  That can't be helpful in the retention department.  So I'm going to do a little writing to help my brain make sense of things.  I'm planning to write more thoughtful reviews on Goodreads, and I think I'll get back to "collecting" quotes and passages from books as I read.  I will probably even do a little journaling now and then as a way to think about and connect with the what I'm reading.

It's hard to pull back when there are so many books in the world waiting to be read.  But I'm going to give it a try!  Sometimes . . . less is more! 


To read more Three on Thursday posts today, hop on over to Carole's!


Snow for Days

So.  We're in the midst of one of those winter weeks where it . . . snows for days.


I'm not talking about a blizzard here.  Or even a major storm.  Nothing to shut down the schools or anything.  Just a near-constant, gentle snowfall . . . that adds up after a few days.  

It's just winter in Michigan.  
Typical for February.  
Nothing to get riled up about.  

And I thought about how grateful I am, in the midst of snow for days . . . because:

  1. The snow is beautiful.  Our otherwise dreary winter landscape is much improved with a nice frosting of snow.  Everything looks fresh and bright and a bit magical.
  2. I have all the right apparel for managing snow and cold: a warm jacket, wool hats and scarves and mittens, snow boots.  I am toasty-warm.
  3. In my trusty, all-wheel drive Subaru Outback (fitted with new tires this year -- bonus!), I can navigate winter roads with ease -- and go anywhere I want.

C'mon, winter.  Show me what you got!  (Just be sure to wrap things up by the end of month.  M'kay?)


Head on over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday posts.


Three on Thursday . . . Times Six

I am a regular listener of Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast -- and if you are too, you know that she and her sister, Liz, have been talking a lot about their "18 for 2018" lists lately.

Just in case you're not a regular listener (something I highly recommend, by the way; this is a great weekly podcast), "18 for 2018" is a list of 18 action items (or goals) you hope to accomplish during 2018.  

This is a fun exercise -- and perfect for the beginning of the new year.  Just think about 18 things you'd like to accomplish during the next 12 months. . . and make a list.

Here's mine (taken right out of my daily journal):


Now, we're talking goals (rather than intentions) here.  These are specific and tangible things I want to do or achieve in the future -- external achievements (action items) that I can cross off my list once I've accomplished them.  My list is a mix of . . .

relatively easy things,
things I can do now,
things I can't do until later in the year,
things that will take all year to accomplish,
and things that have been on my "action plans" for years and years (I'm talking about you, re-paint-the-dining-room!).

This list is not a place for my intentions or for any resolutions.  Nope.  We're talking pure goals here!

It's fun.  Give it a try.   What's on YOUR list . . . of 18 for 2018?


See more Three on Thursday posts over at Carole's!