Get Strong: Your Montly Fitness Challenge June 2022

Several months ago, I introduced my monthly fitness challenge, explaining my "inspiration" and why I think it's so important to do strength work ESPECIALLY as we age. (You can read all about that here.)


How are you doing? By now, I hope you're having some success with my challenges. Keep up the good work. Every day! (And if you haven't started yet? Well. You can begin today!)


Here's this month's fitness challenge:

Challenge #9 -- Try this 10 minute beginners yoga today (or some time this week). And then keep trying it, once a week for the rest of the month.

So far, all of my monthly fitness challenges have been some little "tweak" or "thing" or "action" that you can easily fit into your everyday life without needing to worry about the fuss and bother of a workout.

This month is different.
This month, I'm asking you to try a 10 minute yoga workout.

Now I know some of you already do yoga (which is great). And I know that some of you used to do yoga. And I know several of you have tried yoga -- with mixed results. But . . . no matter how you feel about yoga . . . maybe give this a chance. Adriene of Yoga With Adriene has just released this all-new 10 minute yoga session just for beginners. I've tried it myself, and it is truly . . . designed especially for beginners. There is nothing weird or hard or super flex-y in there. There are no downward dogs or warrior poses or anything that will put pressure on your wrists. It's gentle. It's nicely stretchy. It's a great introduction to yoga. And . . . it's totally do-able. (It's also free.)

Why do I want you to try this?

Well. Because yoga is really good for us as we age.

  • Yoga keeps us moving on multiple levels (standing, sitting, laying on the floor).
  • It builds our flexibility and mobility.
  • It helps reinforce our mind-body connection.
  • It challenges us to develop our balance.
  • It develops our core strength.
  • It helps reduce stress and teaches us to breathe.

All of this? EXACTLY what we need so we can keep moving as we age!

I know I've shared my own "yoga-story" before, but I think it bears repeating. When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in my early 30s, I decided to try yoga as part of my movement strategy/treatment plan. When I first started, I thought it was a total mistake. I couldn't do much, that's for sure. But just going to yoga once a week for an hour . . . ended up making a huge difference! Here I am, 30 years later, still doing a regular yoga practice -- and I've developed flexibility, range of motion, and core strength that blows my rheumatologist away!

Yoga works.

But you need to start at the beginning . . . and build from where you are.

So give this 10 minute beginners yoga practice a try this week.
And then maybe do it again. And again.  Do it once a week every week for just this month.

Try it.
See what happens.


Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

Challenge #8 -- Give yourself a couple of hugs (every day).

Challenge #7 -- Pay attention to how you walk. (With every step.)

Challenge #6 -- Get your feet off the ground! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #5: Get down on the floor. And then get back up again! (And make it an everyday practice.)

Challenge #4: Identify your core, learn how to engage it, and . . . do your Kegel exercises every day!

Challenge #3: Increase your physical activity every day.

Challenge #2: Stretch your hamstrings, activate those glutes . . . and spare your back just by changing the way you bend over.

Challenge #1: Strengthen Your Lower Body by Doing Body Weight Squats . . . All Day Long


Tales From the Garden

This week's tale is all about the happy ending.

I keep a little gardening journal every year. It's pretty much . . . pocket size . . . if you have a biggish pocket. I keep lists of plants I want to buy, tasks I need to take care of, notes and measurements and ideas and garden-y resources . . . that kind of thing. I carry it with me when I'm working in my garden or shopping for plants or attending/listening to a gardening seminar. Here's a page from my journal that lists my . . . 


Big. Goals. For. This. Year.
I'm doing pretty well with my list so far, actually. (There ARE years where I cross nothing off, sad to say. ) (And I can also cross off "new garden solar lighting” now, too.)

Today, I want to talk about the first item that's been crossed off: "Rejuvenate pond area in the SCOD." For regular readers, you may remember that the SCOD is our acronym for the garden zone known as the Semi-Circle of Death. (It's a long story. And I don't want to go into it here, today. Suffice it to say . . . there have been many iterations of this particular section of my garden over the years. You could even say that . . . I've learned my most important gardening lessons right there in the SCOD.)

Anyway. Back in 2009, Brian and our foreign exchange student, Dominik, installed a tiny little pond in my garden as a Mother's Day present. (You can read all about it here . . . in a VERY early blog post from 2009.) Since then, the "puddle pond" (as it's come to be known) has changed . . . but not for the better.

In fact, here's a photo of the badly-in-need-of-rejuvenation puddle pond from May 24 of this year (we'll refer to this photo as the BEFORE) . . . 


Invasive ground cover.
Can you say . . . NEGLECT?

And definitely in need of "rejuvenation."

Tom agreed to help. While I directed, Tom dug out all the plants and weeds. We piled up the rocks. (Yeah. The rocks you couldn't even SEE until Tom started digging.) Tom even dug out and relocated the tiny pond, leveling it in the process (something the boys never did).

Now it looks like this (we'll refer to this photo as the AFTER). . . 


A bit stark, but so much better!


Those are little miniature hostas there on the edge of the pond. They'll stay quite tiny, although they'll definitely fill in a bit. (It won't look quite so stark next year.)


And I ordered a special memorial stone for Jenny . . . who loved the puddle pond AND the hostas (miniature or otherwise).


I "transplanted" the duck weed from my other (slightly larger) garden pond.

All in all, I'm really happy with my SCOD-rejuvenation! It's so nice to finish off an item on your garden-to-do list.
A VERY happy ending to this tale, indeed!



Stitching in the Summer

The view from my "knitting" chair looks a little different these days . . . 


I blame this . . . 


I follow embroidery designer Nicki Franklin on Instagram. She creates the most charming embroidery designs for herself -- and for her UK business, The Stitchery. After drooling over her stitching kits for a couple of years, I finally succumbed and bought one. (Well. Actually more than one.)

I learned to embroider even before I learned to knit or sew, and I've always loved just sitting and stitching. I did a lot of cross stitch for a while back in the late 80s/early 90s, but I really prefer the texture of embroidery. Other than a few simple embroidery projects lately, though, I haven't done much stitching for a few years. 

So I decided I'd need a little practice with my "fancy" stitches before tackling my new kit.


Lucky for me, Nicki Franklin has a charming sampler/practice kit, too!

Although I won't be setting my knitting completely aside for the summer, it is going to have to share stitching time - and space on the table next to my "knitting" chair - with my embroidery. Stay tuned!


How about you? What are you making these days?

Top Five Books: Best of My Spring Reading 2022

Today is the Summer Solstice, and here in my corner of the world . . . it's summer alright! It's very hot (mid-90s), very muggy, and the sun is shining. Ahhhh. Summer. The shortest season of the year around here!


(Pay no attention to the weeds on the path. Damn thistles. There are always weeds somewhere in my garden . . . and today, they're on the path. As you can see, JoJo is still sporting her t-shirt collection, but only through tomorrow . . . when she finally gets her stitches removed. She loves finding the sunshine in the garden!)

Anyway. The Summer Solstice has arrived, and that means . . . it's time for me to share my Top Five reads of spring with you. Each quarter, right around the solstice or equinox, I think back on the books I read during the previous 3 months, and I choose my top five.

Here goes: my Top Five books from this past spring (the link listed for each book will take you to a published review of the book):


First up, I've got an absolute stunner of a book - The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard. This is the most compelling, satisfying book I’ve read in a very long time (and maybe ever).  It's one of those rare books where an investment in careful reading totally and completely pays off in the end. (In fact, it's necessary.) The intricate plot is perfection, the writing is stellar, the characters are interesting and complex, and the foreshadowing . . . is everything. I highly, highly recommend this book -- BUT I'm also issuing a warning: Shirley Hazzard makes her readers work hard!  This book is only for those who have patience to wade through a really challenging opening 50-60 pages (it takes a while to get into the rhythm of this one). And you must understand going in that there are no minor details in this book. The payoff is huge, but the reading is a commitment. (I gave this book 5 stars.)


Next, I've got a refreshing and unique novel that is, well, pretty much. . . perfection. Trust by Hernan Diaz. It sounds like it might be overly complicated and tricky to read, but it really isn't at all. It’s cleverly layered, story upon story, with each layer providing readers a slightly different angle, a brand new piece of the puzzle. And it’s delectable! Beautifully written and absolutely compelling. Power. Wealth. Influence. Privilege. And the impact of . . . all that . . . on history. Extremely clever, and highly recommended. (I gave this book 5 stars.)


Then, I've got a brilliant little book, perfect for a quick summer read . . . The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. Otsuka's clever story structure and spare, poetic writing style combine to pack a real punch, resulting in a touching metaphor for life. First, using the voices of lap-swimmers in a community pool, Otsuka cleverly describes the mundane structures and habits of life that bolster us and give beauty and value to our days. Then, with a deep-dive into the life of one of those swimmers, she shows us what happens when cracks appear, undermining our bodies and minds and impacting those who love us. This incredibly moving book is so much more than it appears. (I gave this book 5 stars.)


Next, I've got another re-read - Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I read this one when it was first published back in 2011, and I just loved it then. (In fact, it set me on a course to keep an eye out for anything written by Amor Towles). I decided to do a re-read this year while reading Towles’ newest - The Lincoln Highway - and recognizing a carry-over character/setting from Rules of Civility (Wallace Walcott and his family’s Adirondack cottage). Rules of Civility is every bit as wonderful as I remembered from my earlier reading – gorgeous prose, wonderful characters, and a fabulous, richly-described setting in 1930s Manhattan. (I gave this one 5 stars -- back in 2011 and again in 2022.)


Last, I've got an audiobook - Miracle and Wonder: Conversations With Paul Simon by Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Headlam, and Paul Simon (narrator). Like many other readers, I'd actually give this book MORE than 5 stars on Goodreads if I could. It really is that fabulous. Not only is the content pretty incredible, but the entire production is just . . . amazing. It’s not so much an audiobook . . . as an extended (and very well-done) podcast. It’s fascinating. I listened back in March, and I'm still humming Paul Simon songs every day. (I don’t know if there’s even a written version of this book, but . . . don’t bother. This one NEEDS to be listened to.) (I gave this one 5 stars. Although I'd have gladly given it more.)


How about you?
What books would make it to your Top Five list of spring reads?


If you want to see what I'm reading now, or check out my recent reviews on Goodreads, just check out the sidebar here on my blog.  You can find me here on Goodreads.  And you can read my past Top Five lists by clicking the links below:

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2022

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2021

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Spring Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Winter Reading 2020

Top Five: Best of My Fall Reading 2019

Top Five: Best of My Summer Reading 2019



Sometimes Mondays

. . . feel a little empty.


For the past month or so, my life has been very . . . full.

Not busy, exactly.
Just . . . full.

Full of good things -- family, fun, love, silliness, laughter, lightness. But also full of a whole slew of things I've been letting go of - temporarily - but still holding in my head. (Y'know. As we do.)

So on this Monday, I'm feeling empty.
But also very ready to put myself back together again.


Happy Monday!
I hope your week is off to a great start.

This or That: Summer Solstice Edition

I thought it'd be appropriate to end my Week of Questions with this month's . . . 


Camping . . . OR . . . Hotel

Sneakers . . . OR . . . Flip-flops

Pool . . . OR . . . Beach

Shade-lover . . . OR . . . Sun-seeker

Ice cream cone . . . OR . . . Ice cream in a dish

Motor boat . . . OR . . . Row boat

Iced Coffee . . . OR . . . Ice Tea

S'mores . . . OR . . . SnoCone

Coconut . . . OR . . . Banana

Sunglasses . . . OR . . . Sun hat


To answer, just copy the the list above, paste it into the comment field, and indicate your answers.
(I've tried it myself and it works.)

This . . . or That? 
I can't wait to see what you choose.

(As for me? Check the comments to find out!)


A Week Full of Questions: Thursday

Inspired by the upcoming Summer Solstice, I've got a week's worth of summer-questions for you!


When you were a kid, did you go to camp in the summer? Day camp? Sleep-away camp? Or . . . did you camp in the summer with your family or friends? How about now? Are you a camper still?


As for me, my family wasn't a camping family . . . although we did rent a pop-up camper for one camping vacation when I was quite young. (I remember it being a lot of fun, but we never did it again, so I think that will tell you something about my parents' experience.) I went to a local Parks & Rec day camp with neighborhood kids during the summers when I was young. It was mostly games (I remember a lot of knock-hockey, 4-square, and tether ball tournaments, with some Red Rover thrown in now and then), arts-and-crafts (potholder loom weaving and lanyard-making being my favorites), and . . . popsicles. One summer I went to a 2-week sleep-away camp in Wisconsin with my friend Wendy. It was great fun -- there was a lot of swimming and horseback riding and elaborate capture-the-flag games -- plus funny skits and songs every night. That dark-and-grainy photo above is me (saying goodbye to my sister) in front of my camp cabin. It was all very exciting -- but I did get a little homesick during the second week of camp. As an adult, I camped with Tom once. In 1983. We had fun, but I remember it being an awfully lot of work. . . and I got a bad cold. (And now we have our cabin. With electricity, indoor plumbing, and even a washer and dryer. So I guess that says a lot about my preferences.)


How about YOU? I'd love to hear about your summer camp - or camping - experiences!

A Week Full of Questions: Wednesday

Inspired by the upcoming Summer Solstice, I've got a week's worth of summer-questions for you!


Did you like to play in the water when you were a kid? Pool? Lake? Ocean beach? Maybe a sprinkler on the lawn? Did you keep cool with water in the summer? And . . . how about now, as an adult?


As for me, I spent as much time as I could in the water when I was a kid. This gem of a vacation photo from 1968 has only recently surfaced, and I just love it! (Especially . . . my mom's Esther Williams-style bathing cap.) At about this same age, I started swimming on a swim team (an activity that lasted through my high school days), so I was very comfortable in the water. We had this little pool in our backyard (below) -- but any water was fine with me! I had a fine time just running through a sprinkler on a hot summer day.


I still like being near the water as a grown-up. Not so much being IN it as being NEAR it. I like kayaking or boating on the lake, but swimming with fish and and loons and leeches kind of creeps me out a little bit, y'know? (I'm totally comfortable in a pool; lake water, though? I'm a bit more hesitant. . . ) And I still look forward to running into a sprinkler now and then!


How about YOU? I'd love to hear about your summer water play!


A Week Full of Questions: Tuesday

Inspired by the upcoming Summer Solstice, I've got a week's worth of summer-questions for you!


Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer officially arrives with the Summer Solstice . . . this year on Tuesday, June 21. But, here in my corner of the world, we get little glimpses of summer far earlier than mid-June. So . . . when do you consider the beginning of summer to be? Is it the calendar? Or is there an event (last day of school, for example) or something in the air (the smell of wisteria, for example?) Or is it some other "sign" altogether?


As for me, it's when I absolutely and without a doubt can put. away. the. socks. Hello, Summer . . . for me . . . is all about the footwear, and - in particular - flip-flops all the time! (And that happened for me . . . sometime in May this year.)


How about YOU? I'd love to hear when summer begins . . . for you!


A Week Full of Questions: Monday

Inspired by the upcoming Summer Solstice, I've got a week's worth of summer-questions for you!


As the weather heats up and we spend more time outside, what summer-y treats do you like to eat? (Or drink?) Is it the same kind of treats you remember loving as a child? Or have your tastes changed over the years?

Screen Shot 2022-06-12 at 9.13.35 AM

As for me . . . when I was a kid, my favorite thing was waiting to hear the (highly annoying) Mister Softee jingle as the ice cream truck rolled through the streets of my neighborhood. I loved getting "bomb pops" (pictured above; I think they're called "rocket pops" now) or a soft-serve twist cone or a Creamsicle. Other beloved summer treats of my childhood included burgers on the grill, watermelon slices, and my mom's Kool-Aid popsicles.

Some things never change . . . I still like ice cream. And watermelon. And though I don't eat meat much anymore, I do like an occasional burger on the grill. Not so much on the popsicles these days, although I will take a refreshing glass of Chardonnay or a cold gin and tonic instead!


How about YOU? I'd love to hear about your favorite summer treats . . . then and now!