This or That: Gardening Edition

It's time to play this month's edition of everyone's favorite blog game . . . 


I'd like to grow more flowers . . . OR . . . I'd like to grow more vegetables

Dealing with deer . . . OR . . . Dealing with drought

Shady garden . . . OR . . . Sunny garden

I take my houseplants outside . . . OR . . . I leave my houseplants inside

Summer manicure . . . OR . . . Dirt under my nails

Interesting foliage . . . OR . . . Bright blooms

I'd rather dig . . . OR . . . I'd rather weed

Favorite flower . . . OR . . . Can't pick just one

Garden gnome . . . OR . . . Wind chime


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!)

Sometimes Mondays

. . . are the gateway to a Really Big Week.


Stay tuned. I'll share more as the days unfold.
Meanwhile, here's a poem - one of my favorites. (And always good for a Gateway Monday.)

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Get Strong: Your Monthly Fitness Challenge May 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 #8 -- Give yourself a couple of hugs (every day).

Just like this . . . 


Do it once with your left arm on top. And then switch your arms and do it again with your right arm on top.


Well. It's a nice, quick back and shoulder stretch.
But - more than that - it's a reminder . . . to love your good, strong body.

I don't write these monthly fitness challenges because I think there's anything "wrong" with your body or that you should be "working hard" to get your body into a "better" shape. I write them so you can prepare yourself to move forward in your life . . . as you age . . . a little bit stronger, with less back pain, a stronger core, better balance, and the ability to get yourself up off the floor when you need to.

We live in a culture that makes all women - regardless of age and body shape - feel bad. Less than. Not enough. It's our bodies, of course. They’re the problem. They're "all wrong" . . . at least according to the unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty and the female form we see all around us every day. Thanks to toxic diet culture, we think we need to "fix" our bodies before we can . . . live.

I'm here to invite you to hug your GOOD body. Today and every day. It doesn't need to be "fixed." It needs to be healthy and strong. And that has nothing to do with . . . how you look. 

Every day, I look in the mirror and see an aging 63-year old woman who has . . . jiggly-arms and a post-menopausal belly, someone who has given birth, struggled with health conditions, smiled a lot, lost the battle with gravity (and so on). No matter how many squats I do? That ain't gonna change. And I'm getting to the place where . . . I'm okay with that. I'm focusing on maintaining (and building) my strength, flexibility, and mobility. I'm trying to protect my bones and joints. I'm trying to eat well. Sleep enough. Move every day. Love myself.

I specifically chose this challenge for this month . . . because we're about to say hello to "beach season" … and all the baggage that brings. So give yourself a big hug . . . and get to the beach (or pool or lake or just out in the backyard). ENJOY summer. Wear the shorts. Wear sleeveless tops. Put on a swim suit. Stay cool. Your "beach body" . . . is whatever body you take to the beach!

I know my little monthly fitness challenge here is not going to change the damage of years of toxic diet culture and the societal messages of beauty you've been fed all your lives, but . . . maybe it will be a little drop in the bucket for you. Maybe you can wrap your arms around your good body and say, "I love you" to your body every day. It's a start.

And if you want a little more body-acceptance inspiration, here are a few women out there, doing good work for all of us:

  • Amy Pence-Brown - who calls herself a "fat feminist mother," but I just think of her as a radical pioneer of body acceptance. You may have seen her viral video (if you haven't, click here to watch her powerful and radical stand for self-love) or heard her Ted talk. She also has a blog, and an inspirational Instagram presence
  • Stasia Savasuk - who talks about dressing for the way you feel inside, not for the way society thinks you "ought" to dress. Stasia's messages of body acceptance are pretty radical in our body-conscious world. She is famous for saying, "my body is NOT the problem; it's the pants that are the problem." If trying on clothes - or wearing what you feel like wearing - is a problem for you, you really need to meet Stasia. She's got a blog, an inspirational Instagram presence, and she's done a Ted talk, too. 
  • Christine D'Ercole - who happens to be my favorite Peloton instructor. Christine is a world-class bike racer . . . who has struggled with body image and body acceptance her entire life. Not only does she run a great Peloton workout -- but her "rides" are filled with body-positive messages. She is known for her "I am - I can - I will - I do" motto . . . and also little words-of-wisdom like "think bigger than a smaller pair of pants."  If you're not a Peloton-person, you can still benefit from Christine's inspiration through her blog. She also runs Wordshop -- workshops designed to help us re-think the stories we tell ourselves.

Give yourself a couple of hugs today (and every day).
You are beautiful.
You are strong.

And you’re enough. Just as you are.


Previous Get Strong Monthly Fitness Challenges:

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 My Garden

As usually happens in May . . . my garden is exploding. I'm scrambling to keep up with everything happening out there, which is both thrilling and overwhelming. Spring, when it finally happens, is Really Quite Something.

And I have the fingernails to prove it!


Here are a few tales from my garden this week.


First, I'm celebrating my sad little azalea. This little guy . . . really struggles. It is one of the few remaining plants in my garden that was original to the house when we bought it, so it's been around for a very long time. I've tried everything I can think of to get it to be a happy plant, but it just . . . isn't. Every year, I think about digging it up and letting it go. But it keeps budding, and . . . well . . . hope springs eternal in this gardener's heart.

The last 3 years have been particularly challenging for this sad little azalea. In each of the past 3 years, just as the buds emerged, we've had a hard frost and that was the end of the story. This year, though? Blooms! And lots of them. My sad little azalea was lovely this year, and I'm so happy about that.


This photo of an emerging hosta plant in my garden was taken a couple of weeks ago. My garden is full of hostas (I think I have 45-50 all told), and I think it's truly magical to watch them emerge and unfurl every year. In the early spring, my garden looks absolutely barren . . . but it's suddenly lush and green when the hostas return! Magic!

I've mentioned before that our Jenny dog LOVED hanging out in the hostas. It started when she was a puppy and continued right on through her (very long) dog life. Tom and I decided to spread her ashes among the emerging hostas in the garden so she could continue hanging out in her very favorite spots . . . and we did that last weekend. We ran out of her ashes well before we got to all the hostas, but she will continue to have a presence in our garden.


I have most of my containers planted for the season already. This one is my favorite (so far).  I picked up the very cool planter at an end-of-season sale last year (an absolute steal for $20!!!), so this is its "patio debut." The planter is made of cement, cast to look like wicker. (There is a "matching" big round one on the ground next to it.) This particular planter is about two feet tall, and quite narrow. I love the shape and size of it, and was excited to bring it out this year and show it off. 

There are lots of other "tales" waiting to be told . . . out there in my garden.
Stay tuned!

"The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul."
                                            ---Alfred Austin


Meet . . . The Problem Child

After finishing Tom's sweater and then my colorful follow-up shawl, I've been unable to settle on my next knitting project. I mean . . . I did whip up a set of dishcloths, but that was just a palette cleanser; a little placeholder while I decided on my next project. I am being very intentional about NOT getting sucked into knitting one of those charming "nice little summer sweaters" this year . . . as I too often do. (I never wear them. And I don't like working with cotton or linen.) But I also don't want to "get a headstart on fall" by lugging a heavy wool sweater around during the hot months.

What's a knitter to do?

I thought about socks. (And that's a great idea.)
I thought about cute little teddy bears. (Another great idea.)
Maybe even some Halloween witches? (I have the yarn ready to go.)

But then I decided to open up my project Time Out Bin instead!

I usually only work on one (sometimes two, but not very often) project at a time. If a project isn't going well, I usually just rip it out and let it go. But every once in a while, and especially if the project has some potential, I stick it away in a bin. (My version of out-of-sight-out-of-mind.) Anyway, I decided to take a peek and remind myself of what's in there. Maybe . . . I could try to work with some of those projects over the summer; y'know . . . see if any of 'em are ready to "behave" yet.

There are currently three projects in my bin: The Problem Child, The Poor Relations, and The Prodigal Son. (Sounds kind of like a dysfunctional family, non?) I'll introduce you to each of them over the next few weeks. And we'll see if they shape up by the end of the summer, shall we?

First, let's meet The Problem Child.


This is the start of a lovely little shawl by Ysolda Teague called Llawenydd. I don't do a lot of cable projects anymore, although I have in the past. I've been considering knitting a cabled Aran sweater, but I haven't settled on a pattern/design I'd like to actually wear. (While I do like the look of some cabled sweaters, I don't seem to like wearing them all that much.) Anyway. When I saw this little shawl (and it is just a small shawl), I thought it might satisfy my "craving" for cables, but not require too big a cabling-commitment. I cast on back in December, right before I made my visit to the Mayo Clinic. I thought it would be a good "traveling project."



I got to the cables and realized . . . NOT a good "traveling project." 

In fact, this Problem Child - so called because I have to keep a close and mindful eye on it all the time - requires silence and total concentration. I mean, the chart is clear. The directions are clear. It's all very straightforward for a cable project. But it is . . . double cables filled with moss stitch and a decrease at one edge. (Or, as Ysolda describes it herself, "two by two ribbing flows into a bold, double cable pattern surrounding diamonds of richly textured moss stitch.") Bold, indeed! A knitter must keep her wits about her at all times! No conversation. No TV. No audiobook. No wine. And lots of talking-out-loud-to-one's-self.

I stuck that Problem Child into my Time Out bin as soon as I returned from Mayo, and that's where it has stayed. Until last week when I got it out again.

We've got progress.


I've reached the half-way point of the main cable motif. The knitting has gotten slightly more intuitive, and I'm making better progress. But, being at the half-way point also means that all the cable-backs and cable-forwards will be reversed now. And, trust me, I know myself well enough to know . . .  I've got to watch this Problem Child like a hawk.

I've also reached this symbol in the chart . . . 


I've lived in fear of this symbol since the beginning. Why? Oh, here's why . . . 


(I've tried it. It's not bad. It sounds worse than it is.)

That's what I'm dealing with right now: The Problem Child.
(At least it's wool!)

How about you? What are you making this week?


(Stop by next week and I'll introduce you to The Poor Relations.)



On Looking Out

When we moved into our house . . . back in 2003 . . . I was delighted by our windows. At that time, they were much different than they are today.


(This is today, by the way.)

Each window was broken up into those little grid patterns that look so charming from the outside, but are a nightmare of dusting from the inside. (They really did look charming.) Further, our two front bay windows and the big living room window at the back of the house were first subdivided into 3 narrow, vertical panels, with each panel divided into the little grids. It looked nice, really, although it was a lot of grid.

Within a year, though, I convinced Tom that the little grids had to go. It wasn't so much the cleaning part (although there was that), but all those grids really broke up my view . . . looking out. The narrow, vertical panels remained, however.

Years later (in 2016), we replaced all the windows in the house, and it was my chance to start fresh. I had to go to the mat with the window guy . . . insisting that I wanted big, open picture windows and NO grids or panels in my windows at all. He thought I was nuts. He kept going on and on about "curbside appeal" and how wonderful the gridded windows would look from the street. He kept foisting "samples" at me . . . of all the different window grid styles I could choose from.

But those little window grids? They just aren't for me. They are absolutely charming, but I want to SEE out my windows. By then, I had created some lovely views in my yard and gardens, and we have gorgeous sunset views from the front of our house. I wanted those views to be part of my house from the inside . . . without being broken up by the grids. With gridded windows, things might look "better" (nicer? more desirable?) to people on the outside, looking in. But those grids really distort the views for the people on the inside, looking OUT.

I held my ground, and in the end, I got just what I wanted: plain, big, ungridded glass windows!


IMG_8794 2

I have never regretted my decision.

"The window has a wonderful view of the lake, but the view doesn't view itself."
                        --- Wisława Szymborska


I hope you have a wonderful week, with plenty of time for looking out . . . at all the best views.

Museum of Me: May 2022

It's the second Friday in May, and that means it's time for a new exhibit in the . . . 


When I was a kid, I loved doing pretty much all the same stuff I do now: making things, drawing and coloring, listening to music, and reading. (I also did quite a lot of "taking charge" of the neighborhood kids, convincing them to take part in my various schemes. Which I still kinda do, I suppose.) (I only hope I'm less bossy and more inclusive now. . . )


This month's exhibit is about one of those things I loved doing: Reading. 
C'mon in!
Let's talk books!


(Me, just out of third grade, reading to my sister.)

I learned to read well before I went to school. (My school district didn't have public school kindergarten, so I didn't step foot into a classroom until I was a first grader.) We did a lot of reading when I was little, and my childhood was filled with trips to the library. My mom used to tell me that I taught myself to read, which actually might be true. I have a very vague memory of just . . . suddenly . . . being able to decipher the words that I saw around me on signs, in the grocery store, in books. It was magic! By the time I actually got to school, I was such an advanced reader that my teacher didn't quite know what to do with me. She used to allow me time to read on my own, which I loved. It didn't take long, though, before lots of other kids in my class caught up with me, so my time as a "special" reader ended.

I always had a book nearby to read when I was a kid. I kept them in my desk as school for those times when I finished my work early and was allowed to "read quietly at my desk." I read in the car whenever we drove somewhere. I read waiting for dance class to begin. I read at the table (when I could get away with it, which wasn't often but I did try all the time; sometimes I wore my mom down). I read with a flashlight under the covers (my mom turned a blind eye). Sometimes I even read while wandering the aisles at the grocery store with my mom. I read and I read and I read!


(Me, just about to head into sixth grade, with my personal "library.")

Although I dreamed of having a big, "storybook" kind of library, most of the books I read were library loans. (I adored the library.) As you can see from my photo, I didn't own many books at all. And most of the books you see on my shelf had belonged to my mom when she was a little girl. But I did have a few of my own. I usually got a book at Christmas, and I lived for the Scholastic book orders at school. Still, my personal childhood library was very limited, and didn't include most of my very favorite books . . . 

Misty of Chincoteague. Across Five Aprils. The Island of Blue Dolphins. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Caddie Woodlawn. All the Ramona Quimby books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Little House on the Prairie books. A Wrinkle in Time. The Phantom Tollbooth. The Narnia series. Nancy Drew. The Hardy Boys, too. The Childhood-of-Famous-Americans series.  The Betsy-Tacy books. The Bobbsey Twins. Charlotte's Web.  

My favorite, though? 


In third grade, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Hermann. (I've written about her before. She's the teacher who first introduced me to the wonders of poetry, and I will be forever grateful.) One day, I got finished with my school work quickly and realized I had forgotten to bring a book to read. I asked to go to the library, but Mrs. Hermann said no -- because another class was scheduled for library time right then. I almost cried. Wise Mrs. Hermann understood, though. She pulled a book out of her desk drawer and asked me, "Have you met Pippi yet?"

I had not.

She lent me her book, right there. I was immediately captivated by Pippi. Mrs. Hermann let me keep reading, right through recess. She even let me borrow her book -- and take it home! -- until I finished. (I guarded it like it was a precious jewel.) 

And how I loved Pippi! She was Swedish, just like me. She ate pepparkakor, just like me! And she did so many other silly and fantastical things that were not like me at all. I loved every page. I wanted to hang out with her and Tommy and Annika at Villa Villekulla. (Although Annika did kinda bug me. Too prissy. Too perfect. Too clean.) I read the book (and the others in the series) over and over and over again. (I read it to my own kids, too. They were not quite as charmed as I had been. It's hard to top "Captain Underpants," y'know?)

As I was thinking about this exhibit, I realized that . . . as much as I had loved Pippi Longstocking as a child, I had never owned a copy of the book. So I went out and bought a copy for myself. (I read it again, too. It's really silly.) It was actually harder to find than I expected. It was buried on the back shelf of the children's bookstore we have in town . . . deep in the "classics" section. But now, Pippi has a place in my old childhood library. I've managed to keep most of those old books over the years, and they live happily together in a shelf in one of my living room curio cabinets.


Even though Pippi doesn't technically belong with all my old books . . . I think she fits right in. Don't you?


How about you? What are your favorite childhood books?


Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . on the 2nd Friday of each month.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of monthly prompts) and we can tell our stories together. 


Tales From the Garden

Hoo boy! Things are really POPPIN' out in my garden. With our sudden tropical heat wave, I've got things blooming so quickly it's making my head spin! My tulips - still in tight bud last Sunday - are opening, blooming, and dying back all in the same day. 

Enjoy them while you can. (Because tomorrow they'll just be stems!)



With things happening fast-and-furiously our there in the garden, I thought it might be time to reprise a post I did last August featuring my not-so-secret container garden formula . . . 

Winning containers = Thriller + Spiller + Filler

Check it out and do a little planning before visiting your local nursery.
Because, friends . . . It's planting time!


My mom used to knit dishcloths . . . for herself, for my sister, for my kids, for her friends, and for me. She got me hooked on using hand knit dishcloths decades ago, and I have purchased very few "store-bought" dishcloths ever since. Having a ready supply of dishcloths from my mom also meant . . . I never had to make them for myself.

All that has changed, of course.

My mom might not be around to make them for me anymore, but I still prefer them to any other dishcloth. So I've had to resort to knitting my own. . .


Every 18 months or so, I go on a little dishcloth knitting tear . . . and whip up a new supply for myself. (I find they last for a good two years before they really wear out and unravel, so this keeps my inventory steady, with "planned turnover.")

They aren't my favorite things to knit (it's the cotton), but they're quick and easy -- and if I'm focused, I can knit a new supply fairly quickly. (Especially if I'm working a slow election.) (Did you know you can knit two Ball Band Dishcloths over the course of a slow 15-hour shift?)


My favorite pattern is the Waffle Knit Dishcloth (link is NOT a Ravelry link). It's quick and effective, and it's fun to add the little blocks of color (although you certainly don't need to). Sadly, these will also be the first to fall apart, so I usually throw in some Ball Band Dishcloths, too (link is also NOT a Ravelry link). My Ball Band Dishcloths outlast all others, every time. This go-round, I also added a new pattern - Sarah's dishcloth "recipe" she recently shared on her blog (again, NOT a Ravelry link). I think Sarah's riff on the dishcloth will become another go-to favorite for me.

There you have it: What I've been knitting lately. I'm happy to have refreshed my dishcloth inventory, and I'm also happy to be finished with dishcloth-cotton . . . for now.

I've moved on to something a bit more . . . complicated. Certainly bigger. And from wool. 
Stay tuned!


How about you? What are you making these days?