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July 2009

A Different Kind of Candy

I know Eye Candy Friday is a popular blog feature.  What better way to end the week but with a picture of something especially lovely and, well, eye-catching?  I thought about practicing Eye Candy Friday as well, but decided that my blog is so picture-heavy already that I might want to try something a little different.

So. . .welcome to Mind Candy Friday!  I really like inspirational quotes and poems, so that's what I'm going to feature on my blog on Fridays.

Here goes:

Arise in the morning

Enjoy your weekend!


On a Roll

I think of myself as a competent knitter.  I'm not afraid to try anything with my knitting -- and I like to challenge myself.  Color work?  Love it!  Cables?  Love it!  Committing to knitting 12 sweaters in 12 months?  No problem.  But.  I have this thing with knitting lace.  It kicks me in the butt.  Every time.

Cinnamon Girl 013

Meet my current project.  This is Kirsten Kapur's Ulmus pattern --- a wonderful shawl featuring a simple two-row slip-stitch pattern alternating two different fingering weight yarns and (here's the kicker. . .) edged with a delicate lace pattern

I cruised on the slip-stitch portion of this project!  Cruised. The pattern is easy to memorize and fun to knit --  I loved watching the variegated colors emerge.  And the yarns I'm using -- Malabrigo Sock Yarn in Botticello Red and Misti International Hand Paint Sock Yarn in variegated fall colors -- are a dream to work with.  (You can find my project listed here on Ravelry.)

Cinnamon Girl 011 

But then I got to the delicate lace edging. 

Now, in this particular pattern, there are only 34 rows of lace edging.  It is a straightforward pattern -- nothing really tricky.  The lace flows perfectly and cleverly from the slip-stitch pattern.  Kirsten's directions are clear and well-written.  She's included an accurate and easy-to-read chart.  But for me?  Lace kicked me in the butt.  Again and again and again!  I mean, how many errors can I make in one simple lace pattern?  Let's just say I spent most of my knitting time over the last week. . . knitting backwards (which I do pretty darn well, thank you very much!).

Am I an idiot when it comes to knitting lace?  Or is something else going on here?  A misalignment of the knitting universe perhaps?  Actually, what happens is this:  I have two knitting tendencies that conspire to foil me when I knit lace.  First, I tend to catch on to patterns very quickly when I knit.  This is pretty handy -- because I don't have to refer to the pattern or chart all the time -- but, as you might imagine, I do make some spectacular errors (that's why I'm so good at knitting backwards!).  Second, I tend to . . . go somewhere else. . . when I knit.  I think.  I talk.  I listen to audiobooks.  I watch tv.  I drink wine. 

Together, these tendencies spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r for even the simplest lace pattern.  I do a few pattern repeats across a row. . . memorize the pattern. . . do a few more pattern repeats. . . drift off to another place in my brain. . . take a sip of wine. . .and BINGO!  Kicked in the butt again!

So yesterday I got serious about finishing this project -- and managing my lace problem.

Cinnamon Girl 009 

I gathered my supplies -- an enlarged and carefully marked chart.  My handy Knit Picks chart keeper, with magnet strips allowing me to see ONLY my current row.  The pattern.  My cheaters.  Markers and my crochet hook. . . you know, just in case.  But what you don't see is more important.  No iPod.  No phone.  No tv.  No conversation buddies.  And (sadly) no wine.  I counted out loud to myself.  I worked hard to focus on the pattern.  Just the pattern.  And I got three rows done without having to knit backwards!!!

I'm on a roll!


An Open Highway

For as long as I can remember, I've had a theme song.  Just a song that consistently plays in my head -- not in that annoying song-stuck-in-my-head kind of way, but in a background-music-soundtrack-of-your-life kind of way.  You know. . . a theme song.  At various times in my life, my theme songs have included Anticipation (Carly Simon), You're So Far Away (Carole King), Running on Empty (Jackson Browne), Future's So Bright (TimBuk3), All I Wanna Do (Cheryl Crow), and, sadly, Baby Beluga (Raffi).  Right now, this is my theme song ---


(And it's not because Jon Bon Jovi is just about the cutest rocker ever!)

After my chemo treatments were finished and my test results showed a Healthy Me, I started to really think about the fragility of life.  In a serious way.  On an intellectual level, I have always known and understood that the end of the story, for each of us, is . . . the end of the story.  But, like the rest of us, I protected myself from that rather unnerving reality with an invisible barrier.  We just . . . don't go there.  After a cancer diagnosis, though, you DO go there!  That invisible barrier disappears, and cancer survivors have to live with what I came to think of as The Edge.

So now I walk along The Edge.  There is no net.  There is no barrier.  There is just life to be lived every day.  I am really, really aware of this now.  At first it was pretty scary, but now. . . now it just makes every day matter a whole lot more.  I have much greater clarity in what is important to me; what I want to do; what I don't want to do; who I spend my time with.  My cancer experience has shown me that we need to jump right in and be active participants in our own lives.  Don't wait.  Just do it.


Like the song says. . . It's my life; it's now or never; I ain't gonna live forever; I just want to live while I'm alive!

I may be traveling on The Edge . . . but I've found it really is an Open Highway!




Garden Envy!

Note:  The pictures you are about to see are not of my garden.  Unfortunately.

On Saturday, my friend Sandie and I went on a bus tour with the Southwest Michigan Hosta Society.  We visited four gardens and two nurseries in what was an inspiring, exhausting, sometimes overwhelming, but always gorgeous 10-hour day.

Tour 2

The photo above is just a teeny-tiny segment of the most gorgeous garden I've ever seen!  Covering several acres, it was carved into the woods and had the most amazing little hidden surprises everywhere you looked.  It was like looking at a garden design book or gardening magazine LIVE and in real time.  I cannot possibly begin to describe this garden with words, and I'm somewhat certain my mouth was gaping open the entire time Sandie and I strolled the grounds.

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The American Hosta Society National Conference was held in Michigan this year (end of June).  Three of the gardens we visited were featured as tour gardens at the conference.  (So you know they had to be wonderful!)

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This photo is from another garden on the tour.  It, too, was just gorgeous!  The modest house and yard were located in just your typical suburban neighborhood, but they had converted the entire backyard into a shade paradise! 

I'm new to the Hosta Society, but not new to hostas!  I have several hostas in my garden.  They're easy to grow, take little special care, and love the shade!  Like most hosta-lovers, I grow them for the foliage!  The leaves come in such a variety of colors, shadings, shapes and sizes.  There are hundreds and hundreds of cultivars -- all with clever little names.  There are several members of the hosta group that can identify a specific cultivar by name just by quick observation.  (I'm not into hostas quite like that. . .)  There are other members who have published lists of available cultivars, and they check-off and color code the varieties they have seen, desire, and have -- kind of like a Ravelry Queue.  (I'm not into hostas quite like that, either. . .)

I got a kick out of the whole concept of the Hosta Bus Tour (as did my kids. . . )!  Can you imagine what the neighbors must think of their already-kooky gardening neighbors when charter buses pull up into the cul-de-sac and MORE kooky gardeners pile out with cameras and notebooks to LOOK at the gardens?  I'm pretty sure there's a lot of head-shaking going on. . .

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Our last stop of the day was at a West Michigan nursery that specializes in hostas.  The crowd went wild!  Here's a funny view of the hosta people seeking out new additions for their collections!  (It was similar to the frenzy you find at fiber festivals. . .)

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Sandie and I purchased one hosta (to split) that we'd seen over and over and really liked during the tours.  It's called Whirlwind.

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It was a wonderful day!  I got so many ideas . . .

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Like making your fence look like a wall in a house!  Or. . .

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Adding colorful features to get people to look UP in your garden!  Or, the practical. . .

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Finding a style of steps I'd like to add to my own garden! 

Gardeners are so creative!  Each garden is unique and expressive.

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It was a fabulous day!  Just wonderful. 

Pagoda 

But when I got home, and looked at my own garden (NOT pictured anywhere in this post!), I couldn't help but think. . . what have I been doing with my time?


Recipe for Magic

When I was young, I thought Magic only happened in fairy tales and movies. To have Magic, you needed Pixie Dust, Enchanted Shoes, Fairy Godmothers, and Walt Disney.  Or, at least, a Toad.

Toad

I know differently now.  Magic happens every day. The ordinary. . . becomes extraordinary!  I was reminded of the Magic in Life yesterday, as we celebrated my mom's birthday with an afternoon in Saugatuck (one of those charming Lake Michigan coastal communities). 

What makes Magic?

Perfect weather in a beautiful spot. . .

Yachts

Color, whimsy, and charm. . .

Color

Treats and a bit of indulgence. . .

Treats

Love, laughter, and just enough rest. . .

Watching the crowd

Sharing and passing on your passions. . .

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Flowers and birthday cake (or fudge brownie cheesecake!). . .

Mom's birthday

Happy Birthday, Mom!  Lots of Magic.  No pixie dust!


Waterdogged!

Our dog, Jenny, loves water.  Truly and absolutely.  She's a great swimmer.

Swim Jenny

She loves being on the water with us. . .

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And has no qualms about jumping right in!

Jump Jenny

Her retriever instincts really kick in at the lake.  She loves to retrieve objects -- and is especially fond of flotation cushions!  Jenny will retrieve these cushions all day (as long as we keep throwing them out in the water). . . and just keep stacking them up on the beach.

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On occasion, she has also retrieved floating rafts right out from under floating family members.  That doesn't work so well.  They lose air pretty quickly!

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Jenny is a great companion at the lake!  But when she gets out of the water. . .

Shake jenny

We all get . . . waterdogged!


The Essence of Fishing

I'm not a fisherman.

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But I am married to one.  So I know a lot about fishing.  For example, I can explain the difference between fly fishing and spin cast fishing.  I can identify and name all the parts of a fishing rod (from "butt" to "tip top").  I understand the concept of casting action, and I know that when fishermen talk about the weight of their rod, they're really describing the weight of their fly line.  I know about hatches; I know about flies-only water; I know about catch-and-release.  I can identify multiple kinds of "bait" -- from the lowly worm to incredibly delicate dry flies.  I can even tell the difference between a crawdad imitation and a wooly bugger (I know.  Honestly, I cannot make this up. . .).

I've watched Tom fish - passionately - for as long as we've been married (longer. . . actually).  We've had our lake cottage for over 12 years now.  I've watched both kids learn to fish.  But I've never had any desire to fish myself. Until this year! 

Now I don't want to learn the whole fly fishing thing (too much technique and specialized equipment); I just wanted to learn to do your basic fishing.  Spin casting.  From a canoe.  In the lake.  With Tom. After this really rough time we went through together last year, I think I just wanted to share a little of his world.  To sit in the water together.  To be quiet together.  To fish.

So I got my fishing license.  And Tom patiently taught me to cast.  I even caught a fish!  A small mouth bass; not very big -- but it really pulled on my fishing rod.  Tom encouraged me, talked me through it, took my fish off the hook, and gently released it back into the lake.  Even though it was slightly exciting to catch a fish, I really didn't like it!  It made me anxious.  I worried about hurting the fish.  I worried that it might flop by me.  I worried that I'd have to touch it.  (You can see that I'm quite the outdoorswoman. . .)  Tom laughed, and told me, "Well, that's kind of the essence of fishing!"

But I beg to differ!  I would argue that the essence of fishing is NOT the catching part, but the fishing part.  Being in the water.  Casting and reeling.  Casting and reeling.  Casting and reeling.  Hearing the birds.  Enjoying the environment around you.  Catching the fish. . . well, that's just the frosting (for some people, at least).  I loved fishing -- but I didn't need to catch a thing.

To me, the essence of fishing. . .

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is the water. . .

Lake raft

and the lake flora. . .

Lake lilies 2

Lake lily closeup

and finding surprises in the water. . .

Lake turtle

and seeing things from different angles. . .

Lake lilies

Mostly, though, I just liked being on the water with Tom.  For me, that was the essence of fishing!


The Cherry Coast

Last week we took a day trip and did some sightseeing in northern Michigan.

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We visited Michigan's "Cherry Coast" --- driving from Ludington to the Leelanau Peninsula, covering (roughly) 200 miles.  We followed the hilly Lake Michigan shoreline, edged by dunes and sandy beaches with forests of white pine, birch, gray alder and poplar.  Farmers take advantage of the sandy soil, glacial sloping, and the (slightly!) longer growing season near the water to grow apples, cherries, and grapes.  This area of Michigan, though, is especially known for its cherry farms.  Michigan produces 75% of the tart cherries grown in the US -- and a lot of the sweet cherries, too.  Traverse City hosts the National Cherry Festival every year in July.

Lake Michigan is always breathtakingly beautiful to me!

Lake Michigan Coastline

This is a view of the Lake just a bit north of Manistee.

Lake Michigan Landscape

Did you know that Lake Michigan is called "America's Lake"?  Yep.  Because it's the only one of the Great Lakes that is located entirely within the boundary of the United States.

We stopped to check out the Point Betsie lighthouse.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Michigan's coastline is dotted with 115 lighthouses -- each one unique and picturesque!

There are even roses. . .

Dune Roses

. . . and dune grasses. . . for the traveling gardener!

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Here, the waves were really breaking!

Lake Michigan Breaking

We visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and traveled the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which really was scenic!

Sleeping Bear Landscape 

The dunes there are particularly impressive!  Here's what it looks like from above. . .

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That's a 450 foot drop.  Straight down to the Lake!  Those little black dots?  They're people who were inspired to run down the dune.  Problem is. . . they have to walk back up.  In sand.

Brian and Tom at Sleeping Bear 

Even surly 17-year-olds-who-would-rather-be-with-their-girlfriend were duly impressed!

You never know what you'll find on a trip like this!  Sometimes a surprise visit by a doe. . .

Sleeping Bear Deer 

. . . or wild lilies in the woods!  (My surly 17-year-old found these for me!)

Wild Lilies 

We ended our trip on the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, in the Leelanau State Park.

Cherry Coast Trip 132 

Here, the Lake just looks more. . . raw.  And the coastline is more rocky.

Leelanau Rocks 

The Grand Traverse Lighthouse is located here, too.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse 

Even Jenny enjoyed the sights! (And Erin?  Well, she wants to live in Glen Arbor -- one of the charming towns along the Cherry Coast!)

Erin and Jpup at Leelenau 

And me?  Well, let's just say I didn't knit in the car on this trip!  There was too much to see!


Making the Best of It

This has been a weird summer, weather-wise.  Pretty cool, in general, and rainier than usual.  But then it got hot.  Really hot.  In fact, it was about 98 degrees as we packed to head Up North for a week at our cottage.  We were anticipating . . . cooling off in the lake, kayaking, reading on the dock, getting a suntan, spending evenings around a fire.  Who knew . . . that the temperature would drop 40 degrees the day after we arrived --- and STAY there for the whole week?  Cold. Clouds. Rain. Yuck.

Now, I know that you can never control the weather.  And I believe in taking a positive spin on whatever life throws at you.  So, what did we do?  Despite the crappy weather, we Made the Best of It!

We baked brownies. . .

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We tied flies. . .

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We played Nintendo 64 (Old School!). . .

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We watched movies (a LOT of movies). . .

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We played cards (a LOT of cards). . .

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And we knit!

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Yes, I had plenty of time to knit!  I finished my Daisy Jane (Heidi Kirrmaier's Buttercup pattern).  This is #9 on the NaKniSweMoDo Hit Parade (12-sweaters-in-12-months).  And, of course, you can see that the sun has come out again.

Daisy Jane Fini

Now that we're home!





Ever So Humble

All Michiganders know they always have a map of the state with them.  It's really . . . handy!

Cherry Coast Trip 119

In this photo, my son is pointing to our location at the tip of the Leelenau Peninsula, with Lake Michigan rolling in the background.

Michigan is known for two things:  the auto industry. . . and water.  Here in Michigan, we're surrounded on three sides by water.  In fact, Michigan has 3,288 miles of shoreline --- more than any other state except Alaska!  Wherever you are in Michigan, you're within 85 miles of a Great Lake.  There are also 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams in Michigan.  LOTS of water.

All of Michigan's large urban centers are located in the southern half of the lower peninsula -- which makes the entire northern half of lower Michigan, and all of the Upper Peninsula -- rural, remote, and incredibly beautiful and pristine (a far cry from what most people think of as an industrial state).  The coastline, especially, is stunning.  Great Lake-front property is very dear, and many coastline communities, while rural, are very "groovy" -- upscale places catering to tourists with charming coffee shops, gourmet ice cream, specialty shops, art galleries, trendy restaurants, and unique festivals.  I love visiting the Michigan coastal communities!

Our lake cottage is located near a very different kind of Up North community.  If you refer back to my son's "map," our cottage is located midway down his ring finger (between the tip of his finger and the blister!) in the heart of Lake County.  The nearest community is the town of Baldwin -- definitely not "groovy." And there is nothing upscale about Baldwin!

Tom at the Green Cottage June 09 029 

Baldwin is located in a lovely spot -- bordered by the Manistee National Forest.  The area is loaded with small inland lakes, and it sports the famous (for fly fishing) Pere Marquette River.  (In fact, that's our connection with the Baldwin area.  My husband, pictured above, is a passionate fly fisherman.)  The entire economy of Baldwin is dependent on recreation (fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, camping) and tourism.  But it's a down-home style of tourism --- nothing like you'd see on the coast!

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Baldwin hosts a couple of Big Events each summer: the Blessing of the Bikes in May . . . and Troutarama at the end of July.  The biggest tourist attraction is Shrine of the Pines (which truly defies description).

Canoe and kayak rentals are really big in Baldwin. . .

Touring Baldwin 008 

as are bait shops . . .

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and fly fishing shops!

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There really isn't much shopping in Baldwin, although there is a big antique store.  Really big.  Like Paul Bunyan big!

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Restaurants are scarce. . . and not always aptly named!

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Neighboring towns also have their attractions!  Like the grocery store in nearby Custer . . .

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. . . or the World Famous Scottville Clown Band!

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Yep, Baldwin has a charm all its own!  A Mayberry kind of charm. . .

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Endearing.  Comfortable.  Ever so humble.

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I wouldn't trade it for the world!