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July 2010

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Okay, Lionel.  Sing it!

During the summer, I like to knit . . . not very complicated things.  I tend to be pretty busy during the summer, what with the gardening and all the sunlight and everything.  I usually knit late at night.  In front of the TV.  Where I catch up on all the "seasons" of shows* I didn't have time to watch during the regular viewing season.  With a glass of wine.

My knitting has to be easy.  Mindless.  Boring, even.  Kind of like. . . this little bag.

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It's Heidi Kirrmaier's Medano Beach pattern.  Perfect for hauling yarn, or a project-in-progress.  Here's my Ravelry link, if you're interested in the details.  This one really is . . . easy. . . like Sunday morning!

* Right now I'm burning through season 3 of Mad Men.  Maybe I'll actually watch the new season when it starts next week.  That Don Draper!  He's pretty darn. . . watch-able.


I've Got a Gal

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. . . in Kalamazoo!  Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Things You Like About Where You Live.  So, we need a little soundtrack here.  Cheesy, yes.  Predictable, sure.  But absolutely necessary when you're talking about . . . Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo.

(This clip is long, I know.  About half-way through, the song gives way to an aMAzing tap dance performance by the Nichols Brothers.  Really good.)

So, here we go.  Ten Things I Like About Kalamazoo.

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1 -- You can't deny. . . it is a Cool Name!  When I was a little girl, I used to "collect" names that were just plain fun to say -- Tallahassee; Cincinnati; Tuscaloosa; Saskatchewan; Mississippi; Chattanooga; Timbuktu; Walla Walla.  I never had an inkling, though, that I would live in one of them!  Around Michigan, Kalamazoo is often referred to as "K-Zoo" or KZ or "The Zoo."  (Of note: there is no Zoo in Kalamazoo!)

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2 -- Kalamazoo is Big Enough to have what I need in terms of resources, shopping, entertainment, and recreation. . . but Small Enough to be manageable, personal, accessible, and community-focused.

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3 -- Kalamazoo is conveniently located near major cities. . . when I want "more."

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4 -- Kalamazoo is a "college town" and home to two major higher education institutions: Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College.  These two colleges add much to the community -- wonderful facilities, renowned speakers and lecturers, academic interest, and entertainment galore.

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5 -- There is a rich community spirit in Kalamazoo.  Sure, there are problems . . . but the community pulls together to try to solve those problems. . . and there is much pride in accomplishment and success.

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6 -- I love living so close to Lake Michigan!  It is said that here in Michigan, no one lives more than 80 miles from one of the Great Lakes.  The nearest beach, for me, is at South Haven. . . about 30 miles from home.

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7 -- I love living in a location that has four distinct seasons.  Sure. . . winter can be brutal here, and it often hangs on far too long. . . but that makes spring and summer all the more delightful.  Besides, there is nothing quite like fall in Michigan.

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8 -- Kalamazoo is committed to the "eat local" movement.  There is a large and vital Farmer's Market, several food co-ops, and some really fine restaurants committed to supporting local farmers.

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9 -- Kalamazoo has a vibrant arts community -- from the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts to the Gilmore Music Festival to several local theatre groups.  There's always something going on!

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10 -- And, lastly, I like living in Kalamazoo. . . because it's in Michigan.  Yep, we're a beleaguered state.  We've got a lot of problems. . . and, so far, we're short on leadership brave enough to suggest REAL solutions.  But.  Michigan is a wonderful place to be -- beautiful landscape, great people, lots of resources.  And, shoot. . . it's shaped like a mitten!  Isn't that a perfect place for a knitter to live!




Who Could Ask for More?

"Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air, and a blanket of color before me.  Who could ask for more?" -- Bev Adams

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I just had a magnificent weekend.  No big parties; no exciting festivals or concerts.  I didn't have any adventures or try any new restaurants.  No movies or shopping.  Nope.  Just . . . lots and lots of time in my garden.

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I love leisurely weekends in the garden -- where I can tend to my plants and enjoy just being outdoors.  This weekend, I did some potting -- while watching a Mama and Papa Chickadee teach their new (and Very Excitable) chickadee babies how to use my birdbath.  (No photos; those little chickadees were moving way too much!)

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I cleaned up a lot of my containers.  Some of my vegetables (the tomatoes and the peppers) are growing like crazy. . . while some (lettuce, arugula, cilantro) have passed their prime.  It's time to put in a second crop of a few things -- like beans and basil and parsley.

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I did a lot of pruning and deadheading this weekend.  Deadheading is one of my favorite garden activities.  I know most people complain about doing it, but I just get in a rhythm about it.  I find it soothing and relaxing.  (Kind of like . . . knitting garter stitch.)  I pruned with just a little too much gusto near one of my shrub roses, though.  Ouch.  I'm always covered with scratches, rashes (I'm allergic to grass. . . but grow it anyway), and dirt!

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It was just a glorious weekend to be digging around and messing with my plants.

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And how are things looking?  Well. . . although my Garden-To-Do list is always a mile long, I'm generally happy with everything this year.   Here is my front entry garden -- one of my major projects from last season.  With Tom's digging and hauling assistance, I ripped out every foundation plant and shrub at the front of my house and replaced it with this.

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Now, I like to sit on my front porch. . . and just enjoy my garden!  Before. . . you could sit on the porch, but you couldn't see anything . . . past the overgrown yew bushes.  This is a huge improvement!

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Some of you might remember that my Dad "masterminded" my dream of having a pergola in my backyard late last summer.  Well. . . now, when you enter my backyard, this is the view.

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It's just what I wanted!  (Thanks again, Dad!)  My garden is a busy place.  Lots of blooming; lots of buzzing; lots of birds and butterflies and toads.  It's a happy place.

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Who could ask for more?

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Whatever This World Can Give To Me

Today is a special day.  Hit it, Freddie. . .

I have always considered my self incredibly lucky when it comes to Family.  I got started off on the right foot. . . with parents who loved me and a terrific sister.  I have long considered my Mom to be "my best friend."

I used to take a bit of grief for that. . . back in high school and college especially.  It wasn't cool, you know, to have a solid, friendly relationship with Your Mother.  But I did anyway.

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My Mom and I have always been close.  We have always talked a lot.  Laughed a lot.  We share similar interests -- we read; we knit; we garden.  For a time, we even worked together (without strangling one another).  (One thing we don't seem to do, though . . . is have our pictures taken together.  Isn't that weird?  I have scads of photos of my Mom -- with my Dad; with my kids; even with my dog.  But only a handful of the two of us together!)

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My Mom has always been there for me -- cheering me on; supporting me; giving me that kick-in-the-butt when I needed it.  I've always known that she was "there" . . .  whatever this world can give to me.  She has demonstrated what it means to be a Good Mother -- and a Good Friend.  She's shown me how to support . . . without suffocating; how to let go . . . while still being right there; how to be involved . . . without interfering.

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Happy Birthday, Mom!  You're the BEST (not to mention. . . My Best Friend). 

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But. . . man. . . we really need to get some better photos!


Other Peoples' Gardens

(Disclaimer:  The gardens you're about to see. . . are Not Mine.)

During the summer months, my friend Sandie and I go on a lot of Garden Walks and Tours.

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We belong to the Master Gardener Association . . .

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and the Hosta Society. . .

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and the Garden Club. . .

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and all of these organizations sponsor local tours during the gardening season.  When I first started going on these walks and tours, I used to suffer from some serious Garden Envy.  But not anymore.  Now, I find it fascinating to see how different gardeners incorporate the same plant material into their landscapes in so many different ways.  Small gardens, huge gardens, over-the-top-with-annuals-gardens, woodland gardens, patio gardens. . . you name it -- we've seen it!

I get a lot of ideas from these tours -- things I may want to try myself.  Interesting color combinations, for example.

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Or inspiration in the form of patio flower arrangements.

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Sometimes I see really clever solutions to garden problems -- like what to do with that pesky stump.

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Or I'll find some attractive - but practical - way to store garden equipment.

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Mostly, I get Ideas.  Sometimes Little Ideas -- like gardening in containers with miniature plants. . .

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but sometimes Big Ideas -- like creating a cozy and inviting fire pit.

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And I'm always looking for photo-opportunities whenever I'm on a tour!

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There are usually surprises when you go on a Garden Tour or Walk.  Last week, we were totally caught by surprise when a humble ranch house in an ordinary suburban neighborhood. . . revealed this backyard!

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(My photos can't even begin to show this incredible landscape in its glory.  It was aMAzing!  You'll just have to trust me.)

But today. . . on a tour of a beautiful streamside garden out on some acreage. . .

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I stumbled on to a Big Surprise!

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It turned out. . . I was touring the garden of a fiber artist!  A spinner and weaver with her own supply of llama and alpaca!

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Friendly and photogenic alpaca and llama!

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In fact. . . perfectly willing to be photographed!

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And really (really) friendly!

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(This guy loved me!  I think it was the hair. . .)

You just never know what you'll find when you visit Other Peoples' Gardens!




Made in the Shade

It's really hot.  Oppressively hot.  But you all know that.  For a little break from the heat, let's head out to the shade. . .

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I love shade gardening -- the varied greens, the shapes of the foliage, the little pops of color.

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It just feels inviting, somehow.

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Cool, and green, and shady!

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Especially on a day like this.

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Stay cool.


Ten Ways to Enjoy Summer

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This week, Carole has us thinking about . . . Ten Ways to Enjoy Summer.  Perfect timing. . . because it is hot, Hot, HOT out there!  Enjoying summer --  let me count the ways. . .

1 -- Spend some time in the water.

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2 -- Have a cool drink.  Ahhhhhhh.

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3 -- Put your feet up, kick back and relax.  (Preferably with cool flip-flops and a new pedicure.)

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4 -- Play with the hose.

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5 -- Eat outside.

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6 -- Go for a swim.

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7 -- Play in the garden.

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8 -- Go to the beach.

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9 -- Sit around the campfire.

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10 -- Do a little traveling.

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And, mostly. . . enjoy every minute!  Because summer doesn't last all that long. . .


A Locavore Day in the Neighborhood

Saturday was a perfect day. . . to be a locavore.  First stop:  the Farmer's Market.

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Where the colors. . .

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and the selection. . .

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and the variety. . .

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and the freshness. . .

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and the scent. . .

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never fail to to inspire!

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Next stop:  Bell's Eccentric Cafe. . . to be more specific, the beer garden . . .

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for some local brew.

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Tom. . . likes Two-Hearted . . .

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while I sip Oberon.

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Last stop:  Home. . . and a locavore dinner -- including

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Beets!

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Cherry crisp!

Yum. . .


Friday Round Up: Now With Improved Color!

"Seek the strongest color effect possible. . . the content is of no importance."  -- Henri Matisse

I'm a visual person. I'm always drawn to color.

In my landscape. . .

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(Note the specially placed dandelion in the background!  Make a wish!)

On my toes. . .

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(This is my summer "pedi-palette."  I'm currently sporting green toes!)

For a snack. . .

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(What?  Doesn't everyone share juicy fruit with their pup?)

And when I make my "purchase of the week!"

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Look at this colorful, clever little thing that I found at my local yarn store!  You know how, every once in a while, you just really wish you had a pair of scissors?  Well. . . now you can have a pair with you all the time!  Just slide off the puppy's head. . . and. . .

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snip! 

Fits right on your keychain.  $4.99!  (Although when looking for the link, I found you can get them for as little as $4.50!)

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I have colorful blooms everywhere in my garden this week!  I can't limit myself to just one. . . so here are four "blooms of the week!"

Echinops (with bonus wasp!)

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Geranium

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Oak-leaf Hydrangea (not so colorful. . . but I'm so happy it's blooming!)

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Shasta Daisy (with bonus spiders!)

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Enjoy the colors of summer, and have a wonderful long weekend.