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August 2010

The Empty Nest Heads North

Okay.  So Tom and I are, officially, Empty-Nesters.  And we are happy about this.  Like. . . really happy.  Now that both kids are settled on their respective campuses, we're heading Up North for a little vacation.

Cottage July 09 007 

We love spending time at our cottage.  It's relaxing and peaceful.  Tom can fish.  I can knit.  Or read. Or nap.  Or . . . well, just do nothing if I want.

Lake raft 

It's a great place to just. . . kick back and unwind. . . and just recharge.

Jump Jenny 

Jenny loves to be with us Up North -- with the water and the dock-jumping. . . and the boat and the swimming.  She loves the woods and the all new and interesting smells.  It's a wonderful adventure for her!

Cottage July 09 042 

As for the kids. . . well, they liked the cottage when they were younger. . . but only tolerated it as they went through the teen years.  No WiFi.  Weak signal.  No cable.  Non-existent social life.

Cottage July 09 005 

You know.  All those features that Tom and I cherish!  So.  Now they're gone -- to where the WiFi flows and the signal never drops and the cable is plentiful and the social life pulses to that campus beat.  And we're . . . off.  Up North.  Where it isn't.  Ahhhhhh. . . . .

See you next week!

The Inside Scoop . . . OR Advice for a Brother

As many of you read last week, Carole's Ten on Tuesday list had us all giving advice to college freshmen.  It was fun to see all the lists out there -- full of Really Good Stuff.  Most of it, though, was advice given through the eyes of . . . grown-ups looking back at college with the perspective, hindsight, introspection, and idealism that really only comes from being . . . a grown-up looking back at college.

When my son went away on Friday to begin his freshman year, my daughter - now a worldly college senior - sent him her own advice for surviving college.  When I read it, it made me laugh.  Because her list is so much more . . . practical-minded . . . than most of the lists I read (and put together myself) last week.  I thought it would be fun to share her list with you.

So.  Here it is.  The Inside Scoop on Surviving Your Freshman Year.  Hit it, Erin!


1. Don't oversleep! Set multiple alarms. Make sure one is somewhere that makes you get out of bed in order to shut it off. The worst feeling in the world is running to your Music Theory midterm exam an hour late.

2. Go to class! I know it seems obvious, but there are going to be days when you feel like staying in bed rather than going. Missing classes is a pain in the ass and you have a lot of work to do when you return.

3. If you and your roommate have issues (even little ones) discuss them. The worst thing to do is let all your irritation bottle up, because then, when you're overstressed, something will snap and life will become unpleasant.

4. If you want to drink, be careful!!! And watch out for people slipping things in your drink. This is more common for girls but it's happened to dudes too. Also, don't get caught by any authority figure. And don't drink so much that you wake up on level 2 of the parking garage with absolutely no recollection of how you got there.

5. Take notes and pay attention in class! Professors are boring sometimes, but notes are vital!

6. If you take a girl back to your room and you are unsure of her sexual history (ie: diseases, or whether she's on the pill) USE A CONDOM!!!

7. Learn to nap in odd places for short periods of time. I don't know how I'd get through school without my power naps in the 5th floor library stacks!

8. Wear shower shoes. Just do it.

9. Talk in class. Professors love contributions. Of course, make sure you have something to add to the discussion first.

10. (This is one I'm still working on) Start your papers (or labs or research or whatever you scientist types do) early. Do not wait until the night before it's due. This causes immense stress, doesn't allow you to do your best work, and is just a bad idea in general.

But most importantly, learn, try hard, and have fun!


And there you have it!  Real advice. . . from a seasoned college student. . . to her real college freshman brother!

Collecting the Summer

Soundtrack. . .

When it gets to be this time of year . . . late in the summer. . . when the air starts to cool and the season starts to change, I start "collecting" the summer.  In my mind.  Becoming hyper-aware of what makes summer so delightful.  So . . . in January and February . . . I can remember what's ahead.  And get through the dark winter.


The sound of flip-flops.  Thunderstorms.  Ladybugs, dragonflies, and hummingbirds.  The sound the sprinkler makes when it first pops out of the ground and starts watering.  The squeak in the wheels of my garden cart.


Lightning bugs.  The smell of cooking on the grill.  Lawnmowers.  Ice tea on the back patio.  Cicadas.  Daisies and busy bees.  The smell of tomato plants.


Running outside barefoot.  Hanging baskets of flowers.  The smell of the earth when it rains.  Dandelions.  So much daylight.  And the warmth of the sun.  Here comes the sun.


This shawl, les Abeilles by Anne Hanson, will always remind me of the sun!  Details on Ravelry here.

Enjoy these last days of summer!

(PS -- George has always been my favorite!)

By the Numbers. . . and Other Knitting News

I've had some very nice Nashua Creative Focus Linen yarn in my stash for awhile.  Enough for a cardigan.  Perfect for something simple for late summer or early fall.  Problem was. . . I had something in mind, but couldn't find quite the right pattern to suit my needs.  And then. . . I found this (Ravelry link; non-Ravelry link). 

Just what I was looking for!  (Except for the lace panel in the sleeves. . . but I can ditch that easy enough).  Simple.  Interesting closure.  Showcase-for-cool-buttons.  Pockets.  I was all in!  Problem was. . . the pattern is designed for dk weight yarn. . . and my Creative Focus is worsted.

So. . . I swatched carefully (luckily, the pattern has pocket linings; instant swatch!). . . and did the math.


My calculations show that I could knit up the smallest size in worsted weight yarn at my gauge. . . and end up with my desired slightly-bigger size cardigan!  (I even washed and dried the pocket swatches to be extra-sure.)

But something went wrong in my brain.  The numbers were right there.  Knit the smallest size. . . end up with larger cardigan.  Somehow, though, I cast on for the second-to-smallest size.  And didn't notice.  And didn't check my gauge again.  And didn't measure.  Until I got 4 inches into the project and thought. . . HEY! this is looking Way Too Big.

And it was.  Once I measured, I found it was 4 inches too big around! 


So tonight, when I had hoped to be relieving the stress of getting Brian packed up for college. . . I will, instead, be ripping out and re-casting on.  This time, for the SMALLEST size.

You'd think I'd know by now.  Measure twice (or at least once - early on) . . . knit once.  (As opposed to . . . never measure. . . rip and re-knit.)


In other knitting news. . . last weekend was the Michigan Fiber Festival.  The geographic location of the Fiber Fest is mid-way between my mom's house and mine, so every year, we meet up in the parking lot of a grocery store in Allegan and then head out to the Big Event together.  We had a fabulous time.  There was gorgeous yarn. . .


adorable fiber-creating animals. . .




and PLENTY of knitters!


The Briar Rose booth (just the outer ring visible in the photo above) was so jam-packed ALL day that it was nearly impossible to move once you dived into the fray!  I managed, though.  Trust me.  I managed!

The hardest thing. . . was making choices.


So. Much. Fiber.


My. . . that net duffel bag can hold a lot of yarn!

Life's a Beach

Michigan-satellite-image **

When I first moved to Michigan (which was in January 1987), I visited the Lake Michigan shore.  In the winter, it is a Very Bleak Place.  Beautiful, but bleak.  Lots of ice.  Biting wind.  Snow.  Really cold.  Shades of grey.  Everywhere.  Kind of cool. . . but nowhere you'd want to spend an afternoon.

So, as spring rolled around back in 1987, I was full of wonder to hear my new friends talk of their longing to "go to the beach."  At first, I assumed they were talking spring-break-to-Florida beach.  But, no.  They were talking local beach.  I was amused.  How could this be?  I had never seen the Michigan coastline in warm weather.

In the summer, Michigan's beaches look pretty much like beaches anywhere.  There is surf.


There is sand.  There are seagulls and sandpipers.


There are swimmers and sunbathers and beach walkers.


Here in West Michigan, we get beautiful sunsets over Lake Michigan.


It really is . . . surprising.  That these beautiful beaches are in the Midwest!  (Another surprise is that the water is . . . not salty!)


We really love our beaches here in Michigan!  Michigan has nearly 3,300 miles of coastline -- more than any other state except Alaska.  The beaches are very accessible -- wherever you are in the state, you're within 85 miles of a beach.  It's no surprise, then, that "ex-pat Michiganders" want to head to the beach when they're home for a few days!


Life's a beach!  (Until school starts next Monday!)

Be the Froot Loop


in the box of Cheerios. . . and other Advice for a College Freshman!  Yes, this week's Ten on Tuesday topic is particularly relevant to me -- because I HAVE a college freshman.  And I've been giving advice all summer long.  (Apparently LOTS of advice. Brian is, at this point, numb to any more of my advice.) 


So.  As we pack up his gear and sort through his room. . . here's what I've been harping about:

  1. Go to class; take good notes; stay on top of the reading
  2. Study hard; harder than you thought possible
  3. Be organized; use your planner; use your syllabus; use your head
  4. Challenge yourself; try new things; meet new people; be open to new ideas and opinions
  5. Eat smartly; stay active; get enough sleep; and wash your hands frequently
  6. Believe in yourself, but ask for help when you need it
  7. Do your laundry once in a while
  8. Save the partying for the weekend – and remember:  beer-before-liquor. . . makes you sicker quicker, but liquor-before-beer. . . you’re in the clear
  9. Keep a song in your heart – and a condom in your pocket
  10. Call your mom!

All Five

"There are so many ways to be alive, but only one way to be dead. Now that mine is almost over, I can say that the thing that struck me most about life is the capacity for change."      -- Leo Gursky, The History of Love

I read a lot.  I rarely find a book worth five stars.  Four. . . quite often.  Five. . . hardly ever.  (Wolf Hall.  I gave that one five stars.  But I'm such a Tudor freak.  And it was so very well done.) 

Anyway.  This one. . .


All five.  Breathtaking!

Too Much

There is simply too much going on right now. . .


to blog. 

I'm getting Brian ready to move into his dorm.  Erin will be home for a few days beginning tomorrow.  I'm painting -- and organizing a few closets.  My garden is a mess.  A couple of projects require my attention.  I have a little vacation coming up. 

You know. . . Life.

Blogging will be sporadic for the next couple of weeks.  Enjoy these last days of summer --- they go so quickly!