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July 2013

Right Now . . . July 2013

End of July.  Who would've thought that I'd be wearing wool socks at the End of July?  But I was . . . last weekend.  It was unbelievably cold. 


The calendar says it's the End of July.  Here's what's happening for me . . . Right Now!


WATCHING . . . Orange is the New Black (Netflix original series); I declare this one Totally Worth My Time.

READING . . . Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (this one is so good and so wonderful that I'm savoring slowly) and The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (funny; really, really funny in a delightful kind of way).  Reading is overwhelming for me right now -- because there are so many books I want to read!  The Booker Prize longlist was just announced . . . sigh.  (I've already read Some of Them, but I want to read All of Them.)

KNITTING . . . I just finished a shawl, and I really ought to finish up some projects that have been hanging around.  And I've just started the second sock (of a pair) for my mom.  But I'm hankering to cast on for another shawl.  This one, in particular.  Love it.

LISTENING TO . . . A friend who recently traveled to New Orleans got me hooked on Tanya & Dorise -- street performers she found in the French Quarter.  Love them.  (I have a couple of their cds on order.)

DREADING . . . Car shopping.  But it is essential.  Tom's car (a beloved 2000 Subaru Outback) has just been given the dreaded "terminal" diagnosis.  It is time.

HUMMING . . . Kid Rock.  All Summer Long.  All day.  (I totally blame Carole.)


CELEBRATING . . . Erin's move to a new (and safer!) apartment in Pittsburgh.  Tom and Brian are there now, helping Erin and Keith with the heavy lifting.


PLANNING . . . My Secret Garden!  Work continues.

ITCHING TO . . . Do some sewing.  I recently found a dress pattern that looks especially promising (Vogue 8786) and some great fabric.  Time to fire up the Viking!


DRINKING . . . Cold Brew tea!  (At least, I WAS drinking it . . . until the cold snap last weekend!  Then I jumped right back to my standard, hot tea.)  I didn't expect to like cold brew tea -- but it's GREAT!  So easy and fast!

NEEDING TO . . . split up and transplant some overgrown perennials in the garden.

ORGANIZING . . . My new office space at work (I just moved into a new office; still freezing cold) AND I got a new office laptop.  Much organizing to be done!


INSPIRED BY . . . A Month of Fundays . . . A silly headline I saw recently in a magazine (the grocery line was long and I was doing some browsing).  I've been thinking about how I can have my own "Month of Fundays" -- and I'm inspired!  (More tomorrow.)


DELIGHTED BY . . . My bee house. . . and all the crazy, egg-laying, bee-nesting activity going on there.

How about YOU?  What's going on for YOU . . . right now?



Beach Songs . . . from the Way Back Machine


When I think of "beach music" . . . I think back to my teen-age days . . . about "laying out" in the sunshine . . . slathered in Baby Oil . . . on my family's cement slab of a patio . . . with the radio blasting. 

My "beach music" was never at a beach, though.  Heck.  I lived in Wyoming back then.  Not a lot of beach!

Today, as Carole has us thinking about our Favorite Beach Songs, I offer this list:  The radio playlist of my high school, sun-seeker days; the days of Baby Oil and portable radios.  The songs that will always, always take me back to that hot, slab of cement.  My beach.

Pass the Bain de Soleil, would'ja?

(NOT Wyoming. . .)

1.  Carole King - It's Too Late


2.  Elton John & KiKi Dee - Don't Go Breakin' My Heart


3.  Alice Cooper - School's Out


4.  Seals & Crofts - Summer Breeze


5.  Fleetwood Mac - Dreams


6.  The Eagles - Hotel California


7.  Starland Vocal Band - Afternoon Delight


8.  War - Summer


9.  Steve Miller Band - Jungle Love


10.  Chicago - Saturday in the Park


How about YOU?  What songs take you right back to the beach?


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.


Oh, Baby! It's Cold . . .

Travel back in time with me today . . .


My office at work is a very cold place. 

Because air conditioning.

Ice box cold.

Cold-as-ice cold.


I try to dress in layers.  I try to remember to bring a shawl.

But sometimes, when it's really hot and humid outside, I forget to bring one for inside.

And then. . . I fffffreeeeeze.  All day.


So I decided I needed an Office Shawl.

One that would go with anything.

One that wouldn't look like a winter scarf.

One that I could leave in my office.

For . . . whenever I needed an extra layer of Merino Wool Goodness.


So I joined Kirsten's TTL Summer Shawl KAL * and knit up some insulation!


I think this will get me through the rest of these ffffreeezing cold summer days.

Ravelry details here.


* There's still plenty of time to join the TTL KAL.  Check out the link above and sign up!



Throwback Thursday: Mucking About

This last weekend, as I was deadheading and weeding in my garden, I started thinking back to my First Attempts at gardening. 

Those First Attempts . . . were mostly Not Successful.  (I've learned a lot over the years.  Mostly through trial and error.  Heavy on the error.)

But one thing I was really good at - right off the bat - was growing vegetables.  (Turned out . . . it wasn't me, though.  I just lucked on to some incredible soil in my first vegetable garden!)

I had always dreamed of having a garden.  As a little girl, I used to love to pull weeds with my Mom in her flower beds.  I liked seeing the bees hovering over our bridal wreath spirea in the front yard.  I liked watching the Illinois corn grow higher and higher through the summer.  I knew that someday I would have a garden and grow my own stuff.

And, after years and years of "apartment gardening" (houseplants, pots of herbs, terrariums), Tom and I bought our first house in 1987 -- in Hudsonville, Michigan.  What I didn't realize right away. . . is that our property was right in the middle of the most incredible soil ever:  Muck!  (In Hudsonville, famous for onions and celery, the muck is from the old Grand River bed.  But, trust me, pretty much EVERYthing grows in that muck!)

Here I am in 1988* . . . in my First Ever Vegetable Garden.

Scan 3

It was fabulous!  Everything grew.  Everything thrived.  Everything was incredible!  (I thought it was me.  It wasn't.  It was the muck!)

Scan 2

(The hair.  Oh good lord . . . the hair.)

Scan 4

I'm not so much into the vegetable-growing these days.  But it sure was fun (and easy!) back in the muck fields!


* Life was so very different Back Then.  In 1988 I was working as a CPA for Ernst & Whinney in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  We had two cats (Jelly and Jambo), but no kids.  I drove a Mazda.  I played in a golf league.  I read all the time, but hadn't picked up knitting needles in a decade.  And I remember being very excited about my NEW CD player.

Taste of Summer


For me, summertime IS a treat. 

I know. 

It's hot.  And muggy.  Sometimes downright miserable.

But I love it!


And this week, Carole has us thinking about . . . Summertime Treats!


My favorites. . .


1.  S'mores - around the campfire

2.  Elephant ears - from a carnival vendor

3.  Ripe peaches - from the Farmer's Market


4.  Mojito - al fresco, of course

5.  Fresh-picked blueberries - on my cereal

6.  Sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomatoes - right from my own backyard


7.  Ice-cold Oberon - with a slice of orange

8.  Chilled chardonnay - perfect anywhere

9.  Farm stand corn-on-the-cob - mmmmm perfection


10.  Popsicles - melting on the sidewalk

How about YOU?  What's YOUR favorite summertime treat?


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.

The Latte Boy

A catchy-tune kind of way to start your day . . .


This summer, Tom and I are complete empty-nesters.

Erin lives in Pittsburgh now, and. . .

Brian stayed on campus for the summer, doing lab research full time

Last Friday, summer research came to an end -- and to commemorate the occasion, there was a poster session and lab tour.


I dropped in, along with my Mom and Dad, to see what Brian had been up to in the lab for the last 8 weeks.  Brian enjoyed explaining his work to us (we tried our best to understand*).


And then he gave us a comprehensive tour of his lab . . .


and showed us all kinds of nifty equipment!


Signs like this . . .


were everywhere!  So . . .


we obliged.

It was great fun for us to see where Brian's been spending most of his time this summer!


Not ALL of his time.

Because he also works here . . .


Yep.  Brian performs chemistry in a traditional lab setting by day, and caffeinated chemistry as a barista by night!


Brian, the Lab-Latte Boy. . .


We love him, we love him, we love him!



* Tom, the only other chemist in the bunch, was on his way home from Portugal and had to miss the poster session.

Big Surprise at The Rock

I'd been to San Francisco several times before I traveled there with my sister earlier this summer.  Every time I've been there, I've seen Alcatraz Island, off in the distance, just sitting there in the middle of the bay.


And, really, that's been enough for me.

I'm totally creeped out by prisons.  I'm not a fan of prison stories.  I don't watch prison movies.  No Birdman of Alcatraz for me.  I've never watched Clint Eastwood making his Escape from Alcatraz.  And I was fine with that.

But, this trip, my sister and I decided we wanted to see the ALL of San Francisco.  (And Tom was all like it would be so cool to see Alcatraz. . . )  So we booked ourselves an Alcatraz tour.*  And then . . . we regretted our decision.  Like. . . we REALLY regretted our decision.

And especially when we arrived at the departure pier.

(Imagine whining voices here.)  It's coooooold.  I'm tiiiiiiiired.  There's nothing good to eeeeeeaaat.  The lines are so loooooooong.  We can't board for an hooooouuuuur.  There are so many bratty kiiiiiiids.  There is no place to sit for a glass of wiiiiiiiiiiine.  I HAAAAATE prisons!!!!

(I gave my sister so much grief . . . for wearing her "prison stripes" on tour day!)

We almost bailed.

But we didn't.

When our appointed boarding time (finally) came, we hauled our sorry, whining asses into line and Made the Best of It.


Once we "landed" . . .


the creepy prison feeling made us decide to just take the very next ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf!


I could see something bright.  Something that looked . . . like something blooming!

Could those be . . . flowers?  On Alcatraz Island?

So, while all the other Alcatraz visitors headed off to seek out "The Big House" . . . to see Cell Block D ("Solitary"). . . and all the other creepy parts of the prison . . . we headed off in search of . . .






Succulents as big as your head!


Alcatraz Island . . . The Rock. . . had a charm I could never have imagined.


Really, I should've done my homework!


There is a major garden-restoration project going on to reclaim the Gardens of Alcatraz.  And the results are lovely!


We spent a surprising amount of time exploring the gardens and grounds of The Rock.  While the entire island was crowded with visitors (although in a very controlled-numbers way because . . . you can only get there by ferry and you must have a ticket), I'm pretty sure the only garden-seekers that day . . . were my sister and I!

Seriously.  No one else really seemed to be interested in the gardens!  In fact, I don't think most of the other visitors even noticed that there were gardens on the island.


What a surprise!  Such a pleasant surprise!


There was no pouting or whining by the time we headed for the return ferry.  (Well.  Maybe a little.  When we missed a boat by 10 seconds and had to wait for the next one.  But it was minimal whining.)

And, just because we felt we had to at least look, here's Cell Block B for you.


Creepy as hell!  (No surprise there.)


(Tom couldn't believe that of the 300 photos I took on Alcatraz Island, only 5 were of the actual prison.)

*If you make a trip to San Francisco and decide you want to see Alcatraz, be sure to book your trip WAY in advance!  Tours sell out -- sometimes you have to book 3 or 4 weeks in advance.  And . . . be prepared.  It is COLD.  The lines are long.  (And there is no wine!)