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June 2015

A Very, Very, Very Fine House


When I read about Carole's Ten on Tuesday topic for this week, this song just jumped right into my head. . . 


(You knew it would, didn't you?)

Like Carole, I love my house!  


We've lived in this house for nearly 12 years now.  It's so weird to think that it could possibly have been so long ago . . . that we moved to Kalamazoo in a whirlwind . . . whipped into a frenzy from our first corporate downsizing* . . . trying to find a home for our soon-to-be high school freshman and new 6th grader!

Brian and I actually "found" our house while looking at options online.  The two things that sold us on its charms - right through the computer screen - were two things I still really love about our house.


1 -- I love the curved brick fireplace in my living room (although not so much with the screen. . . but JoJo's love of "sticks" of all kind make it absolutely essential).


2 -- I love the library!  This little room is right at the front of the house, with a bay window on one wall and this wall of shelves on another.  (Before my Kon-Mari craze, those shelves were packed FULL of books, I'll have you know.  Now . . . there are whole, empty shelves in there.)  This room - which may have been The Factor that convinced us to buy the house -- is where I spend most of my time (I'm sitting in it now. . . ) as it's quiet and comfortable for reading, knitting, and working.

Once we moved in, I loved making the house our home!


3 -- I love all of our big windows and the views they provide, like this one in my living room - looking out into my backyard.  (Of course, these are the same windows I'm whining about now . . . as we're getting those replacement quotes.)


4 -- I love my garden.  When we first moved in, I must admit that I was completely frustrated and overwhelmed by the extreme "cross-slope" of the yard.  But, over the years, I've learned how to live with it and sort of . . . claim it as my own!


5 -- I love my kitchen.  It's big with plenty of space for cooking and gathering together.  (And it's even nicer now, with new appliances that all match!)  (Maybe someday I'll get around to switching out the cabinet hardware, too.)

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6 -- I love my front-porch view.  Because of that same cross-slope I still whine about from time to time, I do have a pretty fabulous view from the top of our hill.  And, because my house faces west, I get to enjoy fabulous sunsets -- and impressive approaching storms, too.

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7 -- I love that our house is comfortable -- not fussy.  We have plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the things we like to do.  Our house is the kind of house you can kick back in without worry.

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8 -- I love that my house reflects our personalities.  You could say our "decorating style" is just kind of an eclectic mix of . . . stuff we like.

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9 -- I love the location of our house.  We are close to pretty much everything -- yet secluded enough that I can create a wildlife habitat in my own backyard!  Five minutes from the highway . . . AND a yard full of woodland creatures.  You really can't beat that!

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10 -- But mostly what I love about my house . . . is the comfort and warmth and happy memories we've created within it!  It really is . . . a very, very, very fine house.

How about YOU?  What do you love about your house?


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* Three downsizings, so far.  (And counting. . .)


Right Now - June 2015

 June . . . You've been a bit rainy.  And kind of chilly.  And a bit gloom-ish.  But I don't care.  I love you anyway!  Because a cool and rainy June . . . beats January and February ANY time.


Here's what's happening for me . . . Right Now.

Watching . . . Rain.  A lot of rain.  (And more to come, it appears.)  And that rain?  It's bringing Monster Weeds.  (But they're sure a lot easier to pull when the ground around them is saturated.)

Reading . . . In the spirit of gardening, I'm reading The Bees - a novel . . . about bees.  (Who knew their hive-lives were so complex?  I'm enjoying this one immensely; it's very good.)  I'm nearly finished Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which is fabulous - but a slower read for me.  And I'll soon be re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird (I read it as a kid, and then picked up bits and pieces again when my own kids were reading it in high school; I'm looking forward to a thorough re-read now).


Knitting . . .  Trying hard to keep up with the clues in Kirsten Kapur's Through the Loops Mystery Shawl . . . which is absolutely lovely (and especially in Kim's divine yarn).  I'm thinking about this or this next, although still wanting to cast on for this one.

Listening to . . . New James Taylor.  (I'm dragging Tom along to see him in concert next month.*)  Also the new Florence + The Machine.


Dreading . . . Let's just not get me started on this one at the moment.  Okay?

Drinking . . . More water, iced tea . . . and plenty of wine.


Planning . . . What to bring along with me for 10 days Up North.   (We leave on Wednesday.  The weather forecast looks . . . wet.  And not sunny.)  (Hello knitting!  Hello book bingo!)

Humming . . . Nirvana's Come As You Are.  (Can't shake it . . . but at least it's a song I love . . . so I don't mind so much.)


Wondering . . . How Some People can live with themselves.  (Just sayin.)

Itching to . . . Finish my Alabama Chanin t-shirt!  I'm getting really close now.  Just need to stitch everything together!


Organizing . . . Beginning to put things back together after my major Kon-Mari-ing activities.  (And . . . well.  Avoiding my sewing room and knitting stash.)  (Still.)

Delighted by . . . My sister's newly-scheduled summer visit next month -- and a planned Chicago get-away for the two of us.

Needing to . . . Just Do It.  (There are a few persistent items lingering on my To-Do list that I keep avoiding.  Just need to get them finished.  Y'know?)


Celebrating . . . Summer -- and making it happen, regardless of the weather.

Enjoying . . . Whatever moments I can grab on my patio . . .which is challenging this year, given the rain and the MOSQUITOs!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . Right Now?


* Don't feel too bad for Tom.  I'm paying him back with Aerosmith in August.


And BINGO ain't my NAME-O

Like so many of you, I am playing Book Bingo again this summer.


I think this is a great concept, and I really do like playing along.

Except. . . I also don't.

Because I have a list of books I Really-Truly-WANT-To-Read that is a mile long.  So printing out a Book Bingo card listing, oh . . . "with a child on the cover" . . . kind of makes me a crazy person.  Because what if there isn't a book I Really-Truly-WANT-To-Read with a child on the cover?  Am I supposed to read a book JUST BECAUSE there's a child on the cover?

I know I'm overthinking.

But, really.  Manga?  Sports-related?  Revolves around a holiday?

I don't think I have those on my Really-Truly-WANT-To-Read list.

(My favorite . . . "that you think you will dislike."  Hmmmm.  There are thousands of books I think I'm going to like.  Why would I read something I think I'm going to DISlike?)

Anyway.  I struggle.*

And then I just decided to LET IT GO!

Summer Book Bingo is FUN.

I don't have to fill the card!

I can just read books on my Really-Truly-WANT-To-Read list . . . and see if I end up with a Bingo or two.

(I only wish I had decided that before suffering through The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen simply because we were born in the same year.)

BINGO may not be my NAME-O . . . but this really is a fun challenge (if you don't overthink and take it too seriously!).

Are you playing along?


* No one in my family will be surprised at my approach to Book Bingo.  I get a little . . . crazy . . . whenever "someone" (even a Book Bingo card) tells me what to do.

Stepping Way Out

Last Friday, I stepped way, WAY outside my comfort zone and went to an all-day, outside "sketching" workshop . . . 

in an unfamiliar location

with not one person I knew

sketching (publicly)

I'm still not sure what possessed me to sign up and go, exactly.  (Although I've always wanted to be able to sit and sketch a landscape.)  

(And . . . because journey.)  

So I went.

I got a little bit lost on my way there.  I almost just bailed and turned back for home.  

(But I didn't.)

The location turned out to be a fabulous private garden property (way out in the country on a totally unmarked road, which led to the getting lost part) that made me gasp at every turn.


I delighted in exploring the grounds with my gardener's eye.

And I was so very glad I had my camera with me (because sketching alone, for me, would never have done the place justice).


It really was a perfect day -- comfortable weather, not too much sun, bird song in the air, and lovely vignettes and vistas . . . 










Most of the other workshoppers just plopped down in front of some incredibly picturesque view, got out their easels and their watercolors, and sketched/painted the day away.


I was a bit more restless (and a lot less accomplished).  I moved around from place to place . . . and mostly sketched various leaves.


(Because . . . just beginning.)

The very-patient-and-incredibly-supportive instructor kept phrasing all of her feedback to me with the following statement, "for those returning to the visual arts after a very long pause."  (Cracked me up every time!)


It was a lovely day, all the way around.  I'm glad I didn't head home when I got a little lost, because the overall experience was worth a little personal "thrashing about."  (Journeys are just like that.)

Going My Own Way


Right out of the box . . . I'm not following directions this week.

You see, Carole has asked us to think about our Ten Favorite TV Dads.  But I don't really watch TV.  So I don't have even one favorite TV Dad.  

Not one.

So I decided to . . . go my own way . . . and give you Ten Favorite MOVIE Dads.  (Because I do watch movies.)

Here goes . . . Ten Movie Dads I Especially Like:

  1. from Breaking Away - "Dad" (played by Paul Dooley) - I like the tough, old-school Dad-with-a-soft-heart in this movie; he "does right" by his son and wife, and turns out to be a pretty great Dad.
  2. from Silver Linings Playbook - "Pat, Sr." (played by Robert DeNiro) - Yeah.  So he was a bit messed up with his OCD and his control issues . . . but he was a great Dad when it came right down to it.
  3. from Christmas Story - "Old Man" (played by Darren McGavin) - He was tough and distracted, sure.  But, in the end, he knew his son . . . and got him that dang BB gun!
  4. from Little Miss Sunshine - "Richard Hoover" (played by Greg Kinnear) - I love the way he balanced the very odd personalities and quirks of his family, and made sure everyone got what they needed.
  5. from Back to the Future - "George McFly" (played by Crispin Glover) - Oh, George!  You certainly needed the intervention of your back-to-the-future son and his flex-capacitor!!!
  6. from To Kill A Mockingbird - "Atticus Finch" (played by Gregory Peck) - A Dad With Integrity, certainly.
  7. from Mrs. Doubtfire - "Daniel Hillard" (played by Robin Williams) - So devoted to his kids that he became . . . Mrs. Doubtfire!  That's commitment. . . 
  8. from Sound of Music - "Capt. Von Trapp" (played by Christopher Plummer) - When I was a kid (and first saw Sound of Music), I thought he was mean and out of touch.  Ahhhh. . . but as I grew older, I could see that he was a wounded soul, just waiting for the likes of Maria to get him singing!
  9. from Life is Beautiful - "Guido" (played by Roberto Benigni) - This movie broke my heart like no other . . . but, oh man!  What. A. Dad.
  10. from Juno - "Mac Maguff" (played by J.K. Simmonds) - If I had ever been a pregnant teen, I would have wanted a supportive, humorous, and "real" dad like Mac. . . that's for sure!

How about YOU?  Who are your favorite on-screen (TV OR movie) Dads?


And . . . because I just can't resist . . . here are some photos from this past weekend . . . of My Favorite REAL-TIME Dads . . . 





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20th Annual Father's Day Croquet

Another Father's Day . . . Another Croquet Tournament!


By my calculations, this was our 20th Annual Father's Day Croquet Game!  (Brian was 3 the first time we played . . . and he is now 23.)  We very much missed Erin and Keith this year, but we were oh-so-happy to introduce Lauren to her first (ever) croquet experience!


And . . . let me tell you . . . she caught on like a champ!


And it looked like she might even BE this year's champion . . . until Brian took her out in the end!  (Look at him trying to justify his actions. . . )


This year's tourney featured all the usual antics . . . 







Trash talk.


And (maybe) a little finesse.


 As always, the officials were ever vigilant!


But.  In the end, there can only be one winner.  (And who cares if he has to knock out his fiancé OR his good old Poppy to do it. . . )


Congratulations . . . Brian!

Friday Gardening . . . In a Different Garden

Several years ago (almost 10, actually), I became certified as a Master Gardener.  Here in Michigan,* to get that certification I took a semester long class through Michigan State Unversity Extension, suffered through weekly quizzes and a final exam, and performed 40 hours of volunteer service related to horiticulture.  (I was basically an indentured servant to the Master Gardener Giving Garden -- a very cool small working farm that grows - and then gives away - over 14,000 pound of fresh produce each year.)


To STAY certificed as a Michigan Master Gardener, I need to complete 6 hours of continuing education and 15 hours of volunteer service each year.

I have no problem AT ALL with the education hours part.  The entire reason I decided to become a Master Gardener  . . . was because I LOVE learning about gardening.  


When it comes to the volunteer hours, though.  Well.  Let's just say I'd rather spend time in my own garden!  I have just not found a Master Gardener project that I'm passionate about doing.  I do things to keep my certification up -- but I usually don't really like doing them.

This year, I decided to try something a little different.  I decided to "adopt" a garden bed in Bronson Park (the public park/"community square" in downtown Kalamazoo) as part of the larger Kalamazoo-in-Bloom project.

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In some ways, this is a perfect project for me!  My favorite parts of gardening (in that Zen, everyday-maintenance kind of way) are weeding and deadheading -- and that's just what's called for in adopting and caring for a park garden bed.

Plus - the location is very convenient for me, and the timing is completely open -- as long as I keep my bed looking neat all summer long.

And I figured . . . extra deadheading and weeding will give me more time for mindful thinking and relaxation! 

Volunteer hours + Convenience + Work I Like Doing + Mindful Relaxation = Win! Win! Win! Win!

So far, my experience is pretty much living up to expectations.

I'll have no problem getting my Master Gardener Volunteer Hours this year. (Win)

I was right about the convenience and the timing.  (I even got a "Bed Adopter" parking pass for the downtown meters, so Extra Bonus Points.) (Win)

I do like the work -- although the bed is one of the ugliest in the park.  (I am not allowed to design or plant; just weed and deadhead.)  (This kills me every time I see it.)  (Win . . . if I don't look too closely.)

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Mindful relaxation?  Not so much!  Turns out . . . there's a big difference between gardening behind my fence at home (which is very relaxing and peaceful and private) and gardening in a busy public park!  I now garden with OVERLY friendly squirrels (like . . . not even slightly afraid of me AND expecting food please), inquiring children, talkative walkers, and a whole crew of homeless men who live in the park during the summer and love to chat.

It takes some getting used to.

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But I'm committed!  (And see?  This is how they make sure you keep your garden bed looking good!)  (Talk about public accountability. . .)

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Here's another bonus:  Some of my new park-resident friends tell me jokes!  Here's one from earlier this week:
    Q:      What's the difference between in-laws and outlaws?
    A:      Outlaws are WANTED!

Enjoy your weekend!


* Each state has their own Master Gardener certification/re-certification requirements, just in case you're interested!


Catchin' On

Here's a soundtrack to begin the day . . . 


"Summer" weather in Michigan can mean lots of things.

Beautiful, breezy, and warm.

Hot and really steamy.

Way too rainy.

Brutally (and surprisingly) chilly.

And sometimes ... all in one day.

Really.  It's a Mad Season.


I've learned . . . not to let the Mad Season get me down.  

I'm catchin' on . . . I keep a sweater handy.  All summer long!  (Just in case.) 


 No "feeling stupid" for me.  I'm prepared for this Mad Season.

(Ravelry details here.)


Summertime: The Bucket List



I love summer!  

I love the hot.  I love the sunny.  I love No Coats.  I love going barefoot.  I love grilling. I love gathering fresh herbs.  I love the blooming flowers.  I love the long, long days.  I love eating outside. I even love thunderstorms.  (But maybe not when they stretch on for . . . oh, days and days).  (Just sayin.)

(Despite the current summer monsoon) . . . I just love the easy-ness of summer!


And I surely don't want to miss any of the pleasures of summer.  Here's my Summer Bucket List:

  1. Eat an ice cream cone (or two or three!) at Jones Homemade Ice Cream in downtown Baldwin, Michigan.
  2. Get a great shot of the loons on our lake up north.
  3. Get my fishing license and experience the essence of fishing.
  4. Go on a hike or two with Tom and the J-pups.
  5. Get out to the Lake Michigan shore for a sunset.
  6. Sketch in the garden - and maybe even try some watercolors.
  7. Play croquet.
  8. Make s'mores around the fire.
  9. Take in some garden tours.
  10. Just sit . . . and soak up all the summer around me.

How about YOU?  What's on your Summer Bucket List?


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here!