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July 2015

Right Now - July 2015

July . . . you've been a challenging month for me . . . pretty much every day.  (And I'm sorry to be so elusive about it all.  But the challenges here . . . are mostly not mine to talk about.)  But things are starting to resolve, which means we can begin to move on.


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

Watching . . . Birds and butterflies and moths and hummingbirds.  My garden is filled with them, and it is glorious!

Reading . . . I'm reading This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, a collection of short stories.  I've intended to read this one since it came out a couple of years ago, and it's been on my iPad for a long time -- but it was a Bingo square that inspired me to pick it up now.  Anyway, it's pretty fabulous -- although I imagine not to everyone's taste.  I'm also reading/listening to a really dreadful book, Beneath a Marble Sky (again, inspired by a Bingo square).  It sounded interesting, but it is tedious.  Really tedious.  (I'm wondering how much I have to read before I can count it as "read."  What do you think?  Half?)  (Because life is too short to read stupid books.)

Knitting . . . After knitting two shawls in rapid succession, I'm sort of floundering in the knitting department right now.  I cast on for this top in some linen yarn I've had laying around.  I love the look and feel of linen, but not so much the knitting with it.  (So not really feeling it . . . general lack of enthusiasm here.)  I have a strange urge to knit a pair of socks.  (Which is really weird.)  (Probably should act on it - because all my hand knit socks have holes now.)

Listening to . . . Florence + the Machine.


Dreading . . . Actually, well.  I've had it with dreading.  I'm finished with dreading.

Drinking . . . (Oh, yeah, baby.  I'm drinking.)

Planning . . . A master bathroom re-do.  This project began out of necessity (our shower is leaking into our kitchen), but is rapidly becoming one of those Projects That Ate New York.  Because where do you stop?  (I'm drawing the line at re-carpeting my bedroom.)  (Even though it needs it.)

Humming . . . This one. 


Wondering . . . About resilience and grief and letting go and moving on. 

Itching to . . . See my sister.  She arrived in Michigan yesterday, but I haven't seen her yet.  (Saturday.)

Organizing . . . I finally started on my yarn stash!  I dumped out every skein, hank, ball, and cake of yarn I own . . . onto the floor of my sewing room and into my family room.  I'm Kon-Mari-ing all of it, touching it and deciding if it brings me joy.  (This was much harder than my clothes, I gotta say.  But, like all Kon-Mari-ing, it gets easier once you start letting go.)  I've put much of it into bags that I'm donating to a high school art teacher friend.  (She's excited to add fiber art to her classes -- but doesn't have a budget for fiber.)


Delighted by . . . My new waterproof iPod Shuffle!  Because of a flare-up of a long-standing knee issue (just another of my July challenges), I've had to stop running and dancing -- maybe forever.  (See?  Fun month.)  I've started swimming laps again -- but find it painfully tedious.  Having music helps a lot -- in fact, it's a game-changer.  (And, yeah.  It works!)

Needing to . . . Pack myself for a mini-vacation (Chicago with my sister), do a little deadheading in the garden, submit a couple of grant applications, and vacuum.

Celebrating . . . We're getting some resolution on some issues that have been hanging around (or over us) for way too long.  Finally.  Although some of it doesn't feel "celebratory" quite yet, I think it will.  Eventually.


Enjoying . . . Summer.  Because it finally arrived!

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . right now?

A Few Quick and Rather Random Updates

I'm on my way to Lansing today for an all day meeting, so I thought this would be a great time to bring you some updates . . . on this and that.

First, Brian and Lauren are settling in to their new apartment in Broomfield, Colorado.  While moving somewhere new always requires an adjustment (or two), they're managing very well.  (And with a view like this, what's not to love?)


Second, driving Miss JoJo  . . . worked!  Here, you can see both dogs in the back seat as we were driving home from our trip up north last weekend.  (On a beach towel, of course.  I'm not stupid.)  Although car rides are still not JoJo's favorite thing, she willingly jumps in the car now, and will even take a nap.  (And no carsick.  Bonus!)

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And, last, our Baby Loon is growing up fast!  Last weekend, the Loon Family was still hanging close together -- but you can see Junior is beginning to show the distinctive loon markings.  (I'm betting he/she will be all grown up before we get back up to the lake in a couple of weeks.)


Enjoy your day!

A Matter of Trust

Soundtrack. . . 


When you sign on to knit a "mystery shawl" . . . there's a lot of trust involved.

Because, when you begin, you have nothing to base anything on, really.  

You pick some colors (that you hope are going to play nice together) (AND work with the design).  You wait for the clues to arrive (only one a week).  And you keep your sense of adventure (because that's how you got here in the first place) and your sense of humor (because you'll need it) handy.


I've lived long enough to have learned. . .

The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned. . . 


Sometimes, as I'm knitting along on a mystery, I wonder what the heck I'm doing.  

But when you trust the designer and know her "body of work," and when you've chosen beautiful yarn to work with, it's all kind of exciting to watch the thing unfold.

You can't go the distance . . . 

With too much resistance . . . 


Mystery shawls . . . are not for the weak of heart.  They really are . . . a matter of trust!

(Trust the designer.  Trust the dye-er.  Trust yourself.)


(Ravelry details here.)


Blueberries By the Handful


We're at the height of blueberry season here in Michigan*.  Everywhere you turn . . . blueberries!  U-pick fields.  Farm stands.  The farmer's market.  Grocery store.  All local.  All delicious!


Today, Carole asks us about our Ten Favorite Things to Do with Blueberries.  Now, I like blueberry pancakes and blueberry baked goods (of pretty much any kind) quite a lot.  But I haven't really made pancakes since Erin left home (Tom and Brian opt for eggs; they will ALWAYS opt for eggs), and I don't bake much (because if I bakes it, I eats it, and I've just decided to stay away from those calories).

But we do eat a lot of blueberries!  

Mostly, I just leave a bowl of blueberries on the counter . . . and here's what happens:

  1. We pop them in our mouths by the handful.  
  2. I mix them in my yogurt.
  3. I dump them in my cereal.
  4. I toss them in salads.
  5. I throw them on a pan and roast them with vegetables.
  6. I sprinkle them over ice cream.
  7. I stir them into a glass of lemonade.
  8. Or into a batch of summer sangria.
  9. Or even a glass of ice tea.
  10. And then I grab another handful!

How about YOU?  What's your favorite thing to do with blueberries?

* Did you know that Michigan is the nation's number one blueberry grower?  Yep.  One hundred million pounds of blueberries every year is big business in my neck of the woods!



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Everything Will Turn Out Alright

It's been kind of a wild summer here.  Just lots of . . . issues.  Y'know?  It happens sometimes.  Things just pile up, and nothing seems to resolve.  My mind has been in a swirl for several months. 

When my life gets like that, I turn to music . . . 


. . . and knitting!


Just as I was heading up north for my vacation in early July, Kim's yarn club installment arrived.

Perfect yarn.

Perfect design.

Perfectly perfect mindful knitting!



As usual, the rhythm of a simple knitting project gets me through the rough stuff.

Don't worry, baby!


Everything will turn out alright!  (And it will.)

(Ravelry details here.)


We Have a BINGO!

I've been reading and reading and reading all summer long -- and coloring in the various squares on my Summer Book Bingo card.

But I wasn't getting any Bingos.

Until now.

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Fourth row, across.

Let's check it out, shall we?

That your parents didn't/wouldn't have let you read as a kid - I read Lolita.  Pretty much hated it, although I can see why it is considered a literary classic.  (And just to clarify, my parents never did look over my shoulder or try to control what I read when I was a kid.  I'm sure they wouldn't have been pleased with my choosing to read Lolita when I was young -- but I can't imagine they would have prevented my reading it.)

With a protagonist/narrator over the age of 50 - I read A God in Ruins.  How I adored this book -- and the protagonist, Teddy.  I was just beginning this book when the Book Bingo started, so this was actually my first square.  (I highly recommend this book, by the way.  Although I would also suggest first reading Life After Life - the sort-of prequel.)

Has a place-name in the title - I read At the Water's Edge.  (Water's edge.  It's a place.)  (I'm using a lot of poetic license when it comes to these squares.)  (I have to make this work for me.)  This book?  Meh.  Can't really recommend it.  (I wasn't overly fond of Water for Elephants - by the same author - either.  So there is that.)

With a child on the cover - I read She's Come Undone.  LOTS of poetic license here.  There is a picture of a young woman of indeterminate age on the cover of the version of the book I read.  And since the main character spends at least half the book in childhood or adolescence, and because the cover shot presumably represents her, I claim her as a child!  (So there.)  Anyway.  I loved this book, and I'm sorry it took me so very many years to get around to reading it.

That involves magic -- I read Buried Giant.  I am not a fan of fantasy or magical kinds of stories to begin with (even when they're written by Kazuo Ishiguro), so this one was a total slog for me. 

And there you have it . . .


Pace of Nature

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.

                                 ---  Ralph Waldo Emerson


I love taking the kayak out on the lake -- especially when the lake is still and clear as glass.  It's great exercise, sure, but mostly . . . I just love the view you get from a kayak.  You're right there . . . on the water . . . close and part of it all.

I usually wrap my "good camera" in a beach towel and head out in search of turtles and loons and the lilies.  (I would never trust my phone out in the middle of the lake.)


It's a real challenge to get a good photo of the water lilies from a drifting kayak -- even though it's not moving very fast.  (There are no brakes, y'know?)

My Monet-moment . . . 


This is just a plain old white water lily - and plentiful all over our lake in the shallow bits, but I think they're particularly beautiful.

I love the way the reeds reflect and refract . . . and get all squiggly-looking in the water.


Our lake is joined by a channel to another lake, and on that lake - in the far corner - there is a huge patch of lilies, including the Spatterdock (or Yellow Pond Lily).  (I think Spatterdock is just more fun to say.)  They're really cool -- but they only bloom early in the morning.  


 Erin always called them Alien Plants.  She had the right idea!  They're very cool -- and very unusual.  It's always a treat when I'm up and out early enough to see them in bloom.  They close up and shrink down into the water again at about mid-day.


Sometimes I like to just drift along in the middle of the lake.  You never know who will pop up right next to you!


I usually see plenty of turtles, too, but it's just really a challenge to manage turtle photos.  They move quickly when they want to.  (Plus . . . moving kayak . . . and camera in a towel.)


 The view from a kayak is pretty awesome . . . and a great way to adopt the pace of nature.

Lost in Art


Every once in a while, Carole comes up with a Ten on Tuesday topic that just totally takes over my day (in a good way).  Today's topic is one of those!

Ten favorite American artists.  Or paintings.  (Or both?)

Oh, my!

Just 10?

To keep myself in control, I'm limiting myself to painters (except for one . . .).

Here goes . . .


1.  Andrew Wyeth  I've always loved this painting: Christina's World.  I had the poster version of this work on my wall in my college dorm room.  I love the stark landscape; the house and the barn; the girl filled with longing.  It was only recently, though, that I learned she wasn't suffering from adolescent angst . . . but from something even more poignant.  (Read about it here.)


2.  Jackson Pollock  Seeing Pollock's paintings on the computer screen or in a book just doesn't quite cut it -- you really need to see them in person to appreciate the intricate texture and color explosions.  I saw this one, Greyed Rainbow, at the Art Institute of Chicago.  It's 6 feet tall and over 8 feet wide.  First, you stand far away and look at the whole of it.  Then, you just keep getting closer and closer -- all the time more amazed!  (Read about it here.)


3.  Mary Cassatt  I had this poster on my wall in college, too . . . but seeing the real deal (The Child's Bath) at the Art Institute of Chicago made me gasp.  There's something about seeing the brushstrokes, I think, that makes a painting . . . real.  After years and years of looking at my poster, the painting truly came to life when I saw it up close.  (More info here.)


4.  Grant Wood  I wonder if there is anyone NOT familiar with American Gothic?  I don't know how many times my friends and family have posed for photos using this painting as a model.  I even had a jigsaw puzzle featuring this painting way back in 8th grade.  This is another one I've had the great privilege to see up close, again at the Art Institute of Chicago.  (It's surprisingly small.)  (Here  are some fun facts about the painting.)


5.  Jacob Lawrence  This painting is Panel 58 of the Great Migration Series, an incredible collection of 60 panels depicting the Great Migration -- the multi-decade mass movement of African Americans from the South to the urban North.  I've seen a small group of the panels on display, and can attest to their power.  Right now, for the next couple of months, all 60 panels are on display at the MOMA in NY.  (If you have the chance, go!)  (More information about the series here.)


6.  Georgia O'Keeffe  I thought I was familiar with Georgia O'Keeffe's work until I was surprised by this one, Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy, on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.  I just love the bright yellow leaves -- and the daisy, of course.  (I have a thing for daisies. . . )  I've always loved O'Keefe's story just as much as her paintings.  (Read more about her here.)


7.  Winslow Homer  I love so many of Homer's paintings that it was hard to choose one for this post.  But then, this one, Casting, Number Two, caught my attention.  Fly fishing from a drift boat with a bamboo fly rod.  Perfect and idyllic.  Homer was a fly fisherman . . .  This painting is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art.  (You can learn more about Homer-the-fly-fisherman here.)


8.  Ernie Barnes  You might remember seeing this painting at the end of every episode of "Good Times" (remember that show . . . featuring Kid Dy-No-Mite?) . . . or you might remember seeing it as the album cover for Marvin Gaye's "I Want You."  Artist Ernie Barnes, artist and pro football player, is known for jump-starting the "Black Romantic" genre of art, with his style that just transmits rhythm and movement and ... life.  (You can read more about this painting here.)


9.  Faith Ringgold  When Erin was a little girl, we stumbled onto a wonderful book by writer/artist Faith Ringgold called Tar Beach.  We loved it!  The colors and texture of the illustrations were just fabulous.  Then, I discovered more of her work - quilts, like the one above called Sonny's Quilt - once when I was visiting a museum (can't remember which) in Washington DC.  Her quilts are a combiantion of acrylic and fabric; the borders are usually pieced -- and they are vibrant and just wonderful.  (You can read more about her here.)


10.  Nick Cave  (NOT Nick Cave the singer; this is A DIFFERENT Nick Cave.)  I have recently discovered Nick Cave (the artist), although I've never seen his work in person.  (He's currently doing a residency at Cranbrook near Detroit, so maybe I'll get a chance?)  Anyway.  He makes these . . . costumes . . . that are just wild and wacky and fabulous.  And then he performs in them!!!  The one in the photo above features granny squares and crocheted flowers . . . among other things.  There's another that is made out of knitted afghans.  Wild, I tell you!  Wild!  He's like a walking yarn bomb.  (Your can see more here.)

Well.  That was fun!  (See what I mean?  Lost in Art . . . )

What about YOU?  Who are your favorite American artists and paintings?


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

Loon Call

It's not at all unusual for us to see (and hear) loons on our lake up north.  They hang out on the water, diving deep and re-surfacing -- doing their lake-thing -- all day, every day.  And we usually begin our mornings hearing the loons call.


Loons are so beautiful with their distinctive markings, that red eye . . . and a lonesome, almost haunting call.*  I love sharing the lake with our loons.  

This year, we had a special treat . . . Loon Baby!


In all of our summers at the lake, we've never timed it quite right to see a baby loon -- although we know our lake is a protected loon nesting spot.

One of our up north neighbors told us that, just days before we arrived, she had seen the Loon Baby riding on the back of the Loon Mother.  But by the time we arrived, it was happily swimming on its own -- always under the careful watch of the Loon Parents.


Over the week, we saw Loon Baby practicing short dives -- and becoming more and more brave, swimming ever farther from the Loon Parents.


But not too far!


* If you've not heard a loon call before, you can listen here:


(Jenny and JoJo heard the loon in the video clip.  Now they're clamoring to get outside to find it!  Jenny, in particular, is intrigued with the loons on the lake.)