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January 2016

Right Now - January 2016

Of all the months, I think you are my least favorite.  
Dark.  Cold.  Bleak.  
And really, really long.

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The daylight is getting longer, though.  I'm even starting to notice.

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

Watching - My Oscar-nominated-movie-watching binge is nearly complete.  Bridge of Spies will be available on DVD next week.  (We missed that one when it was in the theaters last fall.)  That leaves me with Mad Max: Fury Road.  Tom has already seen it, so I'll be watching by myself.  (Keith received this movie as a Christmas gift, and everyone -- except me -- watched it during the holidays.  If I had known it was an Oscar-contender, I would've suffered through it then.  As it is . . . well, I need to watch now.)  For the record, my favorite this year is Spotlight, followed by The Big Short.


Reading - I'm sort of at a reading low-point right now.  I'm reading H is for Hawk . . . and really not liking it very much.  (Very disjointed and kind of whiney . . . and as much as I like birds of prey, I'm not so sure how I feel about falconry.)  Also reading Last Friends, the final novel in the Old Filth trilogy.  (Unfortunately, it's the weakest of the three.)  I'm also avoiding reading my book group selection for the month, as it doesn't appeal to me in any way.  (Maybe I'll just show up and drink the wine this month.)  (It happens.)  On the upside . . . I read The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra.  Wow.  This was the best book I've read in a very long time, and - even though it's only January - might end up as the best of the year for me.

Knitting - I am still c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g along on my Henley with a Twist sweater.  (I only have the front to complete, and I've got a good start.)  (So slow, though.  Tiny yarn.  Small needles.  And bitsy cables -- every 8th row.)    I did knit two pair of Trip Mitts (one for me; one for my niece).  Such a perfect palate-cleanser.  And I am ready to Bang Out a Sweater next week (ha!) in the Mason Dixon Knitting Stopover KAL.  (Don't hold your breath.)  (But I really need a WIN here.)


Listening to - Guided meditations.  While some are just too corny for words not to my taste, others are perfect and really add to my daily meditation practice.

Dreading - This happens every year at this time.  My yoga instructor goes to Mexico for the month of February.  (And this year, she actually added the last week in January.)  I hate this.  Because I am not so fond of the sub.

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Drinking - Peppermint tea.  Every afternoon.

Planning - My Month-of-Letters strategy.  (Remember, if you'd like to receive a letter from me in February, please see the sidebar to email me your address.)

Humming - (I blame Carole.)  (Said with much love.)


Itching to - Bang Out a Sweater!  (Because lemming.) 

Organizing - Myself . . . using a Bullet Journal.  I've been intrigued by this way of journaling/calendar-ing for years -- and decided to try it (in earnest) this year.  So far, so good.  (Maybe I'll blog about it soon.)

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Delighted by - My grocery store amaryllis.  This is my second set of blooms.  (Not bad for $10.)

Needing to - Get a load of stuff to Goodwill.  I'm Very Good at sorting and deciding; not so good about getting it in my car to drop it off.


Enjoying - My watercolor class.  But  So hard!  I need so much practice.  I waste so much watercolor paper.  (Fun.  But very humbling.)

Looking Forward To - My sister and I just booked our next trip!  This summer:  Scotland and Ireland.  It's a long way off -- but so cheering to think about.

Celebrating - The end of January.  So long.  So dark.  And even though February is much the same, it is short.  And has chocolate in the middle.

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


Getting Ready

February is coming right up.  And that means . . . it's time for A Month of Letters!

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Yep.  I got my basket-o-notecards all put together today.  I broke out the colorful pens and the address labels and the stamps, too. 

I am all ready to write a letter (or at least a note) each mail-day during February.  

If you'd like to receive a letter from me, send me your address (use my email link in the sidebar).  I'll write to you -- and then, of course, I'll be looking forward to your reply.


And . . . February 2 is the annual Silent Poetry Reading.  Be sure to join me for a bit of poetry -- and maybe share your favorite, too.

Kalamazoo . . . We've Got Falcons

Okay.  So, technically, I live in Portage, Michigan.  (That's where I pay taxes.  And my kids attended the Most Excellent Portage schools.)  But I'm only two blocks from the Portage/Kalamazoo border, and I've always more closely identified with Kalamazoo.  So I consider my community . . . Kalamazoo.


(Our meager skyline.)

Ten interesting things about Kalamazoo . . . 

1 - Home of Bell's Brewery and The Eccentric Cafe.  (Need I say more?) - And, really, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many top-quality breweries in town.  Enough that Kalamazoo has it's own Beer Week in January every year.

2 - Kalamazoo is a college town, with both a major public school - Western Michigan University, and a highly-regarded private, liberal arts college - Kalamazoo College (or "K" as it's known locally) in the city.

3 - Kalamazoo has an interesting past . . . as the home of both Checker Cab and Gibson guitar.  (Although both companies are gone now, their legacies still show up in unique and interesting ways throughout the city.)


4 - Kalamazoo is located right on I-94, putting it in easy driving range of both Detroit and Chicago.  In fact, Kalamazoo is located pretty much half-way between the two cities, making day-trips easy.

5 - There are several Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Kalamazoo.  (Two separate neighborhoods.  One is quite close to mine - we've been to a party in one of those homes.  The other is a bit out of town, but still in the area.)


6 - The 90s band The Verve Pipe is from Kalamazoo.  (Even though the video clip I'm using says "from East Lansing."  It was really Kalamazoo.  They just went to school in East Lansing.)  Someone else you may recognize - Derek Jeter - is also from Kalamazoo.  He played baseball at Kalamazoo Central High School, and still does a lot of charitable work with kids in the community.  

7 - Kalamazoo is a relatively small town (4th largest city in Michigan) -- but we sure have a lot of top-notch arts and cultural organizations and opportunities.  (Theatre, music, visual arts.)  It's also a sort of literary hotspot -- many writers live and write here, including Jaimy Gordon, who won the National Book Award in 2010 for her novel Lord of Misrule.

8 -- Kalamazoo is also very science-based.  Formerly the home of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals (all but gutted now, thanks to layers of mergers and eventual decimation by Pfizer) (sorry;  just gonna say it), the community still values science and science education.  (Really -- there might be more scary smart science nerds here, per capita, than anywhere else in the world.)


9 - Kalamazoo has an INCREDIBLE farmer's market.  The community has totally embraced the farm-to-table concept, and supports "locavore" restaurants, grocery stores, a year-round food co-op, and this amazing farmer's market.  (The photo above only shows about a quarter of the market.)

10 - And . . . we've got peregrine falcons!  Tom's office window faces the building where the falcons hang out.  He can watch them fly!  (And once, he watched himself turn on the light in his office on the "falcon cam.")

I love living in Kalamazoo -- it's a pretty cool place.  What do YOU like about your community?


Join the fun and read all the other Ten on Tuesday posts here.

Throwback: A Tale of Two Afghans

It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  A tale of two afghans -- made of much love and Red Heart Acrylic yarn.

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When I went back to college for my junior year, I had a really hard time of things.  My new boyfriend (that would be Tom) and I went to different schools -- and I missed him terribly.  My old college distractions suddenly seemed empty and shallow.  So I decided to crochet an afghan for my boyfriend's birthday in December.

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It was 1979.  Knitting shops with nice yarn . . . just didn't exist yet.  The best I could do was Red Heart acrylic yarn from the drug store (in late-70s-groovy-earth-tones).  I picked up a few random skeins and just . . . started crocheting.

No pattern.  No swatching.  No plan.  I just chained a bunch of stitches (enough, I hoped, to cover Tom's bed) and started in, changing colors whenever I felt like it.  I worked on that blanket every chance I got for the whole semester.  (Here's a photo of me, busy with the afghan, somewhere in the middle.  Yeah.  It got a whole lot bigger.)

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I finished it in time for Tom's birthday.  But - my god - it was big enough to cover a king-size bed.  He loved it.  And we have it still -- in all its huge, acrylic glory.  (It is Very Heavy.)

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Shortly after I finished Tom's afghan . . . I made the second one for my parents.  Although I don't remember all the particulars, I am certain I started off with yarn leftover from Tom's.

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Again, no pattern -- and very little advance planning.  This time around, I just made a bunch of granny squares.  (I think I learned an important lesson about portability from my experience with Tom's afghan.)  Same colors, pretty much.

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This past weekend as I was helping my Mom clear out her closet, we came across the afghan - stored high up on a shelf.  She and my Dad had used it for years.  I remember my kids taking naps curled up in it.  It lived a good, long life in my Mom and Dad's living room.  When I pulled it down, we got a little lost in the nostalgia of it all.  My Mom was hestitant to let it go -- but decided to give it back to me.  It's in my family room now, and I think I'll take it up north to our cottage in the spring where it will continue to get plenty of use (and better match the color scheme and cast-off-decor "theme").

Reunited.  Two afghans made of love -- and Red Heart.

Headline News

 My life . . . reduced to headlines again. 


Life comes to grinding halt for 24 hours as local woman prepares to host book group at home.


Woman credits cookbook maven Ina Garten for highly successful menu:  Reports "We'll be eating leftover Israeli Couscous & Tuna Salad for a week, though."


Disaster narrowly averted:  wagging tails threaten full wine glasses on coffee table.  No spills reported.


Book group first:  All members finish book.  Engaging discussion ensues.


Hostess collapses with one more glass of of wine after guests depart.  Exclaims "I'm so glad that's over."


Happy Friday.  Here's to a nice and relaxing weekend for all of you.

Trying to Forget It's Winter

First, a note.  For the last several days, I am - somehow - not receiving email notification that readers have commented on my blog.  Or, at least, 90% of the time I am not receiving notification.  A few of your comments are slipping through.  Please accept my heartfelt apologies for not responding to your comments, and know that I appreciate each one!  This happens every once in a while -- and Typepad usually figures things out pretty quickly.  In the meantime, please keep commenting!   I love to hear from you.

Now . . . on with our regularly scheduled post.

It's been really, really cold and quite snowy here for the last couple of weeks.  (Winter finally decided to catch up with us, after a really quite pleasant December.)  That kind of winter weather makes you go to rather extreme measures to try to . . . well, see past it.

My Mom and I visited Meijer Gardens last weekend (for the Orchid Show, as I explained yesterday), a wonderful botanical treasure right here in our backyard.  We didn't JUST visit the Orchid Show, though.

I convinced my Mom that we should go outside . . .  


To visit our favorite . . . the Japanese Gardens.


We braved really frigid temperatures - and some light lake effect snows - to take in the gardens.


Very lovely.  Very stark.  Let's just say . . . there weren't many of us out there!  (But we were not alone.)


The paths were pretty icy, though, so we didn't venture far.

Before heading home, we warmed up in some of the indoor conservatories.

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It was great to find some daffodils and crocus blooming in the seasonal room!  It gave us hope for the coming spring.  (And also reminded us that we want to plant azaleas this year.)

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The desert room almost made us feel hot and bright sunshine.  (Almost.)

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It was a great afternoon -- and really did help us to forget about winter.  At least for a little while!

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Gardens are always a great escape!

Feels Like Summer

As I mentioned earlier this week, my Mom and I visited the Orchid Show in Grand Rapids last weekend.


I love orchids!  Every now and then, I pick one up somewhere (usually one of these) because I cannot resist their charms -- and especially in the dead of winter.  (I even got one to re-bloom once.  Not by skill; just by chance.)  I have no desire to become an orchid-grower.  (Too fussy.)  I just like to look -- and the Orchid Show is perfect for that.  Especially in January.


So how about I just show you some pretty pictures of incredible orchids?  (Because it's frigid and snowy and cold and dark.)





Makes you feel like summer, doesn't it?  (Well.  Sort of?)

We Will Never Be Here Again

It seems a bit odd ... to grieve over people you never met and didn't know.

But that's where I am.


I didn't know David Bowie.

I never met Glenn Frey.

But I know how they made me feel.  

When I was a teenager . . .
And wasn't quite sure who I was anymore.
And wasn't sure who my friends were.  
And didn't think anyone would ever like me -- for being me.  
And never felt as alone . . . as I felt in a group.  
Well.  There was David Bowie.  Or the Eagles.  To see me through.

So, this past week?  Well, it feels like some really old friends are gone.  Not just celebrities-I-never-met.

Because I met myself.

Through their music.

Off Track

On Saturday, my Mom and I visited the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  Mainly, we went to see the Orchid Show (more on that later this week), but we also braved the frigid weather to stroll around and see some of the gardens in winter.

Right away, we noticed birds everywhere - hundreds of them - mostly hanging around on three tall trees.


What ARE they?

They can't be, can they?


By gum . . . they ARE!


Robins.  Hundreds of robins!

(They are WAY off track.  Ain't gonna be no early birds gettin' the worm around here for awhile yet.)

What a surprise.