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June 2016

Right Now - June 2016

Usually, here at the end of the month, I do a Right Now post.  You know.  Right Now . . . I'm watching, knitting, listening to, drinking, etc.

But this month?  June?  I just can't.


Oh, it's been a GREAT month.  Filled with fun and parties and gardening and Carole and Dale and the kick-off of Tom's new consulting business.

But it's also been a rough month.  Because my mom is having some pretty significant health issues.  It's stressful for all of us, and I've been spending a lot of time on the road . . . or (as Tom photographed yesterday) on the phone.

And . . . right now . . . I'm packing for my trip* (we leave tomorrow), running to Holland for one more visit with my mom (and to pick up my sister; she arrived on Monday), and dealing with window installation (here's my garage).


Right now?  I'm pretty much a mess.

How about YOU?


* Guilt?  I'm soaking in it now. . . 

Help Yourself to the Salad Bar

There is a fence around my back yard.

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It's a big fence -- 8 feet in most places, although as low as 4 feet in others.  (There are some pretty significant slopes involved in my yard.)  I love the fence.  It provides privacy and a lovely setting for my garden.  (It's also nice for photographing knitwear.) 

Best of all, though?

It keeps out the deer.*

On the enclosed side of the fence . . . 

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Nice, healthy hosta plants.  Huge.  (These plants are 4 feet across.)  (And, yeah.  I need to get at the weeds again.  I know.)

On the other side of the fence?  In my front yard?

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Basically, I've given up when it comes to gardening in my front garden bed.  

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I call it the Salad Bar.  Help yourself, deer.  (Just stay away from my backyard.)


*  Last winter, a few deer hopped the short part of the fence and were running around in the back yard.  I'm hoping this doesn't become a habit.

Tribute Ten

Last week, Tom and I hosted some Very Special Guests.



Carole and Dale.

Right here in Kalamazoo!

Carole isn't back home quite yet . . . so there is no Ten on Tuesday today.  But I decided to Ten on Tuesday anyway . . . in her honor.

A Tribute Ten . . . With Carole On Her Vacation:

1 - We laughed a LOT.  (Tom and Dale both know so many jokes.  So. Many.)

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2 - We went Up North.


3 - Where some of us fished.  While others of us sat around and talked and maybe knit a few rows here and there.


4.  We swam.  Or, again, some of us swam.  While others of us worked on our tans.  (And sometimes chased duck families away.)


5.  We played games.  Tom and I introduced Carole and Dale to Pass the Pigs -- and let's just say that . . . Carole ran the table.  (She even rolled the elusive Leaning Jowler!)


6.  We visited the Lake Michigan beach.  And, yep.  It looks just like the ocean.  Without the salt.

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7.  We did a pub crawl, Kalamazoo-style.  Someone was the Designated Driver.  (Guess who?)


8.  We listened to live music.  

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9.  And more live music.


10.  And generally had a great time wherever we went!


So much fun!

Thanks for visiting Kalamazoo, Carole and Dale!




Reading AND . . .

I've been reading by listening to audiobooks for a very long time.  

As in . . . a really long time.  Like back when they weren't called audiobooks yet.  Just "books-on-tape."  I used to get cassette-versions (and later the CD-versions) of books at the library, and pop them into my Sony WalkMan (and later my DiscMan) and listen while I took the dog on walks.  I kind of thought it was magical.  Reading AND . . . doing something else.

Times have changed.  Now, I just download books on my iPod, clip it to my shirt (or stick it in my pocket), and I'm good to go!  Reading AND . . . indeed.  (So much easier with my tiny Nano.  As compared to my WalkMan!)


This week, Carole wonders what we DO while we listen to audiobooks.

I read AND . . . 

  1. Knit
  2. Hand stitch
  3. Work out
  4. [Insert any mundane household chore here]
  5. Pull weeds
  6. Cook
  7. Walk the dogs
  8. "Beautify" (the hair; the face; etc.)
  9. Draw or paint
  10. Drive (only plugged into the auxiliary channel; never with headphones)

How about YOU?  What do you do while you listen to audiobooks?


(You know what I NEVER do, though?  I never, ever read AND . . . ride my bike.  Because it is absolutely not safe to use headphones while you're pedaling.)


Find out what everyone else does while "reading" audiobooks here!

Special Alert

For the last month or so, my life has kind of resembled . . . a clown car:  lots of zany, a bit of drama, unexpected chaos -- and the occasional firecracker in the tailpipe.  

(Like, really.  Who's driving this thing?)

So I'm really looking forward to parking that clown car in the garage for awhile.  Because I've got a whole lot of fun coming up in the next several weeks.  In fact, I'm giving you special alert.


WARNING: Avalanche of Fun ahead!


Twenty-five years ago, Tom and my Dad built a little deck on our house (which was interrupted by an emergency bathroom re-do . . . but that's a story for another day) -- just in time to celebrate Erin's 2nd birthday with an outdoor party on the deck.

I was thrilled with the deck -- my first!  I bought a metal patio set - with an umbrella - for $79.99 at Target.

That patio set has seen us through twenty-five summers -- a couple of decks, a patio, countless meals, happy gatherings, and many, many replacement umbrellas (including the one that caught fire a couple of years ago).

Every spring, we drag it out.

Every spring, I cringe at it's deteriorating condition.


But, hey!  Functional.  (Although more faded and shabby each year.)

This year, I suggested painting it.  Tom jumped at the idea.  (Because you know.  Let's make it last another 25 years.)



Several cans of Rustoleum later . . . 


We have a "brand new," 25-year-old patio set!*

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*Today, we also have a 27-year-old daughter!  Happy birthday, Erin!

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(Also . . . See those shorts that Tom is wearing in the photo up there?  Yeah.  Those are the shorts I was talking about in my post on Monday.  I think the shorts are at least 20 years old.  No duct tape yet -- but maybe soon.)

My Summer Bucket List

Summer . . . 

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My goals this summer are really pretty simple.  I want to . . .

  1. Spend as much time as I can outside, soaking up the sun and enjoying the hot, summer air.  (It's what gets me through the winter.)
  2. Mix things up a bit in my garden beds.  Nothing drastic -- just moving a few things around and into better "spots."  (It happens.  Things grow differently - or bigger - than you first imagine.  And then you have to do a little housekeeping.)
  3. Plant a tree. (Or two).
  4. Visit faraway places.  (Kind of a no-brainer at this point, since I leave for Scotland and Ireland in a couple of weeks.)
  5. Enjoy some of my favorite places closer to home.  (Can you say Lake Michigan beaches?)
  6. Unplug from the Internet now and again.  (I give up.  I'm retreating back into my cave.)
  7. Sit outdoors and try more plein air watercolor painting.  (My latest art class - now complete - involved 4 weeks of painting plein air.  Intriguing.  But I need a lot more practice!)
  8. Bike the Kal-Haven Trail.  (Possible plans for this Friday.  Let's hope the weather cooperates.)
  9. Try a paddle board on our lake up north.  (I'm looking for an on-sale, low-end paddle board.  Because that's all I'd need.)
  10. Sit on the patio - or up at the lake - and watch the fireflies.  (My all-time favorite summer wonder.)

How about YOU?  What's on your summer bucket list?


Find out what everyone else has to say here.

A Tale of Two Bags

(Today's post is brought to you by guest-blogger, Tom.  Just a bit of background for you before reading on.  Tom believes in using things until they wear out.  And sometimes longer.  He drives his cars for at least 10 years.  He still wears shorts I remember buying when my kids were kids.  He rarely buys new stuff -- because he can still use the old stuff.  So, with that bit of background . . . Hit it, Tom!)


It was the best of bags; it was the worst of bags.  My poor, beloved gym bag was worn to shreds and with no obvious replacement.  (Kym:  Ahem.  This was only because he refused to look for a replacement.)  Gaping holdes, shredded duct tape from earlier repairs.

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The end was near.  

(Kym: Maybe several exits past "near.")

But, a solution appeared based on the history of the bag.

Dial back to summer 1988.*

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A group of young scientists looking for an interesting technical meeting that was also in a cool location.  What could be better than ISCH 6 (6th international symposium on homogeneous catalysis, in case you're wondering) in Vancouver, British Columbia?  Pre-kids, Kym and I piggybacked on a week-long driving tour of western Canada -- beginning in Calgary, stopping in Vancouver and ending in Seattle -- and then I went to meet my colleagues back in Vancouver for the meeting.

While the venue was excellent, the meeting turned out to be a dud, at least in terms of the type of things we were interested in.  In truth, my colleagues and I spent an embarrassingly large amount of time in the student union playing bubble hockey and quaffing Rickard's Red Ale instead of attending dull lectures.  (Kym:  Ah.  The exciting life of a Scientist.)

We received the bags as part of the meeting swag.  And although I didn't use it extensively for some time, I found it to be the perfect size for my trips to the gym.  So it was used off and on for the first 18 years -- and then heavily (maybe 5 times a week) for the next ten years, with obvious and predictable wear and tear.

As I was contemplating getting rid of my beloved bag (perhaps burning it in a private ceremony), I had the thought to contact one of my friends who'd also attend the BC Boondoggle in the off-chance that he (let's call him "Gerg"; not his real name) might still have his bag.

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Indeed, he did -- and was willing to trade it for some of my home-brewed beer.  "Gerg" apparently never used his bag, and it is in Mint Condition.  (Kym:  I cannot believe he still had his unused bag . . . let alone knew where to find it!)

This 28-year-old bag will hopefully get me through another 10 years (or more) of gym use.


Thanks, "Gerg!"


* (Oh. My. God.  1988 hair.)


House Hunting - Garden View

My kitchen window looks out onto our patio with a view of my garden.  Every year, I hang two Boston ferns on either side of the window.  And, every year, a finch couple moves in - usually immediately - and raises their family in my ferns.  (Sometimes even a couple of families over the course of the summer.)

It's a nice, safe place for the finch family, and it does no harm to the ferns.  (It does freak me out, though, when I water the fern and the mother-finch flies out at me!)

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This year, though?

No finches!

Usually, by this time, we've already had one family fly the coop (or fern, I should say). 

I was a bit concerned.  (I thought maybe the finches were boycotting me because I got rid of the Christmas wreath on my front door before they could nest there back in April.)

No worries, though!  Last night, I noticed Mr. and Mrs. Finch -- hopping around in one fern and then the other.  They were house hunting!  (I also saw them checking out the mugo pine in front of my living room window -- also looking out over the garden.  They definitely want a garden view!)

I'm not sure where they decided to nest yet -- but you can be sure I'll be a bit more cautious when I water my ferns today.

Have a great weekend!