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July 2016

Right Now - July 2016

July ... has just flown by in a flash!  (Probably because I was gone for half of it. . . )


I still feel like I'm buried deep in "catching up" mode, but there are lots of other things going on, too.  Here's what's happening . . . RIGHT NOW:

Watching:  Although I'm keeping up with various convention speeches, I'm not watching any TV in real time. I am, though, watching the weeds grow in my garden; every day more and more.  

Reading:  I just finished The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild.  This one was short-listed for the Bailey's Women's Prize this year -- although I must admit to wondering why for the first 100 pages.  In the end, though, it was delightful, and I highly recommend it.  Now I'm reading The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, the eventual winner of the Bailey's Women's Prize this year.  More Bingos are coming!

Knitting:  No changes since I shared a peek inside my knitting bag on Wednesday!

Humming:  This one . . . 


Drinking:  Lots of water.  It's been so very hot here . . . 

Itching to:  Dig out a little "extra" patch in my garden border and replant a few things.  But.  It's been so very hot here . . . 

Needing to:  Oh. My. Goodness.  If I don't catch up with all my paperwork, I'll be buried alive at my own desk.  Soon.


Delighted by:  My little garden ponds.  Moving water is a delight in the height of summer.

Looking forward to:  A week up north (next week); I need another get-away already.

Planning:  I have a Big Idea.  But it's still in its very beginning stages.  So that's all I'm going to say about that for now.

Celebrating:  Improvement and baby steps.  (At this point, I'll take what I can get.)


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

A Peek Inside My Knitting Bag

It occurred to me . . . that I haven't posted anything yarn-related since early May.



Because I haven't been knitting much, that's why!

Shall we take a little peek into my knitting bag?

First, there's this mess.


It's a cardigan - this pattern, knit in Berroco Indigo (which is a surprisingly wonderful and soft cotton).  The knitting is was moving along quite nicely.  Until life got in the way.  Now, I can see that I'm somewhere in a short row section.  Where?  Who knows.  And I also spilled coffee on it last week (actually, I spilled coffee into my knitting bag, where this was languishing).  So kind of a mess.  But worth picking up again.  (Soon.)

And then ... there's this.


That's clue #1 of Kirsten Kapur's TTL Mystery Shawl, now called Thistle Rambles.  I usually love to knit lace in the summer.  Over the years, though, I've discovered that there are Times to Knit Lace -- and there are Times to NOT Knit Lace.  I'm in one of the latter times right now, so the rest of the clues are going to have to wait.  (But I will pick this up again, because this shawl is a stunner. Like this one.)

And then, there's this.


I started this scarf on the plane to Copenhagen.  I knit on the plane.  I knit on the ship.  I knit on the plane again.  Now that I'm home, if I take a project out of my knitting bag, it's this one.  Easy.  Fairly mindless (although you wouldn't believe how often I forget how to count to 5. . . ).  Endlessly entertaining (with those color changes).  

Knitting might be slow right now, but it's there.  Mostly in my knitting bag.  But there.

How about you?  What'cha working on?




Keep it Cool

I don't know about where you live, but where I live . . . it's been hot, Hot, HOT!  Steamy hot.  

This week, Carole asks us . . . How to keep cool in the summer's heat?


  1. Get in the water -- the beach, a lake, or a pool
  2. Find a shady spot when you're outside
  3. Drink plenty of water
  4. (Or a cold beer)
  5. (Or a crisp glass of chardonnay)
  6. Turn on the air conditioning - and use the fans
  7. Wear loose, light clothing
  8. Stop cooking -- and eat cold foods instead
  9. (Like ice cream!)
  10. (Or Creamsicles!)

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How about YOU?  How do you keep cool during the summer's heat?


Click here to read what everyone else has to say!

Letting Go

A couple of years ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit . . . and take a drawing class at the KIA (our local art museum and art school).  Although I took several art classes in high school and college, I hadn't dabbled in "official" art-making for . . . decades.  

It felt good.  But I felt pretty much like a fraud.

Last fall, I stumbled into my first colored pencil class. . . and I loved it!  The instructor was wonderful -- inspiring and supportive, and my classmates were great (for the most part; there's always . . . Someone; y'know?).  Still.  Fraud.  I was super hesitant about my work.  Slow.  Careful.  Overly cautious.

For example, it took me agonizing weeks to work through this piece (which I now refer to as "Snout I"):

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At the end of that first course, the instructor provided each of us with a carefully written "critique" of our work.  Mine?  Very positive.  But.  She also pointed out my greatest obstacles:  hesitation, second-guessing, fearfulness.  She encouraged me to, "make mistakes and try to figure out ways to fix them."

Those words. . . rang through my head.

Kind of like alarm bells.

In fact, her words were the very words that led me to my "one little word" this year:  RISK.

Make mistakes and figure out ways to fix them.

I'm here to say . . . I've come a long way since my first colored pencil class.  Not necessarily with my art, but with mistakes.  I went WAY out on a limb . . . and took a watercolor class last spring.  (Different instructor, but also very supportive.)  This was a huge risk for me -- because I had no experience with watercolor.  AND because there are no erasers in watercolor.  (Every time you wet your brush, you're taking a risk.)

Watercolor was a game-changer for me in terms of letting go and making mistakes, and I started just kind of  . . . going for it.  Realizing, finally, that this art of mine is really JUST for ME.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't?  Fix it. Or pitch it.   


This last Saturday, I took a one-day colored pencil workshop.  I think my instructor (that same one) was more thrilled than I was -- when I completed (except for the background) this drawing of Jenny during the day-long class.  (I call it "Snout II.")

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I took a RISK.

I made some mistakes.

I fixed them.

It worked out.

It's very freeing . . . to let go.

Finally . . . a BINGO!

This summer, I've been reading and reading and reading . . . but only just recently got my first Book BINGO!

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Let's check out that middle column, going down, shall we?

With 200 pages or fewer - For this square, I read My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.  I loved this book!  It was spare and elegant; it didn't fill in all the blanks for you (my favorite kind of book), and allowed you to connect the dots for yourself.  An excellent selection.  Five stars!

A tale of survival (fiction or non-) - If you've followed my Book Bingo blog posts in the past, you might already know that I (ahem) take liberties with the squares.  I love to read.  I love to participate in Book Bingo.  But I will NOT read something I don't otherwise want to read.  So I tend to . . . be creative sometimes with my squares.  I am not a fan of what you normally think of as "survival" books.  But, I did read Louise Erdrich's wonderful new novel, LaRose.  And if you've read it, you will certainly see that it fits into this "tale of survival" square --- even if it is a bit unexpected.  Another excellent read.  Five stars!

That you've pretended to have read meant to read but haven't gotten around to it yet - Another thing I do with Book Bingo . . . is modify some of the prompts that I don't like.  "Pretending" to have read something is just not my style.  But there are many books that "everyone" has read but me.  You know.  Books that were Very Popular - but I didn't have time to read them when "everyone else" was reading them.  So I decided to revise the square accordingly.  I read another Elizabeth Strout book -- that one that "everyone" read way back when it was first out:  Olive Kitteridge.  I never pretended to have read it.  But I've always meant to.  I'm glad I finally gotten around to it.  Four stars!

Historical fiction - For this square, I read A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton.  This one, from the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction longlist, held much promise -- taking on the difficult and heavy-heavy-heavy subject of the bombing of Nagasaki.  (Let's just say . . . lots of guilt and regret in this one.)  It was quite good - and I certainly learned a lot about Nagasaki and how the bombing impacted the community and its survivors - but it fell just a bit flat.  Still, worth the read.  Three stars!


Happy weekend to all of you.  Hope you get some time to curl up with a book!

Edinburgh: Robert Burns, Royal Week and Brigadoon

We boarded our ship in Copenhagen the day after our arrival, and set sail for Edinburgh.  It took a couple of days of cruising before we arrived, so we enjoyed relaxing with books and knitting and naps!


We arrived in Edinburgh just in time for dinner -- and we had really special dinner plans that evening:  We were headed to an authentic Robert Burns Supper at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh!  


On our drive to Prestonfield House, we discovered it was Royal Week -- the one week each summer that The Queen (yeah; THAT queen) takes up residence for a full week in her "Scotland home" - Holyrood Palace - to conduct business in Scotland and, generally, throw big parties where women wear HATS and men wear kilts.  (It also means that Holyrood Palace is off limits to tourists.)

In fact, the day of our arrival coincided with the annual Queen's Garden Party -- where she invites thousands of people to an afternoon soiree at the Palace.  We were in a bus driving through the city center of Edinburgh as the party was just ending.  Stuck in traffic, we had plenty of time and opportunity to watch the Garden Party attendees heading home.  British formal wear.  Dress kilts.  HATS.  Really . . . an amazing sight.  (And amazing traffic snarls!)  I felt like I was watching a British television program -- right through my bus windows!

Anyway.  We did, finally, arrive at the Prestonfield House, where we were treated to a traditional Robert Burns dinner -- complete with the "piping in" of the haggis (which is very tasty and not really all that scary).  (A bit like a sausage-y meatloaf. . . )


We enjoyed a full-Brigadoon kind of evening -- with singing and dancing and poetry and music and Auld Lange Syne!  Wonderful!  (Trust me . . . there was a LOT of plaid.)

The next day, we toured Edinburgh, focusing mainly on the city center.


We ended up visiting Edinburgh Castle . . . 



which provided lovely vistas of the city of Edinburgh.  (You can see why the Scots built their fortress in that spot; from the walls,  you'd be able to see your enemies arriving from any direction . . . for miles and miles!)




While my sister and I were wandering around within the walls of the castle, we noticed a sudden hubbub about us.  I was busy taking photos of some flowers . . . when, suddenly, an entourage passed.  It looked official.  Like . . . Someone Important.

(But what do we know?)

Turns out . . . it was Princess Anne.  In town for Royal Week.  We were clueless.  (And probably wouldn't have cared even if we'd known.)  She passed right by us.

Regardless of (or despite) the "royal" activity, we had a grand time in Edinburgh.  It's a beautiful, vibrant city -- and one I'd like to visit again (for longer next time; but not during Royal Week).


Next up . . . Kirkwall . . . in the Orkney Islands of north Scotland.



24 Hours in Copenhagen

When you travel from the US to Europe, you generally leave late in the day (US time), spend your night in flight, and arrive at your destination very early in the day (Europe time).  It is brutal.  The jet lag is, well . . . really something.  But.  If you want to adjust your inner clock, the best thing to do is Keep Moving -- and, preferably, outside.

My sister and I arrived in Copenhagen at the crack of dawn.


All we wanted was . . . more sleep.  And coffee.  But we slogged through customs, collected our bags, found our ride, and checked into our hotel early.  (Sometimes that early check-in thing works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  We were lucky this time.)

We did allow ourselves a very short nap.  But then . . . we headed out to spend the day in Copenhagen!

Now, we had been to Copenhagen once before in our travels.  We had about 24 hours to explore then, too.  That time, we went off in search of The Little Mermaid statue, got lost, found it, got lost again, and really didn't get to just . . . wander.  Or sit and enjoy a glass of wine.  So, this time, the wandering and the sitting and the wine were on the agenda!  

We headed out - on foot - to charming Nyhavn.  Along the way, we enjoyed the charm of Copenhagen.


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And then - there we were!  Nyhavn!


The ultimate tourist-destination in Copenhagen.  But so charming you don't even mind the crowds!

We ducked into the first outdoor cafe we could find with a table overlooking the waterfront, and had that glass of wine!


We also had a quite mediocre - and way overpriced - lunch.  (But, really.  We weren't paying for the lunch.  We were paying for the chance to sit at an outdoor cafe with a view of the harbor amidst the charm of Nyhavn.  Sometimes, ambience is everything.)



Still fighting jet lag, we pushed on!  Through our travels, we've discovered that one of the best ways for us to enjoy light exercise and sunshine (well, if there WAS any sunshine; let's just go with "direct light" for now) is to look for gardens.   

So we headed off - on foot, again - for Rosenborg Castle Gardens.


Lovely!  A perfect place to wander.


And then . . . we visited the Botanisk have (the University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden), which was just across the street from the Palace.


The gardens were just wonderful.  And a perfect foil to jet lag!


(This was the ever-so-charming gift shop.  The plant offerings were incredible.  So sad I couldn't take some of them home in my suitcase. . . )

We successfully walked our way through jet lag -- without getting lost even once!  Before we knew it, it was really time for bed.


Goodnight, Copenhagen!


A Catchy Town (I Mean . . . Tune)

When I was a kid, I used to "collect" Towns With Catchy Names.  Names that are fun to say -- and just kind of roll off your tongue.  Chattanooga.  Tallahassee.  Timbuktu.  Walla Walla, Washington.  Tuscaloosa.  Minnehaha.  Kalamazoo.

The kind of name . . . you know . . . that might end up in song lyrics.

(Never imagined that I'd end up living in one of them!  But.  Here I am.)


Anyway.  This week, Carole asks us for for Ten Songs About Where We Live.  Lucky for me . . . Kalamazoo - one of those catchy-name towns - has been plugging into song lyrics forever!

My favorite?

1 - Gotta Get Away by The Black Keys.


2 - Another favorite is Kalamazoo by the Ben Folds Five.  (They performed this during their appearance at the Gilmore Piano Festival a couple of years ago.  As you might imagine, it was a big hit with the home crowd.)


3 - This one is quite popular with the home crowd, too.  Kalamazoo by Primus.  (They've performed this one live in Kalamazoo, a couple of times apparently.  I wasn't there - but you can imagine it was a bit hit.)


4 - Marylou by Bob Seger.  (Not one of his most popular -- but . . . Kalamazoo.)


5 - Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  (Twangin' out a rhythm on his Kalamazoo.  You bet!)


6 - While not about Kalamazoo, this song just embodies the whole Up North/Lake Thing in Michigan.  So, yeah.  It's about about where I live!  All Summer Long by Kid Rock.


7.  And, of course.  Especially in Michigan by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  (The link is a "tease."  If you want to hear the whole song, click here.)  (And Carole?  This link should include images that look a bit familiar to you now. . . as it was filmed in Ludington!)


8.  Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave.  (Because The Lakes RULE . . . here in Michigan.)


9.  Greetings from Michigan . . . an entire album by Sufjan Stevens . . . honoring Michigan.  (This tune, Romulus - a Detroit suburb - has nothing to do with Kalamazoo.  But Michigan.  And nice.)


10.  And, of course, no Kalamazoo list could be complete without this one. . .  (yeah, I know) . . . I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.  (Trust me.  I know.  I live here.  I've heard this WAY too many times . . . )


How about YOU?  What are the best songs about where you live?


Click here to see what everyone else is singing today.






Setting Off

Back in January, right after the holiday crush, my sister and I started talking about going on another adventure.  Both of us were super busy right then, though.  And neither of us had the time (or energy) to research and plan out a trip.

We thought about going to Vienna.

We thought about Germany.

We considered river cruises.

We turned our sights to Scotland.

But, really.  We had no energy to figure it out.

And then . . . a random email from Azamara Cruise Lines landed in our email inboxes.


(Our actual cruise ship, anchored at the Isle of Skye.)  (I'll tell you all about it later.)

8 Nights in Scotland and Ireland.

Interesting ports.  Solid land excursion possibilities.  Smaller cruise line.  And already tested.  (We traveled on the same ship when we toured Scandinavia and St. Petersburg a few years ago.)

This could work!  

(It was the perfect lazy-person approach to planning a vacation to Scotland and Ireland!)

So, with a few modifications (extending both the beginning and ending of the cruise to add some land-based time in Copenhagen and Dublin), we set off on our adventure.

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(Sunrise over Scandinavia.)

After two cruises, I'm still not sure I'm a "cruise person."  But I will say . . . if you're looking to visit several ports in a relatively short period of time . . . and if you're looking for a smaller cruise experience with a laid-back atmosphere (and a really generous wine "package") . . . Azamara is the cruise line for you!







Not a bad way to travel at all!

And . . . even though it was generally Very Cold . . . both my sister and I highly recommend booking a room with a veranda (should you ever decide to cruise).


We found it worth every single penny.


Every. Single. Day.


(Next up . . . 24 hours in Copenhagen.)