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August 2016

Finding the Good

So.  As I mentioned the other day, it's been a rough summer.  And August, in particular, has been Truly Crappy.  Usually, as the month wraps up, I put together a "Right Now" post.  But this month?  Not so much.  (Although you can be assured that I'm . . . drinking, reading, and dreading . . . every day.)

It's really easy to get swallowed up by the overwhelming tough stuff of life -- especially when it sweeps you away suddenly.  And completely.  

So I'm trying to find the good.  

Because it's still there.  Under all the crap and maybe hiding in the corners.

Like . . . despite my absolute breakdown in the gardening department, flowers are still blooming.

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And Erin came for a visit.  She even extended her stay by several days to offer help and support, which was lovely.

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Tom and I quietly celebrated our 35th anniversary earlier this week.

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A new gelato shop opened in my neighborhood!

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And tomorrow, thanks to a lot of last-minute problem-solving and a bit of magic (thanks, Di!), Tom and I are heading to Boulder for a quick visit with Brian and Lauren.  This trip has been on the books for quite a while -- and I'm very happy to not be canceling.


There is good.

I just have to keep finding it.

Have a great weekend, and I'll be back after my trip.

BINGO . . . is my Name-O!

I haven't been doing much this summer . . . but I have been reading!

Let's get caught up on some of my BINGOs, shall we?


But first . . . I really need to address something that has me so very curious:  That middle square.  The FREE SQUARE.  I've noticed that some of you have made the interpretation that the "free square" = "book-of-choice."  I'm here to tell you . . . that's not what it says, and that's not How Bingo Work!

In Bingo, you always get that middle square as a free square -- a "gimme."  You automatically mark or cover that square before the game even starts. It's not a square that the caller will yell out to you, it is yours -- and it is free.  (You don't choose which Bingo number is going to be IN the "free square" and then cover it only if the caller yells out that number, do you?  No!  It's a FREE square from the git-go.)

So.  In my Book Bingo, the middle square = Free Square.  Not Book-of-Choice.

And now that we've got THAT taken care of, let's call a few Bingos!

Column 1, going down:

A Classic Mystery - I read Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which turns out to be the first of her Hercule Poirot mysteries.  (I chose this one because it was a freebie through iTunes, and I had long-ago loaded it on my iPad.)  Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this one; truly, I had forgotten how delightful Agatha Christie mysteries ARE!  Highly recommended.  4 stars.

With Any Season of the Year in the Title - For this square I read Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell.  I'm a bit late to this party, I know, having not seen the movie OR read the book before.  But.  Oh, my.  Harsh, stark, chilling.  Absolutely divine.  5 stars.  

That You Started But Never Finished - Earlier this year, as part of my exploration of "risk," I started reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly.  I was still working through itas Book Bingo started, so it was a natural fit for this square.  Fascinating.  Insightful.  4 stars.

Written by an Author You've Met - I chose My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem for this square.  Because, yes, I have met her.  In fact, I spent a day on the road with her in 1992!  (You can read all about it here.)  And although my story didn't make it into Gloria's book, I really enjoyed reading all about her life and adventures.  4 stars. 

Self-Published - For this square, I chose Still Alice by Lisa Genova, possibly the most successful self-published book in recent history.  Good choice.  4 stars.

And another Bingo -- Column 4, going down:

A Prize Winner - I read The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, the 2016 winner of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.  (I try to read all the Women's Prize nominees each year, so this was a no-brainer for me.)  This one is really intriguing reading -- unique, for sure.  It's full of seriously flawed characters making really bad choices (over and over and over. . . ), but somehow, it just works.  4.5 stars.

Nonfiction About Your Hometown or State - For this square, I read A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman's Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan by Loreen Niewenhuis.  (This is another book I had picked out to read during my "risk" year.)  It turned out to be . . . okay.  I had hoped it would be a bit more self-reflective, but it turned out to be a lot more environmentally-focused.  Which is also interesting -- but not what I wanted.  3 stars.

Longer Than 500 Pages - I read Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo -- and loved every single page!  5 stars.

With a Day of the Week in the Title - Just gotta admit it:  This is one of the types of squares I hate most.  I have a queue of hundreds of books I want to read.  NONE of them has a day of the week in the title.  A quick Goodreads search didn't turn up any "day of the week" title books I was interested in reading.  I planned to just . . . punt.  But then I remembered a copy of Virginia Woolf's short story anthology I have on my bookshelf . . . called Monday or Tuesday.  I've been meaning to read it for years! Perfect!  It's, well, Woolf doing her thing -- stream of consciousness with a bit of social commentary.  I loved it -- but it's probably not for everyone.  4 stars.

Published Over 100 Years Ago - I decided to do a little "stretch reading" with this square -- and read The Three Sisters, a play by Anton Chekhov.  It was challenging to read the story in play format -- so many characters!  I'd prefer to see it performed on stage, but still worth the read.  (A good "stretch" is always worth it.)  3 stars.

I'm very close to having a fully-covered Bingo card (except, you know . . . that FREE square!).  
I'll share the last 2 Bingos next week.

Happy reading!


Seeking Normal

I've been Not Blogging since August 11.

I'm going to admit it . . . it's been rather nice to not "think in blog" over the past couple of weeks.  There are just too many other things to stress and worry over right now.

In fact, I can see . . . never blogging again.

Because it is so hard to be upbeat and cheery when life just . . . isn't.


I'm traversing some uncharted territory.  Picking my steps carefully and trying not to fall over the edge.  Nothing feels quite right at the moment.  I'm not eating or sleeping well.  I haven't worked out in weeks.  I'm not knitting or gardening or drawing.  I'm not blogging.

Nothing is normal.

Everything stinks.

Last night, laying there in bed (not sleeping, of course), I decided I need to flip the switch.  I am not going to be able to face what is ahead of me if I don't . . . seek some Normal in my life.


I'm going to yoga tonight.

I'm going to do some deadheading and weed-pulling in my garden.

And I'm going to blog.

Because I NEED some Normal.  (And I also need all of you.)

Time to Lean In

"The next time you lose heart and you can't bear to experience what you're feeling, you might recall this instruction:  change the way you see it and lean in."
                                                                                                              --- Pema Chödrön


It's time for me to do a little . . . leaning in.  

I'll be back when I can. 

(I took this photo at an incredible garden we visited in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Someday, I'll tell you all about it.)

Oh . . . K!

When I read the Ten on Tuesday prompt for this week . . . Ten Words to Describe Yourself (with the added caveat that all the words must begin with the same letter as your name) . . . I snorted.  Out loud.

Because there are so few adjectives that begin with K.

(Let alone those that might describe ME.)

I actually had to pull out the dictionary.

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So, here I am.  With a K:

  1. Kamikaze (It's that RISK thing.)
  2. Keen (The "eager" definition, not the "sharp or pungent" definition.)
  3. Keeper (At least Tom thinks so.)
  4. Kempt (As in the oppostive of UNkempt.)
  5. Kerfuffled (Because it happens sometimes.)  (And besides ... it's fun to say.)
  6. Keyed up (Not always, but sometimes.)
  7. Kick-ass (Oh yeah, baby.)
  8. Kind (Generally.)
  9. Knitter (Although not so much lately.)  (But still.)
  10. Knowledgeable (About some things, at least.)

Okay.  So that wasn't so hard after all.  (Thanks Merriam-Webster!)

How about YOU?  Can you describe yourself using words that begin with the first letter of your name?


Click here to see what everyone else has to say!


Chew On It

My sister and I make a pretty good travel team.  

For example, she is Always Prompt.  I am not.  Together, we're a bit on the later side of "on time."  

She is good at reading maps.  I tend to rely too much on my intuition.  (As in . . . I think we should go THIS way.)  Together, we still get lost -- but tend to find our way for the most part.  

She is a thoughtful and cautious planner.  I tend to just wing it.  Together, we hit that middle ground of staying safe while having a bit of adventure.

But when it comes right down to it, I'm older.  

And bossier.

So, while in Orkney, I suggested a tour of the Highland Park distillery.  (Strongly suggested.)  (Maybe even demanded.)  (Ahem.  Older sister.)  You see, she has never tried whisky.  I love whisky.  I hoped we might meet in the middle.

(In truth, I did not have to put on my bossy pants; she was totally game to go.)


The tour was fascinating.  (Also incredibly charming.  The flower boxes and container gardens just pop in moody-broody Scotland.  See?)


We learned a lot on our tour.  Things like . . . Highland Park is the northern-most whisky distillery in Scotland.


And . . . Highland Park is one of the few distilleries that still malts their own barley.


They also use locally cut peat.  And they shovel it by hand.


We learned a lot about barrels and flavors and timing and how long whisky really lasts.


And, finally, we visited the Tasting Room.


Here, we learned all about the various selections (we had samples of 15-, 18-, 21-, and 25- year old Highland Park whisky).  We also learned that to properly enhance and truly enjoy the full taste of whisky, you need to chew it.

Yes.  Chew.

Somewhat like gargling ... but not quite the same.


Before . . . 


After . . . 


Let's just say . . . YUM.  Chewing really does enhance the flavor!

(My sister?  Not so much.  She was a very good sport about it though!)  

(And I'm sure she'd want me to point out that she had no reservations about trying the whisky.  She even chewed it.  It just wasn't her cup of tea glass of red wine.)


Another thing we learned about whisky?  It's whisky (no e) if it's distilled in Scotland; whiskey (with an e) if it's distilled in Ireland.  (I always wondered, and never bothered to look it up.)


And then . . . it was time for us to leave the Orkney Islands.  

I had been hoping to see a puffin or two while we were there, but did not.  We did, though, see a pod of porpoises swimming alongside the ship as we left the Islands.  So lovely to see!  (I didn't even try to photograph them.  It was such a treat to just watch and enjoy.)


Have a great weekend!


Visiting the Orkney Islands

(It's been a weird week here.  So. Let's just get back to the travelogue, non?)

After Edinburgh, our ship headed north . . . to the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland.  


We docked in Kirkwall - the largest city in the Orkney Islands.  While the area is filled with Viking ruins (which would be fun to visit, sure), my sister and I opted to stay right in Kirkwall (so we could also fit in a tour of the Highland Park whisky distillery later in the day).

In Kirkwall, we really experienced the moody, broody Scotland of our imaginations!


First, we visited St. Magnus Cathedral, founded in memory of Saint Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney 1108–1117 by Earl (later Saint) Rögnvald Kali.



The inside of the cathedral was just awesome.  So . . . old.  So much history.  And a really interesting sampling of gravestones embedded in the church walls!


(Lots of skulls.  Lots and lots of skulls!)

After visiting St. Magnus, we just walked across the road to see the ruins of the Bishop's Palace (here with the steeple of St. Magnus in the background) . . .


and the Earl's Palace (just next door and across another road).


It is really pretty awesome to stand in these ruins . . . and imagine what life might have been like when the palaces were vibrant and full of people.


The views from the top of both palaces were amazing.  (Interesting thing about the Orkney Islands:  although there are trees planted in town, the islands themselves have no trees at all!  You can kind of see this in my photos -- out on the horizon. . . absolutely bare.)



(And what's more amazing - refreshing, actually . . . is that they allow folks to climb super-steep and narrow spiral staircases - dark, too - to the top of the ruins.  No signing waivers; no liability warnings.)

Going down. . .


We were happy to spend a bit of time wandering the main street of Kirkwall (a town of about 9,000 people).


It was just charming.  Welcoming and comfortable.  


Both my sister and I remarked that Kirkwall . . . felt like a place we might actually like to live!

We found many, many hand knits for sale in the shops in Kirkwall.  Lots of lovely fair isle -- sweaters and mittens and hats and socks.  Yarn shops, too.  Both my sister and I bought hand knit sweaters.  (And we actually needed to wear them!)  Here's mine . . . 


(For you knitters - it's a Gansey made of Shetland wool; much the same weight as Loft.)  

I'll tell you more about the fabulous background for this photo in a couple of days (hint: it's the Isle of Skye) and show you my sister's sweater -- but first . . . a trip to the Highland Park whisky distillery.

Stay tuned! 


Weekending: More Than You Bargained For


How was your weekend?

Such a typical, normal start to a Monday morning between friends.

(But sometimes you get more than you bargained for.  Y'know?)


My weekend started out pretty well.  All the usual weekend activities . . . gardening, a swim workout at the pool, wine on the patio.  

There was a date with Tom on Saturday afternoon.  (We went to see the new Jason Bourne movie.)  (Which is actually much like all the old Jason Bourne movies.)  (Only maybe not so novel.)

Sunday, though?

Not so much.

It started with a bang.  (Not my story to tell.)  

And then things went downhill.

Like . . . really downhill.


We have a pretty significant grass slope in our front yard.  As I headed down the hill to check out some massive weeds (I could see them from my front window), I slipped on the very wet grass (we had a lot of rain this weekend) and fell.

I screwed up my knee.  (My bad knee.)

Rest and ice will help.  But, really?  I don't need this in my life right now.  (Or ever.  Y'know?)

But it didn't stop me from rockin' out last night . . . 


At the Boston 40th Anniversary concert.  (Yep.  40th anniversary.  Time flies.)


This weekend was WAY more than I bargained for.

(And instead of heading up north today . . . I'm searching for Brian's old crutches.  So I can really rest that stupid knee.)

How was YOUR weekend?