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October 2016

September 2016

Right Now - September 2016

I just can't believe it's the end of September already.  My head is spinning.  How can this be?


Yet . . . it's suddenly darker.  And cooler.  And the leaves are beginning to turn.  (Time flies.)  

Here's what's going on for me . . . Right Now.

Watching . . . As usual, not much on television or at the theater.  I've watched a few baseball games.  And I watched the debate the other night.  (Oh, brother.)  Best post-debate summary? Click here.  (And if you are the one person on the face of the earth who hasn't already seen this clip, do watch.  In the words of Ferris Bueller . . . "it is SO CHOICE.")

Humming . . . Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.  (Because above.)

Reading . . . I've been reading a lot of poetry lately, mostly Mary Oliver.  I find it very soothing right now.  In print, I'm currently reading The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie.  I've been waiting MONTHS for this on Overdrive, so I'm thrilled to finally dive in.  (This one was nominated for both the Women's Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award.)  In my ears, I'm listening to The Dig by John Preston.  It's . . . fine.  Walking that fine line between Somewhat Interesting and Kind of Tedious.  (But it's short, so there is that.)


Knitting . . . I've picked up this sweater again -- after quite a long hiatus.  There's actually not much left, but I'll be slogging along for awhile.  (Even though it's cotton.)  (And I had intended for it to be worn during the warmer months.)  I would say, actually, that it's quite likely I'll be wooed by something more . . . woolish soon.  Like maybe something from this great new book.  (Stay tuned.)

Drinking . . .  Hot tea.  It's suddenly (like overnight) turned very fall-ish, so a cup of tea is very comforting right now.

Itching to . . . Bring out the Woolen Garments.  It's Sweater Time!  (But . . . I am NOT yet putting on socks and "proper shoes.")


Delighted by . . . Fall blooms.  (And toad lilies, in particular.)

Needing to . . . Clean out my herb garden (a true casualty of my lost summer).  Maybe there are things worth harvesting -- but I'm afraid my attention at this point will just be too-little-too-late.  Best to just clean it up and plan for next season.

Looking forward to . . . Tom and I have tickets to see Book of Mormon later in October.  We've not seen it before, but we're pretty sure we're going to like it.

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Creating . . . I'm back in my colored pencil class this semester.  Same great teacher; lots of great art-friends.  Still struggling with my drawings, but gaining more confidence all the time.  (This drawing is very much still in process.)  (But coming along.)  (And, yes.  That's a beer with jalapeños in it.)

Planning . . . My mom's memorial service.  My sister and I have lots of ideas, but please feel free to share any particularly meaningful things you've seen at services you've attended.  (I'm always looking for interesting ideas.)

Grateful for . . . All the support and kindness I've received from you!  The LOVE from this virtual community is more powerful and immediate than I ever, ever imagined.  Thank you.


Noticing . . . The leaves just beginning to turn.  With our very suddenly-falling temperatures and the disappearing daylight, it's only a matter of time now . . . before fall color is everywhere.  

How about YOU?  What's happening for you . . . RIGHT NOW?

A Most Spectacular Change in Plans

Back to my travelogue . . .

(Want some background music for today's post?  Try one of these songs: Zombie. Sunday Bloody Sunday. That's Just the Way It Is. Invisible Sun.)

The next stop on our cruise was Belfast, Northern Ireland.  

Our schedule only allowed for a quick, afternoon stop in Belfast.  To make the most of our time there, my sister and I had signed up for a bicycle tour -- a leisurely ride through the heart of Belfast.  I was really looking forward to the tour -- not just because I was craving some exercise by this point in the trip, but also because I'm particularly interested in how Northern Ireland has moved forward after The Troubles, and I really wanted to see the Belfast Murals, which were to be a highlight of the bike tour.  (Many of the murals are featured in the Cranberries video above, by the way.)


It was pouring rain.  And cold.  An altogether miserable day for a bike ride.

We opted for Plan B, and hopped on a tour bus headed to the estate and gardens of Mount Stewart, about a 45 minute drive from Belfast.

Although I still regret not getting to see the murals, Mount Stewart turned out to be a spectacular destination -- and now holds the #1 spot on my list of Best Gardens in the World.


Although it was still raining when we arrived, it gradually stopped over the course of our afternoon, and we were able to fully enjoy the gardens.


The climate in this area is mild and temperate, allowing plants from all over the world to thrive.  Mount Stewart was formed by the Stewart family (the Marquess of Londonderry) in the early 1800s.  Now owned by the National Trust, family members still live in the estate.  In the early 1900s, Edith Stewart (Lady Londonderry), a passionate gardener, created this incredible place.


The gardens are especially famous for their hydrangeas. . . 


and rhododendrons.  We just missed the rhododendron season by a week or two, which was disappointing . . . because it must be spectacular.  

They had some of the BIGGEST rhododendrons I've ever seen.  Like this one . . . 


Yep.  That's all 5'8" of me . . . standing under one of the rhododendrons.  (Look at those leaves!!!  Can you imagine what the BLOOMS must have been like???)

There were formal gardens and sunken gardens and Spanish gardens.  There was a lake walk and a family burial garden.  The gardens were just unbelievable -- any way you wandered.







We spent most of our time exploring the gardens outside, but did make it in for a quick tour of the estate house as well.  Spectacular.  Of course.  We sort of felt like we were at Downton Abbey.  (Sort of.  It was actually a lot more . . . lived in and comfortable than Downtown Abbey . . . while still being very grandiose.)

This is the view from the main entrance. . . 


That's Strangford Lough - the largest sea inlet in the British Isles.  When we arrived at the house, the tide was out.  When we came out -- surprise!  The tide was in.  It was just a lovely, lovely place.

And while it was disappointing to miss out on the murals, this weather-inspired change of plans turned out to be quite spectacular!

Next week, I'll start in with my tales of Dublin.  (We spent several days in Dublin, so there is much to tell.)


Like Never Before

(This post . . . is supposed to be accompanied by a soundtrack.  Whenever I include the clip of my chosen video, the entire format of my post goes just wonky.  I am tired of trying to fix it.  So.  Just imagine Songbird playing as you read this post.  Or click one of these versions and listen on You Tube. Christine McVie. Eva Cassidy.)

At the end of June, my mom was in the hospital for the first time - and I was just about to leave on my trip to Scotland and Ireland.  I really needed a "mindful" knitting project.  Something I could stop or start easily.  Something I could memorize quickly.  Something that was portable.


I decided on the charming-but-seemingly-endless ZickZack Scarf.

I knit through my mom's first hospital stay. A couple of international flights.  In Scotland and Ireland.  Through another, very long hospital stay.  And then through time in skilled nursing/rehab.  A trip to Colorado.  Fretting on the road - or just at home.  Bedside at the hospice facility.

My ZickZack scarf saw it all this summer.   Worry. Hope. Joy. Adventure. Distress. Despair. Sadness.


When I cast off . . . finally . . . after running out of yarn two days after my mom's passing . . . I thought about giving the scarf away.  Because how could I wear it?  After all the angst and bad juju that was knitted right in?

But then . . . I thought about how much comfort this scarf gave me when I really needed some comfort.  How each time I picked it up . . . a sense of calm came through me.  My fingers knew just what to do - and the stitching brought me comfort and centering.

Besides. . . it turns out that this scarf . . . is the last thing of mine . . . that my mom touched. 

Now, I'm looking forward to the comfort and warmth this scarf will give me whenever I wrap it around my neck.


For you, there'll be no more crying,

For you, the sun will be shining,

And I feel that when I'm with you,

It's alright, I know it's right

To you, I'll give the world

to you, I'll never be cold

'Cause I feel that when I'm with you,

It's alright, I know it's right.

And the songbirds are singing,

Like they know the score,

And I love you, I love you, I love you,

Like never before.


(Ravelry details here.)

Memorial Brew

Let me just start out by saying . . . my mom NEVER cared for beer.  

(She did like Baileys, though.  And the occasional glass of white wine.  And sometimes a nice, smooth merlot). 

Tom made it a personal quest to find a beer she would like.  He came close once, with a raspberry lambic.  But it really didn't stick.

Anyway, Tom got it in his head that we needed to brew a beer in memory of my mom.  Because the rest of the family (with the exception of Erin)?  Beer drinkers.

So Tom and my dad (who has never brewed beer before) set out to create a special IPA in honor of my mom.


It's been a good project for this phase of our lives.  Forward-thinking.  Active.  Interesting.  Exacting.  Distracting.  We all need that right now.  (And especially my dad needs that right now.)

Last night was bottling night.



(Tasting glasses at the ready.  Because of course.)



In honor and memory of my mom - Yvonne - they've decided to call this particular batch of beer. . . "YPA."

It should be at its peak . . . right around the time we all gather together for Thanksgiving and my mom's memorial service.

I think she'd be pleased.  And I know she'd raise her glass (of Baileys) in celebration!



No Regrets

When I woke up yesterday, I sat down and planned my day -- and wrote a to-do list for myself that was long and industrious.

Then . . . I took the dogs out for a walk (item #3) and discovered what a beautiful day it was out there.

I had a change of heart.  (Or I guess you might call it a change of priorities.)


I decided to bag the list entirely . . . and putter around in the garden instead!


I got started on my fall chores . . . weeding and cutting back and and making notes for next year.  I enjoyed working with the chickadees swarming around my newly-filled feeder and the bees just buzzing away in the fall blooms.

It was just what I needed.  (It's always just what I needed, actually.)


My lists can wait.  

Beautiful fall days in the garden, though?  They need to be savored!

Bloomin' Friday

When I put my garden beds together, I try to make sure I have something blooming pretty much all the time - spring to fall.  

I especially love the fall blooms -- toad lily, goldenrod, sedum, autumn clematis -- because they bring such a wonderful POP to the garden as it prepares for the dormant season.

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Enjoy your weekend.  I hope you find something lovely . . . blooming . . . in your corner of the world.


The Isle of Skye

About 6 weeks ago, I gave you the last installment of my travel tales -- leaving you hanging at the Highland Park distillery, chewing on some whisky.

But.  There is much more to tell about my trip to Scotland and Ireland.  Let's catch up, shall we?


After our day in Kirkwall, we sailed through the night . . . and woke up to this magical view. . . 


The Isle of Skye!

Now this . . . was just breathtaking!  I'm pretty sure we just stood out on our veranda and giggled!  Moody, broody Scotland . . . at its finest!

Our ship was actually anchored in the midst of a bay, surrounded by islands.  We took tender boats to shore -- to the city of Portree.


(That's our cruise ship, there in the far background.)  (Tender boat not pictured.)


The little town is charming . . . just like something out of a movie set or a storybook!

My sister and I had signed up for a group hike around the island.  We met up with our tour guide -- and set off!  The trail was pretty rustic -- muddy, boggy, and steep.  But just incredibly beautiful!   (Plus cows!  And sheep!)  (And no bathrooms.  At all.  I had to pee in the woods on the Isle of Skye. . . )

Here . . . I'll let my photos tell the story!


After our hike, we enjoyed some time hanging around in Portree -- a quite picturesque little town with excellent fish and chips!


(I kind of felt like I was in the middle of an episode of Doc Martin or something.)  (Although I know that show was not filmed/set in Scotland.  Just sayin.)

And this?  Here's my sister, in her handknit sweater from Kirkwall!  (In front of the pink building.  Because of course!  My sister love, Love, LOVED pink as a little girl.  And some things never change.)


Join me next week when I tell you all about our rainy afternoon in . . . Belfast, Northern Ireland!




Fall Interlude I

For obvious reasons, I didn't get up north to our cottage much this summer.  (Like . . . only twice.  And that was early in the season.)  Luckily, fall is a great time to head north -- when the days are still pretty summer-y, but fall is in the air.




In the fall here in Michigan, we often have foggy mornings . . . 



but the fog usually burns of as soon as the sun rises, revealing those sparkling blue skies from my earlier photos.

It's been great to have this week up here.  I've had plenty of time for reading and thinking and writing and knitting.  The dogs love it, too!  We've had time for swims in the lake and walks in the woods.  And campfires.  Everyone loves campfires.




Just so you don't think it's all fun and games up here in the fall . . . we're also up here to bring in the boat and the docks for the season (because you don't want to be stuck doing that once the water starts getting really cold!) (ask us how we know. . . ).  And Tom has started a major project:  replacing most of the 102 steps leading down to the lake.  (Yeah.  He isn't creating a "yard-Jenga" game here.)


We'll be heading home tomorrow -- but we'll be back soon.  I'm going to treat myself to several more fall interludes this year.  (And Tom, y'know. . . those stairs!)


Look Back and Think Ahead

This week for Ten on Tuesday - on the last official Tuesday of summer - Carole has us looking back at the five best things about our summer and ahead at five things we're looking forward to about fall.

Okay.  So it hasn't been the best of summers here in my world.  But . . . nestled among the angst and the sadness, there were some pretty brilliant moments.

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1 -- Carole and Dale came to visit Tom and I here in Michigan.

2 -- I went on a fabulous trip to Scotland and Ireland with my sister.  (Watch this space later this week, when my travel blogs begin again.  I still have much to share about our trip.)

3 -- Erin visited for what was supposed to be a week, but turned into nearly two.  (And at a very critical time.  She was an angel.)

4 -- Tom and I visited Brian and Lauren in Boulder.  (Thanks, Di.)

5 -- I was able to spend a lot of time with my mom, in what turned out to be the last months of her life.


As for fall?  I'm looking forward to the change of seasons this year.  Here's what I'm looking forward to:

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6 -- Spending a bit of time up north.  (I missed pretty much the whole summer at our cottage on the lake, but I can still spend a few wonderful fall weekends up there.)

7 -- Fall gardening.  Transplanting and cleaning up; maybe even preparing a new border for next spring. I think I might even buy some more bulbs.  (The question . . . Will I actually plant them???)

8 -- Planning my mom's memorial service and family Thanksgiving extravaganza.  (We're rolling it all into one big week.)

9 -- Convincing Tom to buy a bike.  (But don't hold your breath.)

10 -- Settling.  (I'm not sure exactly what this means . . . but I feel a powerful need to do it!)


How about YOU?  What was your best summer moment . . . and what are you looking forward to this fall?


Join the fun!  See what everyone else has to say here.



Flowers are Magical

When I post pictures of my garden blooms on Instagram, I often use the hashtag #flowersaremagical.  Because, to me, they are.  

Explosions of color.

Science unfurling.

Endless variety.

Magical connections.

Apparently, my own grandmother - my mom's mother, who died four years before I was born - was a gardener.  While most of her efforts focused on growing fruits and vegetables, she also found time to tend a lovely flower garden filled with snapdragons, daisies, hydrangea, zinnias, and dahlias.  Not surprisingly, all of these flowers became my mom's favorites in her own garden.

Every Mother's Day, I would give my mom a new dahlia for her garden.  Every year, my mom would plant the dahlia and enjoy the lovely blooms, come September.  Later in the fall, she faithfully dug up all her dahlia tubers and overwintered them.  Some years, she was successful; some years . . . not so much.  But her garden always had dahlias.  

This spring, my mom wasn't quite herself.  She didn't do any gardening.  She didn't plant her dahlias -- and I gave her a hanging basket for Mother's Day, instead of the usual dahlia.

So imagine how surprised I was on Saturday, when I started clearing up my mom's garden for fall.


Because there were . . . Dahlias!  Blooming in my mom's garden!

She must have missed digging all the tubers last fall.  And last year's mild winter must have saved this one.

Just for me.

Because . . . I'm going to dig this dahlia tuber and try to overwinter it myself.  

Because . . . My garden will always have dahlias.

Because . . . Flowers ARE magical!