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October 2016

Trick or Treat

I'm ready!


My days of dealing with hyper-excited kids - eager for one of their favorite nights of the year - are now in the long-ago past.  But remembering those days is fun!


Cleopatra and Zorro, circa 1998.

Hope your day is full of treats!
Happy Halloween.


Tomorrow begins NaBloPoMo.  I'm in.  Join me?

Right Now - October 2016

October, you have been a busy month . . . with so very many lovely days. 

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Yesterday I finally had to break down and put on Real Shoes with a pair of Real Socks.  Although it always pains me to put on shoes again, I think this may actually be a Personal Record in terms of wearing flip flops right through the end of October!

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

Watching - Why . . . the Cubs, of course!  I'm also looking forward to The Crown, beginning on Netflix next week.

Reading - In my ears, I've got To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, and in print, I'm reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet.  Both are excellent reads so far. I'm also reading Upstream, Mary Oliver's latest -- but I'm savoring it slowly and intentionally . . . doling out one chapter each morning with my coffee.

Knitting - Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  But I plan to rectify that situation soon -- by casting on some Squad Mitts.  And maybe this.  Because I need some immediate gratification knitting going on!

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Drinking - Peppermint tea!  (I've been in the mood for peppermint tea ever since spending time in the "Mint Room" at the Celestial Seasonings tour in Boulder back in August.)

Stuck in my Head - Doobie Brothers . . . Listen to the Music.

Needing to - Finish cutting back my perennials and bringing in all the little garden doodads.  (I'm late this year . . . because of the glorious fall weather we've been having.)

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Delighted by - Finding so many wonderful old family photos while sorting through the nooks and crannies of my parents' condo.  I certainly have my work cut out for me now . . . in the organizing and chronicling.  But what a treasure!

Looking forward to - The end of the election.  Really.  So. Sick. Of. It. All.  So ready to vote, already!

Planning - So very many things.  There's a lot going on in my life at the moment, and some days . . . I really wonder if I can manage everything.  But pieces are beginning to fall into place, and I have confidence that it's all going to work out.


Celebrating - Can you believe that yesterday was Brian and Lauren's first anniversary already???  Time really does fly!  And today is my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary.  There is much love to celebrate!

Noticing - That the leaves are slower to turn than usual here in Michigan this year.  We still haven't hit peak-color here in my neighborhood, but it's been just lovely, watching the colors unfold gradually.

Grateful for - Working together with my dad and Tom to move, well . . . move mountains!

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



Think Write Thursday: Hitting the Jackpot (An Abandoned Building Tale)

Once upon a time . . .  in the summer of 1998 . . . a family sold their first house and moved not too far up the road to a new, bigger-and-nicer house.  


The move was particularly brutal.  It was a very hot summer -- and the old house didn't have air conditioning.  The family, along with a few stalwart friends, moved to their new house slowly . . . carload by carload; trailer-ful by trailer-ful.

Patience was thin.

Tempers flared.

It was hot.  And tedious.  And although the children were old enough to help in five minute bursts, they were still young enough to be very much underfoot.  And bored.  And loud about being bored.

(In other words, fun for the whole family!)

Anyway . . . one afternoon, when all the stuff had been moved out of the old house, and the father had gone back to his job, the tired mother dragged the children back to the old house to do some cleaning and to make sure the family hadn't left anything behind.  

The mother had one task in particular:  Clean out the refrigerator.  Not the food -- because it had already been transported down the road to the new refrigerator.  She just needed to give the now-empty interior a good wipe-down.

When they arrived at the old house, the children were distraught.  Because it no longer looked like their old house.  It was . . .




The children were Not Happy.  They did not want to play with the toys they had brought with them.  They did not want to read their books, either.  They did not want to play in their old backyard.  They just wanted to wear the mother down and get on her very last nerve.  The mother?  Oh, she was focused.  She just wanted to accomplish her tasks and Get. Out.

It's creepy in here, said the children.

We don't like it anymore, said the children.

There's nothing to doooooooo, whined the children.

We're hot, complained the children.


(The adorable children, posing in front of their "growth chart" on the wall in the back stairway on the very day of the fridge clean-up.)

The mother tried her best to ignore her whining children, and - despite her extreme exhaustion and general ill-temper - dove into her task.  After scrubbing the interior of the refrigerator to a Like-New-Shine, she moved on to the freezer compartment on top of the refrigerator.  


The entire freezer FULL of ice cubes dumped out onto the floor, covering the mother's feet and causing her to jump back in amazement!!!

It was just like hitting the JACKPOT!

With ice.

Apparently, when the father had emptied the freezer of its contents the day before, he forgot to place the ice cube "bucket" under the automatic ice cube maker arm.  And the ice maker just kept making . . . and making . . . and making those cubes. 

Until the entire freezer compartment was filled with ice cubes.

 And the kids?  Well.  Now they had something to do!


Read more Think Write Thursday stories here -- and join the fun by signing up to receive the weekly prompts here.



Closed for the Season

Last spring, I started knitting this sweater with this yarn.  I envisioned a nice, little summer layer -- light and breezy and easy to toss on over summer t-shirts and tank tops.  I thought I might even pack it along for my trip to Scotland and Ireland.


Life intervened.

And the project languished.

I picked it up again this fall, and . . . half-heartedly . . . kept plugging away at All. That. Ribbing.


Now, I happen to be one of those "monogamous" knitters.  I cast on for a project . . . and then I just keep on knitting until I finish.  (Mostly, this works for me.) 

But this time?  Not so much.  

I decided that I'm not in the mood to finish this project right now.  Because I won't wear it until spring anyway.  No matter what.


But I brought it to a good stopping-spot:   I got everything finished except the sleeves.

I've packed it away until . . . oh . . . March or April.  Then, I'll pick it back up, knit the sleeves, weave in the ends, and . . . voilà!

I'll have a whole new spring sweater.


But not now.

Closed for the season, sure.

But not forever!

(Ravelry details, such as they are, here.)

A Day Trip to County Wicklow, Part I: Avoca

On our last full day in Ireland, my sister and I wanted to visit County Wicklow, south of Dublin.  So we signed on for a RailTour.


We had a wonderful day -- and we enjoyed the company of QUITE the cast of characters:  our taxi driver, John (who sang an old Irish tune along with an instrumental song on the radio, thought we were from Virginia - no matter that we explained where we were REALLY from, and warned us repeatedly about the dangers of traveling in crowds) (yeah) to our tour guide, Paddy (seriously) to Dave (just a guy on the train from County Wexford who was eager to talk about American politics with Real Americans).  All of the people we met in Dublin were wonderful.  Friendly, welcoming, helpful, and really interested in conversation.  It was so refreshing.

Our first stop was someplace I'd really looked forward to visiting . . . the Avoca Mill.


The Avoca weaving mill has been around since 1723.  The sheep farmers around Avoca Village became known for their woven blankets -- and especially for the bright vegetable dyes they used on the wool.  


These bright colors became Avoca's "signature."  


We had a tour of the mill, and got to see all aspects of the weaving process in action.


It was all quite fascinating -- and their weaving is just gorgeous.  

We did a bit of shopping after the tour (I got myself one of their throws -- this one -- and it is just lovely), and ate lunch in the cafe.

Everything about Avoca was Just. Charming.  (Apparently, a television program - Ballykissangel - was filmed in the village of Avoca.  Another set of sisters on our tour were Big Fans -- and headed into the village instead of the mill.  Neither my sister or I had ever heard of the show before.  Apparently, it is a Big Deal in the UK and Australia, though.)


It was a perfect first-stop on our day-long trip to County Wicklow.


Such a Treat

The weather this fall has been just incredible!

Oh, we've had some chilly days and some rain, but - for the most part - we've had warm-ish temperatures and a good share of sunshine.

Here it is, the last week in October, and I still have some of my containter plants outside!

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I still enjoy sitting in my garden swing every day, and we're still having drinks-on-the-patio as often as we can manage it.

Shoot -- I'm still wearing my flip flops!

What a wonderful fall!  Such a treat. . . 

A Postcard from The Edge

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I've decided that - now and again - I'll send you a postcard . . . from the edge.  Just a little postcard-sized message about this or that.  We'll see how it goes.  Maybe it will work out; maybe it won't.  (Humor me.)

Here goes. . .





Dear friends,

Last night Tom and I went to see The Book of Mormon.  O.M.Gosh!  What a fun show.  We laughed and laughed and laughed - from the beginning to the end.  I don't think I've ever laughed so much during a musical.  And now? Well, now we need to see it again sometime so we can pick up on all the stuff we missed because we were laughing so hard.

Wish you were here.




A Breakfast to Remember

Welcome to Think Write Thursday -- a blogging joint-venture by Kat and Carole.  Each week, they will release a topic for bloggers to think . . . and then write about.  

This week, Kat and Carole invited us to think and write about the best breakfast we ever had . . . 

Hmmmm.  I've enjoyed many really great breakfasts in my life.  I could tell you about . . . fresh-baked croissant and café au lait in Paris.  Or the traditional Christmas morning breakfast we eat here at my house.  Or maybe . . . Tom's super-delicious fried egg sandwiches.  Or there's any breakfast I've ever eaten at Food Dance here in Kalamazoo.

How to choose?

And then it hit me.  I'm not going to tell you about the BEST breakfast I ever had.  I'm going to tell you about the MOST MEMORABLE breakfast I ever.  (And, as you'll soon see, they are NOT the same thing.)

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When I was a little girl, I hated oatmeal.

Actually, that is probably not a strong enough word.  Because I DETESTED oatmeal.

I would eat Cream of Wheat, and didn't fuss about Malt-o-Meal.  But oatmeal?  I gagged.  No matter how my mom tried to disguise the stuff with brown sugar, raisins, or cinnamon, I just couldn't manage it.  Lucky for me, my mom took pity.  She let me eat Rice Krispies instead.

Then, in 1970 - when I was 10 - Quaker introduced the first instant FLAVORED oatmeal.  Maple and Brown Sugar.  In individual packets.  Just add boiling water.  The kids on the Saturday morning TV commercials ADORED the stuff!  They were so happy -- just sitting there, perky and chirpy, mixing their own Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor!

Heck.  I wanted it, too!  I was absolutely convinced by the ad men on Madison Avenue that DESPITE the fact that I HATED oatmeal . . . I would adore THAT oatmeal!

The supermarket begging commenced.

Me:  Moooom.  Can we try THIS?  (Holding up box of Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.)

My Mom:  No.  You hate oatmeal.

Me:  Not THIS oatmeal.  It's new.  It's INSTANT Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.

My Mom:  No.

This went on for several weeks.  I was determined.  Each week, I pointed out the Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.  Each week, my Mom SHUT. ME. DOWN. with those words . . . You hate oatmeal.

Finally, after weeks of begging and cajoling, I wore my Mom down.  (She was probably having a rough day and was tired to begin with.)

Me:  Can we please, Please, PLEASE get this Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor?  PLEASE.

My Mom:  No.


My Mom:  (completely exasperated and totally worn down) If I buy this, YOU WILL EAT IT.

Me:  Of course, Mother Dearest.  Of course I will eat it!  I will eat every bite and lick the bowl and ask for More, PLEASE.

I had broken her down!  The Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor hit the cart.  I couldn't have been more excited!

And.  Well.  You know what happened the next morning?

One bite . . . and I GAGGED.

Hated it.

Those artificial flavors did nothing to camouflage the taste and texture of the oatmeal that I despised, and the texture?  Lumpy glue.

My Mom, though?  She didn't miss a beat.

Eat your oatmeal.

I didn't.

Eat your oatmeal.

I didn't.

You will SIT THERE until you EAT THAT OATMEAL.

I sat there.

All morning.

Finally, she let me go . . . with that Ultimate Mother Standby BUT YOU WILL EAT IT FOR LUNCH.

Lunchtime rolled around . . . and there sat my bowl of Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor.  She didn't even bother to heat it up.  And it was WAY worse than it was at breakfast.

I sat there.

She watched me from the living room.

My sister gloated.  (She wisely kept a low profile over the whole Instant Quaker Oatmeal thing.)

I sat there.

Saturday afternoon.  I was sitting there with that damn bowl of oatmeal.

The clock ticked.

The oatmeal sat.

I was starving.  But I couldn't gag down one spoonful.

It was a total standoff.

Finally, I noticed that my mom had disappeared.  She was nowhere to be seen.  It was my Big Chance!  I made a break for it and dumped that horrid bowl of Instant Quaker Oatmeal with Artificial Maple and Brown Sugar Flavor down the sink.  And then . . . I went in search of my Mom to show her my now-magically-empty bowl. 

It worked!  She bought it!  I was FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST!

And . . . I have not eaten oatmeal since!


This was one of my Mom's favorite stories.  Later, when I was a little older and she told me her version of the story, I learned that she was completely at a loss for how to get out of this "parenting mess."  She had drawn that line in the sand -- you will not leave the table until you eat that oatmeal -- and she didn't know how to get out of it once she had issued that edict.  She KNEW I wouldn't eat it.  (Heck, she wouldn't eat it!  She tried the oatmeal herself and thought it was awful.)  So . . . after all those hours of The Standoff, she left me alone for awhile -- hoping I would dump it so she could pretend I had eaten it!  Sneaky-sneaky!  As a 10-year-old, I thought I had pulled a Fast One.  But, no.  Not really.


Read about other "best breakfasts" here.  And . . . sign up for Think Write Thursday here.

One Morning in Ireland

My sister and I booked a private tour with a driver one morning in Dublin.  His name was Kieran, and he was just delightful.  After giving us several options of possible drives we could do in or around Dublin, we chose to drive south . . . stopping in a few coastal towns and ending up at (you guessed it. . . ) a world-renowned garden at Powerscourt Estate.


We stopped for a bit of a walk in Dalkey, a charming seaside resort town.  (And, according to Kieran, a very desirable - but very pricey - suburb of Dublin.)


It was quite early in town that morning, and the weather was a bit gloom-ish.  Things were very quiet.

But absolutely charming!


We would've loved to visit this shop, but it was closed.  (Best sign ever, non?)


Bono lives in Dalkey; we saw his driveway. . . and his "local" (pictured below).  (Apparently, author Maeve Binchy lived and wrote just down the street from the pub.)


Dalkey Island is just off the shore . . . 


The island is close enough that people regularly row or kayak out and spend the day -- climbing the tower, exploring the shoreline, having a picnic, etc.  Kieran regaled us with tales of kayaking bachelor's parties!


He also mentioned that there are dolphins in the waters here, but we didn't see any during our visit.


We drove further down the coast . . . to Powerscourt.  As we drove, the clouds were getting heavier and heavier!


I figured we'd be visiting another garden in the midst of rainstorm. . .  

(and, really . . . Ireland is THAT green!)

No worries, though.  We got through all of Powerscourt before the rain hit.

My first view. . . 


and then . . . looking back up at the estate house from the pond.


There was a marvelous Japanese garden. . . 


with a gorgeous little moss-y grotto. . .


(Seriously . . . The Green.)

I was kind of giddy . . . 


There was a Pet Cemetery . . . 


All of the family's beloved pets were buried here -- dogs, cats, ponies, even a cow!  The headstones were so sweet . . . 


The gardens were spectacular.

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The grounds were over the top!  (Kieran told us not to miss the 3-D garden gate.)

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And, in the end, the sun even came out!  (But only briefly.)

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It was a wonderful morning in Ireland!








Boxes of History

I have a new project . . . and it's a Biggie!  

For the past couple of weeks, I've been helping my dad clear through closets.  In the process, we've discovered boxes and boxes of old photos and papers and stacks of photo albums.  

They're now pretty much stacked and piled up on my dining room table.


I spent a few hours over the weekend sifting and sorting.  (And, really, I've only made a tiny dent in the pile. . .  There is much more sorting to do!)

I'm finding so many surprises.

For example, I never knew my dad played the piano!


Yet . . . there he is.

And my great grandfather - back in 1913 - bought the first power plow in the county for his farm.


I'm thinking I could get lost in these boxes for quite some time.