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May 2018

Tales from the Garden . . . x 3

At this time of year, my garden is exploding everywhere -- and I am always racing to keep up with it.  (It's my own personal Whack-a-Mole game out there.)  

Sometimes it feels like Major Overwhelm.   Then I need to talk to myself and remind myself that . . . 

I love to garden.

This is the way gardening works.

I couldn't wait to get out there again when it was never-ending winter.

Just. Dig. In.

And so it goes.  


Here are three little tales from my garden this week.

1 - Earth Moving


This little garden bed near our back patio had gotten WAY overgrown in the last few years.  The old path was pretty much inaccessible.  Too many plants growing too well . . .   So.  We battled the heat over the weekend (near 100 degrees F every day) to dig out plants, level the ground, and re-set the path.  (JoJo is happy to demonstrate that even the dogs appreciate an easy-to-walk pathway through the garden.)

I have more work to do out there -- a bit more thinning-out and some planting-in.  We placed three big rocks in the newly-opened area to remind me NOT to overplant.  I'm happy with the new path -- and I want to keep it open and functional.  

2 - Resilience in Action


One day early last summer, I stopped at Lowe's for . . . something (but not a plant).  I entered the store through the nursery department (as one does), and a couple of lovely, blooming, Asian lilies caught my eye.  (It was their stunning orange blooms.  They get me every time.)

On impulse, I bought 'em.

But once I had them at home, I couldn't figure out where I wanted to put them.

So they hung out on my patio - in their original plant containers - all summer.  I took care of them, of course.  I kept them watered and sheltered while I tried to figure out just where they might fit in my garden.  But, by fall, I realized they were going to have to overwinter on their own, still in their little pots -- and I was completely prepared to just let them go.

The photo above?  The same lilies (in the same pots) today.  Resilient little suckers, non?

(I'm still looking for a place to put them.)

3 - Over Too Soon


I love my allium blooms . . . hovering there each spring over the newly-unfurled hostas in my garden.  It always looks so magical.  And it did this year, too.  For like . . . one day!  I didn't even get a picture this year . . . 

You see, allium are spring blooms.  They like gently-warming days.  You know . . . the kind you usually get in, oh . . say, late May?  Cool nights, warming days.  That kind of thing.  And the blooms will last for weeks under those conditions.

This year?  We went from mid-50s to upper-90s in the same week!  Those allium?  Super confused.  From bloom-to-done in a couple of days this year.

(I'm tempted to spray paint them.  I've seen that done on many a garden tour . . . )  (But I probably won't.)


And now?  I'm headed out for some early morning weeding.  (It's the only way when it's This Hot.)

Head over to Carole's for more Three on Thursday posts today.



Unraveling . . . On Paper

Although I am tempted to share my progress on my mitered-square project, I've realized that I'm close enough to the actual finish line now (10 squares to go!) that I might as well wait until next week when (I think) it will be finished.

So today, I'll share another kind of finished project for you . . . 


This is a rather large (16" square) colored pencil "portrait" of Tom's Mini, based on a photograph I took while the car was parked in our driveway.

And it has taken me months to finish!

Agonizing months.  (So many times I just wanted to trash the thing.)

In the end, though, I think it turned out just fine.  And I certainly learned a whole lot in the process.  Which was really the point.

I thought you might enjoy seeing the drawing . . . unravel.  Back to the beginning.


We're really fortunate here in Kalamazoo to have the Kalamazoo Institute of Art.  Not only is it a fine art museum, but it also has a wonderful art education program for both adults and kids -- with classes offered year-round in pretty much any art medium.  The classes are semester-based, and the teachers are excellent.

I loved art class in high school, and I even took a few classes in college, but it had been years and years since I'd done any real "arting," and it took a while before I finally decided to face my personal demons (the not-good-enough and who-do-you-think-you-are voices are loud) and sign up for a class at the KIA.  I was totally intimidated to walk through those doors that first time . . . with my little bin of drawing tools!

It's been a great experience, though.  I've taken colored pencil drawing and watercolor and printmaking classes -- finally settling on colored pencil as my preferred media.  (I'm a much better "drawer" than I am a "painter.")  I've made a whole crop of new friends -- and the environment is supportive and encouraging from both the instructors and fellow students.


Although I draw and doodle all kinds of this-and-that at home, for my classes I like to choose more challenging subjects -- so I can learn new techniques and stretch myself a little.  I've done marbles and soap bubbles and a glass of beer with foam and a trout rising out of the water, for example.  Each time, I've frustrated the hell out of myself!  But each time, I've also learned a lot.

This time, I wanted to draw something shiny.

So I chose Tom's Mini.


In retrospect, I really didn't know what I was getting into.  Cars . . . have a lot of detail!  Really specific details.  (And really specific details that . . . say . . . the car's owner notices.  Just sayin.)

The entire time I worked on this drawing, I felt like one of those boys back in junior high school who were always drawing highly detailed dragsters on their notebook pages.  (Remember them?)  


There were many (many) times along the way when it was just too overwhelming.  It felt . . . too daunting.  How would I ever make this red blobby thing look like a CAR?

I whined.

But I also kept going.  And I had a lot of encouragement along the way -- from my instructor (remember this?) and my fellow classmates, and from Tom and my dad at home.


And . . . eventually . . . I had a drawing of Tom's car!

Colored pencil drawing is s-l-o-w.  It's layer after layer of color.  Nothing speedy about it!  

Kind of like . . . knitting.  Y'know?


Even though this post has nothing to do with stitching, I'm still playing the "unraveled" game along with Kat and friends.  Hop on over to Kat's to see what others are unraveling this week.


Want to see the original photo of Tom's Mini?  Here it is . . . 


Sometimes Life . . .

just gets so far off track that it's hard to get back on the track.  Y'know?


Even when things go off the rails for all the right reasons, sometimes it's a struggle to find that equilibrium again.  (At least . . . it is for me.)

But I've been here before.  Feeling off-kilter and way out of balance.  And I know just what to do!

Move my body.
Get outside.
Create something.

I'm back to my five-daily-requirements for a balanced life -- and I'll be back on track before you know it.

Pretty Much a Ferris Bueller Kind of Thing

Earlier this week, my sister and Tom and I headed to Chicago for a quick couple of days.  The weather was . . . not great.  But we had a great time . . . cramming as many activities into our hours in Chicago as we could.

There was deep dish pizza.


And a walk on Navy Pier.


There is a certain charm to seeing the city swamped in fog.  Even though it does cut down on the views!  (Usually, this vista from Navy Pier would feature the impressive Chicago skyline in the background.  You'll just have to imagine it, though.  Like we did.)


We visited The Bean between rainstorms.  (It never fails to charm.)  (The Bean.  Not the rainstorms.)


The next day was a dry -- but cold!  A great day to spend inside at the Art Institute.


And the weather cleared enough that we could take the Architectural Foundation River Cruise in the afternoon . . . 


before hitting the Purple Pig for dinner.


And then . . . 


which totally and absolutely lived up to its hype.  (In the words of Ferris Bueller . . . "It is so choice.")

It was a great couple of days -- a regular Ferris Bueller kind of thing!


Not much time to blog right now. . . my sister arrived yesterday!


(I dragged her out for an early morning walk on the Kal-Haven Trail to see the trillium blooming.)  (She's a very good sport.)

Here's a quick TGIF:

T - Thinking about . . . spending the next several days catching up and hanging out with my sister.

G - Grateful for . . . family time.

I - Inspired by . . . laughter and good conversation.

F - Fun times . . .  we're heading to Chicago for a few days (and super excited to see Hamilton while we're there).

I'll be taking a bit of a blog-vacation next week.
Catch you on the flip side.

Sewing. So Much Faster Than Knitting.

I'm, basically, a tunic-and-leggings kind of gal.  It's what I wear about 90% of the time.  Often with some sort of sweater thrown over the top.  So when I first heard about the Knit & Sew Uniform book (published by Madder), I got myself on the pre-order list right away!

A variations-on-a-theme book of patterns for tunics (the "sew" part of the Uniform) and cardigans (the "knit" part of the Uniform), the whole concept is really perfect for me.

I whipped up a tunic for myself over the weekend.  


I opted for the tunic version with pockets, no sleeves, and the rounded neckline.


I pretty much love it.  (Although I have a few issues with the placement of the darts.  And from what I see from photos of other finished Uniform tunics, this is pretty typical. They're just . . . too high.)

The size options are good.  The directions are very clear.  The sewing is straightforward.


I gave myself contrasting pocket linings.  Mostly because I like pops of color -- and a "surprise inside."  But also because I wanted to cut down on the bulk of fabric over my middle section (ahem).  (Because who wants four layers of heavy-ish linen over their middle section?)  So I used a lightweight cotton print for the pocket linings.


I also used the cotton for the armhole bias facings.  Again, pop of color.  AND it really cut down on the bulk around the armholes.


I'll probably make another tunic, as I really want to try the split-hem variation.  But I'm going to have to think about those darts for awhile first.  (It's such a pain to move darts.)

One thing is certain -- don't expect to see a completed knit Uniform cardigan around here anytime soon.  Someday, sure.  But not this summer.  

(Sewing.  So much faster than knitting. . . )


Focus: A Mid-Year Update

(Okay.  So it's not mid-year yet, but close enough.)

Way back in January, I explained that I had chosen the word FOCUS to . . . well, focus on . . . for the year.  

I quoted Ferris Bueller.  

I told you that I wanted to focus on what I might be missing -- at what I'm not seeing -- because I've been too busy looking at what I'm already seeing.

I told you I wanted to . . . adjust my focus.


Now I'm here to report back . . . that I'm doing just that.
Adjusting my focus!

And it's kind of fascinating, actually.

Early in the year, I worked out five basic elements to . . . focus on.  (I crack myself up.)

  • Re-thinking my priorities.  (Where do I want my focus to be?)
  • Hacking away at the unessential.  (Paring down.)
  • Ending the distractions.  (Identifying my focus-pullers.)
  • Being mindful.  (Staying focused.)
  • Paying attention to the "space between." (What am I missing?)

Although I'm thinking about all five things all the time, I pretty much started at the top of the list.  And I'm working my way down.

Initially, I did a lot of thinking about how I wanted to be spending my time and living my life by setting priorities and making some hard desicions.  I'm definitely living a more streamlined life now.  I've pruned out a lot of the unessential -- commitments, activities, stuff.  I'm saying NO more often than before, but also saying YES when it makes sense.  My actions are lining up with my priorities.

Right now, I'm taking a hard look at the distractions in my life.  Initially, I thought this would be easy.  But . . . well . . . not so much!  Turns out I'm easily distracted.  I chase shiny objects, and seek out rabbit-holes.  I like daydreaming.  And going off on tangents.  But I'm definitely making progress at figuring this one out.

So, here at (nearly) mid-year, I think I'm onto something:  This FOCUS thing . . . is working!

"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.  The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."
                                                                                                                --- Alexander Graham Bell




Sometimes Mondays

. . . look like rain.


But that's just fine by me!

It's so good for my thirsty, growing garden.

And wet soil makes it much easier to pull weeds.

And it gives me a perfect excuse to run around in my chicken boots.

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
                    --- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday Fish Wrap

I've been gathering a bit of this and a little of that for a couple of weeks now.  That means . . . it's time for another Friday Fish Wrap.


(Someone dropped some paperwork off to me yesterday -- inside this bag.  It made me smile and brings me joy.)


When I was a kid, I was totally intrigued with and terrified by two natural phenomena:  quicksand and volcanoes.  How naive I was -- to think that these might be real threats in my daily, adult world!  Somehow, I imagined them as much more prevalent, something that I might actually encounter as I moved through my days.

It didn't take me long to learn that there were actual threats -- but not from quicksand or volcanoes.  Adult-Me, though, got totally sucked in to news and footage of this week's Hawaii volcano situation.  (Talk about a rabbit hole.)

There are some amazing videos of what the lava flow from this volcano looks like.  Plus . . . Science!  I have been exposed to all-new science terms -- words like "volcanology" and "volcanologists," "active vents," and "lava lakes."  It's pretty fascinating, actually.  

(For a brief time in my early college days, I considered a career in geology.  Then I found out I still needed to take chemistry.  Quite a bit of chemistry, actually.  And that was the dealbreaker for me.)  (So funny  . . . because then I married a chemist.)  (And then I gave birth to one.)  (But those are stories for another day.)

Anyway.  Check out this video from National Geographic.  The lava flow is really awesome.  


Sunday is Mother's Day.  Last year, I really struggled with my first Mother's Day sans mother.  It's still hard a year later, and probably will be forever.  But it definitely feels more . . . settled . . . for me this year.

I think it helps that I created my "Mom Garden" full of my mom's favorite flowers.  It's been rewarding and powerful to have this physical space that binds me to her in a tangible way.  This week, her beloved tulips are the shining stars in my garden!


I planted the bulbs last fall, and this is their first year to bloom -- just in time for Mother's Day.  (Hi, Mom!)  

On Mother's Day, I will plant a new dahlia in my mom's honor.  (My mom loved dahlias -- and she planted them in her garden in memory of her own mother.)   I used to give her a beautiful, new dahlia every Mother's Day.  I think I'll just continue doing that.


The New York Times has recently acknowledged - and rectified - a major oversight in their obituary department.  Yes, it turns out that since 1851, the Times obituary section has been dominated by white men.  (Surprised?  Nah.)  To rectify more than a century of negligence, the NY Times has begun adding the stories - and obituaries - of remarkable women who . . . well . . . didn't make the cut when they died.  

Click in to Overlooked to read the obituaries of women the Times should have published in the first place.  It's fascinating.  So many women.  I can't even imagine that the NY Times of the time didn't feel these obituaries deserved to be written.  (But, really.  Of course I can imagine this.)  (Can't you?)

Ida B. Wells.  Charlotte Brontë.  Henrietta Lacks.  Sylvia Plath.  Ada Lovelace.  Ruth Wakefield.

(Talk about a rabbit hole!)  (These women are amazing . . . and - before now - overlooked by the New York Times.)


It's that time again!  Time to play Summer Book Bingo.  Mary has, once again, master-minded the whole thing:  setting up Bingo cards, rules, and 98 (!) categories.  Click here to whoooosh right over to Mary's blog to print out your own Summer Book Bingo card and start reading.

Although I'm not playing along this year (it's a FOCUS thing . . . ), I've already signed on with Mary to be the official Captain of the Cheerleading Squad!  I'm looking forward to watching the rest of you rack up the BINGOs this summer.  Go, Readers!


Have you Knitters seen this shawl over on Ravelry?  It looks cool.  It looks fun.  It looks wearable.  And . . . it's FREE!


It's Spring!  Finally . . . pretty much everywhere . . . Spring has sprung.


Time to quit with the hygge?

Not so fast, my friends!

Here are 10 ways you can keep up the hygge all through the summer:

  1. Open the windows
  2. Give your home a thorough spring cleaning
  3. Change up your bedding (goodbye, flannel!)
  4. Switch out your curtains (or . . . get rid of them altogether)
  5. Bring the outdoors in with plants and fresh flowers
  6. Lighten up -- pare down the tchotchkes for the season
  7. Accentuate your home with natural elements (a bowl of lemons, maybe?)
  8. Pack away throws and cushions to keep things simple and comfortable
  9. Bring the inside outside (think drinks-on-the-patio)
  10. Keep the candles (always with the candles), but change up the scents


Finally, a couple of updates:

  • Jenny is doing fabulously!  She is back to her happy, diva-self -- and she thanks you all for your good juju.
  • My red shoes from last week?  They are these.  Although I could pick these up locally, they did not have the red version I wanted.  So I ordered from Zappos.
  • I ended up not signing up for the KnitStars thing.  Although I think it sounds like a very well-done series --  one where I'm absolutely sure I'd learn a lot -- I just think the timing is not right for me.  (Again - it's a FOCUS thing.)
  • Several people have asked about the mug I've shown here from time to time (it's one of my favorites).  I don't exactly know where it came from, but I've had it since just after the Women's March in 2017.  Here's a photo of the mug in a more readable format (just as it's headed into the dishwasher last night).



And . . . that's a wrap!  A Friday Fish Wrap!

Have a great weekend, y'all.





Makin' Stuff

Now that my dining room is finished (you just can't belive how nice it is to type those words), I've got a few other projects going on. (For rainy days like today, y'know?)

1 - Some are ongoing.  


(And, yeah, I'm sparing you yet another photo of the still-not-finished-but-growing-in-the-expected-manner shawl.  But there is a pile of evidence that I'm making progress.)

2 - Some are just beginning.


(But promise to be pretty quick and easy to complete.)  (Although it looks funny in the light, the fabric is a nice chocolate brown linen.)

3 - Some are being resurrected.


(This is an Alabama Chanin swing skirt -- half finished.  I put it aside over a year ago because I really don't like the color.  It's called "denim," but really looks pretty purple.  Vicki suggested over-dying, so I've dragged it out again.) (I can also see that I learned a few tricks at the AC workshop last fall, so this old work looks kind of messy.  But, oh well.)

I've always got something going . . . to keep my hands busy.

How about YOU?  What kind of stuff are you makin' today?


Head on over to Carole's to read other Three on Thursday posts.