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September 2018

August 2018

Friday Fish Wrap

Here we are . . . the last day of August.  

The next time we meet, Labor Day will be behind us, and we'll already be a few days into September.  So.  Let's wrap up the month - and the season - with a Friday Fish Wrap.


Since it's nearly September - and the beginning of a new school year - let's talk "school supplies."  

Specifically . . . calendars.

I know many people love their digital calendars (and I do use one, too), but when it comes to planners - like for real planning and note taking and lists?  Well.  For me, nothing beats paper and pencil!

I used to be a devotee of the Planner Pad system, but once I stopped working full time, it just seemed too formal for my less-hectic lifestyle.  I switched over to basic bullet journaling (which I do using a Leuchtturm1917 notebook) about 4 years ago.  I've developed a system that works really well for me.  


But . . . 

The call of planners and journals is strong!  I can't resist shopping around when it comes to planners.  

If you, too, are looking for a new way to get yourself organized - and you like writing things down and crossing them off - check out this article from the New York Times reviewing the various types of paper planners that are out there.  Yeah - it's long.  But it's an extensive and thorough review with plenty of links.  And at the very end (scroll down and down and down), they even talk about "the competition" (those planners they looked at, but didn't quite make their final cut).  If you're looking to find the perfect planner, this is the article for you.

(Me?  I'm thinking about trying the Traveler's Notebook.  I welcome input from any of you who use that system -- and I know a few of you do!)


Feeling pressed for time?  Sick of being busy and overwhelmed?  Wondering how you can create a little more . . . white space . . . in your life?  Well. Here's an idea for you.

Courtney Carver (of Project 333 fame, and author of Soulful Simplicity) is offering a free, 21-day course to help you challenge your busyness and make time for what you really want.  She calls it the "Busy Boycott" -- and you can learn more about it here, and sign up for it here.  

Probably the biggest lesson I've had from my FOCUS year (so far) is that . . .  it's easy to fill your time and your days with things you don't really care that much about!  If you don't take charge and focus on what matters most TO YOU, you'll have a hard time ever shaking the overwhelming, too-stretched, out-of-balance feeling.  (And if you're feeling like you don't have time for a "busy boycott"?  Well.  You probably really ought sign up.)


Monday marks the final day of Mary's annual Book Bingo challenge.  I've had fun watching the bingo-action from the sidelines this year, and I'm always impressed at how many books people read when they're going for a bingo challenge! 


Now that Book Bingo is finished, what'cha gonna read???

Here's an idea to help you figure that out:  A list of 13 new books coming out in September.  I'm looking forward to reading two of them especially (Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, and Transcription by Kate Atkinson).  (Seriously, both of them have me a bit giddy with anticipation.)  

And here's a fun article about August's most art-ful book covers.  (I thought this would be especially fun for those of you Book Bingo players who needed to match your knitting to your book cover!)


Speaking of books . . . ten years ago now, when I was putting the pieces of my life back together after my chemo ended, I picked up a very pretty book while browsing at the book store.  It was an unusual size.  It was heavy.  And it was gorgeous!  I bought it as soon as I saw it.

That book was the Alabama Stitch Book -- the book that introduced me (and much of the rest of the stitching world) to Alabama Chanin.  I think I wore the pages out, just looking through it over and over and over again!  It was fascinating to me.  And inspiring.  And also totally intimidating.


To celebrate that 10-year anniversary, Alabama Chanin has re-issued their original book -- The Alabama Stitch Book -- now with a new cover, and an updated introduction -- but with the same inspiring gorgeousness inside.  They're even re-releasing some of the original designs from the book in kit form -- including the first Alabama Chanin project I ever made:  the Rose Shawl.  (Here's mine, first posted back in 2014.)

If you've been curious about the whole Alabama Chanin thing (or maybe you're interested in giving it a try), this is a great time to pick up the first book -- and some fun kits!


Attention all Peaceful Knitters!  

Christina Campbell (of The Healthy Knitter blog, and "founder" of Project Peace knitting) has just announced a timeline for this year's peace knitting project -- including a special pattern release on September 21 - the International Day of Peace (also Carole's birthday) (just sayin).  Project Peace begins on November 15, and it appears there will be multiple designs to choose from for this year's project.  

See Christina's timeline and get more information about this year's project here.  Mark your calendars!


Finally, I'll leave you with something slightly silly, but entertaining enough to keep two sisters emailing all morning.  

Ever wondered if your pinky finger holds special powers???  Like, for instance, revealing secrets about your personality???


Wonder no more!  Click here to read all about it!

(And my sister and I?  We discovered that our pinky fingers are different on each hand!  On one hand, we're Type B personalities - but on the other hand, we're Type C.) (How about you???)


And . . . that's a WRAP!

Have a great Labor Day weekend (here in the US), and a wonderful late summer weekend everywhere else!
See you on Tuesday.



My Garden Game is Still Strong

Okay.  So summer may be winding down, and parts of my garden are looking pretty . . . tired.  But there are still so many super cool things happening out there!

Here are three things for you today:

1 - Surprise blooms


Now, I am not (generally) a fan of the Rose of Sharon.  When I was looking for a tall-ish shrub for a rejuvenated garden bed earlier this season, though, I was drawn to this particular Rose of Sharon because of the variegated leaves.  (I tend to be a total sucker for variegated foliage.)  Besides, Rose of Sharon blooms late in the season -- and that is always a big PLUS in my book.  The plant is very small (this year), and I didn't expect it to bloom.  But look at that!  Blooms and buds everywhere!  (I even love the color of the blooms, which was a mystery when I bought the plant last spring.)

2 -- Bumper crop


Usually by this time in the season, my basil has bolted and gone to seed.  I've been deadheading and cutting back regularly this year, though, and look at this!  Beautiful basil, still going strong.  I think some fresh pesto (and maybe a few more basil bombs) are in my immediate future.

3 -- Ready to POP


Here it comes . . . sweet autumn clematis!  Thousands of little, white, fragrant blooms are just itching to pop right open.  The bees are already going nuts for these tiny blooms, which climb all over my garden gate and fence.  These flowers are so wonderful as the summer winds down -- and they leave the prettiest seed heads behind for fall, too.

(Next week, maybe I'll show you the deadest and brownest things in my garden.)  
(Just to keep things in balance!)


Be sure to head over to Carole's to read other Three on Thursday posts.



So Many Ways to Unravel

Not your typical Unraveled post . . . but unraveled all the same!


Early in the evening last night, a severe thunderstorm moved through . . . wreaking havoc in our up north neighborhood.  It is so scary to be in the woods during strong winds and storms -- to see the wind whipping those trees around, to hear all the branches falling onto your roof and against your windows, and especially to hear the THUD of a giant tree hitting the ground.*

We lost power.  We tried to make the best of it by playing Scrabble by candlelight.  (And taking selfies while wearing our headlamps.  Because what else are you going to do?)


But after continuing thunderstorms through the night - and the sound of more trees falling - we knew power restoration wouldn't be simple or quick.  (When we lose power up north, it's not just electricity that we lose.  It's also water-- because the pump on our well is electric.)  

So our lovely end-of-summer week up north unraveled a few days early.  We packed up . . . and headed home.

(But that's okay.)  (Our toilets flush at home!)


  • While many trees came down all around us, our little cottage was spared any damage.


Be sure to visit Kat today, for Unraveled posts that are likely MUCH more relevant to the world of knitting, stitching, and reading than this one!

Following that September Feeling

Yesterday I mentioned that I've started feeling that "September feeling" . . . and it seems that many of you are feeling it, too!

Based on the comments you left yesterday, lots of us consider Labor Day - along with a change in temperatures and the loss of daylight - to be a turning point or symbolic start of a new year.  Some of us feel a bit restless -- anticipating the change of season, but not really feeling it yet (because weather), and many of us feel energized -- ready to embrace the coming autumn, and feeling a sense of renewal.

I'm up north this week, and while yesterday was super hot and humid (I felt like I was in the deep tropical rainforest instead of the north woods. . . ), today is cool and rainy-rainy-rainy.   Fall is definitely coming.  


September has a back-to-school vibe that is hard for me to ignore - or escape.  Even though I haven't sent my kids back to school in nearly a decade -- and it's been far, far longer since I've gone back to school myself -- I just can't escape the "September feeling" of a new teacher and a new classroom, fresh pencils and unmarked workbooks.  September will always, always feel like a brand new start -- full of possibility -- for me!

Author Gretchen Rubin first remarked that "September is the other January" in her book Happier at Home -- where she set up her home happiness project to coincide with the academic calendar.  Gretchen noted that "each year, Labor Day was a milestone that provoked . . . self-evaluation and reflection."

That definitely happens for me, too -- just like it does at the (calendar) beginning of the new year.  I find September to be a great time to reflect on my year so far, to recommit to (and sometimes to even remind myself of) goals and intentions I set for myself back in January, and maybe even to set some new intentions for the remainder of the year.  I really do see it as a chance to renew myself.

Psychology research even shows that there is such a thing as the "fresh start effect."  It turns out that people are more likely to look at their lives differently afer a "temporal landmark" or milestone events in their lives.  These events can be as major as a medical diagnosis, a new job, moving to a new place, getting married, etc. . . . OR as commonplace as a birthday, the start of a new season, or even a new month.  These "temporal landmarks" (which can really be from nearly any life event. . . ) bring about feelings of change, of new-ness, of a clean slate.  They become a way of measuring our lives (before I had cancer/after I had cancer; before I graduated/after I graduated; during the summer/now that it's fall) -- and new ways of living them.

Think about it how often this happens in your own life . . . 

  • Maybe "summer you" lived a more easy-breezy schedule and got out of her regular routines (ahem. . . ) -- but "September you" is going to recalibrate and get back to business!
  • Surely rested and relaxed "vacation you" is ready to transition back to "work you" (often after an uncomfortable vacation-jet-lag couple of days . . . ).
  • And doesn't it always seems that "holiday-what-the-heck you" is eager to get back to "healthy you" after the parties wind down and the cookies are (finally) gone?

Basically, we can conjure a new start any time we want.  But for lots of us . . . it coincides with the start of the school year.  September!

And what do we do with this "fresh start effect"?

We reflect.
We resolve.
We recalibrate.
We hit re-set.

I'm going to be spending some time during these last days of August . . . looking back and thinking ahead.  I want to embrace the changing season with a renewed sense of energy.  

How about you?  Any plans for September . . . the "other January?"




Sometimes Mondays

. . . feel like change.


It's in the air.  Can you feel it?

I call it my "September feeling" . . . and it's the point when I finally accept the inevitability of the end of summer.  

Not necessarily the end of summer-as-a-season.  I know the weather will remain summery for quite some time yet, and that I'll be wearing my flip-flops for many, many more weeks to come.  I'm really talking about a change in my own summer-as-a-season-mind-set.  About how I spend my days and where my brain starts going . . . as summer winds down.

How about YOU?  Do you get this "September feeling?"  If you do, what triggers it for you -- and what changes do you make in your own life as a result?

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Thirty-seven years ago today . . . 


these two kiddos (my god we were young) walked down the aisle and said, "I do."

Today . . . we'll be walking down a different kind of aisle.  This time, we'll be looking for our seats at Hamilton in Chicago.  (Because you can't just see it once.)

Enjoy the rest of your week.  (I'll be back on Monday!)

Thoughts on Summer Reading

"Time is a river, and books are boats."
                            --- Dan Brown


Unlike past summers, this year I decided not to play Book Bingo.  It was hard at first.  So many of you in the blogosphere were planning your cards and choosing titles and reporting early BINGOs.  In this FOMO (fear of missing out) world, it's hard to swim against the tide!

But this was the right decision for me.  It's been delightful to just . . . read . . . this summer.  Whatever title strikes my fancy.  However many pages.  Whatever the color of the cover.  Or whether it matches my knitting.  No matter the year the author was born.  Or who the narrator is.  

I've been reading at a slower pace this summer -- really savoring each book, and taking the time to write summaries and notes and take down quotes.  I'm giving myself . . . space . . .  around each book -- a kind of pause between books.  Sure,  that means I've read fewer books this summer than in previous years.  But I'm sure I'll remember them with more clarity by the time next summer rolls around!

I've really enjoyed reading all the book reviews and BINGO calls this summer -- but I'm happy with my own decision, and I don't feel like I missed out on the fun at all.  (If you want to check out the books I have read this summer, you can visit my Goodreads page by clicking on the link at the bottom of the sidebar.)


Here's a little book-related tidbit for all you fans of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels.  HBO is putting out a television mini-series based on the books, beginning with My Brilliant Friend, and then continuing through the rest of the series Read all about it here and here.



On the Trail

This summer, Tom and I have been going on long bike rides each Wednesday when we're in town.  We usually go in the mornings, when it's a bit cooler and the trail is less likely to be crowded with other cyclists and walkers.

Yesterday, though, our schedules didn't work out for a morning ride -- so we had to delay until late in the afternoon.  It was hot, and thunderstorms were threatening, but what a pleasant time for a bike ride!  We even had the trail to ourselves.

Here are three views from my bike yesterday . . . 


That's Tom, up ahead.  When I ride with my friends, we usually pair up and chat the whole way.  With Tom?  Not so much!  He rides a bit ahead (because he's faster than I am) -- but we stick together and enjoy a quiet ride.  (Besides, as Tom says . . . what would we talk about on the trail that we can't talk about together at home?)


For the most part, the trail we ride goes through the woods.  Every once it a while, though, it opens up to reveal farm fields and big sky.  Yesterday there were thunderstorms rolling in, and a bit of light rain now and again.  The sky was just lovely.


We even saw a rainbow!  This one appeared to go right down to the ground . . . but no pot of gold that we could see.

I'm glad we switched things up and tried a late afternoon ride.  It was nice to see the trail at a different time of day than usual and it was a perfect way to shake off the stress of a busy day (in a busy week).

You know what our biggest discovery was, though, on our afternoon ride?  Well . . . beer and pizza tastes even better after 20 miles on your bike! 


To read more Three on Thursday posts, head over to Carole's!

Call and Response

Surprises. . . 

especially heartfelt surprises . . . 

are so very special!


And when they're so, so perfect. . .

and when they're from such a special friend. . .

and when they're stitched with love . . .

Well.  Off-the-charts wonderful!


Thank you, Carole!  I love it.

(Read all about this vey special shawl over at Carole's today.)