A Bit of Pampering

I have returned from my visit to Pittsburgh.

This time, my trip didn't include any sightseeing.  No trips to gardens.  No pilgrimages to special restaurants or brew pubs.  No shows.  Nothing fancy.

Just . . . a bit of pampering!

Erin, as you may recall from earlier posts, is in the Technical Writing graduate program at Carnegie Mellon University.  This program is intense, highly competitive, and quite grueling.  Erin, who works really hard and has Very High Standards for herself, really needed a good rest and some restorative time during her spring break.

Mom to the rescue!

My strategy was to just . . . keep things low-key.

We did some shopping.  (Baby needs a new interview suit. . . )  (And a new pair of shoes, too.)


We enjoyed an indulgent spa day.  (Massages and facials, all around!)


We ate out a few times -- and I also cooked a Mom-dinner in Erin's kitchen.


We had a great time playing with Erin and Keith's silly kitty, Dash. 


There was a whole lot of kicking back and just relaxing.  I even pampered myself -- with some wine and stitching (both knitting and Alabama Chanin) -- back in my hotel room every night.  (Gotta love my hotel wine glass!)


And . . . a special bonus!  While Erin spent some much-deserved sleeping-in time, I met someone very special for a coffee date!


Kat (yeah . . . THAT Kat) and I spent hours and hours chatting and catching up and even getting a bit riled up together at a Starbucks somewhat-near downtown Pittsburgh.  

Time flew!

I can attest that her incredible daily stitching project is even MORE awesome up-close-and-personal than it is on Instagram (and it's pretty dang awesome on Instagram).  I think Kat knit a few stitches while we were together, but my bag-of-sock just sat there on the table for the entirety of our visit.

As always, it's wonderful to meet a blog-friend in real life . . .


My time in Pittsburgh was perfect.  Restful and relaxing -- with plenty of pampering.




Tribute Ten

Last week, Tom and I hosted some Very Special Guests.



Carole and Dale.

Right here in Kalamazoo!

Carole isn't back home quite yet . . . so there is no Ten on Tuesday today.  But I decided to Ten on Tuesday anyway . . . in her honor.

A Tribute Ten . . . With Carole On Her Vacation:

1 - We laughed a LOT.  (Tom and Dale both know so many jokes.  So. Many.)

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2 - We went Up North.


3 - Where some of us fished.  While others of us sat around and talked and maybe knit a few rows here and there.


4.  We swam.  Or, again, some of us swam.  While others of us worked on our tans.  (And sometimes chased duck families away.)


5.  We played games.  Tom and I introduced Carole and Dale to Pass the Pigs -- and let's just say that . . . Carole ran the table.  (She even rolled the elusive Leaning Jowler!)


6.  We visited the Lake Michigan beach.  And, yep.  It looks just like the ocean.  Without the salt.

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7.  We did a pub crawl, Kalamazoo-style.  Someone was the Designated Driver.  (Guess who?)


8.  We listened to live music.  

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9.  And more live music.


10.  And generally had a great time wherever we went!


So much fun!

Thanks for visiting Kalamazoo, Carole and Dale!




WhirlWIND Flower Extravaganza!

I've gone to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show every year for the last six years.  Usually, I sign up to go on a bus trip sponsored by one or another of the garden groups in town.  It's fun that way -- hanging out with other gardeners on a (relatively) comfortable charter bus, knitting all the way, not having to worry about Chicago traffic, and being transported right to the door of the flower show.

But this year . . . no bus trips!  

So I decided to just drive myself.  I invited a few of my gardening friends -- and off we went!

The drive to Chicago from Kalamazoo is easy (it's just the traffic that's Not Fun) -- but yesterday we had the added complication of super-duper high winds.  We knew it would be okay, though -- because as we headed west toward Chicago on I-94, this giant, brilliantly-intense, full double rainbow appeared just before us.  (I so wanted to stop and take a picture -- but it was pouring rain at the time.)

Anyway.  We had an easy - though windy! - drive in to the city (only had to wrangle with one uncooperative toll booth), and walked into this . . . 


Bright, bold color -- everywhere!


The best thing about the flower show . . . is really just seeing the explosions of color.

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Sweet, blooming flowers.

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Hydrangeas of all colors and sizes.

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Old favorites that just smell so wonderful!

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A general sense of hope for the return of Spring -- and blooms of my own.

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We had a great time at the flower show -- and it's always nice to get away with gardening friends where there are blooms around!  But.  We were all rather disappointed in the actual show overall.  After seeing so many of them, this one just lacked the WOW-displays of past shows.  We talked about this a lot on our way home.  We wondered if it's just that we're "hard to please" because we've been to so many shows . . . but we decided, no.  This one really was a bit lackluster.

Still.  It was a great day -- and so wonderful to spend some time among the blooms!

The winds were even stronger on our drive home - but we were traveling east, so they were behind us.  It took nearly half a tank of gas to drive to Chicago (pretty typical) -- but the needle barely dropped below a half-tank on the way home from Chicago (not typical at all).

I decided it really was a whirlWIND day!


Adventures in Rhinebeck


Ask any knitter.  
They'll tell you (whether they've been there or not) that Rhinebeck is all about . . . 






And . . . well . . . now that I've been there,


I can tell you - first hand - that, indeed . . . Rhinebeck is all about . . . 



From the moment you enter (and, really, even before . . . if traffic is heavy over the bridge. . . ) you will encounter lines at Rhinebeck.  Parking.  Entrance gates. Getting IN to a yarn vendor's booth.  PAYING at a yarn vendor's booth.  Bathrooms.  Food.  The lines are endless!  (Really.  People.  You can buy Miss Babs' yarn online.)



It's a Rhinebeck Tradition . . . to knit - and then wear - a new sweater for Rhinebeck.  I did not do this.  Patty did not do this.  (But both of us wore handknit shawls.)  We did see lots of sweaters, though.  Some were really cool.  Some were really horrid.  Some were worn layered with so many other hand knits -- shawls and hats and mitts and socks and scarves -- that you could barely SEE the sweater.  But mostly?  We saw this hat.  It was EVERYWHERE at Rhinebeck this year.



Yeah.  We've all heard about how great the artichokes are at Rhinebeck.  We've also heard that you sometimes need to wait in a line for 45 minutes to get those artichokes.  I'm here to tell you . . . 45 minutes would be a SHORT wait.  We did not try the artichokes.  (Or any other food, for that matter.)  (The lines were ungodly.)  (Just sayin.)



So. Much. Yarn.  So much that even when you SWORE YOU DID NOT NEED ANY YARN . . . you still walk out with yarn.  (You are simply helpless at Rhinebeck.)

Really.  Overwhelming.  After only a few hours, Patty and I felt a little like zombies.


We want yarn!

More yarn.

It was all so much over the top.  

We needed sustenance, so we headed . . . 


Really.  Rhinebeck was a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to take it all in.  (But, oh man.  I was ready for a beer!)



While in the area, we did a number of other really wonderful things that didn't involve fiber or people or lines (or, sadly, artichokes).

We visited the Eveready Diner for lunch.


We visited the Vanderbilt Mansion . . . where they happened to have gardens.


And we enjoyed unbelievable views of the Hudson River.


What a beautiful part of the world!


Charmed, I'm Sure

After spending a few days with Carole, we met up with Patty (I believe they referred to this as "The Handoff").  The three of us ate lunch at an Indian restaurant in a converted Taco Bell.  (The Taco Bell sign - and the drive-up - were still there.  Which was a bit confusing.)  

Then Patty and I began our Trek to Rhinebeck.


That's Patty, standing at the shore of Lake Dennison -- just down the road from her home in northern Massachusetts.  (Where I also got to meet her wonderful husband, Doug, and Boone, who many of you know already from Patty's blog.  Boone is an absolute sweetheart!)  

(We won't mention the fact that it was snowing just moments before I took this photo.  No.  We won't.)

Before I get to our Rhinebeck Adventure, though (tune in tomorrow. . . ), I must pause to show you the MOST CHARMING rental house ever.  


Patty found it using airbnb -- months and months and months ago.

This house, located in Woodstock (yeah, that Woodstock), was billed on airbnb as "an artist's paradise." And . . . it was!

Here's the studio . . . 


Seriously, this place felt like we had stepped into a photo shoot!

The comfortable and inviting living room (where we DID knit, by the way) . . . 


The unbelievably wonderful kitchen (especially once we figured out how to make french press coffee) (thank you, YouTube) . . . 


My bedroom upstairs (no photos of either of the claw-foot bathtubs, though; not because I didn't try - but because they didn't turn out) (man, those tubs are hard to get in and out of ) . . .


And a screened in porch off the back of the house (but, sadly, it was too frickin' cold to spend any time out there) . . .


Really.  Everywhere we looked, there was loveliness . . . 


Sweet little vignettes . . . 


and whimsical touches.


The placed DRIPPED with charm!  (And, yeah.  That's a garden shed out back.)  (Of course.)


I just kept repeating, "It's so charming!

Over and over and over again.  (I'm pretty sure Patty was ready to choke me if I said it again.)

We were so comfortable in - and so charmed by - this house, I'm surprised we made it to Rhinebeck at all.  (But we did.)

So. Charmed.



Not One Stitch

Back in 2009, when I first started to blog, I never (not in a million years) expected to actually meet other bloggers.  

Over the past couple of years, though, I've had the great fortune of meeting several blog friends in real life.  What is fascinating to me - when I spend real time with these virtual friends - is how true their blogs are to their personalities.  The way they talk; the way they look at life; the stories they tell.  When you meet them, well . . . you're just not surprised.

Last week, I got to spend a few days with Carole.  What a treat!  Carole-in-real-life is just like Carole-on-her-blog.  Warm.  Inviting.  Funny.  Thoughtful.  (With wicked-mad Pie-Skillz.)

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We had a great time together.  We talked and talked and talked.  We shared stories.  We laughed.  We laughed some more.  We had a drink (or two).  And we talked shared more stories.  

I got to meet Dale.  And Hannah.


I got to see a cranberry bog up close.  (So. Cool.)


I got to see the beautiful fall colors along the Satucket River.  I saw Frank Harlow's grave.  I got to ride in Carole's new Mustang (with the top down!).


I got to visit Plymouth Rock.  (The Mayflower did NOT "crash" into it.)  (Just sayin.) 


I got to watch Carole's pie-making magic in action -- and then I got to taste.  (Oh. Man.)
Carole's pot roast, too.  (Let me just say . . . melt-in-your-mouth!)


I got to learn about Civil War history -- and the ins and outs of re-enactment -- directly from Dale.  I got to sit on the deck and sip a dirty martini.  


I had a fabulous time - every single minute.  Thanks, Carole.  So glad you're a real friend . . . from a virtual world.

(But you know what we didn't do?)  

(Knit.)  (Seriously.)

(Not one stitch!)


Even Your Darkest Night


Sometimes . . . bad things happen to people.

Job loss.

Kid trouble.

A bad diagnosis.

The death of someone close.

Life's hardest challenges rain down sometimes.

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This week, Carole (who needs our support right now, by the way) asks us about Ten Things to Do to be Supportive When Someone Dies.  I'm going to extend that sentiment a bit  . . . to Ten Things to Do to be Supportive When Someone is Going Through Hell (no matter what the Hell happens to be).

  1. Be there.  Yes.  It's uncomfortable to reach out and talk to someone who is going through hell.  It might even be a little scary.  Do it anyway.  Be there.
  2. Think. . . about how YOU might feel in the same hellish situation.  What would YOU want?  How would you wish your friends would treat you?  Then do that.
  3. Check in.  Ask how they're doing.  Ask what they might need.  Ask if they need to talk.  Ask if they want to share a bottle of wine.  And keep checking in.  (Because once isn't enough.)
  4. Listen.  Let them talk.  Let them ramble.  Let them cry.  Ask them if they'd like to share their story.  (Bring the Kleenex.)
  5. Go outside YOURSELF.  Because, y'know . . . it's not about YOU right now. 
  6. Don't just offer help; HELP.  It sounds supportive and all . . . if you say, "Let me know if I can do something."  But that's Not Helpful.  (Not really.)  Because that's just putting the ball in the suffering-person's court.  Instead . . . HELP.  DO something.  Call . . . and say, "I'm at the grocery store right now; what can I bring you?"  Don't wait for a request; just . . . help.
  7. Stay in touch.  Call.  Send personal notes.  Write emails.  Visit.  Bring wine. And stay in touch for the long haul.
  8. Bring food.  (Preferably in containers that don't need to be returned.)  Because people need to eat.  And food prep is hard when you're in pain.
  9. Remember . . . that grief and shock and pain . . . are different for everyone.  No judgement.  Just support.  We each follow our own path when it comes to grief and "dealing with it."  Understand that, and honor someone else's journey.
  10. Share your memories and hopes for tomorrow.  Because it's important to remember a shared past -- and to look toward a brighter future.

This topic is not the cheeriest . . . but life (and, sadly, death) happens to all of us . . . and it's best we support each other through even the darkest nights.


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here

Somewhat Nuts

If someone were to ask me . . . 

On a scale of 1 to 10 ... just how nuts are you? 

I'd probably have to give myself a 7.  I'd call that . . . Somewhat Nuts.

Which is why I've committed to blogging every day in November.  (Along with several other partners in crime.)  It's kind of an overwhelming challenge -- coming up with something to say every day.  So we came up with a few "theme" ideas to get us through the overwhelming parts.

Margene is going to look up on Saturdays.

Carole is going to "show and tell" by sharing stories about things in her home on Saturdays.

Patty is going to talk about her dog, Boone, on Saturdays.

(I'm not sure, exactly, what Vicki will be doing on Saturdays quite yet.)

As for me?  I'm leaving it wide open.  

It's a beautiful (but cold) day here.  When I look up, this is what I see. . .


And I'll "show and tell" you about this . . . 


It's one of my pottery roses that I "collect" each year from a Michigan artist.  I have 4 of them, scattered around my bookshelves.  They are beautiful and make me smile -- and especially during the Bleak Months when there are no real blooms to be found in my garden.

And, of course, I can always highlight these two!


They love to play together -- especially when they can work at destroying one of their new "indestructible" toys.  (Ha!)  (In human language, they have "ripped" and "shredded" and "made a mess."  In dog language, they have "killed" and "disemboweled" and "brought glory to the pack.")

So.  Somewhat nuts.  Sure.

But always open to a challenge!