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!)


A Catchy Town (I Mean . . . Tune)

When I was a kid, I used to "collect" Towns With Catchy Names.  Names that are fun to say -- and just kind of roll off your tongue.  Chattanooga.  Tallahassee.  Timbuktu.  Walla Walla, Washington.  Tuscaloosa.  Minnehaha.  Kalamazoo.

The kind of name . . . you know . . . that might end up in song lyrics.

(Never imagined that I'd end up living in one of them!  But.  Here I am.)


Anyway.  This week, Carole asks us for for Ten Songs About Where We Live.  Lucky for me . . . Kalamazoo - one of those catchy-name towns - has been plugging into song lyrics forever!

My favorite?

1 - Gotta Get Away by The Black Keys.


2 - Another favorite is Kalamazoo by the Ben Folds Five.  (They performed this during their appearance at the Gilmore Piano Festival a couple of years ago.  As you might imagine, it was a big hit with the home crowd.)


3 - This one is quite popular with the home crowd, too.  Kalamazoo by Primus.  (They've performed this one live in Kalamazoo, a couple of times apparently.  I wasn't there - but you can imagine it was a bit hit.)


4 - Marylou by Bob Seger.  (Not one of his most popular -- but . . . Kalamazoo.)


5 - Down on the Corner by Creedence Clearwater Revival.  (Twangin' out a rhythm on his Kalamazoo.  You bet!)


6 - While not about Kalamazoo, this song just embodies the whole Up North/Lake Thing in Michigan.  So, yeah.  It's about about where I live!  All Summer Long by Kid Rock.


7.  And, of course.  Especially in Michigan by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  (The link is a "tease."  If you want to hear the whole song, click here.)  (And Carole?  This link should include images that look a bit familiar to you now. . . as it was filmed in Ludington!)


8.  Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave.  (Because The Lakes RULE . . . here in Michigan.)


9.  Greetings from Michigan . . . an entire album by Sufjan Stevens . . . honoring Michigan.  (This tune, Romulus - a Detroit suburb - has nothing to do with Kalamazoo.  But Michigan.  And nice.)


10.  And, of course, no Kalamazoo list could be complete without this one. . .  (yeah, I know) . . . I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo.  (Trust me.  I know.  I live here.  I've heard this WAY too many times . . . )


How about YOU?  What are the best songs about where you live?


Click here to see what everyone else is singing today.






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!




On the Trail

Six weeks ago . . . when Tom agreed to be on a relay team for a run in early April . . . I'm sure he never truly anticipated snow.  Or below-freezing temperatures.

Oh, he knew it COULD happen.  (Because spring is a fickle beast.)  But, really?  What were the chances????


Yep.  There you have it!



And . . . totally committed to running this thing!


The Kal-Haven Trail Run is a 33.5 mile race along the Kal-Haven Trail - a rail trail that links Kalamazoo with South Haven.  Some people run the whole thing on their own, but most people choose to split the course up and run it as a relay.  Here's Tom, above, just about to overtake the woman in orange neon near the end of his 8-mile stretch.  Tom ran as part of a 6-person co-ed team -- with friends of ours from the gym.

I was f-f-f-freezing just watching and taking pictures.  (Good thing I had my Stopover sweater!  Never thought I'd still be wearing it . . . in APRIL.)

After the race . . . best part!  Mexican food (and margaritas!) in South Haven.


And then out to the beach . . . 


for a walk on the pier.  (Where it was so freakin' cold!!!)


(But it was sunny.)

Great day to be on the trail... despite the weather!


Rambling in the Face of It

I'm sure many of you are aware that Kalamazoo is the latest (in a way too long line-up*) of cities-in-the-news because Senseless Gun Violence.  

Today, as I write this post . . . well.  Let's just say I'm rambling, and not really sure where it's going to go.  Because This Is My Town, Damnit.  And I'm still processing.

But I'm going to start here.  With a BB.

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One day last spring, I was out walking my dogs -- and I got shot in the leg with a BB.  (That very BB.  I saved it.)  It hurt like hell.  But, mostly, I was shocked.  It could have been just kids playing around, an errant BB ricocheting off a tree.  But I couldn't quite get over the feeling of . . . being shot AT.  Like . . . on purpose.  Someone with pretty good aim . . . considered me (or maybe my dogs) a target.  I limped home that day, and called the police.  They were nice -- but it was already too late for them to do anything.  (And apparently they don't run ballistics on BB pellets.)

I was really angy about my BB incident.  I mean . . . I was just out walking.  In my neighborhood.  Where I feel safe.  And where I should never be shot at.  

Because, you see, the Social Contract is in place.  Organized society depends on - and is invested with - the right to secure mutual protection and welfare.  In other words, I can walk the streets . . . and you won't shoot me.

I'm not trying to compare the my own silly little BB incident to the carnage here in my city on Saturday night.  Not even close.  But I am saying that random shootings - like we've had FAR TOO MANY OF - are a disruption of the Social Contract.

People should be able to load their children into the van . . . 

Or shop for cars in a dealer's lot . . . 

Or go out for dinner after seeing a show . . . 

(Or go to school.  Or to a movie.  Or a Christmas party.  I'm sure you get my drift.)


Because these are NORMAL, every day activities.

Things we all do.

Every day.

And we should be able to do them . . . without thought.  Without pause.  Without fear.

Because that's the Social Contract.


(I so thank all of you who contacted me via text, email, and Facebook yesterday.  It meant so much.  XO.)


*  According to the Washington Post, the Kalamazoo shootings on Saturday night represented the 42nd "mass shooting" this year.  It's only February, folks.  That means . . . mass shootings have happened in the US in 2016 (so far) at pretty close to . . . well . . . once per day.  This. Is. Appalling.


Kalamazoo . . . We've Got Falcons

Okay.  So, technically, I live in Portage, Michigan.  (That's where I pay taxes.  And my kids attended the Most Excellent Portage schools.)  But I'm only two blocks from the Portage/Kalamazoo border, and I've always more closely identified with Kalamazoo.  So I consider my community . . . Kalamazoo.


(Our meager skyline.)

Ten interesting things about Kalamazoo . . . 

1 - Home of Bell's Brewery and The Eccentric Cafe.  (Need I say more?) - And, really, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many top-quality breweries in town.  Enough that Kalamazoo has it's own Beer Week in January every year.

2 - Kalamazoo is a college town, with both a major public school - Western Michigan University, and a highly-regarded private, liberal arts college - Kalamazoo College (or "K" as it's known locally) in the city.

3 - Kalamazoo has an interesting past . . . as the home of both Checker Cab and Gibson guitar.  (Although both companies are gone now, their legacies still show up in unique and interesting ways throughout the city.)


4 - Kalamazoo is located right on I-94, putting it in easy driving range of both Detroit and Chicago.  In fact, Kalamazoo is located pretty much half-way between the two cities, making day-trips easy.

5 - There are several Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Kalamazoo.  (Two separate neighborhoods.  One is quite close to mine - we've been to a party in one of those homes.  The other is a bit out of town, but still in the area.)


6 - The 90s band The Verve Pipe is from Kalamazoo.  (Even though the video clip I'm using says "from East Lansing."  It was really Kalamazoo.  They just went to school in East Lansing.)  Someone else you may recognize - Derek Jeter - is also from Kalamazoo.  He played baseball at Kalamazoo Central High School, and still does a lot of charitable work with kids in the community.  

7 - Kalamazoo is a relatively small town (4th largest city in Michigan) -- but we sure have a lot of top-notch arts and cultural organizations and opportunities.  (Theatre, music, visual arts.)  It's also a sort of literary hotspot -- many writers live and write here, including Jaimy Gordon, who won the National Book Award in 2010 for her novel Lord of Misrule.

8 -- Kalamazoo is also very science-based.  Formerly the home of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals (all but gutted now, thanks to layers of mergers and eventual decimation by Pfizer) (sorry;  just gonna say it), the community still values science and science education.  (Really -- there might be more scary smart science nerds here, per capita, than anywhere else in the world.)


9 - Kalamazoo has an INCREDIBLE farmer's market.  The community has totally embraced the farm-to-table concept, and supports "locavore" restaurants, grocery stores, a year-round food co-op, and this amazing farmer's market.  (The photo above only shows about a quarter of the market.)

10 - And . . . we've got peregrine falcons!  Tom's office window faces the building where the falcons hang out.  He can watch them fly!  (And once, he watched himself turn on the light in his office on the "falcon cam.")

I love living in Kalamazoo -- it's a pretty cool place.  What do YOU like about your community?


Join the fun and read all the other Ten on Tuesday posts here.

And Then . . . All At Once . . . It Was Gone

It always seems to happen this way.

One day, you're soaking up the sun . . . comfortable . . . in shorts and flip-flops . . . watching the butterflies in your garden and thinking it might go on like this forever.

And then?


Those blustery clouds roll in, bringing chilling wind and drizzle with them.

The butterflies skee-daddle.  The flowers decide the show is over.  And the leaves finally begin to turn.


It happens to the best of us.

We get cold.

We have to dig out the socks.  Maybe our jeans.  We might even wish we had remembered to pack a hat.

Adios, summer.

À bientôt!

(I'll be holding you in my heart.)



Yesterday, Tom and I headed to Grand Rapids to take in some of ArtPrize.  (This event is far, far too big and overwhelming to do in just one day.  This year, there are over 1,500 entries in over 160 venues.)

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We loaded the trusty ArtPrize app on our phones and headed north.


The best thing about ArtPrize?

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The diversity of works presented.

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And the accessibility.


So easy.


So much to see.


(And we only saw the tip of the iceberg. . . )


At this early stage of the process (it just opened on the 23rd), the public voting is still open.  The app made voting super easy!

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We'll be looking forward to seeing if any of our favorites end up with top rankings.  Tom and I are both betting on this one to be finalist . . . 


(You may remember seing this in a previous blog post; we were lucky to have an exhibit by the artist at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts last spring, so we were already familiar with his work.)

I also really liked this one . . . 


Each plate depicts a "last meal" request from a death-row inmate.  (There are nearly 600 plates in the exhibit, and the artist considers this a work in progress.)

But this is the exhibit that really captured my heart . . . 

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The artist is Paula Kovarik (she's from Memphis).  Her exhibit was titled "The Thread That Connects."

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Her quilting was exquisite; very free-flowing and unusual.

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I loved this dress she stitched!  (It was one of Tom's favorites, too.  You can see him above, checking out another of her pieces.)

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 So inspiring!  Her work was just stunning.

Tom and I had a great time.  If you're anywhere in the Grand Rapids area, I'd encourage you to visit ArtPrize.  (It runs through October 11.)  It is truly an awesome and joyous event.  

Weekending . . . Ten on Tuesday Style

We kept ourselves quite busy all through this long, hot Labor Day weekend.  It won't be any trouble at all for me to tell you Ten Things I Did This Weekend, à la Ten on Tuesday.


1 - On Friday, I helped Tom transfer his latest beer batch from one large container to another (which is trickier than it sounds).  The stuff in this photo is called the trub . . . or what's left in the bottom of the container after a successful "first stage fermentation." (And this means we're one week closer to our own IPA!)


2 - Then we headed for Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids to see John Hiatt perform in the outdoor amphitheatre. I love sitting outside in my lawn chair, sipping a beer, watching the  geese and herons fly overhead, seeing the sun go down . . . all while enjoying a great concert.  (And it was great.)


3 - On Saturday morning, the dogs and I had a very exciting walk . . . where we discovered a (dead) snake in the road, a huge (very live) wasp nest in a tree, and a giant (also live) cicada in the grass (near the J-pups' favorite pee-corner).  So much to check out.


4 - On Saturday afternoon we headed up to the cottage for a quick overnight. . . and one last sit on the dock and (probably) the last swim for the dogs.  (We won't be back up until October.)


5 - Because then we took the docks out for the season.  (Always kind of sad; summer goes by too quickly, y'know?)


6 -- I knit almost all of one sleeve for this sweater.  I also taught myself to cable without a cable needle.  (I know.  I'm like the only knitter on the planet stubborn enough to continue with a cable needle.  So it was time.)  (Bonus:  I'll get plenty of practice on this sweater.)


7 - I re-did my front porch containers with more fall-ish flowers.  (The summer batch was looking really, really tired.)  (Maybe even dead.)


8 - I read a book  - Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.  I highly recommend it!  Just delightful.


9 - We had a little cook-out, just Tom and I.


10 - And I spent plenty of time just kicking back with Tom and the dogs . . . enjoying a long, pleasant summer weekend.

How about YOU?  What did you do this weekend?


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Blueberries By the Handful


We're at the height of blueberry season here in Michigan*.  Everywhere you turn . . . blueberries!  U-pick fields.  Farm stands.  The farmer's market.  Grocery store.  All local.  All delicious!


Today, Carole asks us about our Ten Favorite Things to Do with Blueberries.  Now, I like blueberry pancakes and blueberry baked goods (of pretty much any kind) quite a lot.  But I haven't really made pancakes since Erin left home (Tom and Brian opt for eggs; they will ALWAYS opt for eggs), and I don't bake much (because if I bakes it, I eats it, and I've just decided to stay away from those calories).

But we do eat a lot of blueberries!  

Mostly, I just leave a bowl of blueberries on the counter . . . and here's what happens:

  1. We pop them in our mouths by the handful.  
  2. I mix them in my yogurt.
  3. I dump them in my cereal.
  4. I toss them in salads.
  5. I throw them on a pan and roast them with vegetables.
  6. I sprinkle them over ice cream.
  7. I stir them into a glass of lemonade.
  8. Or into a batch of summer sangria.
  9. Or even a glass of ice tea.
  10. And then I grab another handful!

How about YOU?  What's your favorite thing to do with blueberries?

* Did you know that Michigan is the nation's number one blueberry grower?  Yep.  One hundred million pounds of blueberries every year is big business in my neck of the woods!



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