A Little Reminder ... With Some Greek Mythology On the Side

So. I had this inspired blog post idea for today. My plan . . . was to get all clever about encouraging you to read the latest Read With Us selection - Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller - during these last dog days of summer.

RWU Summer Logo

Color me Put In My Place.

It's a good thing I looked up the dog days of summer before writing this post. . . because, my friends? They ended last Wednesday!

Turns out . . . The dog days of summer have a specific time slot on the calendar, and this year, the dog days were July 3 through August 11. I did not know that. I did know that the dog days are so named because of Sirius - the dog constellation - and his appearance in the summer sky, alongside the sun. But I never knew there were specific days lined up to match - and that those days change from year to year (although it makes perfet sense) (duh).


Never mind.

Because if you haven't already done so, you will not be able to read Unsettled Ground during the dog days of summer. But you WILL still be able to read it during these lingering, no-name days of summer . . . or even over the Labor Day weekend.

And I hope you will.
Because . . . 


Unsettled Ground is a very good book, and totally worth some of your reading time this summer, dog days or not.

The book is available in hardback or paperback online or in most local bookstores. You can get a digital version through Kindle or iBooks. Most libraries have copies available these days without too long a wait. And there is an audio version available as well.

Book discussion day is Tuesday, September 14. As usual, there will be discussion questions posted on our blogs that day . . . and then in the evening (7:00 pm Eastern Time), we'll be hosting our book discussion Zoom meet-up (which is really fun). I hope you'll join us!

C'mon along and Read With Us.
(Even if those dog days are long gone . . . )

How I Spent My Summer Staycation

Remember when we were kids . . . and our teachers always assigned that How-We-Spent-Our-Summer-Vacations paragrah when we started back to school in the fall? Well. Here's my grown-up version for you: How I Spent My Summer Staycation.

When I decided to take last week off, I just felt like I needed a little break. Tom flew out to Wyoming to visit his parents, so I thought it would be a good time to take some "me time" while I was holding down the fort at home. I made a list of a few things I wanted to do/accomplish during my "solo" Summer Staycation -- but it wasn't overly ambitious.

I kicked things off with a visit to the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids after I dropped Tom off at the airport. I've never actually been there on my own, but I'm just gonna say . . . going solo is a great way to visit a botanical garden! You can wander wherever you want. For as long as you want. At your own pace. I took my time and lingered. It was wonderful!

I meandered along the wetlands boardwalk . . . 


and leisure-d my way along the paths in the lovely Japanese garden (one of my West Michigan "happy places") . . . 


And I lingered for a long while in the Michigan Farm Gardens. They're so charming and whimsical. . . 


(The Meijer Gardens are really wonderful. If you're ever in Grand Rapids, it's well worth a visit -- in any season.)

On the other end of the activities spectrum, I cleaned out and organized my refrigerator and pantry.


Hoo. Boy. It just doesn't get any better than the excitement of a newly ordered refrigerator, does it?


And in between, I caught up on some tasks I've been needing to take care of. I read a lot. I watched White Lotus.  I knit a little. I cut out a top, but didn't sew at all. I also didn't do much gardening (because it was such a hot sauna of a week last week), but I did play around with my art supplies in air conditioned comfort. . . 


It was the perfect kind of Staycation. I took care of some things. I rested. I filled my tank.

Ready to get going again!
And happy to be back.

Summer Vacation

Summer is going fast, friends! 


I've decided to take a little summer vacation this week. I'm not going anywhere or doing anything exciting or special. Just . . . taking a few days off to enjoy the summer, kick back on my patio, and fill my tank.

I'll be around.
It's just a little blog break . . . summer vacation style.

Have a good week -- and I'll see you next Monday.


"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside you."
            --- Deepak Chopra

Not-So-Secret Formula

I'm up north this week, and maybe you thought I'd be putting together some sort of up-northy post for today. But no. It's raining up here (because of course it is; it gets cold or rains EVERY time I come up this year). And there is some sort of issue with the motor on our pontoon (because of course there is; the motor is over 30 years old and deserves to be somewhat cranky). And we're not going to town (because of course we aren't; the vax rate is low up here, and the transmission rate is high).

But . . . no worries. I planned ahead for a little garden post for today!

A few weeks ago, I did a mid-summer compare-and-contrast post analyzing my front porch container . . . and I got several comments from readers alluding to the fact that they have a hard time figuring out what to plant in their containers to make them look nice and balanced. So I thought I'd share my not-so-secret (like . . . not secret at all) formula for putting together nice-looking container gardens.

Winning containers = Thriller + Spiller + Filler


It's really that simple. 

When you put together a container, start with your thriller -- a focal-point kind of plant that will be tall and showy. For my front porch planters, I chose those big, leafy things (which I can't remember the name of now; they are not elephant ears, but something along those lines). Definitely a focal point sort of plant, though.

Next, choose your spiller -- a plant that's going to trail over the edges/sides of your planter. Ivy/vining kinds of plants work well in this role. This year, I chose trailing verbena -- those white and pink blooms you see there -- which was a new variety for me this season. I also stuck in a marjoram plant (the lime green leaves there on the right) because I didn't have room for it in my herb garden. Turns out it spills, too! (I will definitely be using marjoram in my planters in the future. I like the way it's behaving. Not so sure about the verbena, though. It's not trailing as much as I'd hoped.)

Last, find a filler -- plants that will just mound up, enhance your thriller in a supporting role, and pull the planter together in a pleasing way. In my front porch planter, I used some of my tried-and-true fillers: a Boston fern, a sun coleus, and lantana. I also stuck in some some yellow straw flowers (but I'm not particularly pleased with them; they need a lot of deadheading and look bad much of the time).

And there you go!
That's the basic formula for a gorgeous and well-balanced container: Thriller. Spiller. Filler.

A few other considerations for a successful container: Make sure your thrillers-spillers-fillers will perform well - together - in your particular container conditions. Like . . . make sure all of them are sun-lovers, for example. Or shade-friendly. Think about your bloom colors and how they'll look together. Consider a good mix of foliage shapes and color. And then water the heck out of it. . . all summer long!

My front porch containers are HUGE, and I need to use quite a few plants to get it fill out like this (so . . . multiple spillers and fillers). But even for small containers (or indoor plant gardens or even cut flower arrangements), if you just mix one thriller, spiller, and filler . . . you're going to have success!

Here's one of my smaller patio containers . . . 


Just three plants . . . a thriller, a spiller , a filler. 

Here's another . . . 


Again, just three plants. This one . . . didn't follow the rules, though. The spiller . . . decided to take over as the thriller! (The geranium was supposed to be the thriller in this particular container -- but the spiller didn't get the memo and turned out to be a bully. I'll remember that for next year.)

Which is a good seque here. Unless you're following a "pattern" for your containers (and there are plenty of those to choose from out there), this is really just a great way to experiment and have some fun in your garden. Sometimes things will work out really well. And sometimes they won't. It doesn't mean you don't have  a"green thumb" -- it just means that your container didn't quite live up to your expectations. (Which happens.) Remember what works - or doesn't - for next year. And then try again.

And also know that by this point in the summer? You may just end up with a jumble!


This . . . is two containers that have merged and become one. When I planted them, there were thrillers, spillers, and fillers. But now? It's an explosion of foliage and blooms. EVERYbody is happy. (Especially the hummingbirds.) Is it the look I was going for? Nope. Do I care? Nope.

Plants . . . don't always follow the rules. 
But in August, all plants get a pass (in my book).


Have a great weekend -- and I'll see you on Monday.


Do You See What I See?

For various reasons (mostly weather and schedule related), I haven't spent as much time at our cabin up north this summer as I usually do . . . or as often as I'd like to. But . . . I'm here now. So there is that.


And while sitting around last night, I thought it might be fun to share a little "game" we often play up here. (And, no. It's not Pass the Pigs.) (Although that IS a perennial favorite.)

The interior of our little cabin is knotty pine paneling . . . 


(Pardon the quality of these photos. It was dark when I took them. The photos are grainy. But you'll be able to get the general idea.)


Tom and my Dad installed all the tongue-and-groove pine paneling. It's really quite lovely, and it gives the entire cabin a warm-and-cozy feel.

It also gives us our "game" . . . Do You See What I See . . . in the knots of the pine paneling! For two decades now, we stare up at this pine paneling (often after a few drinks) (just sayin) and we find . . . things . . . in the knot formations. Pictures, if you will. Whenever we have guests, Tom gets one of his fly rods and uses it as a pointer to highlight the "family favorites." And our guests usually find new ones to add to our "collection."

Sometimes, we don't see the knot-patterns in quite the same way. Tom tends to see lots of "pigs" and "owls." I see more "dogs" and "koalas." But, generally, with some imagination . . . we DO see things in the patterns of knots on the walls and ceilings.

Here's one of the first we ever found. I think it was actually one of the kids who found it . . . and they're certainly the ones who named it "Mr. Bubble." (Now, I think he looks like the sunglass-emoji guy.) "Mr. Bubble" has been watching over us at the cabin for a very long time now!


In the spirit of Three on Thursday, I thought it might be fun to play three rounds of Do You See What I See. (These are all long-time family-favorites.) (Tom would definitely point these out to you with his fly rod if you were visiting us at our cabin.)

Here goes . . . 


I see an alien. How about you?
(And for advanced players, there is a little koala up and to the left of the alien. Bonus points if you see that one.)


We call this one . . . the kangaroo rat. I have no idea why . . . but it's definitely something. Can you see it? (Bonus points if you see JoJo peeking up from the panel above . . . just one eye and a her nose.)


This is a tricky one . . . because there are lots of knots here (it would help if I had Tom's fly rod to point things out). This is our old dog, Jake. You can see his two eyes and nose there in the in the middle panel (if you look closely and use your imagination). Jake was our white German shepherd - much beloved; our dog-before-Jenny. (Jake almost made it to his 100th birthday, but fell about a month short of Centurion status.) Jake loved being at the cabin with us, so it's nice to have him with us still, there in the knotty pine!

And that's it for today's installment of Do You See What I See!
Happy Thursday. And be sure to visit Carole for more Three on Thursday fun.


So . . . this week, Typepad (my frequently disappointing blogging platform) is not sending me comment notifications by email. This makes it challenging for me to respond to your comments. Just want to let you know. I am seeing them . . . and I love it when you comment! It's just hard for me to respond in turn.



They Say

. . . that laughter is the best medicine, right? Well. Here's a little sewing project "comic strip" for you . . . 


I have been dreaming of a pair of Sew House Seven's Burnside Bibs for a couple of years now. I just love the look of them . . . That easy-breezy, kinda beachy, pants-as-apron look. Comfy. But sort of fashion-y, too. Definitely "on trend." And there are photos of them all over the place. Sewing blogs. Instagram. It is a very popular pattern, and the bibs look great on everyone, every body.


The back view has always tripped me up and kept me from actually making a pair. Because, really. Who is flattered by a big, old gathered butt??? Who is comfortable always messing with long, criss-crossing ties??? That's a whole lotta . . . fuss . . . back there. And rarely does anyone show photos of their Burnside Bibs FROM THE BACK.

And now we know why!

I really do love the look (from the front). And as I wore them around the house over the weekend (to see if the gathers might "settle" with wear) (they did not), I can attest to their comfort. Seriously . . . pants-as-apron. But that back-tie-gathered-butt? It's tragic.  (Tom, always so supportive of my efforts, thought I had made some big mistake. He commented that they looked "awfully bunchy.")

I don't think there's really anything to be done about them at this point. I've thrown them in the washer and dryer three times so far -- hoping to soften them up and "calm" the gathers. It's working somewhat . . . maybe? But I think that back view is just a bridge too far for me, and I know I can't wear these bibs without constantly fussing with those gathers.

I will point out that the pattern includes a dart-and-zipper option, which might resolve some of the gathering, and could potentially reduce some of that goofy "poofiness" under the belt loops. I thought about it long and hard before deciding to forego the zipper option -- mostly because the gathering is STILL pretty extreme, even with a zipper and darts. But it may make enough difference that the bibs would fit better in back.

(Not these, of course, because too late now.)
(But for any future Burnside Bibs I may attempt.)
(Which is not likely, though.)
(Just sayin).

If nothing else, they're good for a laugh.

They've Got My Number

I'm always amazed when I scroll through my Instagram feed . . . and  see so many ads perfectly targeted to me. (So. Many.)

I'm frequently tempted to peek.
And sometimes I do.
And sometimes I even order.


Like, for instance, this great new shirt -- perfect for yoga or working out or just plain old wearing.

Those Instagrams?


They've really got my number!

New Week, New Month

A perfect time to . . . 


. . . with some of the flotsam and jetsam in my Evernote files.


Let's begin with some practical information.

Summer may be rolling right along, but there is still plenty of time to hang out near the water.
With your phone.

This article from Asurion, the phone-insurance "arm"of Verizon, explains just what you should do to save your phone from water damage, should it go for a swim (or a nice soak in the tub). I found it informative and helpful. Maybe you will, too.

(Although I hope your phone stays nice and dry, and that you never need to heed this advice.)


Looking for something to watch on TV?

I don't know about you, but I'm finding it hard to wait each week for the newest episode of Ted Lasso (season 2) to "drop" on Fridays. And . . . for the first time in my life, I don't seem all that interested in watching the Olympics (is it just me?). If you're looking for something summer-"light" and a little bit fun to watch, maybe you'll enjoy this list of the 60 Best Romantic Comedies of All Time

(Which rom-com is your favorite??? And did it make the list?)


Interested in tracking your reading in a deeper way?

I know quite a few of you (like me) use Goodreads to track the books you read/want to read.

I also know that several of you want a little bit . . . more . . . than Goodreads provides when it comes to keeping track of your books and connecting with other readers. Although I'm not really in the market for new ways to slice-and-dice my reading (I have developed my own system for note-taking, and I find Goodreads' listing tool sufficient for my needs), I thought this article about four new and unique reading tools was really interesting -- and might be fascinating for many of you.

(Just curious. Do you keep track of the books you read? If you do, what's your preferred method?)


Tired of throwing away "fresh" produce, now past its prime?

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but this does happen to me. Way more often than I'd like it to. (Looking at you, petrified limes . . . languishing there in my fruit bowl.) I found this article from Wirecutter about How To Keep Your Produce Fresh for Weeks really helpful. I'm determined to do better!

(That link is a Wirecutter/NYTimes link, and I'm not sure if it can be opened if you are not a NYT subscriber. My apologies if that is the case. If you are interested in the content but can't open the article, please let me know and I'll find a way to get the info to you.)


For your listening pleasure.

Okay. So I tried every which way to embed a music video here, and I can't. (This time it is YouTube, not my blogging platform.)

Let me just say . . .  you will not be disappointed if you take the time to click here to watch the video I WANTED to embed in this space. And then, check out more Vitamin String Quartet (they're fabulous and worth the trip down the rabbit hole) on YouTube or Spotify.


Here's to the start of a great week - and a great month.


Sometimes It's Grimm In the Garden, Too

I always laugh when someone mentions my having a "green thumb" in the comments. Because . . . I don't. I really don't. I have had so many garden mishaps in my years of gardening. So. Many. Plants that fail to thrive. Bad decisions. Planting entire beds that are not suited to the conditions. Pests and diseases . . . spider mites, aphids, thrip, scale, rabbits, deer . . . you name it, I've dealt with it. Overzealous ground cover. Blossom end rot. Let's just say . . . I kill a lot of plants. (One of my garden "zones" is called The Semi-Circle of Death - or SCOD -  for a reason!!!)

But I think that's just part of gardening.

Failure, that is. (Like any "art" or "craft.")
You simply have to accept that not everything is going to work out.
There are no "green thumbs."

Just a willingness to . . . be curious, ask questions, try again.
Or let it go.


For me, this year . . . I'm having troubles in my herb garden.

With . . . basil, of all things!
(And parsley, too.)

I grow a couple of "patches" of basil in my herb garden every year. With great success. As in . . . by now, I'd usually have a couple of basil harvests under my belt, not only enjoying fresh basil in my cooking on the regular and but also making batches of "basil bombs" to store in my freezer for winter. This year? I got this . . . 


Talk about . . . failing to thrive!


That . . . was the sad state of my basil (and parsley) this summer.

And my favorite, trusted nursery . . . was out of basil when I went to buy more! Like . . . they couldn't stock it or grow it fast enough this year. Is even basil a victim of the pandemic supply and demand issue? Or is something weird going on with basil this year? I have no idea . . . But last week, I got an email from the nursery letting me know that basil was back -- but in limited supply. So I hurried in and snapped up a few plants (but not as many as I wanted because the supply really was limited, and I didn't want to be piggy. . . ).


Trying again.
Because that's what gardening is all about!

Keep your fingers crossed and send the good-basil-juju.


"A dried plant is nothing but a sign to plant a new one."
            --- Priyansh Shah


Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you on Monday.

The Centurion

Our old dog, Jenny, celebrated her 14th birthday last April. In "dog years" . . . that's 98. Close to 100. But not quite. So Tom figured out when her 100th birthday would be . . . and it was yesterday.

We threw her a party!


She had a day filled with special attention and treats -- capped off with her own hamburger, a dog-cookie cupcake, and a new chicken. (She always had a "thing" for chickens as a young-and-active dog. She cared not a whit about the new chicken - it was purely symbolic - but Brian and Lauren's dog, Ferda, loves it.)


Jenny's deaf now. Nearly blind. Increasingly incontinent. But happy! She gets frequent belly rubs, walks every day, plenty of treats, and a whole lot of love.

We think she'll be around a while longer.
(She knows a good gig when she sees it.)


Happy birthday, Jenny!