Start Your Engines

Starting Your Engines . . . But Different

(Just a quick note to begin. One of the reasons I blog is to give myself a creative outlet. Ideas come to me. Sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes they just . . . fade away over time. The "starting your engines" idea, as originally conceived, has lost its charm for me -- and if I can't inspire myself with an idea, I surely can't inspire anyone else with it. But I still like the concept . . . of starting the month by starting your engines. I just haven't quite figured out how yet. Please bear with me while I work that out.)


Welcome to August!

How we got here so quickly, I have no idea. But I'm sure it comes with age. Because summer lasted a million years when I was a kid, and now that I'm in my 60s, well . . . not so much. But. Here we are. August already.

Each year, at the beginning of summer, I think about all the things I want to do during the months ahead. Some years I actually write a list, but most years I just carry that list around in my head. My "summer stuff" list varies by year, and usually includes a real mishmash of things: "Eat ice cream cones regularly" and "Plant a tree" and "Clear out the linen closet."

My list generally changes by year, but one thing (well, two if you count the ice cream) shows up on every summer list I put together: "Watch a sunset over Lake Michigan."

And you know what? We never do it!


Oh, we get to Lake Michigan every year, at least once or twice. But we don't tend to stick around for the sunset! And it's one of those things that . . . never quite appeals once you're tucked in at home for the evening, with your glass of wine. And especially when you can watch some pretty amazing sunsets right there at home, from the comfort of your own front porch. (Plus . . . here in West Michigan, at the very western edge of the eastern time zone, our sunsets come very late.)

But last Saturday, we did it! Tom and I drove to South Haven (about 35 miles away) after dinner, and we settled into our beach chairs on a little sand dune and we watched the sun set over Lake Michigan.


It was such a beautiful evening. The weather was perfect. It was peaceful. And lovely.

I love living so close to The Lake. (If you've never seen the Great Lakes, well. It's much like being at the seashore . . . very coastal and all. Except the waves are wind-based, not tidal. And it's fresh water instead of salt water.) (Which tends to freak ocean-people out.) (And no matter which Great Lake you live near in Michigan, you refer to it as The Lake.)


So. Back to August 1.

When August hits, I always get a little bit (almost) panicky inside. August's arrival . . . means summer is nearly over. (Not really, these days, but I'm sure you get what I mean.) I'm never ready for it to end. And I want to make the most of every summer moment that remains, y'know?

So today, I encourage you to review your "summer list" -- the things you wanted to do this summer -- and pick something that's there, year in and year out. The thing that maybe you don't usually get around to doing.

And then . . . go do it!

Quick. Before summer is gone.

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Trust me, you won't regret it!

"I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this."
        --- Susan Branch


It's August, my friends.
Don't wait!

Start Your Engines!


PS - I'm close - very close - to launching my newly designed blog. I may be posting less often over the next week or two while I work out all the kinks and put on the finishing touches. It's hard to both keep my "regular" blog schedule going AND design a new one, y'know?  But please know I'm here. Working things out.

On Not Starting Any Engines Today

If I were sticking to my usual blogging patterns, today (well, technically yesterday . . . but I took yesterday off) would be the day that I'd try to "start your engines" with "stuff" I thought might be interesting.


Well. Last night when I checked my little "start your engines" folder on my computer, I discovered that in the last four weeks I saved Not One Thing to share with you.
Nothing of note.

Which I think says more about my state of mind than anything right now. 

I've been very busy with life, while also trying to distract myself from life. I've been successfully avoiding things that are probably best for me to avoid, but I seem to be carrying that over to also avoiding those things that I really ought not avoid. I'm spending quite a bit of time trying to fathom . . . where AM I and how did I end up in this particular historical cycle? Which means I'm doing a lot of rage-weeding, and finding myself looking forward to that evening glass of wine on the patio . . . perhaps a bit too much. 

If you're looking for some way to start your engine this morning?
You won't find it here today.

But I am determined to find something to start my own.
Because I can't go on this way.

(I'll just go ahead and file this post in the "Honest Blogging from the Heart" category.)

June is Bustin' Out All Over

Of all the months in the year, I think June is my favorite. I just love the weather and the vibe and the fact that everything is (finally) blooming and, well . . . bustin' out all over! 

Turning the calendar over to June also means it's time to . . . 


On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

"It's not your responsibility to do everything. But it is your responsibility to do something."
--- Sharon McMahon

There is . . . a lot going wrong in the world. It's easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed by the All Of It. It's easy to become cynical and think that there is nothing to be done, nothing that we can do. (This would be me, on many days of late.)


Today's Start Your Engines post is my attempt to inject some . . . action and control . . . into your overwhelm. 


First of all, let's turn off the news, okay?

Personally, the constant access to news updates really gets me into a spin. Years ago, Tom and I stopped watching any kind of TV news. Then, we stopped listening to NPR. It was just too much . . . all the time. I got rid of all the news apps on my phone.  I stopped subscribing to any news-related podcasts.

And, no. I don't live in a cave. I do pay attention to the news. I just pay attention on my terms. Now, I decide if and when I want to check in with the news. And when I do, I seek out headline updates from The New York Times or NPR. Sometimes I click in and read/listen further, but often . . . I don't. It really helps my state of mind. And . . . I'm not missing anything by not being constantly tuned in. 

So I'm just here to encourage you to . . . assess all the ways you get your news. Consider how you feel after reading or listening to the news. Think about how long it takes you to recover from exposure to depressing news. Then . . . make some little change that allows you to keep up with what's happening in the world without immersing yourself in the news cycle.

What works for me (mostly)? I like having a reliable source of headline news that I can skim quickly and then click in to articles of interest when I'm ready to do so. I have friends who swear by The Skimm (a daily morning headline news site), but I prefer The Morning (the daily newsletter for New York Times subscribers). I still get sucked in to the vortex of bad news sometimes, but having control of what I pay attention to - and when - has really helped my state of mind.


Now, let's curate our social media accounts. 

Over the past couple of years, I've really changed the way I interact with social media. I've written before about how I got rid of Facebook (and don't miss it even a little bit). And I've drastically changed the way I interact with Instagram. First, I just don't go there very often anymore. But, more importantly, I've carefully curated "who I follow." I now only follow people who inspire me, people who make me feel better about my day or about the world. I encourage you to create a social media presence (if you even want one) that adds to your joy. Get rid of the stuff that makes you feel bad or "less than" or tired.


Next, let's learn.

Sharon Says So (someone I do choose to follow on Instagram) hosts workshops -- or "deep dives" -- on relevant (or sometimes just interesting) topics related to American government or social issues. Back in 2021, Sharon put together a workshop about Gun Laws in the U.S. She explains the issue from a legal standpoint -- what the current laws are, how they evolved, what are the facts. Her "deep dives" are not debate workshops. They are not meant to convince participants that any "side" is right; they are simply fact-based and informative. As Sharon says, "whatever your beliefs are about guns in America - you are welcome here. No shame, only facts."

After the Uvalde shootings last month, Sharon made this workshop available for free for all who are interested in learning more about U.S. gun laws. (Her workshops are normally $12.99 to download.) Click here get free access to the workshop. (I'm not sure how long she's going to be offering it at no cost, but it is still an active link as of this morning.) Once I submitted the form (with my name and email address), I received an email with the link to access the workshop. I chose to download it and save it for later, so I can watch it when it's more convenient for me (it's an hour and 43 minutes long). Easy Peasy. I'm sure it will be very informative, and I'm looking forward to deepening my understanding of the issue -- and having the facts (so maybe I can more eloquently express how I feel).

(A great piece on Sharon McMahon of Sharon Says So fame came out in The Atlantic over the weekend, by the way. Click here to access the article.)


And, on the lighter side . . . 

Here in our house,a favorite book to read when my kids were young was this one . . . 

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I was happy (okay, and shocked) to learn that the book is celebrating its 50th birthday this month! Read or listen to the interview with author Judith Viorst - now a very young 91 - and her real-life son, Alexander, here. The book is a true classic, and is such a wonderful description of . . . well . . . a really bad day. Which happen . . . even in Australia.


And with that, we're OFF for another week; another month!

I hope my post today has given you some ideas for action and control.
We can't do everything, but we can do something!

Happy June, everyone.




Tomorrow - June 7 - is the Read With Us discussion day for Young Mungo. Our Zoom discussion will begin at 7:00 pm (Eastern Time). Please let me know if you're planning to join us for the Zoom -- either in the comments or by sending me an email (my email link is at the very top of the sidebar). 

I'll be sending out Zoom invitations later this afternoon. If you haven't received on by 5:00 Eastern time today - and you want to join us - please let me know.

(As always, we'll also include discussion questions on our blogs that day, in case you can't make it for the Zoom.)


The Merry Month of May

I love May. It's usually the month when things finally turn around, and it truly starts to feel like Spring in my corner of the world. It doesn't usually snow in May (although it has. . . ), and everything is beginning to green up and finally look like spring. At last!

Turning the calendar over to May . . .  means it's also time to . . . 


On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now."
--- Steven Pressfield

I feel some boldness in the air. May just bursts with possibility, doesn't it?


Get Yourself Some Magic Windows


A couple of weeks ago, I shared my "magic windows" with you. You don't have to have actual stained glass windows to get magic windows of your own, though! You can get yourself some "magic window stickers" or hanging prisms and create rainbow rooms of your own.

If you want to turn your regular windows into stained glass-looking windows, this company makes custom stickers that convert your windows to "magic windows." (I have never ordered from the company, and I didn't check out their pricing. I just found them through a Google search, and cannot vouch for them. But their windows look pretty cool.) If you're looking for a less "custom" option, there are all kinds of cool stained glass window decals here, and a quick Etsy search yielded hundreds of options for window stickers and clings, hanging prisms, and more -- with a wide variety of prices. (I actually ordered a large set of these window clings for $14.95. I'm planning to use them in some of my big windows -- for rainbow magic AND as an attempt to keep birds from flying into our windows.) Anyway. . . maybe you'll be tempted to set up some "magic windows" for yourself!


The Covid Time Warp is Real


If you're like me, you probably feel like time "folded" (or something) since the Covid pandemic began. My concept of time . . . got really skewed, and it didn't really make sense to me. Well. Turns out I'm not the only one -- and that it's a Real Thing! A recent UCLA study demonstrates that most of us are experiencing a pandemic time warp, with 2020 and 2021 kind of meshing into one big blob of time. You can read the fascinating article about the concept here. But, in short, we lost the "markers" we usually use to tell time -- birthday celebrations, vacations, holidays, etc. -- and our brains just . . . got confused without that "breadcrumb trail" to follow.


Remember Macro May?

I've never participated in Macro May, but I know several people who do/have. Anyway, check this out for some iPhone Macro Photo Inspiration! These 10 photos represent the winners in Apple's iPhone Macro Photo Challenge. They're pretty incredible!


Looking for an Audiobook?


I love to have a good audiobook going whenever I walk JoJo or work in my garden or take up mundane home chores. Not all books make for good listening, though. The narrator can really make or break the whole experience! Esquire magazine just released a list of the 30 Best Audiobooks of All Time. This is a great list, covering a wide range of genres. Some books are fairly new releases, and some have been around for awhile. I actually downloaded 2 titles from this list to enjoy over the summer. (Bonus points if you can guess which ones!)


Just for Fun

When I was a kid, I used to love flip-books. Y'know, those books with animation on the edge of the pages . . . you flipped the pages and the drawings magically "moved?" Well . . . check out this quick little video and be amazed over the lost art of "fore-edge painting" (which is much cooler than those basic flip-books I loved as a child). It's awsome, and well worth the 3 minutes it'll take you to watch.


And with that, we're OFF!
Here's to a great week for all of us. 

Happy May, everyone.

April Showers and All That

April started in my corner of the world with showers. Both rain showers AND snow showers. Which is pretty typical. (Sigh.) But spring IS coming. (It really is.) A lot of times, though, here in Michigan at least, it takes it's own sweet time.

Anyway, a new flip of the calendar means it's time to . . . 


On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

"Come with me into the woods where spring is advancing as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible."
                                    --- Mary Oliver

When spring seems slow to arrive (like this year, for example), I need to remember Mary Oliver's words . . . that spring is advancing. No matter what.


White Dog Poop . . . and Other Things I Remember When I Was a Kid


This photo is me, age 8, and just about to launch myself down one of those scald-your-butt metal slides I loved when I was a kid. Remember those? Do you also remember . . . that dog poop used to be white? You're not imagining it. Dog poop was white when we were kids. Check out this slide show to find out why. Also why bananas and apples and Brussels sprouts taste different now (for better or worse), and why we used to dream in black-and-white, but now dream in color.


Build a Better Salad

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(Yes. That photo is Not a Salad. It is a batch of vegetable broth I was cooking up a couple of weeks ago. It is the nearest photo I have to a salad. Let's just roll with it.)

We don't eat a lot of fresh salads during the winter, but we sure do the rest of the year! I love mixing and matching salad ingredients, and conjuring up new salad combinations. But not everybody does. To inspire your salad-building, the Washington Post put together this Custom Salad Generator - which is very cool, and has me really excited to start making salads everyday once again.

Because I'm never sure whether you'll be able to open and read the links I include from news sources with paywalls, let me just give you the basic structure from the article (this is a screenshot, so those buttons at the bottom won't take you anywhere) . . . 

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  • Greens = well . . . greens! Romaine, spinach, Bibb, kale, arugula, etc. 
  • Proteins = chicken, tofu, salmon, beef, lentils, beans, etc.
  • Crunch = crisp veggies, croutons, nuts, chickpeas, bacon, etc.
  • Acidity = pickled onions, olives, dried fruit, tomatoes, apples, feta, etc.
  • Richness = avocado, bleu cheese, hummus, cooked potatoes, ham, etc.
  • Dressing = well . . . dressing!

Mmmmm. I'm really craving a salad right now. . . 


Staying Fit While Working in the Garden


My favorite online garden guru, Margaret Roach, recently wrote an article (and did a podcast) about staying fit while gardening -- a topic that hits two of my hot-button issues. Turns out . . . there is a new series on public broadcasting called GardenFit. Margaret describes GardenFit this way . . . 

[GardenFit is] a sort of reality show meets season-long garden tour that takes us on visits to distinctive private gardens around the country. We visit not just the places, but meet the gardeners behind them and learn what ails them, so to speak—what they could do better to care for themselves, and to stay, as the title of the series says, garden fit.

The prescription for that is provided by co-host Jeff Hughes, a fitness trainer who incorporates a cognitive slant into conventional training practices, who teamed with Madeline Hooper, a former public relations executive and passionate gardener, to create the program.

I haven't watched the show yet, but I plan to. If you want to learn more, you can read Margaret's article here (which includes a link to her podcast episode), and you can find the show on PBS (direct streaming) by clicking here.


Learning to Live With Covid


Much as I'd like to just wish it away, I'm afraid Covid is going to be sticking around in one form or other. I'm really no longer content to just sit around at home and hope it just ends, though. I'm navigating how to get out and about  . . . while still keeping myself healthy and safe. I'm meeting up with friends again, eating at restaurants now and then, and . . . running quick errands without wearing a mask. But I'm also paying close attention to "the numbers" in my community and taking precautions as much as possible.

There was a great article in the New York Times last week about living with Covid . . . while preparing for the Omicron sub variant, BA.2. Here's the link. And here are the 7 tips they provide in the article (in case you can't access the article behind the paywall).

  • Pay attention to Covid indicators in your community. You can use this CDC Covid Data Tracker by county to keep tabs on your area. (I keep this site bookmarked so I can check it regularly.)
  • Have high quality masks on hand. You might not need them right now, but it's good to have some N-95 masks on hand for the next surge -- and this is a good time to find them.
  • Stock up on at-home Covid tests, too. While these were hard to find during the Omicron surge, you can find them now and have some on hand for the next surge. (Just pay attention to the expiration dates. . . )
  • Get a booster when you're eligible.
  • Get a pulse oximeter.
  • Make a plan for antiviral treatment. (There are 2 antiviral treatments available, but they need to be administered during a very small window once you have Covid symptoms. Find out how you'd get them from your doctor -- and what pharmacies carry them in your area.)
  • Have back-up plans for social events and travel.


And with that, we're OFF!
Here's to a great SPRING-like week for all of us. 

Happy April, everyone.


On Doing Something

If you're anything like me, you're feeling overwhelmed about the situation in Ukraine right now. Maybe keeping up with the news while also not letting it bury you in an avalanche? Feeling hopeless, and wishing you could do something to help? Thinking that anything you can do, though . . . won't be nearly enough?

I've got some ideas for you.
C'mon. Let's  . . . 


On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.

Today, I'm hoping to inspire you . . . to do something. It will lighten your heart a little, and make someone else's life a little bit better.


"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
            --- John Wooden


So. There may not really be any ways for me (or you) to help in tangible, hands-on ways, but we can support organizations with boots on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. If you can make a donation, here are several organizations (each vetted by "charity watch" organizations) doing vital work. Any of them would welcome your support!

World Central Kitchen - WCK works on the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises. They build resilient food systems with locally led solutions. They are currently serving fresh meals every day to people fleeing Ukraine for safely, as well as to those who are remaining at home.

International Red Cross - The Red Cross is on the ground in Ukraine providing round-the-clock emergency aid. They are providing food, blankets, medicine, medical supplies, trauma kits and household items. They're also providing first aid training in bomb shelters and subway stations, distributing critical care supplies to those seeking shelter in Ukraine, and assisting with evacuation of people with disabilities.

Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders - MSF is an independent and impartial organization committed to providing medical humanitarian assistance to people affected by the war no matter who they are or where they are. They are currently mobilizing emergency response activities in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Russia, and Belarus.

CARE - CARE is raising money for its Ukraine Crisis Fund, which will provide immediate aid including food, water, hygiene kits, support services and direct cash assistance. The humanitarian organization aims to raise $20 million and help at least 4 million Ukrainians, saying it will prioritize women and girls, families and the elderly.

Other organizations I often hear mentioned favorably include: UNICEF, Save the Children, Nova Ukraine, Voices of Children, UN Refugee Agency, and International Medical Corps.

"Action is the antidote to despair."
            ---Joan Baez


Wish you could provide assistance to specific individuals who are now unable to work or earn income? There are a few clever ideas that may appeal to you.

Book an Airbnb stay . . . in Ukraine. Some people have found a novel way to get money to Ukrainians as their country is under attack from Russia: booking immediate Airbnb stays they don't intend to use. Airbnb hosts are paid 24 hours after a guest checks in, so people abroad are booking stays and letting hosts know that it's a gesture of solidarity, and that they don't plan to appear. Airbnb has waived fees, so all funds go to Ukrainian property owners.

Buy digital downloads from Ukrainian shop owners on Etsy. Etsy users can buy digital downloads of artworks from the website, which means the seller doesn’t have to worry about shipping. You can do this by searching for digital files on the website and filtering it by country. Like Airbnb, Etsy has waived their seller fees for Ukrainians. (It's important to always check that the seller is verified before you make any purchases.)

Buy a downloadable pattern on Ravelry. Ravelry has created an advanced search feature so you can shop knit and crochet patterns by Ukrainian designers. Ravelry has also waived fees during the crisis.

"I want to put a dent in the universe."
            --- Steve Jobs


Sometimes it helps to keep you hands busy. It's good for your soul . . . and often it's another way to help support organizations. Here are a few things that caught my eye this week on Ravelry . . . 

Ripples Make Waves is a beautiful hat designed by Casapinka (Ravelry) in support of and in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The pattern is free, but she does request that knitters downloading this pattern "pay it forward" by making a donation in support of the people of Ukraine.

Sunflowers for Solidarity is a sharp-looking pair of Scandinavian-style mittens with a sunflower motif designed by JennyPenny (Ravelry). Again, this pattern is free, but the designer requests that knitters make a donation in support of the people of Ukraine.

Knit and Donate is a cowl with a peace sign motif designed by Marion Bulin (Ravelry). Again, this is a free download, but - as the name implies - the designer does ask that knitters make a donation in support of the people of Ukraine.

And if you like embroidery, Nicki Franklin of The Stitchery (Great Britain) is offering her beautiful sunflower pattern as a PDF download with all proceeds going to the British Red Cross for their Ukrainian Crisis Appeal. Not only will you be supporting a good cause, but you'll also be able to stitch a lovely bunch of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine.

"Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it."
            --- Mahatma Gandhi


Lastly, please remember that doom-scrolling or reading/watching/listening to constant news updates will not help you much. It's important to be informed, sure -- but we also need to take care of ourselves. Remember to breathe. Keep moving. Nourish yourself. Connect with your family and friends. And . . . turn off the news!

When you do want to catch up again, I have one recommendation for you: SharonSaysSo on Instagram. (And, yes. She's worth opening an Instragram account for if you don't already have one.) Sharon McMahon, former high school government teacher, provides common sense, plain-talking news updates and history lessons that are refreshingly free of hype. (And also free of hate.) Check her out. You can follow along with all her Ukraine posts by clicking "Ukraine" in her Stories.

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
            --- William James


And with that . . . we're off!
It's a fresh week.
Let's have a good one!


At Least It's Short . . . and Sweet

February is well under way. Still very cold. Still dark. Still a lot of snow. 

At least it's short (and sweet)!
It's time for a February-style . . . 


On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

"The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time."
            --- Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver always says it best, y'know? I am keeping this quote tacked to my bulletin board this year . . . where I hope to give my own creative power (both restive and uprising) more power and more time.


Doing Good . . . While Knitting


Okay, knitters and makers! Here's a great opportunity/excuse to sit around knitting/making all day long next Saturday! Knitwear designer Laura Nelkin is organizing the second annual Knit for Food 12-hour knitathon. I missed the inaugural event last year, but I'm sure jumping on the bandwagon for this year's version! Just think how much progress I could make on the big-brown-blob if I knit for 12 hours straight??? I may not be able to sit and knit for the whole 12 hours, but I'm certainly going to participate with my donation -- and with my attention. Read all about it and sign up here!


Worth Re-Reading


I hardly ever re-read books. I often mean to . . . but then I end up being lured by new books (because there is never a shortage of really great-sounding books out there, y'know?), and I never seem to have reading-energy left for re-reading even the books that I especially loved. 

Last week, I finished reading Ann Patchett's new book of essays, These Precious Days, and it reminded me of how much I loved her novel Bel Canto many years ago. And then Bonny mentioned Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson, which reminded me how much I loved THAT book many years ago. And then I saw this article in The Atlantic listing 15 books you won't regret re-reading. Of those 15 books, I have read - and loved or at least really liked -  12 of them! Perhaps the time has finally come for me to do a little targeted re-reading. Starting with Bel Canto. . . and then moving on to Cutting for Stone. And then we'll see how it goes from there. (Because The Books of Jacob calls. . . and that one is likely to take a while.)

How about you? Any of your old favorites on The Atlantic's list? And do you take the time to re-read your favorite books?


Garden Dreaming


It's in February . . . when my garden is still shrouded in snow and the temperatures are still Really Fuc%ing Cold and bloggers-who-live-in-the-south (cough cough - it's Mary) start posting real-time photos of blooming daffodils . . . that I start to hunger for my garden again. At this point in the season, though, I must satisfy myself with my ever-expanding houseplant "collection," watching the weather for possible thaws (where I might actually get out to check on things), and planning for some design ideas I have for the upcoming season.

Thank goodness for Margaret Roach! If you're also hungering for gardening right about now, you might want to check out her February Garden Chore List . . . or her Houseplant Tune-up tips. I'm kinda thinking it's gonna be awhile before I can get out and do any actual pruning, but I can certainly give my houseplants a "spa day" in my shower!

How about you? Got the gardening itch yet???


Tuning In to the Olympics?

Last summer, I didn't pay much attention to the Olympics. I think it was harder to figure out how to watch it all, now that there are so many streaming options. But I also think it was the season. There's so much to DO in the summer that I don't have much time to sit in front of the TV. The winter, though? Oh, I'm a captive audience! Tom and I tune in to the Olympics now during our evening TV-time. As you might guess, we watch a lot of curling. But we also like the exciting-yet-terrifying stuff (the skiing and snowboard events), the hockey, and ice skating (for the record, Tom is not a fan of ice skaing, but, during the Olympics, I am and he is a good sport about that). 

How about you? Are you watching the Winter Olympics? If you want a quick immersion into curling (which is really fun to watch), check out the video above. It explains the basics of the game in a fun way (also quickly and effectively) -- and gets Tom's curling "seal of approval."


One Last Thing

Last week, Juliann mentioned a recipe she had recently tried for crispy baked tofu. I had been looking for just such a recipe . . . so I tried it. And I am here to tell you it is fabulous -- and will be part of my regular, eat-more-vegetarian strategy. Even Tom, who is no fan of tofu, liked it when I subbed it for shrimp in the pad thai I made for dinner last night. (And that's saying something!Here's the recipe . . . easy-peasy, and really tasty.


And with that, we're OFF!
Here's to a great - healthy - week for all of us. 

Happy February, everyone.


A Bit Sluggish

It's very cold.
I'm discombobulated because the painting project continues this week.
I'm running a bit on the sluggish side today.

Maybe you, too? It's definitely time to . . . 

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On the first a Monday of early in the month (see aforementioned discombobulation), I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

The secret of change is to focus all of our energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
            --- Dan Millman

This is the quote I wrote in my planner to inspire me this week. I've seen this quote several times over the years, but I've never "collected" it -- mostly because it's often attributed to Socrates. Although sometimes, also, to Dan Millman. I don't like to use quotes when (a) I can't attribute it to the originator, or (b) if the originator is offensive to me. But this quote seems like the Right One for me this week, so I decided to dig around a little. It's safe to say . . . Socrates is NOT the originator of the quote. Apparently, that all got started when someone posted it on Facebook, claiming it was Socrates who said it. (Go figure.) It was, indeed, Dan Millman - who is a former gymnast, coach, and teacher who is now a writer and inspirational speaker. I couldn't find anything terribly offensive about him on a cursory review. So. There's my quote for the week. (Not Socrates. No matter what it says on Facebook.) 


Read With Us


Tomorrow - Tuesday, January 11 - is Read With Us book discussion day. Bonny, Carole, and I will post a question about the book here on our blogs for a comment-driven discussion AND we'll be hosting our Zoom book discussion later in the evening at 7:00 pm Eastern time. If you've had a chance to Read With Us, you already know it will be an interesting discussion . . . and if you haven't? Well. We're a fun group to hang out with, so you're welcome, too.

I'll be sending out the Zoom invitation notice later this morning (again, see aforementioned discombobulation) with a couple of links for "advance prep" if you like that kind of thing, or if you'd just like a "refresh" on the book. I've decided to just send the invitation automatically to those of you who frequently join in for the Zoom discussions -- AND I'm also including others of you who have mentioned reading the book in the comments. If you don't receive a Zoom invitation before the end of the day today and you really want to join in, please send me an email and I'll send you the link. And if I do send you the invitation and you can't join in . . . no worries! (BUT it would be helpful if you let me know you won't be able to make it.)


Expanding Your TBR List

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When it comes to reading, I really enjoy well-translated books from international writers. It's not always easy to find good translated novels to read, though. They're not usually promoted on the lists of "best of" book lists we typically see here in the US. They just don't seem to land on most readers' "hot picks" lists, either.  And yet . . . many of the best books I've read in recent years are actually translations. (And, to me, good translations are magical!)

I know that a lot of you are looking to expand your reading experiences and "read harder" (I can never really understand what that means, exactly, but I do know it's quite a popular concept . . . ), so I thought I'd share this source of international books written in other languages and translated into English from Words Without Borders. (That link will take you to their list of Best Translated Books of 2021.) Another good source of high quality translations is the International Booker Prize. Give it a try! You might find something magical.


A New Foreign Lifestyle Concept For You


I know most of you are familiar with the lifestyle concepts of . . . 

hygge (Danish; that coziness feeling)

fika (Swedish; pleasant and frequent coffee breaks)

friluftsliv (Norwegian; open-air living)

shinrin-yoku (Japanese; forest bathing)

But have you heard of uitwaaien? It's a Dutch lifestyle concept . . . and it embraces walking or jogging into the wind - especially in the winter - for the purpose of feeling invigorated and reducing stress while boosting one's general health. Researchers are, indeed, finding there are health benefits to being outside (safely, of course) in all kinds of weather, including cold winds. I know that I never "feel like" taking my daily walk with the dogs when it's cold and windy outside, but I always love it when I actually get out there! I love the bracing cold . . . for awhile. And I love coming back inside when the walk is over. 

I'm not suggesting you go all Wim Hof here, but . . . maybe get out there on a windy day and try a little uitwaaien!





I know it's been a very long time since I've used "Corona Lisa" in a blog post. I try not to talk much about Covid in this space. Because, of course, you get enough of that everywhere else. But it's big on my mind these days . . . because we're dealing with it right now in our family. Erin and Keith are both deep into their "mild" (ha! that is a relative statement) Omicron bouts of Covid following their (ill-advised but couldn't be helped) holiday travel. And Brian and Lauren were exposed at a (ill-advised but couldn't be helped) work event over the weekend. And Tom spent the weekend at a curling event in Detroit (sure, it was a closely "bubbled" event, but . . . probably ill-advised ). And we have (vaxx'd and boosted) painters working in our house right now (also ill-advised and highly-debated, but sometimes you just gotta take the risk).

So. Anyway. Back to my point.

This Omicron variant? It really is everywhere. And even if most of us have been trying really hard to do the right things and stay isolated as best we can, it's out there, folks. And it's super easy to pick up. 

Some things I've learned over the weekend:

  • Omicron has a shorter incubation period than the previous variants (2-4 days after exposure).
  • You're most contagious in the days before you have any symptoms (that 2-4 day window usually).
  • The home antigen tests will pick up the Omicron variant -- but not usually until Day 5 OF actual symptoms (and this held true for Erin and Keith).
  • You're actually less contagious by the time you test positive. 

This explains . . . a lot. So just . . .  keep it in mind.

And, if (when?) you do test positive? Then what? That was one of Erin's first questions and biggest concerns. Now what should I do? Here's an article from The Atlantic that specifically addresses the what-to-do-if-you-get-a-breakthrough-Omicron-infection. It's helpful information to have around, although new details are coming to light all the time. (The article is from mid-December, so we do know more. The advice, though, is still relevant.)

Stay informed.
Stay safe.
Take care of yourselves.


And with that, we're OFF!
Here's to a great - healthy - week for all of us. 

Happy January, everyone.


At the Starting Line: Revving Up for November

And. Just like THAT . . . it's November! 
Let's get our engines revving, shall we?

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On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have recently caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf's a flower."
            --- Albert Camus

Every week, I find a quote that suits my mood and I write it in my (old school) planner . . . right at the top where I am reminded of it each day. This year, it's really taken a long while for (what I think of as) "fall" to begin. It's only recently gotten consistently chilly. The leaves are finally beginning to turn color and fall. I'm still fighting shoes and socks, but that's typical for me until the snow falls. But. Here we are. November!



First up, I've got the coolest thing to share: The Literature Clock. I heard about it last week, and just can't stop . . . checking it! Apparently, a guy named Jaap Meijer created a special kind of . . . clock . . . for his book-crazy girlfriend. But. This isn't just any clock! It updates the time every minute - on a Kindle - with a literary quote using that time indication. So if it's say . . . 9:23 . . . the clock will display a quote that includes the time 9:23. He has left detailed "instructions" so others can turn their Kindles into clocks. Or . . . if you're not interested in "jailbreaking" your Kindle, a guy named Johannes Enevoldsen picked up the concept and created a web-based Literature Clock. You can click here to watch the clock in a whole new way! (Once I caught on to how cool this really is, I can't look away.) It works. It's cool. I love it!



Next, I'm gonna stay with the "literature" theme, but veer off a little into . . . have you ever wondered??? territory. As in . . . have you ever wondered why so many books out these days have covers that just look like blobs of color? I know I have . . . and then I saw this article that explains the how and the why behind the book blobs, the latest book-cover-design trend.

So. Now you know.


Let's talk sewing for a minute now, shall we? When it comes to sewing, my least favorite step is the cutting out step. (If something is already cut out, my odds of actually sitting down and sewing it are astronomically high. If I have to cut it out first? Ummm. Not so much.) And if there's any part of sewing I hate EVEN MORE than cutting out, it's taping pieces of pattern together from a downloaded PDF file.

Don't get me wrong. I love the ease and convenience of instant-download patterns (and I love supporting the indie designers that depend on instant-downloads to sell their patterns). But. That taping? Major hassle. I found a local printer to print out my pattern files using the "copy shop" option, but it's pretty darn pricey. I've also used Patternsy -- all the way in the UK -- but super fast, pleasant to deal with, and way cheaper than my local print shop. 

Last week, I saw that Helen's Closet (designer of a couple of my favorite indie patterns . . . the York Pinafore and the Blackwood Cardigan) published a very helpful blog post with hints, tips, and suggestions for printing large format sewing patterns. The information in the post is great, and includes links to tried-and-true pattern printing companies all around the globe. If you're looking to print some PDF sewing patterns, it will be a great resource for you.



Lastly, in the Can You Believe This department . . . Jesus Christ Superstar (on Broadway in the US) is 50!!! I know this shouldn't surprise me at all. My sister and I listened to this album again and again and again on my little record player in our (at that time shared) bedroom. . . and we were quite young then. But still. 50 years? Time does fly! Anyway, I enjoyed reading this article about JCS at 50 in the New York Times, and I thought some of you might like it, too.


And with that, we're OFF!
Here's to a great week for all of us.

Happy November, everyone.






Revving Up . . . for October

October is here!  A month full of beautiful fall landscapes (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere), pumpkin spice everything, and tempting miniature candy bars. Seriously, October is one of my favorite months of the year.

So let's get our October engines revving, shall we?


On the first Monday of the month, I share random things that have caught my eye. Interesting articles, little factoids, and inspiring this-and-that, for the most part. Things that might help get your day started in a revved-up kind of way.


Let's start things off with a quote . . . 

"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
            --- W.B. Yeats

Every week, I find a quote that suits my mood and I write it in my (old school) planner . . . right at the top where I am reminded of it each day. This week, I want to acknowledge the change-of-seasons magic I'm seeing all around me. I want to tune my senses into the sights, the smells, the sounds, and all the feels of fall. (And maybe I'll even grab a PSL . . . so I can enjoy the taste, too!)



Let's move on to some . . . book talk. If you're a Reader, you probably love this time of year. Fall is always reserved for the biggest book releases of the season (lining up with most of the major literary award deadlines AND the holiday gift-giving season) -- but this year, there are EVEN MORE big book releases than usual. Why? Oh, because of the pandemic, of course. (What hasn't it impacted, huh?)

Anyway. Lots of books! Lots of really GOOD books.
But how to decide which books to read first?

Well. Literary Hub has put together a little flowchart to help you decide!

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(And . . . stay tuned for the latest Read With Us book announcement coming tomorrow.)
(HINT: It's a book on the flowchart.)


Next, I've got a little-bit-factoid, little-bit-try-this. Last month, I read a horrifying little article in the New York Times about The Cotton Tote Crisis. As in . . . how did an environmental solution (reusable cotton tote bags) become part of the problem?


Cotton tote bags (like the three I have hanging on the back of my bathroom/dressing room door here) have created an entirely new environmental problem. It turns out that ONE organic cotton tote . . . needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its overall impact of production. That's DAILY use for 54 years!!! (And I have 3 bags just right there on that one door handle, and that translates to daily use for 162 years.) (Yikes.) What's the deal, you ask? Well. Cotton . . . is very water intensive to process. And there are, of course, the forced labor issues. And . . . you can't recycle or compost most textiles, including organic cotton.

What to do? Here's an article with a few simple suggestions for what to do with your resusable tote collection. My strategy from here on out? Not to grab any new bags (because apparently I have enough to last for several lifetimes as it is).


In the Express Yourself Department . . . did you know that there is a World Emoji Day?  (I totally missed it, but apparently it's celebrated on July 17 each year.)

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Anyway, Adobe Products released their 2021 Global Emoji Trend Report on World Emoji Day back in July with some (not so surprising) results: People like using emojis to express their feelings and show empathy in a world of digital communication. You can read the results here. And you can see all the new emojis coming out sometime in 2021/2022 here. (My favorite is the melting face emoji. . . )


Are you looking for something pumpkin-y to make this fall? (And I'm not talking food.)


Here are three fiber-y ideas for you:

Here's a sweet little pumpkin pincushion to make (which would also look very cute and festive without any pins) (just sayin) from Doodle & Stitch. It's a simple design - you don't need pattern pieces - and the directions are included in the post. You just need felt and some stuffing! (Stitching can be done on a sewing machine or by hand.)

If you feel like knitting up some pumpkins, there are tons of patterns on Ravelry. I've made this one before (BONUS! It's a freebie!). If you're looking for something a little more . . . complete . . . this one is is adorable -- and you could create an entire pumpkin patch (not free). And I love the shape of this pumpkin pattern - available with a knit AND a crochet option (another freebie!).

Or maybe you want to try your hand at sculpted needle felting? Pumpkins (like the ones I made, above) are a great place to start! You can nab a kit (with everything you need to make more than 3 pumpkins, including detailed instructions and access to a video tutorial) from Felted Sky.


And with that, we're OFF!
Here's to a great week for all of us.

Happy October, everyone.