This and That

This or That: Summer Reading Edition

How it's already gotten to be the last week of July . . . is beyond me. Really. Time has been flying! Anyway. I've been thinking a lot about summer reading lately, and to celebrate this week's Booker Prize long list announcement (Tuesday), I thought it might be fun to wrap up the month with . . . 


Reading a book-book . . . OR . . . Reading on an e-reader

Listening to an audiobook . . . OR . . . I can't concentrate when I listen to a book

Feel like I must finish what I start . . . OR . . . Life is too short to read books I'm not enjoying

Library . . . OR . . . Bookstore

Sometimes I read the ending first . . . OR . . . I wouldn't dream of peeking at the ending

Book club . . . OR . . . No group reads for me

Multiple books at once . . . OR . . . One book at a time

Read in bed . . . OR . . . Too tired to concentrate on a book at bedtime

Follow book awards . . . OR . . . Book awards? What book awards?

Sometimes I re-read books . . . OR . . . Not interested in reading something again

Always have a book with me . . . OR . . . Always have my knitting with me


To answer, just copy the the list above, paste it into the comment field, and indicate your answers.

This . . . or . . . That? 
I can't wait to see what you choose.

(As for me? Check the comments to find out!)

Very Random Things

It's been A Week around here, let me tell you. I worked at our special election all day Tuesday (and by that I mean 16 hours, beginning at 6 am, mostly spent sitting on very hard folding chairs) (for a mere 79 voters at my precinct, but the school millage renewal did pass, so there is that). And then yesterday I had a Zoom board meeting in the morning and a Zoom art class all afternoon long. And then I discovered a major issue that is going to completely disrupt my photo scanning project, and that . . . just took all the wind out of my sails.

I mean. . . none of this is a Big Deal.
None of it.
But it has combined to throw me off my game (as if I have one). 
I'm glad I thought ahead and stuck this sticker in my planner this week. . . 


Always a good reminder.

So. Because that's all the whining anyone needs to do (or read about) when it comes to minor inconveniences and silly blunders, here are three Very Random Things on a Thursday.

First. April has ended. . . which means National Poetry Month has ended . . . which means I'm not sharing poetry today. But I am sharing this stack of poetry books I purchased for my personal collection during April. (I'm very intentional about supporting poets and adding a few volumes every April.)


Second, remember when I told you I have a love/hate relationship with houseplants? We're entering the "hate" phase again, unfortunately. I discovered spider mites on three of my plants. Two are now out the door and in the yard waste recycling bin (hopeless cases). I'm working hard to treat the third with organic options (soap, essential oils, rubbing alcohol), but I'm not confident that any of it will work. Oh, well. (And this photo has nothing to do with my spider mites or their treatment but I'm throwing it in anyway.)


Third, Tom has unlocked the Pandemic Ponytail Achievement! This was his pandemic goal, so I'm not sure what he'll be doing next with his hair. (He did complain that it "gets in the way" just yesterday . . . ) So much suspense.


I don't think I could get any more random than that if I tried.

Happy Thursday, everyone.
(And be sure to jump over to Carole's to read other Three on Thursday posts this week.)


Also. . . 

If any of you have used an outside photo scanning service, would you mind sharing your thoughts, experience, suggestions with me? Let's just say . . . I'm in the market for such. But I'm nervous about sending/shipping my actual photos . . .


Looping Back

Sometimes, especially on a Friday for some reason, it's just kinda fun to . . . loop back . . . and check in on past blog posts.

Like . . . remember those Costco tulips I wrote about a couple of weeks ago?

IMG_2827 2

They're at the end of their bloom-time now -- but they were pretty stunning last night as the sun was setting and shining just exactly where they are! Flowers are always magical, aren't they?

And then . . . there's my herb Aerogarden. I first blogged about it at the end of January, when it was freshly set up and looked very, well, new. Now, though? Herbs for days!


I've been regularly harvesting the basil (both types) already. And if I don't start using the dill soon there's gonna be trouble!


And then . . . there's the Great Overall Plan I explained last week. Guess what arrived by special delivery yesterday? (All the way from the UK already.)


So now the lightweight olive denim-or-canvas hunt is ON with a new urgency!

And I think that pretty much catches you all up on blog-loose-ends for now. Except . . . oh! We do have heat again. And the furnace repair was only $276! (There was a water main break in our neighborhood yesterday, though. So our water pressure comes and goes as they continue working on fixing it.) (Can't win 'em all. . . )

Have a great weekend everyone. And I'll see you on Monday.



Old Dogs, New Tricks

A couple of months ago, Vicki told us all about this very fun online cooking class she and her sister took together. And that got me thinking! My sister's birthday was coming up (at the time; it's a month passed now) . . . and maybe I could give her an online cooking class that we could take together! Wouldn't that be fun?

So I got more information from Vicki . . . and started digging around. Now, New Orleans style cooking (the class Vicki and her sister did) probably wouldn't appeal much to my sister. While she likes to cook, that's not really in her wheelhouse. I needed to cast my net a little further. . . and then I found that Sur La Table has a huge selection of online cooking and baking classes.


My sister loves to bake -- so I signed us both up for a 2-session croissant baking class. My thinking was that neither of us would attempt croissants on our own. They're technically difficult and the recipes/directions are totally intimidating . . . so it seemed a class setting might be the best way to learn how to make them. Plus . . . croissants immediately remind us of our travels together (and our shared love for Louise Penny's "Three Pines" book series).

We had our class this past weekend.


It was really fun! The advance materials were good, and we were able to get ourselves prepped and ready to go before the class started. (Reading too far ahead, though, was still totally intimidating! Laminated dough is not for the weak of heart . . . ) The pacing was good, so we were able to keep up with the steps along with the online instruction.


The tips and tricks were invaluable. And for me, the professional tips on rolling out dough . . . worth the price of admission right there!


And by the end of Day 1, we had laminated croissant dough proofing in the refrigerator . . . 


. . . all ready for Day 2. Which was all rolling, cutting, and shaping our croissants. More proofing . . . 


And finally . . . baking!


And, in the end, we each had a delicious batch of croissants!


They were seriously GOOD.


And I feel confident enough to make them again . . . on my own!

My sister had great success with her batch of croissants, too. It was a lot of fun to take the class with my sister. Although we couldn't see each other during the class (neither of us turned our cameras on), we texted and shared photos with each other throughout both sessions. Maybe I'll be able to talk her into another baking class soon . . . French Apple Tarte Tartin, maybe? Or Raspberry Macarons?

You really can teach old dogs new tricks!


Planning Ahead: Goodbye 2020

Two weeks from today . . . is a day we've all been longing for: The Last Day of 2020!

Now, I fully understand that turning the calendar from 2020 to 2021 will NOT make everything better. When we wake up on January 1 . . . the pandemic will still be with us, racism will still be rampant, climate change will still be a threat, the country will still be divided, partisanship will still rule Congress, and (for 19 more days) Trump will still be president.

Even so . . . there will be a huge feel-good factor in turning that calendar over to a new year.
(Because 2020 WAS a really shitty year.)

And even though we really want to celebrate the end of this crap-year, our New Year's Eve celebrations (at least for many of us) will look quite different from "usual," more recent years.


Tom and I, for example, are sad to be missing the special New Year's Eve dinner we've shared together for many years at one of our favorite local restaurants. (And we're hoping this restaurant survives the pandemic to offer it next New Year's Eve.) We'll welcome the New Year at home this year. And I'll prepare our traditional New Year's Day dinner of black eyed peas and cornbread the next day.

But we're looking for . . . something more! It seems more important than ever to do something special this year. But what??? What can we do . . . to say goodbye to this dumpster-fire-of-a-year and welcome 2021?

I did a bit of digging and found some ideas.
And I thought you might like them, too.

Some are silly. Some are simple. Some require a bit of planning ahead. Some are food-related. Some are clothing-related. But all of them have the same goal: Saying goodbye and good riddance  to 2020 . . . and welcoming 2021 with open arms -- while also inviting good luck and prosperity into our lives.

Here's a list of New Year's traditions from around the world. While I'd LOVE to try swinging balls of fire (this one from Scotland), I'll probably satisfy myself with eating 12 grapes (Spain), smashing pomegranates onto my patio (Greece), and jumping off a chair at midnight (Denmark).

Here's another list of even more New Year's traditions from around the world. While there is some overlap (the grapes, for example, and the chair-jumping), this list also includes other simple try-this-at-home ideas like smashing plates (Denmark again), wearing white (Brazil), running around the block with empty suitcases (Colombia), or throwing water out the window (Puerto Rico). This list also explains that the color of the underwear your wear can make a big difference in terms of what you're wishing for in the new year: yellow for luck, red for love, white for peace (Latin America).

If you're more interested in food/cooking traditions, this list is more food-themed (although . . . again with the grapes!). We've got soba noodles (Japan), foie gras, oysters, lobster, and escargot (France), lentils (Italy), round fruit (the Philippines), and bread (Ireland and Greece) -- just for a start. This list also includes links to recipes if you'd like to incorporate any of these ideas into your own celebration. (I'm particularly interested in the recipe for a Pomegranate Margartita. Y'know . . . for before I get started hurling the pomegranates at the ground.)

If you're interested in creating some type of "ritual" to exorcise (or even embrace) 2020 as you say goodbye, Gretchen Rubin devoted a Happier podcast episode to exactly this -- and she shared many interesting listener-suggested ideas. You can listen to the podcast episode here, or just read a summary of the ideas here.


So. What do you think? Do you have any special rituals or traditions you're planning to try for your New Year's celebration this year?


Just a note: The "wish paper" one of the listeners on Gretchen Rubin's podcast talks about? We've used it before for our New Year's celebration -- and it is SO FUN. It really works, and is a great way to send up your wishes for the new year. I checked this morning and there is VERY LIMITED stock on Amazon -- but there was still some available if you're interested. A quick Google search also showed other sources. Sadly, though, there are no Peppermint Pigs to be found anywhere. (I tried. . .


It's Thursday and I'm Tired

It's Thursday and I've had a busy week.  I'm tired.  I'm running out of ideas - for gifts and dinners and blog posts.  And I'm really weary of Christmas music.  (There.  I said it.)  


Here are three random things that have nothing to do whatsoever with the holidays.


1 - Tom and I have gone to the movies two nights in a row.  (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missoui one night, and Lady Bird the next.)

2 - As of late last night, Erin will have finished all coursework and finals for her Masters in Professional Writing program at Carnegie Mellon University.  (Hip-hip-hurray!)

3 - We had to take Jenny to the vet earlier this week because we found an alarming (to us) "thing" at the base of one of her ears.  Turns out it is just a kind of wart -- and very common in older dogs; no big deal.  (Phew. . .)

That's that.  Now . . . back to my holiday list.


Read more Three on Thursday posts over at Carole's.


Rolling My Eyes Here

Marketing campaigns and materials are carefully designed to connect with consumers on an emotional level -- to tug at heartstrings or trigger guilt; to create hunger or desire; to appear to have your best interests at heart.  At the very least, marketers want to catch your eye.

Sometimes, though, they just make me roll my eyes.

Three instances:

1 - From a tube of Aveeno Positively Ageless Firming Body Lotion we have . . .


Shiitake mushroom complex.

What IS that?  And why would I want to slather it on my body for "firming looking skin in just 2 weeks?"  I have no idea, but I roll my eyes everytime I use the lotion. 


2 - From a promotional mail piece Tom received from Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises we have . . . 


Welcome to the Crystal Yachting Lifestyle.  (Which is trademarked, apparently.)

And then it gets even better.  Complimentary butler service.

Are you kidding me?  They're targeting my husband for this?  Rolling my eyes that the "yachting lifestyle" is even a thing.  And that it might actually appeal to . . . someone.  (And if you ARE living the "yachting lifestyle" already, I can't imagine that you're going to sign up for one of these cruises.  Because I'm thinking the "yachting lifestyle" is kind of . . . well . . . independent of a cruise.  Y'know?)


3 - From my bottle of mint Listerine, we have . . .


Everfresh Technology.  (Also trademarked.)  

Everfresh technology?  You mean . . . super strong mint flavor that makes your mouth tingle and feel like it might make your head explode?  Is THAT the Everfresh technology at work?  They're blinding me with science!


There you have it.  Three things on a Thursday.  To see what three things (eye-rolling or otherwise) other bloggers are sharing this week, click here.  (And while you're at it, be sure to wish Carole a happy birthday when you're there!)





Friday Catch Up With Added Amaryllis-Watch Bonus

It's Friday, and there are a few loose ends I need to tie up.  Let's roll.


The weather.  Ugh.  So tedious.  First, there's snow.  Then there's polar vortex.  Then a freakish warm up.  With lots of wind.  And rain.  Which melts all the snow and then . . . freezes.

So there's that.

Next up?


I wore my hat - With Pom - the other day.  Just out running errands, getting gas, that kind of thing.  The pom-pom drove me nuts.  I could feel it back there, bobbing around.  It had to go.  (Yeah, it was a nice color combination, but it really bugged me.)  I like the hat much better Without Pom.

In other news, Linda from Grand Rapids was the lucky winner of my extra copy of Making magazine.  I finally got it shipped off to her yesterday.  (I'm notorious for preparing a package for mailing, and then driving it around in my car for days before I actually get to the post office.) 


Ugh.  Winter with no snow is just . . . bleak.

Good thing I have amaryllis (in various stages) to help me through these dark days.

My grocery-store-rescue amaryllis is on the last legs of it's second set of blooms.  I'll spare you that view (because we're way past the exit at this point), and share this one instead.


This one is pretty cool.  It's called Tres Chic (from White Flower Farm).  (Now that it's blooming, I can identify it.)  The blooms are much smaller than typical amaryllis -- but look closely at the center of the photo.  There are going to be SIX blooms on this stalk, rather than the typical four.  I can't wait to see all six blooms at once.  Or. . .  let's just say I HOPE I get to see all six blooms at once.  This one is making me a bit nervous -- because the bulb is actually rotting.  (Yeah.  It's pretty gross.)  This is a risk of planting the bulb in stones with water.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed . . . that the blooming happens before the bulb gives out.

This next one, though, is looking good.  The bulb is healthy and the first bud should be popping open any day now. 


This one?  Almost in the same state.  Maybe next week?


Remember the bulb I thought was going to be a fail?  Well.  Turns out it's just v-e-r-y s-l-o-w.


The bud finally emerged, but it's really taking it's sweet time making progress.  That's just fine with me, though.  Because it means I'll have blooms all the way into February!

And . . . that's a wrap!

Have a great weekend.



End-of-Year Clearance

The gifts . . . opened.  

The food . . . eaten.  

The snow . . . melted.  

So here we are, suddenly at the end of the year.  It's time to clear out some inventory with a little-of-this/little-of-that post:


First up:  Real inventory!

Have you seen this magazine?


It's a lovely little publication by Carrie Bostick Hoge - filled with knitting and hand-stitching patterns, recipes, coloring pages, and beautiful photography.  I got so excited when I saw the first issue back in the summer (there are four per year) that I subscribed. 

And then I forgot I subscribed.  And got so excited when I saw the new issue this fall, ordered it.  (Again.)

So now I have two copies!

I want to share my second copy . . . so if you'd like it, just let me know in the comments sometime this week and I'll draw a lucky winner over the weekend.


It is ACTION Tuesday . . . and although I've been a bit lazy and not taking any action myself these last couple of weeks (I blame it on the cookies), it is my intention to continue posting action-ideas in the new year.  In the meantime, here are are couple of organizations who are putting together more immediate, concrete action-items and information you may want to check out:

Wall of Us - sign up for their email alert and you'll receive four concrete acts of resistance delivered to your inbox each week.

Download the Indivisible Guide, a practical guide to resisting the DJT agenda.  You can also sign up for updates.


With the new year comes a new . . . one little word.  I've already got my word for 2017 picked out (it started screaming at me last August, and hasn't stopped yet) . . . how about you?  Are you picking a word for yourself for the coming year?

If you want to join Ali Edwards' official One Little Word program for 2017 (and receive monthly prompts and inspiration to stay connected with your word all year long), the sign-ups are open -- with a discount for registering before January 1.  

You can also order all kinds of neat "stuff" to create a scrapbook-ish journal of your word - to follow along with Ali.  I don't do this part (I keep my own journal in my own way; although I do like to stay inspired with her monthly prompts), but it's an option.


I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to a whole lot more hygge here as winter takes hold!  And now, I really should have a little more time to sit and knit.  

I also need a new hat.  (The ribbing always stretches out on my handknit hats.  Does this happen to anyone else?  Do you have a solution?)

So I'm going to cast on next week along with Kat and Juliann in their unofficial Rob Roy KAL.


And that's it for today!

Enjoy the downtime this week.  

(Isn't it great to be able to just kick back a little bit -- and breathe?)

(And don't forget -- let me know if you'd like my extra copy of Making, Vol. 2.)





A Few Quick and Rather Random Updates

I'm on my way to Lansing today for an all day meeting, so I thought this would be a great time to bring you some updates . . . on this and that.

First, Brian and Lauren are settling in to their new apartment in Broomfield, Colorado.  While moving somewhere new always requires an adjustment (or two), they're managing very well.  (And with a view like this, what's not to love?)


Second, driving Miss JoJo  . . . worked!  Here, you can see both dogs in the back seat as we were driving home from our trip up north last weekend.  (On a beach towel, of course.  I'm not stupid.)  Although car rides are still not JoJo's favorite thing, she willingly jumps in the car now, and will even take a nap.  (And no carsick.  Bonus!)

FullSizeRender 19

And, last, our Baby Loon is growing up fast!  Last weekend, the Loon Family was still hanging close together -- but you can see Junior is beginning to show the distinctive loon markings.  (I'm betting he/she will be all grown up before we get back up to the lake in a couple of weeks.)


Enjoy your day!