Saturday, July 14, 2018

ten years of blogging

lots of zinnias

leopard lilies which really is an iris

tiger lilies and liatris just starting to bloom


josh and the girls

cleome  pretty but smelly

Ten years ago I enrolled in Wayne State's Summer Abroad program in Italy. Our workplace had closed down but they gave us a sizeable 'retraining' allowance which could be used at an 'accredited "institution.  I didn't think I would go back to work, though Steve did for a while. I decided to learn Italian in situ. I was hesitant to sign up. Six weeks without knowing anyone might make me go crazy. I once nearly had a psychotic break at a meeting in which I had felt totally isolated. This was before cell phones. But I was glad I went up in a very small hill town in the Apennines in Abruzzo staying in a monastery. I started the blog to keep contact with those at home. Sue in Italia.  I found out I had cancer shortly after I returned so thus. Sue in Cancerland which turned into Sue's escape from Cancerland..

I feel a bit hesitant to spend a whole week starting tomorrow alone though Naomi will be with me 2 days in the middle. Also many of the same people return year after year including one nice man I spent a lot of time with in bars. He also rides at my speed. But I can call people and I've brought books.

This is my third round of poison ivy and its way worst than the other 2 rounds. Fortunately I have drugs now which make it feel a bit better. I can almost ignore it during the day but nights are tough. I hope the worst is over. My contact was with a dry vine. Can't believe the reaction it set off two days later. Worse, I see lots of poison ivy that I missed. 

We are now in a drought though currently a few drops are finally falling. Its supposed to rain a lot downstate while I'm gone. I might get some rain Monday morning, the first day of riding. I have more than a thousand miles under my belt this year. I should be ready.

I am always stressed before leaving. Do I have everything? Most things are packed. I won't leave until noon. Also I was stressed out trying to use a companion certificate before it expires for Steve. Utah here we come this fall.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

saving a mole

we took a walk in the arb the other day going to the river which was full of rafts and kayaks. The girls love the water but the sharp rocks were hard on Allie's feet. Then we went out to dinner


yesterday morning my cabana cushion was covered with these muddy footprints. I guess the raccoon likes to relax there too

Maya as a mermaid holding her new kitten Nala

An artist down the street once a year opens up her extensive gardens and invites other artists there too. I bought this from a sculptor whose studio is in the other direction. I've bought stuff from his wife in the past, mainly tiles. I had fun filling my new planter with end of season annuals though he markets it as a strawberry pot

my spaghetti squash have developed corkscrew tendrils to fasten to my deer cage. I've been harvesting zucchini, crookneck squash and patty pans

I have huge balls of pink hydrangeas

phlox with evasive catnip though I did package up some for Nala

The same artist who made my  Fu Manchu strawberry pot made this life sized blue giraffe for ArtPrize a few years back which now is in his parking lot down the street from me. When I took this photo, I had no idea that I used to stay at the artist's farm. Small world
I threw a cheap box of wildflower seeds in a pot to see what would grow. Tickweed, bachelor's buttons, alyssum, poppies, baby's breath amongst a few other pretties I don't know the name of

I found this interesting skull at the art in the garden

This morning I heard frantic splashing in my pond. A mole was trying to get out. He was able to rest on my lily pads before trying yet again. Now I am not a fan of moles as they can quickly turn a yard into a maze of tunnels though on the positive side, they eat the grubs that turn into Japanese beetles, which I hate more. I did save him though with a shovel. I don't see any tunnels yet. I have fished out several of his brethren's dead bodies.

From hot and humid last week to hot and dry this week. The former is hard on people; the latter on plants so I've been watering much more, free except for the electricity for the pumps. We had one blessedly cool day so I could run for almost 90 minutes before the heat came back. Biking is much more tolerable in the heat so I've been doing that a lot. Next week is my big ride. Naomi will come up one or two of the nights as we are staying in cool lake cities. We will be criss-crossing the tip of the Mitten going from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan and back going about 60 miles a day.

Every year, the neighbor on the same lake as our little community is named opens her yard which is extensive with numerous gardens. She specializes in bird paintings. I did get one of hers of a house finch at a thrift store though I paid full price for one of a red bellied woodpecker. About 5 other artists show up with their wares too along with folk singers and a nice spread of food. I bought the above pictured strawberry pot which I had fun filling yesterday with various annuals. Maybe I will switch them out with sedums for when I bring it back into the house for winter.

We spent an afternoon with Josh's family with a walk in the Arb. Unfortunately the heat had started coming back. 

We no longer have our rodent guest Chewy as Shanna's kids missed him so much and wanted him home the minute they returned. He was certainly energic, running from one side of the house to the other in his ball. Instead we are probably on the hook for a cat guest as Don'tae gave Maya a kitten for her birthday, which carries a lot of expense for someone who can't afford it. Already the kitty ha been here and will spend some time next week when Naomi visits me.

Just as my poison ivy was finally clearing up, I expose myself to more. A huge vine was weaving its way to the lawn where Steve is liable to hit it with a weed whacker (very bad if you get that juice on you). I double gloved so I could remove the top pair of contaminated gloves with the ones below. However the long vine hit my bare arm while I was trying to fold it into a bag. The vine had not been injured so maybe I didn't get any oil on me. That was two days ago. Usually blisters form two days after exposure. I have one newish blister but it could have been from the last exposrure.

The Arb has lots of poison ivy so I tried to keep Allie on of it though I think kids need several exposures before they react. I know I was exposed quite a bit before I started reacting after Josh was born. If Steve knew what he was doing (he keeps forgetting what it looks like), I would have him on poison ivy duty.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Under the Lindens

Maya got her horse ride for her 8th birthday

two trips around the corral  She was very nervous and wanted to bail but was quite excited afterwards

three kids in a tub. I tried to convince the boys they didn't need swimshirts indoors and the glasses would get steamed up but they had fun while their parents went out for a rare night

the sun was just rising as I got to Whitmore Lake last Sunday, an hour away to do my 32 mile loop

Chewy, the aerobic hamster we have for the week
I am trying to remember the good mood I was in earlier in the week. Now on the 4th of July, I am hot, bored and somewhat depressed. Shanna and Josh's families are out on vacations, the latter bringing the mother-in-law with them to Lake Michigan. Maybe later this summer we'll have a vacation with you.

So yet another heat wave replete with tropical humidity. I left on a run before dawn but still could not escape the heat. And the warmer and more humid, the woods are full of biting deer flies so I am constantly slapping them. I decided to do part of the run at least on the big trunkline near our house that doesn't get traffic until 6:15 or so reducing my deerfly exposure to a half. Biking is more tolerable in the heat, which I don't really feel but I come back just dripping in sweat. I don't think we had hardly any days last year near 90 much less having 2 weeks of them.

Maya was very excited about her horse ride, which was supposed to be a pony ride but they had only horses in saddle. Eight year olds are allowed to take trail rides but she isn't ready for that yet. She is very immature and not eager to try new things but she does like horses. Her birthday was the other day but she spent it up north with her dad. So much has changed since she was born 8 years ago. She is very sweet and pretty but I do hope she can catch up to her age mates at some point.

We had our Mom's group outside the other night on one of those hot days. But in the shade and with the setting sun, it was tolerable. Since I've been getting up so early, I 've been going to sleep before dark thus missing the fireflies and the stars which were out in full force along with bats and hummingbirds. Although in spring, my rhubarb plants were in full glory, they start to die back in summer. I did one last harvest to make a pie for the group. It did taste like cherries. The lindens now are in full flower so the moist, warm air was redolent with its orange blossom aroma. I notice them on my rides through neighborhoods. In  the wetlands, I can smell sweet grass which smells even better.

Shanna's kids came to spend the night and play in the jacuzzi Saturday. As they get older, they are much easier to deal with. I was left with their hamster while they vacation in Canada.

I did spend part of Monday with my son who finally took me out for Mother's Day and in part to sort of make up for not letting me go to the beach house he is renting because his mother-in law and sister-in-law get first dibs. A nice lunch followed by bubble tea and then some shopping at the sports store. I need a new lighting system as I misplaced one of my flashers and left the other on so now it is too weak to be useful. I did ride with a headlamp the other morning.

Another night, I watched more A Handmaid's Tale with a friend. It is very well done but I am finding it more and more painful to watch. I read the book years ago when it first was written but now it is hitting too close to home with the fake Christianity ruling all while hideous things are done to people and the earth is so polluted (we don't need those business crushing regulations) that only a few can reproduce.  I listen to podcasts at night but hate to listen to the national news to learn what new edict that immature tyrant has cooked up. And he can do no wrong by so many people, which is even scarier than the fact he is president.

I thought since I had so many orioles in the spring that at least some of them would decide to nest nearby. After 4 orioleless days, finally one stopped by again yesterday.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

This is me

Annoying: they are burning off all the vegetation on an empty lot. Stunk up the neighborhood for two days

some of my lilies

backless dress

my new glasses: not as colorful as I remember them being

ceramic mermaid for my hallway

woven paper art

I have to stop buying up fancy dresses in which I have no place to wear them. I did get a sensible sun dress which I will wear much more often. And as you can probably tell, I can't weigh one more pound and fit into that dress. I haven't lost all my winter weight yet though I am close. 5 more pounds and I will not go any lower.

Saskatoon berries. At a nearby apple orchard there was a sign for U-pick Saskatoon berries

A new one for me. I looked them up. A relative of an apple, they are small as a blueberry and taste somewhat like them. They are a variety of service berry, which I had two trees full of until the various wildlife cleaned me out. As they are charging $5/pint to pick them, it would take 2 pints for a pie. I think I will stick to rhubarb for tomorrow's pie for the moms.

As we are entering a heat wave again, back to biking versus running. I was up at 5:30 to beat the workday traffic.

Later today: horse back riding for Maya's birthday. Hopefully she won't freak out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Bubble wrapped kids

Google 'enhanced' my Ohiopyle bridge photo  

and that of the silver tree on the Mall

Hannah enjoying playground equipment  Later we took her to see baby farm animals. She was not a fan


a pensive Maya

big smile. She turns 8 Sunday. Her hair has never been cut. If you were to pull a strand down, it would go to the middle of her back

Several times Josh has told me that  though he was glad the way we raised him, he will never let his girls roam the neighborhood like we allowed him to.  A mixed compliment if I ever heard one: yeah you guys were great but we aren't going to do what you did.He admits all his buddies' parents let them wander too otherwise he would have no one to play with unless we arranged 'playdates' in advance.

He is not alone apparently according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Kids these days get much less freedom than their parents who in turn got less freedom than their parents ie. my generation. Are there more child molesters out there? More speeding, drunk driving cars? More gangs? Is it too hard to learn to look both ways before crossing a street? The downside to all this over protectedness is that there is now a increase in anxiety disorders with the constant reminders on how dangerous it is out there. And there are laws in some states saying you can not send a sub twelve year old to a park by himself. Age that a kid can walk to school by themselves? Ten according  the College of Pediatrics. Age that I walked myself to school? Five.

When I was four, I wandered around all day by myself. I assume my mom was busy with my baby brother. It was a small town and I was told never to cross this one particularly busy street, which I did as things were more interesting on the other side. Only once did someone ask how old I was and why wasn't I in school.. They said I was way too young and too far from home so I was walked back. My mom just shrugged.

No I didn't let my kids do this when they were so young but after they were 7 or so, they were free to explore our neighborhood as long as they came back at a set time.

I have decided to do the bike ride by myself to stop from feeling sorry for myself. I will know people there as lots of them return year after year. And I do make friends fairly easily. And I am in good shape so I am doing it though I don't think there is a town up north I haven't been to  We are doing the top of the mitten: Charlevoix, Petoskey, Mackinaw City, Cheybogan and Onaway. Lots of lakes including Lake Huron and Michigan.

We took Hannah and Allie to an animal farm full of baby animals. Allie likes them but Hannah screamed in terror.

Friday, June 22, 2018

the solstice

These will be my new 'fun' glasses. Not the thriftiest of choices. I had already picked out some reasonable frames at Costco but bowed to pressure from a very good saleslady. You look like a fun person, don't you want to have fun glasses too. This photo doesn't show all the bright colors, mainly orange, in the frame Once I have them in hand, I will have another photo with them and my new op art backless dress that I splurged on later that day

Tessa and her pet hamster who I will be watching soon

Steve thinks my crow flag will scare the birds away. I do have a cat flag too but that is suspended over the kids' area in the basement
Downhill from here; the days will get shorter and shorter. I've been out the door before 6 am to try to beat the heat though today, the high was only 70.

I still have made no plans for the summer. And one very tentative plan fell through putting me into pity party mode briefly. Still deciding about the bike ride. I have a week to ponder.

Extra fun: I have poison ivy yet again but a very mild case. I did chop some down wearing gloves and removing and disposing of the gloves carefully. Maybe I just looked at it too long.

Steve was supposed to be on jury duty last week, federal court no less, which meant going to Detroit. He filled out all the paperwork but then forgot to call on the day requested. He remembered more than a week later. Fortunately he was not needed or as the paper warns, there would be a warrant for his arrest.We have been getting these delightful calls lately as has most of the country saying that we are on a list of lawbreakers and unless we call this number, the local law enforcement will arrest us in 24 hours. Well in his case, that would be true.

I have been seeing friends to keep myself entertained and tackling the garden, which still needs more weeding.. My squash are half sized now and I have green tomatoes. Lettuce and swiss chard have been harvested but are still growing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The heat is on

I have 4 lush heads of romaine in my garden

Maltese cross

Allie appears to be blinking here as the still shot has  her with her eyes closed.

Maya doing the splits. She finally did lose her other top central incisor but looks strange as now she has just one enormous tooth in the empty space

from the GAP website. When we went across this, it was raining

On Father's Day afternoon, when I scheduled a  BBQ, it was 97 degrees with a heat index well over 100. Hard to get people outside even though we had shade. Maya was with her father and Hannah was home sick with her mother. Still it was nice to have the 4 grandkids over who played well together along with our 3 kids. I harvested half a shopping bag of Swiss chard which when cooked, shrunk down to less than 2 cups. I was on the road by 5:30 am, already 70 degrees, which is fine for biking. I had to travel 4 miles before it was light enough to see my odometer. I had my flashers on so if there were any cars on the road, not very many, they would see me. As it was sunny, I had to go my complete loop which means dirt roads for my eastern trip, which is tree lined and blocks the sun out of my eyes. If I took the paved road, drivers would be blinded by the sun and not see me.

I've ridden over 120 miles since I came back, mainly because it was too hot to run. Still trying to decide whether I want to go on my bike trip up north all by myself. I am sure there will be familiar faces. I did the GAP on an organized tour 5 years ago by myself (a friend was supposed to go with me) and it turned out fine.

How awful can Trump and Sessions be? There is biblical precedence for separating children from their mothers? And his blackmail: pay for the wall or I keep them locked up. And then he said it was all the Democrats fault for putting the kids in cages. 


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