Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I married a knuckle cracker

In 1985
Or more correctly, a man who became a knuckle cracker. Presumably this condition occurs when little bubbles develop in the joints. This is more likely to occur in flexible joints (thus I should be spared). The average time to develop a new bubble after cracking? 30 minutes. Well in Steve's case, it is more like 5 minutes and it is in both thumbs so every 2 minutes or so, crack, crack, crack...

Could you please stop that?!!!

He can't believe it bothers me and I suppose it shouldn't, but it does. Marriage is full of all sorts of little compromises. I guess he puts up with my half finished projects all over the place without complaining (too much) and lots more.

Every morning fresh coffee is delivered to me while I am on the computer, my laundry is done, my finances are taken care of, my birthdays and anniversaries are never forgotten. He rubs my back at night and crazily seems to adore me.

I shouldn't complain.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday funny

Tessa stopped by with her mother this morning
From a blog I was reading in the middle of the night full of retail mishaps:

A bank employee is finishing up some paperwork for a customer.

Bank employee: Now all I need is your John  Hancock....

Customer: don't understand what you want

Bank employee: Your signature! You know that guy who signed real big on the Declaration of Independence?

Customer: Oh, I thought you wanted this (points to groin)

Finally the rain stopped so I could run and bike.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Red squirrel versus black squirrel

I had a visit from Ms. Allie yesterday. She will be 7 months tomorrow
Aside from the flock of mergansers, the turkey vultures, and one lone turkey, we didn't see much wildlife on our trip last week. I had to park quite a way from the trailhead before my run and ran through a heavily wooded section. It is spring and the pileated woodpeckers are attracting attention by hammering on everything, dead trees on my run, and one year Josh's metal attic vent. I couldn't see any however.I did see a fight between a red squirrel and a black squirrel, which the much smaller but much more aggressive red squirrel won. In Michigan, we have 3 species of squirrels: the largest is the fox squirrel, which I have at least 3 obese squirrels living in my trees. This long winter did nothing for their diet as they had dug up all my bulbs to keep themselves well fed all winter. Then there is the intermediate sized gray squirrel, which seems to be turning black. The black variation used to be rare but now I am seeing them out on my country runs (fox squirrels rule the city) and there is the tiny but feisty red squirrel, which I had one of for several years until it was hit by a car. For a while, I assumed it was a fox squirrel baby but it never grew and it has different coloring. I once saw an albino  squirrel in Traverse City.

A few years back, we were travelling in Ontario and went by a sign
Exeter: Home of the White Squirrel

It is not clear whether they have more than one but it is an interesting mascot for a city.

I waited a long time for it to warm up yesterday for my bike ride. And it really never did. Still I am ahead in my mileage versus last year. And I don't have a long ride planned until mid-July versus mid-June of last year.

Josh and Allie came over. Josh asked if he should be coaching Allie on how to crawl. Well I'd like to see him try. It is hard to move that massive body around. Yes small, wiry babies seem to move earlier but immobile babies are easier to take care of. She is babbling quite a bit so maybe she will be an early talker.

The other day, a massive box came to our door filled with my father's photographs.  I had assumed these stock houses that my father sent his works to had long since finished returning everything. Part of the day was spent sorting through these tings. I did find a 4x5 transparency of Shanna (age 3) that I hadn't seen before.

And I have still been celebrating my birthday with a couple of friends: last night one friend and today with another. I am blessed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Poster girls

One project I was able to finish since I returned. To be hung up in the kids' room, which Maya refers to as her room. Formerly known as Naomi's room. Will make 3 more.
We returned home to a sink full of dirty pans and dishes and much less food. The sink was clean when we left. Big sigh from both of us. The next morning I awoke to the dulcet sound of jackhammers on our sidewalk. In the not too distant past, it was the homeowner's responsibility to repair the sidewalk. Conveniently timed to the year we both lost our jobs, we had to repair several squares very arbitrarily selected. My neighbor and I went for a walk together trying to denote reason in their markings. And as it turned out, diligence is not rewarded as the very next year, it was voted to make sidewalk repair the city's responsibility. And the rental property next door that ignored the warnings? Rewarded.
Here are some interesting (to me) oxymorons:
Concrete drying. No just the opposite as concrete hydrates to set. Thus spraying  water on it makes it 'dry'.In our case, mother nature provided the spray.
Common merganser: These are actually quite rare. The red breasted mergansers that we came across are much more 'common.' Perhaps by common, they mean low class. They lack the fancy head pieces other mergansers have and are quite boring looking. Bird blogs (!?) occasionally enthusiastically cite spottings.

As for those mergansers, perhaps they should rethink traveling in flocks. One bird catches a fish; the others spot it and quickly swarm him to steal it. Usually he loses it. But being able to gulp it down in peace seems impossible. These food fights are very noisy but fun to watch.

So what have I been up to? Struggling to be useful. So much to do and diminishing energy to do it. When we got the roof redone a few weeks back, all of my plant holders and patio decor had to be removed. Did I put it back? Did I string up my new lights (which I have quite a few no thanks to my birthday and a buying spree)? I did plant some lilies and phlox so yay for that. Hopefully the super cold morning today didn't kill them. I did finish 2 posters. I am almost finished with yet another photobook. Meanwhile Steve has been working around the clock to finish this huge book. He does not like the way I format things so he wants his own. Unfortunately there is an especially steep learning curve for him to learn all the tricks about making these things so it's been a slow slog for him and he hates to ask me for help.. It has been too cold, windy, rainy to bike though I have been running (one day entirely in the rain). Today was going to be my long bike ride but it's 30 something now. Maybe after Josh's visit today I will go out.

Since the kids' school is out this week, Shanna and her kids visited one day though quickly the boys went to their other grandma's. I was able to see Tessa at least. And I stopped by the next day after an IKEA run (cheap poster holders). And one day my birthday buddy treated me to a very pleasant lunch. He had recently visited some of our former colleagues who happen to be  still employed by our former employer though 750 miles away and at least 2 more moves on their part. It was decided that no one is to have personal space anymore. Furthermore, there are less desks than employees that need them so it's like those mergansers fighting for the same fish day in and out. And do they actually make potential drugs anymore? Not with their hands, they just design them for the Chinese to do it.

We are glad we are gone.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Searching for sand dunes

A moment of happiness: I had finished my run and my shower and we left the Inn in search of clear lakes and dunes. Unlike the day before, the sun was shining. Surely the beach would be prettier now than the bleak whiteness of the day before. Just as we parked, one of my all time favorites came on the radio. I told Steve to go ahead, my hair was wet and I had coffee to drink. Besides he had the good lens needed to identify those mergansers. He has the better camera but I believe I have the better eye. Brahm's Horn Trio was playing. I waited patiently for my favorite part, the 4th movement ( Back in college, my friend Soulmate was a French horn player and I learned from him all things French horn.  There is a piano part to the trio (and violin). I somehow got the music and tried to play the piano part. My piano is now gone and the music is somewhere(maybe) in a box in the garage. Have I heard this since then except in my mind? It was being played so much faster than in my pathetic attempts or in my memory. Pure Beauty.

As soon as the sun was up, I snuck out for my run. As I drank some coffee to wake me up, I could see how beautiful Round Lake was in the early morning light. I wanted to run on the Little Traverse Wheelway that we rode our bikes on last summer but I wanted to go on the stretch outside of town thus I drove.

My path included this very long boardwalk covered with ice crystals

Pretty birches

running into the sun

The path. I had to park far from the trail. I know where to go if there is a next time

Off to see Torch Lake in the sun. Amusing sign from the DNR where we stopped: how to tell a muskellunge from a pike. They are pretty much identical except one might have darker spots. Why would one have to know this? The size difference for catch limits is greatly different. If you are caught with an undersized fish, curtains for you.

To show you how clear the lake is

There was ice on Torch Lake too

Cherry orchards all around

Steve on the 45th parallel
Our Inn experience was great but the breakfast was not stellar. I was hungry. We pulled into Elk Rapids, a place I went to years before in the rain on The Dalmac (400 miles in 4 days: when I was awesome). Cute feature of our coffee shop? Fettuccine used as coffee stirrers. I had a wonderful cinnamon bun (did I say I ran for almost 90 minutes?) and some mushroom, cheese concoction. Yum.

Cool light fixture inside coffee place

Town clock

I liked the crab tree against the green roof

A lady painting the ice floes of Grand Traverse Bay
On along Grand Traverse Bay (Charlevoix is at the edge of Little Traverse Bay), through Traverse City and up the same hill Naomi and I barreled down on a bike ride 10 years ago across Leelanau County. On to Sleeping Bear Dunes, where the road I wanted to go on was blocked off.
Open in Spring
Hasn't it been spring for more than a month? Aside from the gate, huge piles of snow blocked our way. So much for those dunes. Well the Michigander will go right by them this summer with an overnight in Leland, another of my favorite towns. On to Frankfort, a very pretty town that has its own dunes though much smaller dunes than Sleeping Bear. The Michigander will also have a stay there along with Traverse City. We had lunch on the waterfront at an Asian fusion restaurant that although cute, was expensive and not all that good. A group of retired ladies ate next to us offering us birthday cake. Surprising to us was a Jewish deli, closed. We walked on the beach for a while. By then, it was almost 40 and then on along Crystal Lake before our long ride home.

A good birthday trip.
Closed deli

Lighthouse on Frankfort waterfront

Crystal Lake also still frozen

Sign on our way back

Frankfort stores

floating ice balls


The beach

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pere Market and Mushroom houses

I posted a different shot last year of this mushroom house. It is my favorite.

This year we saw new to us mushroom houses by accessing a private road

I loved this thistle gate

Earl Young also designed the inn that we were staying in including this impressive fireplace

These 150 year old windows he sourced from some castle in Germany. I was trying to show the cute roof of the restaurant he also designed
I am a word play lover. Right now I am attempting to solve my neighbor's crossword puzzle. He has finally made it to the NYT Sunday Puzzle page though I am having some trouble with it. By day, he was my older kids' calculus teacher and I have coached soccer teams with him. Mathematicians make the best puzzle creators, not English majors as I might have guessed.

But I appreciate puns too. On our way up north, we went by a sign for the Pere Market. Many places in Michigan (and the surrounding Great Lakes States) are named after Pere Marquette, the first European to set foot in these parts. Does Pere Marquette have a first name? After all, his counter part in California, Junipero Serra, had a first name, a cool one at that.  Well I looked it up, Jacques. No wonder he just went by with Pere. We were in Pere Marquette township when we spotted the market, not too far from the Pere Marquette River where  Steve and I took a canoe trip before we were married (passed the Canoe Test, a 2 day trip is bound to show aspects of the other that simple dating might not).

Earl Young was an architect living in Charlevoix who favored using natural materials for his unique buildings of which there are about 50.  His favorite material, Onaway stone. Until a bike ride 2 years ago, I never had heard of Onaway (on my way to Onaway) but its name keeps cropping up (Sturgeon capital, home of the big head sculptures, home of the unique stone). Last summer, one of those big head sculptures made its way to the middle of Mackinac Island. Maps are provided with little mushrooms on it for tourists to find the homes. We went to see some of them we had missed previously.

The cold and wind meant that there would be no nice walks. We parked next to the beach to admire the ice piles around the beach and lighthouse. I tried to dissuade Steve from walking on the ice to obtain better photos. Are we not geezers yet? Early bird special meant dinner for about half the price in a restored Victorian home (Charlevoix is very pricey)
the place had several dining rooms. This was ours

Dinner: whitefish (every place has whitefish up here) with beurre blanc and couscous and lobster, shrimp penne

artist's rendition of the place

The food was good. Included was a bottle of wine, which I could not finish by myself though Michigan law now lets you take out unfinished bottles, and a sundae featuring "Saunder's" fudge sauce. How to tell if one grew up around Detroit? Pronounce "Sanders". It should be pronounced pretentiously with the 'ah' sound, not our usual grating Midwestern short 'a' sound. When my mom left home at age 16, she worked in the downtown Sanders restaurant learning to hate all things chocolate. She called it an allergy, which enables one to escape the 'well just try it '. Alzheimer's made her forget her allergy and she started craving chocolate.
While we ate, out the window was a flock of about 12 vultures performing aerobatics. Alas, hard to photograph.

Back at the Inn, we watched the sunset. Our balcony faced the water with its ice floes. The snow showers had morphed into nice clouds, perfect for sunsets. Steve alone took about 50. I took a break for a hot tub experience in a tower that had a 270 degree view. There was a jacuzzi in our room along with a fireplace but I figured correctly I'd have the hot tub to myself and could watch the sunset and the pretty lake inland. The sky was just so beautiful but our photos just couldn't capture the deep purples and oranges.
One more:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mergansers and sunsets

Extreme close up of red breasted merganser

Red breasted mergansers

We are back from our two day trip up north. We both took many photos, me on the iPhone of which some I posted on Facebook, and Steve with his 'good ' camera. We needed the 300 mm lens for the mergansers. On the iPhone, they would have been just blurry specks. They are extremely wary birds. As soon as you made any steps towards them, off they went even though we were at least fifty feet away. I had a hard time telling what they were even though there were about 50 of them until we blew up Steve's close-ups. I am not sure why they are afraid of humans as they are the fastest flying water bird (100 mph)Their usual range is in the arctic regions. This is the southernmost part that they possibly could be found though in the winter, they can be found a bit more south along the Atlantic coast. They were busy fishing in the channel that separates Round Lake from Lake Michigan, which was not frozen over unlike along the shore where huge sheets of ice were piled up. I will later post some of the beautiful turquoise colors of this ice.

Monday night, it was in the mid seventies while we dined al fresco for my birthday dinner. It was nearly 60 Tuesday morning when we left for up north but as we progressed, the temps kept dropping and soon big wet, flakes of snow appeared and the car thermometer read 28. Yuck! So much for long walks along the beach. Steve hates the cold even more than me. We went a round about way to get there. I wanted him to see the beauty of the many lakes of Antrim county that I have biked around without him. These lakes are best viewed in bright sunlight as they appear bright turquoise. The water is very clear unlike the murky lakes that are near us. When I swam in triathlons, visibility was only a few inches. I couldn't even see my hands but up north, sandy bottoms. The best lake is Torch Lake. Oh so pretty! We had stopped for lunch in Traverse City at the cute place I had met Josh last summer after my bike ride. But through the snow and overcast skies, nothing appeared special. A further disappointment, the tasty bakery my hairdresser's aunt used to own in Alden was closed so no dessert for me. We did go up and down the huge hills that I had biked over years ago and just last year.

Yep it has been spring for over a month but you wouldn't know it by looking around. Grand Traverse Bay was full of ice but not the huge chunks that were further north where we were staying in Charlevoix. Biggest let-down: I had planned to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes yesterday in Leelanau  County but Pierce Stocking Drive, the best road to the top of the dunes, was closed due to piles of snow. As of mid-March, Leelanau had 250 inches of snow and probably plenty of snow afterwards.

Charlevoix was still pretty. We found beauty in the thick snow piles just off shore. Lots of photos to follow. Our balcony faced Lake Michigan. The changing light as the sun went down was especially beautiful on the snow piles and ice and water. Although it was too cold to sit on the balcony, we would go out for short times for photos. Inside our room, we had the jacuzzi and fireplace and of course wine for me. It was very nice.

And the next day, not a cloud in the sky.


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