Tuesday, June 30, 2015


grandbabies in Boston visiting the hospital where  they were born as was the current king of Thailand
One benefit of retirement was that I was able to come to Boston for each of their births. For Tessa, I was there a whole month. As much as I loved my Boston trips, I am very glad they are less than 5 miles away now

Finally framed my snowy owl print. Have I ever seen one in the wild? I had my chance 2 years ago as there were so many, they ventured south but again I missed the chance.
Nothing like a good physics joke
Today I attended a retirement reception for a good friend. She is very excited to begin her new life free of work worries and drama. So many things to do. For starters, I will have a bicycle riding partner during the week. She will do the 6 day trip  in Northern Michigan with me. She is (was?) an archivist for the University. She showed us all the stacks, much of it University of Michigan history but also of local people. For instance, my grandfather, a physician but also a historian, gardener, speaker and writer, has plenty of papers there. She showed us an early (1865?) UM yearbook. Under the club pages, they actually had a Ku Klux Klan page with the names of officers. One of the officers was called a 'hangman'. The N word was sprinkled liberally all over the page. A very sorry bit of Michigan history promoting a group dedicated to hate. Nothing drives me crazier than people who believe 'in the good old days' we had better morals when crap like this was legal and sanctioned.

Her workplace overlooks a courtyard frequented by wildlife. Two young stags chewed on day lilies ten feet away separated only by glass throughout the festivities. Usually there are turkeys too. A tom likes to keep her company, but alas, the turkeys were a no show today. Lots of nice things were said about her and she received many gifts. Her former boss made a special trip from the East coast for this. His son once was on a soccer team I coached. Both of his boys went to the same daycare with Josh and Shanna and now live in NYC. He told me he recently went to a museum in Hartford CT of all places that was devoted to Coney Island history. Coney Island is where Steve grew up. Too bad we don't drive anywhere near Hartford anymore since our trips to Boston are over.

Anyway, her retirement party was in sharp contrast to my last day of work. Of the 200 people or so in my department, I was one of the last 5 to go. I went to many of my colleagues' parties but by the time I was to go, hardly anyone was left. It was a courtesy to me to let me work as long as possible before everything was shut down. I attended a debriefing meeting, handed in my badge, and walked home alone. That was it. I did get to pick out gifts from a retirement catalog.

And I was a full 10 years younger than she is now. Never did I think we would retire so early but then our hands were forced. On the day they announced how our whole place would be shut down, while others sobbed, Steve was silently cheering. He had a way out.

I thought about all these projects I will do and things I would volunteer for. Most of which never happened. But I stay busy. I wake up when I see the sun and walk around the yard with my coffee seeing what needs dead heading and what has bloomed. I feed the birds. Then I go for a run and sometimes a bike ride. Today after both, I went with Steve to the old house to air it out and weed while he mowed the lawn. I took more plants back to the new house where I planted them. By then it was past noon. Time to clean up and then on to the party. If I ever find that I have free time, I have plenty that needs doing.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Be the Match

Alliums or are they alli

Lots of little yellow flowers

downy woodpecker
fancy zinnias

I looked up the requirements to become a bone marrow donor (my friend needs some). First of all I am too old. Apparently the circulating stem cells that they need decrease with age and the chances that an older person has some defective blood disease, yet undiagnosed, goes up. Second of all, the fact that I had cancer, besides stage 0, automatically excludes me from the pool. One may be NED (no evidence of disease) but there still may be some rogue cells circulating about. This brings up a sore point: people who happily proclaim I AM CANCER FREE!!!especially after they were just treated for cancer. I don't want to burst their bubble or be Ms. Pedantic but no one can truly say that. They are most likely NED. So they prefer ages 18-44. They would probably really prefer those under 18 but consent becomes an issue though somehow kids seem to be donating cells to their siblings all the time such as that girl specifically conceived to provide cells for her cancer ridden sister. My friend has a brother who I assume is in his 50s. If he's a match (small chance) they will probably take his cells. I see that they stimulate the donor's bone marrow with my old friend Neulasta (at 10K a pop). This can be painful. The donor sits around for 4 hours or so having their blood go through a machine that separates the cells they need. They do not need to suck out the marrow directly anymore (painful). Surprisingly, having an autoimmune disease does not exclude one from being a donor. I have (had) Graves' Disease. I may still have circulating antibodies that over stimulate the thyroid. I have no thyroid to stimulate any more.
A cool day. Today I ran further on the road that my sister-in-law thinks came out of Deliverance due to its darkness and isolation. Well it is even more isolated further south.
Last night, more Orange is the New Black episodes with my friends, Fun.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunny Sunday

very early morning sun. It was dark and cloudy when I started my 30+ mile bike ride but then the sun came out after the torrential rains of yesterday

A very pretty farm I go by
plantings around the pond very lush
especially the tuberous begonias
went for a picnic lunch at a near by park. They have a splash pad that Allie wanted to play in but it was a bit chilly for that

The rains and wind caused so many of my things to be knocked down. Back at the old house, my patio was fairly enclosed so the wind rarely caused any damage. We returned from dinner to find  the gourd containing the wrens was knocked down again.. The string my friend threaded through the gourd rotted away. As it was pouring rain, I brought the nest inside while I thought of a plan. Where are my pipe cleaners? Where was our collection of wires? Gone, baby, gone. They would have helped. Steve was afraid the babies would start flying all over the house but they were very still and quiet. I knew they were alive because I heard them peeping before I picked up the gourd. I fashioned a hangar that I could thread through the gourd made of twisted Christmas tree ornament holders and rehung the gourd in the gale force winds. I kept looking out the window hoping the mom would not have given up on them. Early the next morning, all was fine. Mom and dad kept visiting the gourd and I could hear their peeping again.
We finally received a compliment on the house from our latest visitors. Still no offer but at least there was no whining about how much work needs to be done. Everything is in working order and has new fixtures. They mean they want granite countertops.
It was dark and cloudy and cold when I got up to do my long bike ride this morning. Should I go? Chance of rain: 20%. Also there was a sizeable north wind again, tough for my long uphill fairly early on. But then it became sunny and the wind finally was behind me. I have now gone more than 600 miles this season, 30 something today..still less than half of our long day, which will be uphill and probably against the wind. But I have all day to do it. Today I was finished by nine. The sun came out and it was quite beautiful. Out to a picnic with Josh and Allie shortly after I cleaned myself up after the ride. She had been sick all weekend but was finally feeling better.
Under the shade of my front service berry tree, I have numerous plants that look like astilbe except they never seem to grow flowers. I finally decided that they were weeds and got rid of them all today. I did buy a nice astilbe for the side of the house that probably is too sunny for it.
I am tired. I will relax for a while..maybe watch Gone Girl.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rain, rain....go away

One of the garage sale frames with Ms. Allie

Mounted my fancy ceramic switch plate in the flower room

mounted heads in the hallway
brought in one of my fancy daylilies
Took this yesterday while we still had good weather
It has been raining non-stop since about 2 am. Also there are strong winds so I took down some of my baskets as they are so heavy saturated with the rain. There was a brief period this morning in which it was only drizzling so I ran but bicycling is out of the question.

We need to replace a wood landing due to water damage at the old house. Still we have non-stop viewings but no offers. So puzzling. Maybe I forget the pain, but when we sold the last house 32 years ago, I swear it took only a week or so. As we were living in the house with 2 young children, I don't remember having to vacate that many times. I think we had one viewing and one offer; that's all it took.

The man who has been doing our work has a brother in the hospital and a girlfriend, my friend, with leukemia who will need to do a bone marrow transplant soon. What an arduous process! She has a sibling but there is only a 20% chance he will be a match. Children and parents have a much smaller chance of being a match. It will take 4 weeks to destroy her bone marrow and another 4 to replace it and let it grow such that she can function again. She will be very weak and vulnerable to infections. There are 10 factors that have to match. What are the odds someone would match ? impossible to calculate when I don't know the incidence of each of the factors. I know I share 2 of her factors so I should register with Be a Match. I stopped donating blood after I needed a transfusion after Shanna's birth. They could not test for HIV and HepC then (or probably HepB). As it has been almost 36 years now and no sign of those diseases, I guess I am safe. Not sure about the cancer factor. Estrogen breast cancer patients can have circulating cancer cells for about 15 years; not likely for triple negative patients as it is so aggressive, it will have raised its ugly head by now.

So a boring, low key day. We will go out to dinner to break up the monotony. Yep I have plenty to do. I did match lots of pictures with frames, hung up some stuff, and even weeded a bit.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Unter den Linden

Ceramic heads that will look so cute on my wall. Steve just sighs

didn't notice the crack in one of the candlestick holders until I looked at this photo Oh well, it was 50 cents. Will put in my green and purple room
Paperweight teapot, also 50 cents
I have fortified the edge of my fence with bricks to protect the remaining chard and kale. Kale is in the middle of the photo; brussel sprouts to the left
Ms. Maya

pink lilies


ceramic switchplate that will look so cool in my flower room once I find some nylon screws

Summer is such a delight for all the senses. In a neighborhood that I bike through, the streets are lined with linden trees, which are in full flower. The aroma is so wonderful. Sweet peas and crown vetch line the ditches, also are quite fragrant, Fireflies  twinkle at night now. I can hear the bullfrogs in their ponds.
Yesterday my calves were massaged with avocado during my mani-pedi. My legs are so smooth now. The salon is in a mainly South Indian strip mall. I haven't had the courage to try Curry on a Pizza but I ate at the South Indian 'street food' place with its very extensive confusing menu. I opted for 'thali' which is an assortment of different curries, breads and rice. I topped it off with homemade ginger ice cream. Then I stopped at the Indian grocery where I was the only white person in a very crowded store. I brought back some saffron/ pistachio ice cream, yummy, and some Indian sweets which seem to be sweetened condensed milk with various nuts added. But I am a sucker for sweetened condensed milk.
Later I went with a friend to the Italian store to have a dinner there comprised of various salads and vegetables. My favorite was grilled squash with balsamic vinegar. Then beer on the porch as the sun set and the fireflies came out.
In between runs and bike rides (it has been perfect for both, nice and cool) I went to various garage sales. Best buy: 3 shepherd hooks for $5. The store down the street sells them for $80  a piece, which is ridiculous. I also got some picture frames and another talking puzzle for the very little ones.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learning to fly

stone gargoyle planter holder from resale shope
baby made it to the roof. It lacks the long forked tails of its parents

watchful poppa. The males have the longer forked tails. The ones with the longest get the girls

fluffy baby surveying its new world

Celsus library in Efes Antik Sehri from my niece

very public potties
I sit in the shade of my garage watching Maya master the balance bike as she flies down the hill with me first checking that the coast is clear. A balance bike has no pedals. Once the balance part is mastered, then the child can graduate to one with pedals. She's a bit big for the bike, ages 2-5 because she is as tall as most 6 year olds.

Meanwhile the 4 barn swallow fledglings are ready to leave the nest are perched 30 feet away, too close for the parents who swoop into my face every few minutes to try to get me to leave. Some of the fledglings stand on the rim of the nest and flap their wings. Finally, one makes a ten foot circle but doesn't know how to maneuver into the nest.  Swallows are the most adept fliers (except for hummingbirds which can go backwards) but they must practice apparently.

Today they practiced attacking humans en masse. Six angry birds flying at my face.They now easily make their way to the nest and fly in  bigger circles.

As it turns out, that storm had some consequences. Exactly 2 hours before a repeat viewing (and repeat viewings are worth way more than first time viewings), Steve discovers that we must have had a power outage and the sump pump therefore wasn't doing its job. The whole lower level was under water. @#*&!!!! I hurry over there with a fan and we both mop things up in a hurry. We do have a wood landing that now is warped. It needed replacement any way so we have that to do. This house is such an albatross around our necks (why that expression)

Back to the money pit bright and early this morning for Steve to mow the lawn and for us to drop one of the cars off for a brake job. While he works, I return to the Farmer's Market and a resale shop. I bought some discount vegetables first checking to make sure rabbits don't like them. Out of 12 chard plants, I am down to one despite the alleged rabbit proof fence. Small animals (like chipmunks) might be able to get in but I didn't ever see one eat greens (they are eating berries right now). At the market, I run into a former neighbor all happy because she just became a grandmother. As our sons are friends, I knew all about that. For about 20 years, she held an annual tea for us moms with similarly aged boys. My invites stopped coming. Furthermore, she declined to become my Facebook friend, which of course, I took personally. Turns out all was innocent; I wasn't being shunned. One of the moms though felt bad at the teas because everyone would brag about their kids and she didn't feel she could.

So back to more planting and then a nice, long bike ride.
this is probably a bird bath but I am turning it into a planter

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A nest of wrens

This gourd contains baby wrens. The storm last night knocked it down. With all the sticks in it, I think the babies all survived the 5 foot fall. They were chirping away as we hung it back up. Parents are still visiting it so things are back to normal


first hardy hydrangea blossom
These swallow babies are outgrowing their nest and no longer hide. I think they will try to fly out today. A new nest is being built on our porch. Construction began today. We will see how long it takes.

Again the Blogger picture editor is acting up though occasionally it will behave itself when I edit the post. The second wave of storms hit with a vengeance in the middle of the night. Tornadoes touched down in the SW corner of the county(we are in the NE corner). Theoretically, there should have been sirens but with all the wind, hail, thunder and torrential rain, maybe I didn't hear them. I turned on the Weather Channel to see what is going on at 1:30 am. Did they provide any useful info other than a scrolling message about the tornado warning? Nope. They decided to show over and over some super cooled lake in Minnesota freezing instantly. Now if the storms hit a large metropolitan area, maybe they would cover it. Useless channel but the local news had a continuing radar loop. All sorts of colors indicating 'mesocyclones' (will look that up) and where there would be floods and tornadoes. I watched the sky which seemed to be continually lit up with all the lightning. After an hour or so, the system passed and we awoke to sunny skies and lower temps and humidity. Lots of branches down but we had just minor damage; the wren nest knocked down along with a flower basket.

Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch for Ann Arbor's restaurant week. Afterwards, we drank spritzers on her deck while her oriole flew to and fro until the first wave of storms hit.

Every morning, I take my coffee and walk around the gardens to see what else has bloomed. Soon, maybe today, I will have a huge thatch of baby's breath and lots of lilies, both tiger and Asiatic. Some of the callas are starting to bloom in my container garden. I love summer. Below is the prestorm sky. It looks so strange.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Father's Day

Allie enjoyed her bike ride

All the kids got tractor rides though Allie decided not to once she heard how loud it was
Josh got Steve his favorite candy, big spender as he is. This stuff is safe from me
Early morning bike ride past a mailbox decorated with glass pretties

Father's Day was a busy day starting with my 6 am bike ride hoping that the forecasted rain didn't come. Lucky on that front. So I went 26 miles somewhat assisted by the  wind. Will I be able to cover the 65 miles between Traverse City and Grayling in 3 weeks? Traverse City is on Lake Michigan; Grayling is on the high central plateau SSE of there. Very few towns are in between but lots of hills are. We shall see.

On to food preparation after some gardening. Since now we have a 'big' house, family get togethers are now here. The meat and its bbqing were Josh's job; Shanna was bringing dessert. I had asked Steve to buy some sort of salad. He bought  a bunch of romaine so I had to be creative. I added lemon balm, Michigan strawberries (smaller and more intensely flavored than the commercial ones), honey flavored chevre and I made candied pecans to toss on top. We had no suitable salad dressings so I made an orange vinaigrette. All this takes time. I sautéed some swiss chard (somehow some creature was able to bypass my chicken wire and eat more of the replacement plants) and cooked corn (Steve had bought nasty frozen stuff whereas fresh would have been so much better.)

So the chaos of kids running to and fro began. Julie's father joined us. The weather held out so all of us could eat outside. It was nice.

Then the massive clean-up before my friend came over to watch the new season of Orange is the New Black. By then, I was quite tired.

We are the middle between 2 storms right now. The air is hot and heavy. The second storm will be much more severe but also can slip south without touching us. Steve unfortunately has a new game: see how long we can go without turning on the air conditioner. I am crying Uncle right now. I am hot and sweaty when I don't need to be. This game is about as fun as gasoline roulette: see how far we can go on fumes.

But for all my carping, I am lucky that Steve is my husband and the father of our kids and the grandfather of their kids. No one is more loving and involved, a sharp contrast to my father who just never grew up.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mystery Carelli paintings

Worth $5000 Painted by someone named Carelli Are the bottom two paintings by the same guy? I recognize the scene: Bay of Naples.

according to an appraiser, worthless

more of the same
The bottom 2 paintings I inherited from my step-grandmother 5 years ago and I posted something about it then. From the back, the paintings were purchased at Bullocks of Pasadena, CA. Bullocks is or was a small chain of upscale department stores in the LA area. The Pasadena branch is an architectural marvel built in 1944 in the style of 'streamline modern art deco' which I am guessing is towards the end of the art deco movement. Today it is a Macy's.
My grandparents travelled around the country collecting antiques to fill their fancy house in Barton Hills. These paintings were just a small part of their collection. They mostly concentrated on furniture. A few years back, as a fund raiser, one could bring an item to be appraised for $10 at a local museum. I have no idea on this man's credentials. He said the frame might be worth $150 but the painting was done by an amateur who didn't get the shadows right.
I did look on the internet only to find that Carelli is a very common name especially among painters. I couldn't find anything that matched.
Yesterday on my blog, I got a message from a woman living outside of Chicago saying she has some paintings probably by the same Carelli and could I please send her some close-up photos. She thinks it's the same as her Carellis and mine are NOT done by amateurs. The only amateur was the appraiser. She has inherited alot of art and is learning so much that she will get a certificate in fine arts appraising. Small world phenomena: she went to UM but is 15 years younger.
A nice day. More running and biking. And I made even more container gardens with discount flowers. Photos after they fill in a bit.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Life in our new house


Weird seed pods of love-in-the-mist
herb garden: lemon balm, oregano, dill, cilantro, 2 types of basil and 2 types of rosemary, thyme, lavendar and chives
record number of blooms on the hibiscus
container garden

It was about a year ago when I happened upon the Moose and Squirrel house on a bike ride. I could live here, I thought. I debated whether to tell  Steve. Once I did, he was hell-bent on moving out of our current house. Within a few days, we made an offer on M&S and it was accepted but inspection uncovered numerous problems. Even worse, the drain field had failed,  which the sellers and their agent failed to disclose until the very last minute. The house was much more affordable than the one we ultimately bought and it had a huge opportunity to appreciate given its location but it would need a lot of work. But the living room, dining room, family room and kitchen were much nicer than the house we bought. We pulled out of the deal. I was willing to wait another year before looking again giving us time to fix up our house but every week, Steve came up with a bunch of houses to look at. I did find some that I liked certain features of but usually the location was bad. He didn't even want to go on our trip to Italy because it was getting in the way of house hunting but he ended up enjoying the trip. Even better, for 3 weeks afterward, he didn't say boo about house hunting. Too good for that to last because soon he was pressuring me to visit the house we ended up buying.

Still no offers. We had 2 repeat visits yesterday and more negative comments though it is not clear if they were from the repeaters or not. Very discouraging.

I do like the new house much more than I thought I would. I love the gardens, the outside areas (big patio complete with waterfall) and the shaded porch. It is a good location for biking and running and is relatively quiet. I liked my old neighbors. Not a fan of some of these new ones. The head of the association sent as a letter saying our lawn didn't meet 'community standards'. He just happens to operate a landscaping business offering its services, at a big price, to fix us up. Furthermore, a good portion of the association fees go to landscaping of the communal areas. Guess what company provides that? Conflict of interest much? Meanwhile, he let his developer friend burn construction waste which was truly a danger. Fortunately the fire marshal agreed with me.

I haven't had much time to enjoy my jacuzzi bathtub but maybe in the fall, I will have more time. Once I decorated some of the rooms, they look nicer than I thought they would. I love the back wall of windows so I can see the birds and gardens. I like having room to put our cars in the garage and having room for my bicycle. It is nice having shiny wood floors and granite counter tops. I especially enjoy having the room for extended family.

So nice and cool this morning, good for a run. Even better, it was too cold for the biting flies that have made things unpleasant in the wetland areas on warm days. Yesterday I saw my first fawn of the year with its mom walk in front of me during a run. It was the last day of vacation Bible school. Afterwards, Shanna brought the 4 kids over for a pizza lunch. It was the first day in a week without rain so the kids were able to spend most of the time outside.


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