Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The deluge

Well it was no Hurricane Harvey but we did get about 4 inches of rain in a short period of time. Afterwards a rainbow as it was still raining
colorful Taiwanese temple by my niece
the view from the north bathroom window  Lots of soggy plants
Maya and her pink haired mama. Lots of annoying issues to deal with this week and the next. As I type, she is at her school's orientation. summer has almost ended. Sigh.
I bought all these dahlia roots with pretty red pictures on them. All are yellow
I have killed numerous seedlings yet some morning glories have managed to survive
tropical hibiscus was covered with numerous blossoms today

Yep I have been absent from the blogsphere. Not much to report. Summer is sadly slipping away. I continue my 2 exercise sessions a day and can lift more and more weights. Come winter, I will have to cut down on the exercise but by then, I will be finished. Yep I was finished losing weight as I reached my initial goal in the middle of June. But since then, I lost another 10 pounds so I am at that magic weight I was when I married. Still can't fit into the wedding dress as my weight has either shifted or I am not as compact as I used to be. But I never dreamed I would be this weight again. I would have been happy to be at the upper end of 'normal' 28 pounds ago.

We have been taking care of business. Going to the financial planner...he is nice but I rather bury my head in the sand than make all these decisions.

Maya's father decided to move 150 miles away, 50 miles more than the court allows without permission. Yet he wants Maya every weekend. Something has got to give. Somehow I am the negotiator.

We had a wonderful Moms meeting out on my friend's farm on a beautiful summer night last week. I roasted Japanese eggplant and squash and onions to put over my crust made of mashed cauliflower. For a sauce, I just spread pesto. and added fresh mozzarella cheese. I thought it was tasty.

Still teaching myself Spanish. I am up to 16% proficiency versus starting at 15%. Hmmmmm.

And Harvey..what hell. Houston is a place I would never want to live. Hot, humid, crowded, no scenery, full of oil smokestacks, no planning whatsoever. They covered almost every inch with cement and left tiny 'bayous' for excess water to go. I do feel for the people. I can't imagine 50 inches of rain. 4 inches was enough.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Spanish dreams

I was so excited to find this presumed red tailed hawk feather on my run today (fun to carry it back tucked into my shorts) but perhaps it is a turkey feather as it is about 2 inches too long for a hawk plus I found it in a wooded area and red tailed hawks are out in the open
one of my butternut squashes. Lots of spaghetti squash too
Me and one of the Chosen Sisters at our last Mom's dinner. We have one tonight too. Normally I bring dessert but will bring a cauliflower crust pizza

In 1992 I watched the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The marathon went through  La Rambla and Passeig  Gracia where many of Gaudi's buildings are. That's where I want to be if I ever got to Europe I thought. Ten years later, one of the Moms had a daughter going to school in Paris. 4 of us went out to visit her. I didn't want to spend the whole time in Paris so two of us took off in an overnight train to Barcelona. I went back a few years later with other friends.

But Steve has never been there and it will be our 40th anniversary in December. We made the arrangements this week to be there on our anniversary in the W hotel on a peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean , no hostals for us this time. We will also be in Madrid and Seville, places I have been but he hasn't and I didn't see everything I could while there. For my 2nd trip there, I did learn a little Spanish as I kept encountering people who didn't speak English but later while learning Italian, I found the Spanish got me confused and so I tried to forget it. I am now relearning it on an app. I am allegedly 15% fluent according to some screening test I took. The principal language in Barcelona is Catalan which looks a lot like French (night is nit versus nuit versus noches) but sounds more like Portuguese but most people know Spanish even though all the signs are in Catalan. So this trip will make me less fearful of the doom and gloom of our winter.

First step, renew passport. It won't expire until 8 months from now but it will be less than 6 months when we leave, which for some stupid reason is unacceptable. When I went to Italy for 8 weeks, I needed to get a visa, buy health insurance and prove I have money .

What is the easiest flower to grow? I would say cosmos. They tended to overwhelm everything else I planted back at the old house but here, they keep dying. I suspect a cosmos virus of some sort. Too bad as they are so pretty. I did go to two nurseries yesterday with a friend to pick up some budget perennials which I planted today. More foxglove, delphinium, hollyhocks and bluets. We went by the huge field of sunflowers I had photographed days before. But alas, the heads hung down as it was cloudy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The day of the eclipse

We were to get only 80% coverage here in SE Michigan. And looming clouds threatened visibility. Steve's photo
No I can't see the sclipse in this either. iPhone attempt. Also failure, taking photos of mirror images. I could see the bite the moon was taking out of the sun but couldn't photograph it
the boys looking at the sclipse
one of the hairy donkeys on my bike ride got a haircut
acres and acres of sunflowers. The farmer said too many people trespassing and stealing his crop. The barrier of poison ivy was enough to keep me out

Nearby neighbors find any occasion to light off fireworks and fire crackers. Today's excuse: the eclipse. No I didn't travel down to the bands of totality though I know those who did. Would have to settle with the 80.5% predicted. It was also very cloudy this afternoon making the eclipse not all that visible.

I found a way to complete my favorite loop though it involves more dirt roads. Still the new route was nice and only a mile longer than my favored but closed due to construction loop. And extra bonus, the dirt road is fairly smooth and goes through a dense forest. I took off on my bike ride right before dawn. As I ride due north for 5 miles, I can watch the sun rise to my right, a giant orange ball.

Summer is winding down. Spent a pleasant evening with a friend drinking fancy beers and watching warring hummingbirds.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

8 years old

Daniel blows out his birthday cupcake
years ago with Shanna
Allie who just got her staples removed from her head injury
Daniel and his siblings in Chicago last week

When I used to make  photo calendars, August 18. 19 and 20 would all be filled in: Daniel's birthday followed by Josh and Julia's anniversary followed by Naomi and Don'tae's anniversary. The marriages are no more.

Summer is leaving. It is dark when I wake up. No more bicycling before 6 am. The wrens have fledged so the parent wrens no longer attack the chipmunks on the nearby feeders though the chipmunks were getting used to being pecked as they ran off with the food. The hummingbird wars have become more intense.

Shanna had various relatives over to help celebrate Daniel's birthday last night. Lots of kids running around. The night before, Josh and Allie went out to dinner with us. It has been a while since I saw Ms. Hannah.

It was a cool morning to run which is how I like it. Much easier to go faster. and then I biked. I saw deer during both times on different sections of Cherryhill Road. I didn't see any during the entire week we were up north but they are all over the place here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cooking for survival

Maya at the therapist office the other day. We get to take a 2 week break from this. Yay!
for my primitive doll collection: homemade angel
Tessa at the Bean in Millennium Park

Well at least I don't have to water today. Finally some relief. Extra bonus: it stopped raining long enough for me to get a run in though as it was so hot and humid, I didn't feel well.

I went to my monthly cooking class at the Cancer Support Community last night. Subject: healthy pita sandwiches. I am not a fan of pita bread, too cardboardy and 'healthy' pita is even more so. My new rule about carbs; they better be good if I am going to risk obesity eating them and pita bread doesn't pass the test. I have added some carbs to my 'maintenance ' plan such as the mushroom pasta I had for lunch today but if I start to gain weight, out they go. So she made 4 fillings: egg salad which I could barely tolerate smelling so no to that one; roasted eggplant, tomato and asaigio cheese (the winner by far); a white peach and corn salad (tasted better than it sounds), and a zucchini fritter with roasted pepper hummus number (also good but too much work to prepare).  She always introduces herself to the newbies how she has been a dietician for years at the nearby hospital and had breast cancer twice (two kinds). Someone asked what hope is there for them if she, presumably eating healthy all the time, got cancer twice. But there are many causes of cancer and many advantages of eating healthier even if one takes cancer out of the equation.

My friend was able to make it there.  I had met her there 4 years ago. We bonded when it turned out we were going to Italy (she is Italian-American) at the same time. Although she was feeling fairly good last night, her permanent lung disorder is getting worse. Sadly no cure for that. She is considering a clinical trial for treatment that now cystic fibrosis patients get for clearing their lungs of sticky mucus. It won't stop the fibrotic lesions though.

The class is for survivors and the supporters of someone going through treatment but sometimes the strangest people show up. A woman returned who does not have cancer nor is not close to anyone that does but for a while thought she might have cancer because certain things didn't seem right but she was too afraid to get them checked out because she is so afraid of actually having cancer. She is mostly deaf so the instructor has to repeat things numerous times and has a huge list of foods she won't eat and expects to be accommodated. Annoying. There are foods that are difficult for those in treatment to handle ( I couldn't even abide the smell of my beloved coffee) and some people actually do have allergies but OMG, how crazy some people get. For the record, I did not ask for the eggs to be left out of the egg salad . The instructor has too much patience  though she was getting irritated when a certain someone would not shut-up when others had the floor. 

Since we did not see Josh's family last weekend, we are going out to dinner with them tonight. Tomorrow is the former preemie Daniel's birthday. Tuesday night, the Moms and I had Happy Hour next to the train tracks. Blackberry IPA, yum. Steve took in Naomi's car that had only 240 miles left on the warranty. The problem seemed to disappear. They could not find the defect. Hopefully it will not come back.

Went resaling yet again for some smaller clothes. Size 4, can you believe it? I can't.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sphinx moth larva

tomato horn worm, larger than my thumb. This one will not be allowed to pupate to a sphinx moth

Josh and family

As I was looking for ripe vegetables, at first I thought it was just some unripe okra but no, it was the dreaded tomato worm. Judging on how few leaves are left, he either was very busy or has friends though I haven't found any more. But they do look cool once they turn into the sphinx hummingbird moth! I only seen them once, back at the old house just after dark, a bunch of them came to feed on my flowers. I didn't know they came from tomato worms. I do have a huge unripe spaghetti squash, larger than a football but still green. Lots of tomatoes, summer squash, chard, kale and tomatillos though.

When I was researching my horn worm, their handy hint to find them is to wait until dark, use a black light. The tomato leaves will fluoresce dark red and the worms will be bright yellow. If only I had a black light..... 

I am now within a pound of my skinny husband.

Yesterday was a perfect day for a long bike ride though I eagerly am waiting for the bridge I use to return. At night, a friend and I sipped wine as the sun went down and the fire flies came out. Finally I was able to get the cauliflower crust pizza. It quickly sells out. There were fire flies on the west coast too (of Michigan, no fireflies west of the Rockies presumably) but they were so much brighter.

Summer is going by way too fast. summer don't leave

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dilly pupates, blueberry fields and mermaids

Dilly turned into this the night before I left. How long until a butterfly? Variable: 2-6 weeks.
they collect kites at the lovely house that I stayed at
and woodwork
green zinnias downtown Holland
Shanna and family suspended umpteen stories high over Chicago
This was uncovered recently in Downtown Detroit. It is where my mom worked when she was 16 serving bumpy cakes and hot fudge puffs. Wouldn't eat chocolate again until she had Alzheimer's and forgot she hated it
my first cousins twice removed or my cousin's grandkids. It was the one on the right's birthday. I met up with my aunt (96!!!!!) and my cousin's family in Holland after I visited my friend. The younger girl here is a few weeks older than Allie but is half the size. Allie is about the same size as the 6 year old.

I am back from my short adventure on the West coast, Holland Michigan. I stayed with a former colleague and her husband just outside of the city. The area has many bike paths, which we rode together on and I ran on the next morning. Very flat. They cut through acres and acres of blueberry farms. My friend has a very extensive vegetable garden which was very lush due to her care and the fact that they get much more rain than we do on that side of the state. She likes to grow unusual varieties so we picked long. thin twisty eggplants with a Japanese name, round bright yellow prickly lemon cucumbers and a unusual type of summer squash to roast on the grill along with romaine and salmon for dinner. Very tasty. She also raises chickens.

We ate lunch on the pretty shore of Lake Macatawa  before our bike ride followed by paddling around in my water hammocks in her pool, a very nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

After the wonderful grilled dinner, we drank wine and talked well into the night. Holland had sidewalk sales which we visited the next morning. I bought some cute wraps for not much. Where am I going to wear all these dressy things?

On to my relatives. My cousin and aunt live about 30 miles north where I love to visit but they thought it would be more convenient for me if we would meet at her son's in Holland as I was already there (to get there, I took a road which changed names every half mile it seemed). One of the little granddaughters was having a birthday. Fortunately she loved my present and both of the girls spent much of the time playing with it. Later she was going to have a mermaid and pirate party with her friends. I think my handy cousin sewed the mermaid costumes.

My aunt must be the healthiest, best looking 96 year old there is. She is very sharp, reads a lot, travels still. She has some macular degeneration that makes focusing difficult and a very mild tremor. Otherwise, one might guess she is years younger. She also looks very much like my mother (her younger sister) and has the same voice so that's always a bit disconcerting. I was glad to see her. She has many photos of her and her siblings though mainly of the older ones (my mom was a younger one) that will go to me at some point. My other aunt is now in Michigan too but on my side of the state. I will try to get them together.

My cousin's daughter-in-law was a chemistry professor from the North of England so she has a very interesting accent. She said in school they never discussed short and long vowels as I guess everything is pronounced as if it has a long vowel. According to her, her husband mispronounces his own name. Here in the Midwest bury, berry and Barry are pronounced the same as is merry, Mary and marry.

My cousin's husband, the beer lover, brought some of his collection so that was tasty thought I couldn't sample much due to the long drive I had. With two expressways out that I would have usually taken, I had more time to go through the small towns of Western Michigan.

I tried to make up for the relative slack in exercise and finally ran at a more respectable pace early this morning followed by a 21 mile bike ride and lifting of weights.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

From XL to XS

Maya went up to the Upper Peninsula with her father last weekend
orange sweetheart rose
hardy hibiscus finally in bloom
stopped by graffiti alley yesterday

I thought I had a brand new bird but after much searching, it is a juvenile red wing black bird
stopped by the fancier resale shop to get even smaller clothes. Found this hand made glass pin

I feel sometimes a bit like Alice in Alice in Wonderland: Big, small, big, small.  I am slowly introducing the forbidden foods to my diet (in small doses) but I still seem to be losing weight albeit much more slowly. Clothes purchased more than a month ago are now too baggy.

Dilly the caterpillar seems like he is ready to pupate. Or maybe he is dead. He was eating non-stop until yesterday. Now he is clinging to a stem immobile. Presumably his caterpillar phase was to last 10 days and I had him for 6. How long until he turns into a butterfly? That is real variable as it turns out. It takes Monarchs 14 days but it could take much longer.

Naomi's car has this strange transmission: an automatic standard transmission. It will even roll backwards when stopped on a hill. A silly concept and one the company has had problems with. Last week it started acting like a bad stick shift driver was driving it with jerking, stalling, switching into the wrong gears all by itself. It acts like it has a bad clutch. Sounds expensive but it is part of the 'drive train' that has an extended warranty. Bad news, only to 60, 000 miles. But with some sleuthing, I found out (Ford has not sent me this letter), they extended the warranty to 100,000 miles. Naomi is just 240 miles shy of that. Do not drive!!!!! Hopefully the dealer will fix the problem for free next week. Until then, she has our other car and I am leaving tomorrow with the remaining car.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My pet caterpillar

We went to the beach yesterday. As usual, the pet cranes were there. People would approach them with cameras in hand. The cranes, thinking they were getting a treat, would go towards the person scaring the person most of the time

Now 7 months old. I had (HAD) thighs like that
Allie is smiling here but the day before she spent in the ER with a nasty gash in the back of her head that needed staples to close it. She was swinging from bar to bar but the rain had made them slippery. She fell backwards against a ladder
baby okra
Have to figure out when these are ripe. You can see the shadow of the 'fruit' inside the shell. I think it needs to be at least cherry sized
half grown spaghetti squash
orange cosmos

Friday afternoon, you would see a crazy lady digging up Queen Anne's lace from a nearby field and then transplanting it into her own property. Didn't she just pull up and discard these weeds? Ah, but that was before she decided to feed her pet caterpillar.

In less than 24 hours, a horde of swallowtail larvae had systematically climbed up 12 full grown healthy dill plants and ate everything green leaving only the stalks. I found 5 caterpillars clinging to the stalks with nothing left to eat. They aren't as fussy as monarch larvae who only feed on milkweed which gives the larvae that not so yummy oxalic acid taste which will cause the bird feeding on them to vomit. Swallowtails will feed on anything in the fennel, dill, carrot, parsley or Queen Anne's lace aka wild carrot family. I assume I probably had more than 5 larvae at one point. I do have lots of birds to gobble them up assuming the birds don't object to dill tasting food. I transferred the 5 larvae to the Queen Anne's lace plant that had escaped my weeding attempts. By the next morning, only 2 were left. By the afternoon, only one had escaped being bird food. I brought it inside and it now lives in a mason jar with a dill stick and fresh queen Anne's lace foliage and flowers. It is a voracious eater. It should pupate soon as it is the right size.

Yep this is how I spend my days.

Since my bike came home from the shop with a brand new puncture resistant tire, I have been bicycling a lot. Since the bridge I need to complete my favorite loop is still out, I biked to downtown Whitmore Lake and back. Fortunately it is cloudy so I won't become road kill due to the east sun blinding the drivers. As it was dark and cloudy when I took off, I put my new blinking light on my left foot. Recently there was a study on bicyclist visibility. Orange versus black jerseys made no difference but a moving light on a leg did.

Yesterday before we left for the beach, my friend and I rode a loop in the country on dirt roads. Bumpier but absolutely no traffic so we could talk while riding. Recently at the resale shop, I bought these pool loungers that are mainly mesh but have an inflatable rim and pillow and fold up to a very small space so I could take them biking. They also fully inflate with less than a minute of huffing and puffing. They were perfect for lying out in the water which we did for some time until my old nemesis sea sickness hit me. After laying in the sun for a while watching kids interact with the cranes, we went back to my house to make a dinner out of all my garden veggies.

On Friday evening, despite the cool wind that finally chased the oppressive heat away, I spent a very nice evening with another friend.

Today, Josh and his girls come. Naomi returns late at night. She sent me a video of her biking along the beach in Santa Barbara. Lucky her.


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