Friday, July 29, 2011

Big brother

The five kids on Christmas morning

Today is my big brother's birthday.

He's the oldest of the five of us.

To give you some idea of the kind of guy he is,
a few years ago while the family was gathered for our summer reunion,
we played the game "If - Questions for the Game of Life."
Someone chose this question for each of us to answer:
If you had to pick one person to help you
in any kind of situation,
who would it be?

We each wrote down our answers
and then revealed our choices.

Big brother.


Happy birthday, Big bro.
I'm so glad you're my brother.


P.S. Forgot to mail your birthday card on time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

There could be consequences.

"Be careful not to crush your skulls."

Spoken by our fitness instructor during our Body Pump class tonight. It is very hot and muggy out, and at the Y, it was very hot and muggy in. So everything was damp and slippery, and the instructor was warning us to have a firm grip on the barbells during a triceps pullover move. Or there could be consequences.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I tried all week to get a picture of the hummingbirds at the feeder.

Every time I raised my camera, they would dart away and not return.
Same story at the hosta flowers.

There was even one that followed the spray of the sprinkler my dad set up,
but I wasn't quick enough for it.

Finally, just before we left for home, I got one.


Monday, July 25, 2011


Courtesy of Caltech

Wednesday night I walked out of the cottage with Oscar,
one last time before bed,
and noticed how bright the stars were.
When we came back in, I told my New Orleans nephew,
and he said there is so much ambient light where they live it's hard to see the stars.
So we headed for the pier in the dark, my niece-in-law in tow,
with just the light of the stars to guide us.

The sky was glorious - thick with stars.
The air was still warm and humid, even after 11pm,
but the wind was blowing and the air felt great.

And then we saw the moon, just rising.
Not full, but big and orange and low in the eastern sky,
reflecting in the lake.

And a few minutes later in the western sky,
a huge shooting star.

We went to bed happy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


One of our traditions during the family vacation
is having a "girls' lunch" at a small restaurant we all love.
One sister and one niece weren't able to come,
but the rest of us got to continue the tradition.

Love the women around that table (and the two who were absent).

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Part of the fun of the berry picking
is being surrounded by fauna and flora.

When I turned for a moment from the black raspberry bush in front of me,
I noticed some milkweed plants.
I thought to take a closer look -
is this the time of year Monarch butterflies feed on them?
(No idea.)

Instead, I saw a tiny frog.

Very green.

Very cute.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's the berries

Wild black raspberries.
One past its prime,
two not yet ripe,
three at the peak of ripeness.

We used to go to a local orchard during cherry picking time.
I loved picking cherries for a few hours,
coming home to wash and pit them
(with plenty of help),
packing most in bags for later processing into preserves,
and turning some into cherry crisp or cobbler
for that night's dinner.

But the orchard was sold,
the new owner overwhelmed with upkeep,
and the cherry trees allowed to decline.

Then a couple of years ago my younger sister
offered her land for the family to go wild black raspberry picking.

Part of the land is rented to a farmer,
the rest is habitat for deer (for autumn hunting).

There are a few open areas
where wild black raspberry bushes have flourished.

Outfitted with long pants and long-sleeved shirts
to protect against the thorns,
sprayed with mosquito repellant,
one sister, one brother, and one niece-in-law, and I
spent an hour Tuesday morning in the hot sun, picking berries.

There was birdsong, occasional insect noises,
and once in a while the sound of a passing car
in accompaniment to the sound of the berries
hitting the bottom of our picking buckets.

For dessert that night:
nineteen servings
of wild black raspberry syrup over ice cream.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The view

View from the tower

This week is our annual family vacation
at my parents' cottage in Wisconsin.
My siblings and as many in their families as can manage
come to spend time in this beautiful setting
to catch up with each other's lives and enjoy the company.

We have had a very hot and humid week,
but that hasn't kept us from exerting ourselves now and then.
Monday my 2 sisters, nephew, and I
hiked to a nearby watch tower
which was built in the early 1900's.

Just getting to the tower is a climb.

Then getting to the top is another climb.

121 steps, according to the guidebook.

It felt great to finally reach the lookout at the top of the tower.
The breeze felt wonderful after the long climb.
There were no sounds other than the soft cooing of a few pigeons.

And the reward was the glorious views.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cigar smokers' etiquette

I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, and seconds later,
a car pulled in to the spot facing me.

I noticed the driver had what looked like a big ol' stogie clamped in his teeth.

He got out of his car, removed the cigar from his mouth, placed it on the windshield,
and headed into the grocery store.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seen on the street

And I don't think we have to mention biting, do we?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trip to the farm

Our local organic gardeners club planned an outing
to Genesis Growers, in St. Anne, Illinois.

This is the farm for which I host a weekly CSA vegetable pickup.

1940's - 1950's era tractors,
each set up for a specific job to save set up time.

It was a beautiful evening to be there
and fascinating to listen to Vicki's stories
about life on the farm.

Hoop houses in distance extend the growing season.

A hot pepper plant in the hoop house.
She is playing with some South American stock which might,
if grown in the hoop house, be a perennial.

The long view of the lowering sun was beautiful.

We headed out just before the storm rolled in.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Controls the deer

We can't have them running wild in the woods.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Oscar's birthday

I ordered a new toy for Oscar, and it happened to arrive on his birthday.

When he got Squirrel last Christmas, he took to it immediately.

But the duck didn't seem to interest him at all.

Or maybe he was just camera shy.

He's gotten over whatever it was and now is quite happy with Duck,
who will be traveling with us to the cottage today.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's this?

What is this flower?

(Is it a weed?)

It's new to our garden, about 8 inches high,
and I don't know where it came from.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

See what Jessica had to say yesterday

A while back, Blackbird mentioned the website This is Indexed.

Yesterday's post made me laugh out loud. You've got to go see it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week 5

Yesterday began week 5 of G attending an adult day program 3 days per week. I was told that most people resist at first and take a few weeks to get used to it. So I was hoping that by now, we wouldn't still be having the sturm und drang each morning he has to attend the program. I spoke to the nurse practioner at G's doctor's office and asked if the 30 to 45 minutes of drama and turmoil getting G out of the house and into the car is worth it. He asked how G does once he's there: is he participating or sitting with his arms folded and head down? I'm told by the staff that G participates to some degree, so Dan thought the 5 hours or so of interaction with others probably makes the stress of getting him out of the house worth continuing.

Last Friday afternoon when I arrived to get G, the group was sitting around tables, having a snack, so I sat down with them and introduced myself. I thought they seemed like nice people; most older than G, but conversational. G engaged with some of the conversation, which really encouraged me. Then, on the way home when I said something about them being nice people, he didn't agree. "Imbeciles," he said. Ouch. Harsh.

Wish I could find a way to make it more palatable for G. Or that he would make a friend there, someone he would look forward to seeing, as he did with the first support group he joined after his diagnosis 7 years ago. That could make all the difference.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

But soft! What light through yonder - er -

For many summers at the cottage,
my dad has provided the local birds
with a number of well-stocked feeders.
Keeping the seeds for the birds and away from the squirrels
requires vigilance,
and this season the squirrels have gotten bolder.
They venture out on the wire
and jump onto the feeders to get to the seeds.
The baffles haven't baffled them.

My brother looked for info about foiling the squirrels
and came up with a plan for stringing empty water bottles on the line
to keep the squirrels from gaining purchase.
A kind of woodlands log rolling contest.

Fourth of July weekend found a group of us
busy emptying a case of water bottles
and boring holes in the bottom of each
to string on the wire.
We made sure to position them all facing the same way.
You know - hoping to avoid a look that says "white trash."
Or at least that says so sotto voce.
It took the birds a while to accept the new look,
but after a several hour boycott,
they started coming back.

The next morning, we looked out to see how the bottles were working.

Wait. What's that? On one of the feeders.

OMG. I can't believe it! How the heck...

One of our droll weekend guests
had positioned Oscar's squirrel for maximum impact.

And today is Oscar's birthday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Three good things

Saturday I met a friend in a nearby suburb to accompany her while she looked at a couple of potential places to rent (so much fun being along to look without having to make the decision or commitment myself), have lunch, and explore the neighborhood. She is about to start a new job which will entail travel and needs to find a place close to public transportation so her older brother can get around easily. He is in his 5th or 6th year of recovering from a stroke, and she is his primary caregiver and transportation. But he is a very strong walker, so public transportation is great for him.

We had so much fun: the places that she looked at renting were in a beautiful park-like setting, despite the fact that they were right by the Blue Line (no train noises could be heard, amazingly); we found a reasonably priced Thai restaurant just a few blocks away; and then we walked along the main shopping street, window shopping and noting all the little shops, restaurants, and services (Foot massages! Tae kwan do lessons! Yoga studios! Antique shops! Italian! Thai! Irish pubs!).

And then: the tea shop. Cool, quiet, lovely. Two delicious hot teas and one chilled tea to sample. Tea pots, tea cups, tea towels, knitted tea cozies (kits - so cute, but way beyond my skill level). Infusers. Infuser/tea pot combos. Boatloads of different types of teas, herbals, flavored blends. I was amazed by the two hot teas we sampled - I always put sugar and milk in my tea, but both of these had so much flavor and no bitterness, that they were delicious as is.

I splurged.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First of the season

One of G's caregivers brought us 2 tomatoes from her garden.
In early July!
Lucky for me, G doesn't like tomatoes.

It was delicious on a sandwich with some basil from our garden.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Color palette

With the yellow daylilies just starting to open,
the palette of the garden is shifting.

When I bought our house in 1987,
there were a lot of native orange daylilies in the gardens.

And then my sister Carlie sent me (via UPS!)
some yellow daylilies from her garden, 300 miles away,
and I've loved the lemony color ever since.

Each year when they begin to flower,
I remember that first planting.

Thanks, Car!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Check, please

My new checks.

Soy-based ink.
Recycled paper

Makes me happy.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

From the garden

Most trips to my parents' cottage include bringing cut flowers from our garden. I transport the flowers in an empty plastic gallon milk container that I've cut away to make a bigger opening and still have the handle intact. The broad base of the container, when filled with a couple of inches of water to sustain the flowers, is pretty stable for the car ride. Much easier than trying to transport a tall vase of flowers.

I meant to take a picture of the latest bouquet but forgot. This morning my dad sent a picture he had taken.