Misc. Summer Updates

misc. summer updates - garden tour lily

Garden Tour

Ah, time again for some misc. summer updates. It is a busy time of the year, no? And I actually left the house and did something outside of work! Mom and I went to the Leila Arboretum Society‘s summer garden tour this year. We hadn’t been before. This year’s gardens were on the north side of town, and many were in very small lots. It is amazing to see what can be done in such a small space. If you’re interested in seeing some of the photos, swing over to My Michigan Garden. It was a really fun time, and I’m glad we went. I think, give it another year, Mom’s garden could easily be on the tour. It’s that good.

misc. summer updates - tim madigan's the burning

Summer Reads

I finished Tim Madigan’s The Burning last night. You know how a non-fiction book can be a horrific tale, but it is written so well and is so enlightening you’d call it a really good book? This is that book. I think anyone who reads it would be horrified over the events in Tulsa and how the story was essentially buried for so many years. I think you’d be hard put to read it and not think reparations are due, not just for slavery but for how black people in America have been treated every day since slavery supposedly ended.

Next book up is Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. I told you I was no longer shopping at amazon, so I got the book from New Story Community Books in Marshall. They happened to have a signed copy in stock, but they can order whatever else you need. It is a fantastic store, and I highly recommend locals shop there! A friend recommended the book and I read a sample online, and I can’t wait to start reading it. I think it’s going to be really good. If I finish that and still have time on my summer reads, Tom Cooper’s Florida Man will be the book after that. Originally I only set three books and was concerned I wouldn’t have time to get through them, but all three books so far were very engaging and pretty fast reads. Don’t you think summer reading just hits differently? I love it.

misc. summer updates - gouache cat painting

Painting

We finished the HSSCM Pet Portrait fundraiser (here is the catalog). There is one painting that hasn’t come in, and I will need to paint it myself if it doesn’t make it by the end of the month. Currently, I’m doing a special cat portrait in gouache for a dear friend who lost her handsome panther just recently. You can see I have the colors blocked in, but that’s it. I figure it will take another three hours or so to finish it. I’d like to say it will be done this weekend, but I’m not confident in my time. After I finish this one, and the one that didn’t make it to the HSSCM event, I’ll hopefully get back to watercolor. I find the days are very long and hard, and by the time evening rolls around I’m too mentally tired to paint.

Can you believe we are nearing the end of July? The cicadas are singing on the hot afternoons, and smoke from the wildfires out west are creating hazy sunlight skies. Bob is quite busy at work, and will be attending some events coming up for his job. I’ll be attending the MSU Master Gardener conference virtually in August. My thoughts are already turning to Halloween. With no event, there will be no costume this year. But maybe I can entertain myself with some historybounding? Who knows. There are so many things I’d like to do to entertain myself, and so little time outside of work. And some of the hours (many of the hours) outside of work are still dealing with work issues.

Anyhow, hope your summer is going great.

Summer Reading Update

Monday, July 12, 2021 0 No tags Permalink
Summer Reading Update - How to Stop Time

We are maybe 1/3 through the summer, and I’m making progress on my summer reading. First up was Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time which I guess would be classified as a fantasy novel. The main character ages very, very slowly. It was a good read, but not very memorable. A week after I had read it, I forgot what happened in it. If you’re looking for a light beach read though, this could be your book.

summer reading update - convenience store woman

Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman is maybe more of a novella. I started and finished in it just a couple of hours. It was an interesting read for sure. The woman the story is centered around has some sort of un-diagnosed personality disorder. From not being understood in childhood to trying to find her place in life, she finds peace working part time in a convenience store. The descriptions of the store and her surroundings are quite good. You can really feel yourself there. Though I couldn’t identify with the character personally, the story gave me insight into another kind of life. I don’t think this is a book for everyone, but I have a few friends who might like it including my cousin Angie.

I’ve also been daily reading selections from Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic looking for peace and inspiration. I’ve also been tracking down the Splash watercolor books. They are excellent for ideas and inspiration. Here’s my latest watercolors, #44 and #45.

The second one got a bit of traffic on the watercolor Facebook groups I belong to, and I did learn a lot through all of the comments. It seems the watercolor people are more active than the gouache or acrylic people. I did start a new watercolor last night and it’s not going well. Hoping it can still be salvaged. I need to sit and wait for things to dry instead of constantly reworking them while wet. Things always look different in the morning. That’s a pretty good metaphor for life as well. Worry and overwork things at night and it’s a disaster. The morning light will cast a new reality for you.

Next up on my reading list: The Burning [Tulsa Race Riot] by Tim Madigan

No More Amazon

I’m done with Amazon. Their refusal to pay corporate taxes, the way they treat their staff members, and the horror that is Amazon Prime delivery services has finally ended it for me. So for me, it’s no more amazon. I’ll be paying more to place orders at independent stores and will be supporting hopefully the USPS (even UPS and FedEx are better than Amazon Prime deliveries). Today I ordered a book from The Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan. Last week I ordered two from Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately we don’t have any great independent art supply stores around here, so I usually order from Blick. My favorite peanut butter is cheaper on Amazon, but I ordered directly from the company. And don’t even get me started on Etsy:

Favorite Soap: Pie Town
Watercolor Paint: Ruby Mountain Paint Co.
Washi Tape: my friend Michele at Goat Girl

Anyhow, in July please consider shopping local or supporting independent sellers online. It can really make a difference in their lives! Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite local or online independent retailer.

It’s been raining a crap ton (over four inches in the past week). Everything is wet, inside and outside the house. Ants have moved into my office. But at least we haven’t had to water? Consumer’s Energy gouged electric rates daily from 2:00 – 7:00pm. That’s not an exaggeration. It was literally a 50 percent increase. When it rains forever, it’s pretty humid. And the only way to beat it back is using air conditioning. Which is now much more expensive. At least it’s not as hot as it is in the west right now.

No More Amazon. The rest of my summer reads will be purchased through independent retailers!

I did start the summer reads with Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. It’s pretty good so far. Lots going on this week, and at this point I’m not sure how everything is going to shake out. In the meanwhile, try to breathe deep and appreciate the little things.

Misc. Updates

misc. updates Van Pennen's Flowers

Time for another misc. updates post. How quickly June passes! Since the last post, I did finish my final baby blanket, but forgot to take a picture. Hopefully no more baby blankets for some time. I have a personal crochet project I’m kicking around in my mind, but in the meanwhile I’ll probably just crochet a few cat blankets for the shelter. Last week was super hot and humid, but this week is cooler.

misc. updates family

Last weekend Aunt Suzie, Gail, and Sydney came to visit. We went up to Lansing to water the graves, and the lavender was in bloom on the Thorne/Cleary plot. Drove past Hudda’s house, stopped for lunch. It was a lovely few days, and it’s a reminder of how lucky I am to have family I not only love, but I really like and enjoy spending time with!

misc. updates cemetery flowers

In my last post, I mentioned the pet portrait FUNdraiser for the Humane Society. In the end, we had 26 people request a portrait, for $520 in total revenue which is really disappointing to me. Some of the completed works have already come in, and they are fantastic. I’ve been slowly working on the one I assigned myself, otherwise known as painting #42 in my collection.

I’ll have to take some photos and a video of the gardens. I’ve had to water a lot as it’s been so hot and we haven’t gotten much rain at all. In fact, Calhoun County is now in a “moderate drought”. The flower beds look good, though we have yet to have a single monarch butterfly or caterpillar. I would guess our group didn’t survive the winter in Mexico. The honey bees and bumble bees are enjoying the flower garden, and we’ve had some moths as well.

Michigan is pretty well open from the pandemic closures, and what isn’t open by state regulation will be released completely July 1st. The shelter is still open by appointment only, mostly for the stress benefit to the animals and staff members. Not sure when that will change. The Field of Flight balloon championship will go on as usual this year, with 20,000 guests expected and only 42% of Calhoun County folks vaccinated.

I’ve started pulling together my list of Summer Reads. With so much going on (gardening, painting, work, worrying) I’m not sure how much time I have to read. I’ve got three books set for sure, then some potentials if I get time. Here’s the list

Will Absolutely Read:
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
How to Stop Time: A Novel by Matt Haig
The Burning [Tulsa Race Riot] by Tim Madigan

Might Read:
Again Again by E Lockhart
Florida Man: A Novel by Tom Cooper
Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings

What are you reading this summer?

Summer Reads 2019 Update

Wednesday, July 17, 2019 0 No tags Permalink

summer reads 2019

Time for a summer reads update, though there’s not much to report as I haven’t been reading much. I have been crocheting a lot and watching a ton of shows (Project Runway Season 16, Pose, Fleabag…).

And I have even more shows waiting (Stranger Things, Derry Girls). I don’t know if it’s everything else in life or if it’s just the books I’ve been choosing, but I’ve had a hard time really falling into a book lately. I’ve also had a real series of headaches again, and that makes it difficult to read in the evenings. I need to schedule an appointment with the eye doctor.

I started the summer reading with a light read. Emma Rous’ The Au Pair has an interesting twist. I wouldn’t say it’s the kind of book that is going to stay with you, but if you’re looking for a nice, easy beach read that will keep you entertained, it’s a good one.

When I was younger, I’d battle through a book to the very end, no matter what. As I’ve gotten older, I realize there are so many books I will never read them all, and why waste your time reading something you’re not enjoying?

Jillian Cantor’s In Another Time is a well-written, interesting book. However, I found it sad and distressing to read. I am sure everything will work out for the characters in the end of the book, but I just couldn’t finish it. I found myself sad thinking about it, and I didn’t want to pick it up to read it. I only got about half way through before I gave it up entirely.

Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was not on my original list, but it was recommended by a friend. It was a good read, though a little sad and stressful like the Cantor book, still I was able to get through it. I suspect my next read will be off the list as well, and something light.

Like reading? Check out previous summer reads:

Summer Reads 2018 Update

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 0 No tags Permalink

summer reads 2018

Not only have I been slothful in posting, I haven’t been reading much this summer either. In fact, I sort of wonder what I have been doing. I had a nice little summer bucket list, and have checked off very few things (yoga on the beach at Lake Michigan, baseball game and attending an outdoor concert). Here it is, nearing the end of August and the trees are already starting to turn, and I’ve only been out paddle boarding eight times. Yikes.

I did read the Megan Miranda book, The Perfect Stranger. It was not bad.

Then I read The Ninth Hour and I think it was pretty good, but then I had to go look up the synopsis to write this as I couldn’t remember what it was about.

Then it was The Night Circus, which was interesting but I was more than ready for it to be over by the time I finished it.

I also read Slade House, but didn’t manage to get the cat and couch photo. The last two chapters, I realized it was sort of a sequel or at least had some characters in it from a previous David Mitchell book that I had loved. This one was just ok.

And that’s where I am. Rather, I’m about halfway through Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible and it’s just delightful. Best thing I’ve read since last year’s American Fire. As it’s nearly Labor Day, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be finishing my summer reads as planned this year, but I suppose it’s not terrible as I did get more than half way through. I did pick up another couple books, including a real beach read and a more challenging novel. Maybe autumn will be a more fitting time to read this year.

How is your reading going?

The Perfect Stranger: A Novel by Megan Miranda

The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation by Gwendolyn Womack 

Slade House: A Novel by David Mitchell 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford 

The Ninth Hour: A Novel by Alice McDermott

Warlight: A novel by Michael Ondaatje

Like reading? Check out previous summer reads:

Summer Reads 2018

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 0 No tags Permalink

summer reads 2018

Dear friends, it is already past Memorial Day, and therefore time for Summer Reads 2018. I’ve been quite busy sewing and crocheting in the evenings, so I haven’t been reading much lately. I have a slightly smaller list this year as a result. I am starting with the Megan Miranda book, The Perfect Stranger.

The Perfect Stranger: A Novel by Megan Miranda

The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation by Gwendolyn Womack 

Slade House: A Novel by David Mitchell 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford 

The Ninth Hour: A Novel by Alice McDermott

Warlight: A novel by Michael Ondaatje

What are you reading this summer?

Like reading? Check out previous summer reads:

Summer Reads 2017 Update #3

Monday, July 31, 2017 0 No tags Permalink

summer reads 2017

 

Can you believe it’s already August? Holy cats, the summer has gone by so fast. Time for the Summer Reads 2017 Update #3.

perfectlittleworld

I read Kevin Wilson’s Perfect Little World, and it was good. Interesting story line. Well written. Something to think about. Everything turned out ok in the end and was wrapped up nicely. I would recommend it. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

parisbookshop

As soon as I had finished Nina George’s Little French Bistro, I put her Little Paris Bookshop in my cart. It’s just as good. I read it with one hand on my phone, as I wanted to see photos of the places in the book. It’s a lovely book, and set me in a perfect summer mood. It was delightful, and well worth reading. George puts her own recommendations of books in the back of this one. I picked up two. One is nearly unreadable from a story line, I think. The other is a nice story, but is so poorly edited it’s bothersome. Quotation marks the wrong way, wrong punctuation.

This is week 10 out of 14. I should finish up The Enchanted April this week, and then will start When Breath Becomes Air. Again, I can’t believe how quickly the summer has gone.

Summer Reads 2017:

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
Added:
The Book of Summer: A Novel by Michelle Gable

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Like reading? Check out previous summer reads:

Summer Reads 2017 update

Monday, June 12, 2017 0 No tags Permalink

 summer reads 2017

I’ve been slowly working on my reading, and so it is time for the Summer Reads 2017 update, the first of its kind. I am still managing to get some done on the John Kabat-Zinn. Much of it is similar to what I learned in the eight week MBSR course through the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness but it’s a good reminder to stay in the moment. I did finish Lincoln in the Bardo, which was indeed a very unusual book.

 

lincoln2

I’m not sure it’s everyone’s cup of tea. It takes a bit to get used to how it’s written. The story is strange and it’s stayed with me after I finished reading it. I found the ending was not entirely satisfying. If you want to read it, let me know and I will mail it to you. If not, it will likely wind up at the library as a donation. I have started My Grandmother…which also seems to be a very unusual book. I believe I may need a palate cleanser of a breezy beach read when I am finished with it, so for sure I will be adding to my book list as I go. I always seem to do that.

What are you reading? Have you read any of the books on my list? Let me know your thoughts!

 

Summer Reads 2017:

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

Like reading? Check out previous summer reads:

Summer Reads 2016

Summer Reads 2015

Summer Reads 2014

Summer Reads 2017

Thursday, June 1, 2017 0 No tags Permalink

summer reads 2017

It’s that time of year again – ready for Summer Reads 2017. It seemed to go straight from February to Memorial Day; time really moves more quickly the older you get. While I’ve been reading off and on this past winter (Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson which was really excellent, Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett which I hated, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood which was amazing, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett which was ok), I never get as much reading done as during my Summer Reads project. It is a true hedonistic endeavor…I pick eight or so books to read from Memorial Day through Labor Day. I generally pick my books from Amazon.com recommendations, the New York Times Bestseller list and book reviews by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan.

Anyhow, I  believe I have set my list for Summer Reads 2017:

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

The Gustav Sonata: A Novel by by Rose Tremain

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Perfect Little World: A Novel by Kevin Wilson

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, Henning Koch

I started adding books to the list several months ago and don’t even really remember what all of them are about. I suspect I will slide in a nice easy beach read in the mix as well. You really have to have a book like that in the summer, don’t you? I have started the Kabat-Zinn and am reading a bit each morning before I start the day. I started the Saunders book on Memorial Day and it’s so unusual. What are you reading this summer?

Like reading? Check out previous summer reads:

Summer Reads 2016

Summer Reads 2015

Summer Reads 2014