settling into fall…

September 15, 2013

091513sleepingbeauty

091513sancturykitchen

091513mantis

photos:
1) while I was “watching” a movie with my kids, my son was using my ipad to take photos of our puppy resting his chin on my son’s shoulder…I laughed when I saw this one…at least my mouth wasn’t open…
2) my mother’s kitchen floor…my sister and I call her house “the sanctuary”…I feel taken care of there and her floors are always clean.
3) a praying mantis on a window down the hall from my office

A few random photos from the past month. Most of my photos are on my DSL camera, which is not with me today. But since I wanted to get back into posting, here are some random ones that I have with me.

Life has been intense, as life will be this time of year.

I squeezed much into that last week of summer: had a visit from my dear friend Cath, then a spontaneous trip up north with her and my daughter, applied for two jobs and had calls to interview for both, worked to get ready for a new semester at work, engaged in negotiations to get my son’s crazy high school schedule set (he’s taking classes at 3 schools again, including our local community college), and sadly attended a funeral for my dear neighbor’s mom.

And here we are. My kids are back to school, work has picked up and become more intense, the weather had changed to fall, the football season is in full swing in this college town, we celebrated my mother’s birthday last weekend and will celebrate my husband’s tomorrow and I had my two job interviews with the end result that I’m staying put at my current job and am even more grateful for it! More on all of that another time.

As I settle back into this more rigorous, but predictable schedule, I hope to be back to blogging more regularly! xox

of bonsai and roller derby

August 20, 2013

082013gingko

0813RollerDerby-1

0813RollerDerby-12

0813RollerDerby-5

0813RollerDerby-4

082013whiteskaates

photos:
1) my neglected bonsai gingko
2) roller derby sign of support
3) vicious and jax check out the competition
4) shutting out the jammer, kamikaze
5) low fives all around, rochella de ville
6) my, formerly pristine, roller skates from middle school. (yes i had my own. be jealous.)

When I told my mother that my daughter and I had attended a roller derby event last Saturday she was bemused. “Tell me again why you were interested in seeing roller derby?”

This is a woman who had called me to encourage me to enter the bonsai gingko tree that she gave me several years ago in a bonsai show taking place in Ann Arbor this weekend. I laughed, but could have easily replied, “Tell me again why you are interested in bonsai, Mom?”

I’m kidding. I do appreciate bonsai and I admire her interest in it. I love the little gingko tree she gave me, thriving despite my neglect. But the practice of bonsai is not my thing; it’s hers.

All of the reasons I don’t share her interest in bonsai are probably the reasons I enjoyed watching roller derby for the first time— bonsai requires patience, roller derby doesn’t; bonsai is elegant, roller derby is scrappy; bonsai is individual, roller derby is team-based, bonsai is serious, roller derby is full of good humor.

I’m not sure roller derby is “my thing.” I’m not much of a spectator of anything. I did find it fascinating. The names/personas are my favorite part: Vicious, Upzette, Justice Fast, Missy May Knock You Out, Czarcasm, Kimikaze. The faux tough names are as much a part of the show as the ripped tights and tattoos. I have never seen a burlesque show (which, by the way, like roller derby, seems to be moving toward mainstream around here), but I imagine roller derby and burlesque share much of the same campy showmanship.

The big surprise of the night: my 19-year-old daughter loved it and wants to learn to play. She does have skills. She had to learn to roller skate for a play a few years ago, using my nearly pristine white roller skates from middle school. She decided her derby name would be: Princess Slay-ya (a name used in Drew Barrymore’s roller derby movie, Whip it!, filmed right here in Ann Arbor and Detroit).

Why not yoga? Running? Soccer? All of the things I am interested in? I know the answer is…bonsai.

081613vintageboxers

what is pomodoro time boxing?

081613pomodortimer

Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by everything that I need or want to get done, that I can’t even think what to do next.

At these times, reading blogs and Facebook seems like a great idea. But two hours later, when it’s time to go to bed, I think about everything I should have completed in that two hour block and go to bed feeling worse.

I may have made a breakthrough this week! No, I didn’t hire a housekeeper (sigh), instead I have found help with maximizing my time: Pomodoro! (and Vitamin R)

Pomodoro is a time boxing/time management technique developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The technique is named after his tomato- (“pomodoro”) shaped kitchen timer.

As Cory Bohon describes in his March 9, 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education article, “The Pomodoro Technique: An Overview”:

This technique uses 5 basic steps:

1. Identify your tasks to be completed
2. Set your timer to 25-minutes (or 1 Pomodoro) and begin working
3. When the timer ends, put a checkmark beside the completed tasks
4. Take a 5-minute break to rejuvenate yourself before the next work session
5. Wash, rinse, and repeat (minus the wash and the rinse)

After 4 consecutive Pomodoros (4 25-minute sessions, or almost 2 hours), you will take a longer break, say 15-30 minutes. After this break, you will repeat the normal process until your tasks have been completed.

I use a pomodoro Mac software called Vitamin R. They offer a 14 day Trial version, which so far I have been using for 4 days and I love it. I have been incredibly focused and efficient at work (no so much at home yet). It’s $29.95 after the trial version expires.

There is also a free pomodoro app for iPad/iPhones called 30/30 that I started using at home. It’s much more basic than Vitamin R (which will block applications and/or windows for your timed work period if you want it to, and it offers white noise, and verbal time updates when you schedule them), but 30/30 is still useful.

There seem to be many time boxing apps for iPhone and iPad. You may want to try find some online reviews.

So at work, I open up my Vitamin R, type in the task I will be working on, let it know if I want it to block applications and windows, then I set the time and I begin. I have it set up so that every 10 minutes it let’s me know how much time I have left. If I have I wandered off task, hearing “you have 20 minutes left” jolts me back to work. When the time is up, I am alerted by a sound (that I select) and then I rate how productive I was.

Next I decide if I want to take a timed break, an open break, or move on to another task. After 25 minutes of work, I always take a 10 minute break during which I make myself get up and move around. At work, I usually sit at my desk for hours on end, which is really terrible for my health, and for my legs in particular, since I sit cross-legged and hunched over.

My break often includes standing over a recycle bin while I go through stacks of papers on my desk. Once I’m through my piles, maybe I’ll take my breaks outside, or I’ll walk up and down stairs.

Once my break timer goes off, I settle in for another 25 minute work session. I really do feel more focused during these timed blocks.

The trickiest part of this technique, for me, is handling interruptions by my family and co-workers. I can turn my email off; I can set a limited amount of time to read the news and blogs; but I can’t tell my kids or boss to go away. I don’t WANT to tell my kids or boss to go away (most of the time).

I have decided, at work I’m going to announce that I will be closing my door to cut down on distractions for the morning/day/afternoon. I know people will understand, though it seems a little anti-social. But we have a pretty standard time in the morning where we share stories about our kids or discuss the latest news. I can shut the door after that.

At home, I may have to wait to use this technique when my family is away or occupied, or just pause my timer when they need me. I don’t consider that time as wasted. I see them so little these days.

To learn more about Pomodoro, like how to get better at estimating time for particular tasks, and how to increase focus, download the pdf of the book here (I have not read it).

If you come across, or already use, time management software or apps that work for you, please share!

discordant and antsy

July 21, 2013

071913kayakshoes

071913lookingin

071913breakfastporch

071913doggydoorstop

071913sonspy

071913temp

072013

photos:
1) size 11 watershoes left on the patio
2) the cottage, looking in from the front porch
3) the cottage, inside looking out onto the porch where the men are playing a game over breakfast
4) the cottage, doggy doorstop
5) a stealth photo of my son cuddling finny as we watch television in the basement
6) too many days of this weather
7) finnegan finally gets a properly-sized pool

This summer has felt…discordant…just off in some ways. Parenting teenagers has been tricky. Schedules are feeling like tectonic plates grinding against each other. My expectations for everything I will get done in the summer are always too high and unrealistic. In fact, it feels like I am able to get less done during the summer because schedules and needs are unpredictable. And I am antsy for a new direction, one that involves creativity.

Today I am home alone. My husband and daughter are up north at my husband’s family cottage. My son is working all day. So I will try to make progress on a long list of tasks.

Hope your summer is feeling more settled than mine and that you are not, like me, feeling a little panicky about August lurking around the corner…

061413mangos

eamescirclessmall1_print_2

4.0.1

What making me happy this week 06.14.13

061413chococake

photos:
1. mangos
2. blik eames decal
3. charles and ray eames © 2011 eames office, llc
charles and ray Eames “pinned” by chair bases, 1947, as seen in american masters charles & ray eames: the architect and the painter.
4. converse sneaker made with lucienne day textiles
5. nigella lawson’s old fashioned chocolate cake

My son finished his exams Thursday and christened the beginning of summer by having friends over for a fire in the backyard to burn homework, and to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. (Though earlier in the day he said, “I miss school already.”)

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival started last night. Three weeks of free outdoor concerts, food stalls, late night outdoor movies and many other amusements. I noticed they added some free outdoor yoga classes starting at 5pm on the lawn adjacent to my office. Maybe…

There are also free noontime concerts on Thursdays a few blocks away from my office, Sonic Lunches, sponsored by a local radio station. UM graduate Darren Criss was the star of the most recent one. I wanted to go, but didn’t want to wait hours to get in the door of the Michigan Theater. Most concerts are outdoors and not so well attended. But Darren Criss is now a superstar, having conquered Broadway and now starring in Glee. He also wrote and starred in “A Very Potter Musical” which he created while a student here. Such a talented guy. He has quite a fan base here in AA.

In addition to a free-for-summer child who loves school, the start of summer and the anticipation of the AA Summer Festival, also making me happy this week include:

1. Mangos. I didn’t like mangos for a long time due to my experience with some with stringy texture years ago. My brother had me try one a few months ago and it was amazing. Love them. But still need to learn how to properly cut one…as it is now, my hand turns into a sticky, slimy mess and much of the fruit is left on the stone.

2. I have some Blik decals on my office walls, but I may have to replace them with these decals based on Ray Eames textiles. I’ve been thinking about the Eames lately as they are featured in a current exhibit on modern design at the Cranbrook Institute where they met. I plan to attend at the end of the month.

3. Converse sneakers made with Lucienne Day textiles make me happy. But it makes me unhappy that I discovered these years after they were produced.

4. Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake that may daughter I made this week. I was in the mood for cake. She was in the mood for chocolate. It was better the next day after having been refrigerated.

5. Have you seen these Openculture videos on the Bauhaus, Modernism and American Design?

6. Six Words You Should Say Today, from the Hands Free Momma blog. I love simple suggestions for better parenting. As my sister said, filing this one away with the other important scripts! (One of the best scripts was given to me by my friend, Suzanne, who told me to practice saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, but that would be just impossible.” The period at the end was the most important part.)

7. Libby Callaway’s home featured in the Selby. I probably couldn’t live here, too much going on. But I love looking at it. I love that she’s taken a pretty modest house and really turned it into a spectacular and unexpected space. So much to love here, the chevron rug, the closet, the clothes…though, I’m no fan of antlers, bones or dental casts…

8. Convos with My 2 year Old: Episode 3
Not as good as the first one, but it did make me laugh

Happy weekend to you!

061013rockslakeM

someone left this line of pretty rocks for us

061013sleepingbears

sleeping bear dune in the furthest distance, and south manitou island the dark line to the left of it

061013zonrockwithflies

see the fuzzy black dots? not dirt on my lens. flying black insects…with no breeze to blow them away. at least they weren’t biting, just annoying.

061013birdprints

large prints and wee prints

061013yellowbeachflowers

welcomed color on a gray day
(my parents were canadian and i still spell gray, “grey” first)

061013zdogshadows

a big bouncy dog found my daughter, i love the long shadows

061013zsunset

she has seen many sunsets at pt. betsie

061013ptbetsieon
pt. betsie lighthouse with the lamp just lit

061013autored

reading “the autobiograpy of red” on crystal, recommended by my daughter, the sun finally shining

061013turkeyshouse

wild turkeys bigger than my pug. i later noticed the christmas lights on the house. a newer kind. did someone live here so recently? or did they just decorate to draw attention to the antiques store next door?

weekend escape to the big lake

“i won again mom. did you see i used the word “idiosyncratic”? shall I put my can of whup*** away now?”

My daughter and I escaped this weekend to northern Michigan, to the big lake, Lake Michigan, and to Crystal Lake. My husband’s parents have a cottage on Crystal Lake, very close to Lake Michigan, which we have spent time at every summer since before our children were born. As a child my husband spent most of his summers there. He spent so many hours combing the beach for Petoskey stones, he would fall asleep with the pattern of Petoskey stones on his eyelids. I love that image.

It is not always easy for me to spend time at that cottage. Clutter, clutter clutter everywhere…I wish I was wired differently and that such unimportant things didn’t bother me, but I’m not and they do. I haven’t even mentioned the dog toys, crates, hair…gah. And I love dogs.

But it is in the midst of paradise and I am grateful for time there, especially since it is a place my children and husband love. (They don’t mind clutter…believe me and don’t get me started.)

It was a quiet weekend, almost too quiet for us. It was grey and cool. No waves on either lake. I have never seen Lake Michigan with no waves. No breeze in the woods surrounding the cottage. And very few people– that will all change at the end of this week when school is out for the summer.

Still, it was nice to get away together. We walked along Lake Michigan at Empire Beach, sat on the beach at Crystal wrapped up in towels and read and napped, bought coffee and giant soft chewy butter pretzels at the Crescent Bakery, watched the sun set at Pt. Betsie, ate at the Coho Café where our up north neighbor from Virginia was being trained to be a waiter (his family stays up at the lake all summer), and played Bananagrams, which I enjoy less and less every time I play with my daughter.

We plan to go back up north with the rest of the family in July, after my daughter’s job working at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival ends. Hoping the lakes and the air will be a little warmer!

060513finnylookingup

060513lemonbuttermilkcake

060513spideroutsidea few photos from the past week

It has been an intense week, as they all will be in June. I run a few summer programs and this year many of my trusted instructors have left this transient college town to pursue graduate degrees or for real jobs.

So there have been many evening and weekend meetings and trainings, and more responsibilities that others used to take on. I can’t sleep because I keep running through my head everything I have to do the next day. So, so, so, so many balls in the air. So many moving pieces. I have an excel spreadsheet of everything that needs to be done and for everything that I cross off the list, 3 more things are added.

Some days I feel tired of being at work, and just plain tired, and I want a different job. Some days I feel really excited and proud of what I’m doing.

Here are a few random photos from the few random hours I have been home:

1) Finnegan lying in the sun where he likes to lie.

2) I made this lemon buttermilk bundt cake from shutterbean.com. I don’t have a bundt pan, but I do have a rose cake pan. Delish! This was gone in 24 hours. My family of 4 did not share it with anyone. It was dessert, breakfast, snack and gone.

3) Can you see the spider on the edge of the glass? He was in our dining room. We don’t like to kill spiders in our house. It could have something, or everything, to do with E.B. White’s, “Charlotte’s Web”.

4) A long overdue thank you note to my friend Cathy for the Catherineholm fondu pot and vintage red purse she sent me for my birthday.

My daughter and I may go “up north” this weekend to my husband’s family’s cottage. Sandy beaches, no internet, blue water for as far as you can see, woods…I am both looking forward to it, and also feeling a stomach-churning anxiety about not being here to get more work done. I am trying to ignore my anxiety because my daughter really wants to go. She may not have another opportunity to go for awhile as her summer job starts a week from this Friday and she is taking a stats class. My son’s final exams are next week, so he and my husband are staying home. They will have more opportunities to go up north after this weekend.

I hope that if you also are experiencing stress in your life, that you are able to set aside some time for yourself and your family and that you are also feeling proud of the good work you are doing.

052513dandiescape2

052513dandiescaping

052513dandihelp

052513finnypouting

052513finnyhelp

a day in my life: torturing the pets

photos:
1. Dandelion, trying to escape from the pool
2. Escape attempt 2
3. A rescue? Can you hear him yelling, “hellllllp me!”
4. Finnegan gets upset when I pay attention to Dandelion
5. Finnegan gets upset when he is carried away toward the humiliating new pool
6. Dandelion’s usual pose: A prickly ball.

It was a beautiful Saturday here in Ann Arbor. My husband is staying with his parents this weekend to help care for his mother with Alzheimer’s disease. We will be spending some time there this weekend and sometime at my mother’s house. We are indeed the sandwich generation, but how lucky we are to live close enough to our parents to help if and when they need it.

My son was gone all day at his new job, mowing lawns. He is 15, too young to work most places. Part of me feels like he will have his whole life to work, maybe this is too soon, but I see how proud he is of himself. He seemed pretty happy when he came home, so I guess…

This morning I went for what I call a run, most others would call a trudge. Afterward, I met some friends for lunch at No Thai! (the owner’s name is No). Not my favorite restaurant, but it’s a tradition with this particular group. No Thai! is in Kerrytown, the busiest place in Ann Arbor on Saturday mornings Spring – Fall. It seems as if all of Ann Arbor is at the farmer’s market, and/or Zingerman’s Deli. It felt good sit outside in the sunshine, with friends, in the midst of it all. After that it was home to plant basil, tomatoes and nasturtiums while the pet torturing took place.

I am not the pet torturer. Usually, I am the one being tortured by the pets. My dear doggie, Finnegan, will sit outside the bathroom door and cry as if his heart is broken, never to heal, so full of grief is he at having a closed door between us. You say sweet. I say annoying.

My daughter was the pet torturer today. I recently tried to replace Finnegan’s cracked Tubtrug pool (no, I don’t get reimbursed or sponsored by this or any other product, but I LOVE these Tubtrugs). They only had smaller-sized Tubtrugs at the store, but I was certain Finny would fit. My daughter was dubious. She was right. He sat in it once today and water spilled out along with rolls of his flarb. He looked humiliated, hopped out and would not go near it again….until forced later, by my daughter.

My daughter was cleaning her hedgehog’s cage and thought Dandelion might like a swim. Dandelion does swim, but he did not seem to enjoy it. He doesn’t enjoy much. It was nice to see his face for a change. And his wee little legs and feet!

Dandi’s swimming adventure only lasted a minute. My daughter will stick to bathing him in the sink in warmer water, which he still hates.

Next she decided to try Finny in his new pool again. Do you see the look he was giving me over her shoulder as she carried him to the too-small pool? The same one Dandi was giving me when he was being lifted out of the cold water, “Help me!”

052413brihat

052413BRpants

052413AR

I’m not sure where this week went. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It was just Friday and here is Friday again, and a holiday weekend.

“Boo” to time going so fast; “Hooray” for the holiday weekend.

Some things, in addition to a holiday weekend, that are making me happy this week:

1. Hats by Pooka Queen, to rival any worn by princesses at royal weddings.
This California based artist is an Ann Arbor girl making a name for herself in the west coast fashion world, and soon the rest of the world. It is hard to say which is more beautiful, the art or the artist.
Visit her web site and etsy site for more exquisite pieces including hats, jewelry and accessories.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/pookaqueen
http://www.pookaqueen.com

2. I hate shopping for pants. I even hate the word, “pants”. That whiny short “a” sound. It’s grating.
It’s difficult for me to get a good fit and one that doesn’t emphasize features that I would like to de-emphasize. BUT, this is the happy part, these Banana Republic Sloan Fit slim ankle pants work for me. I ordered them in a long so they are just slightly longer than those in the image above (I’m 5’9″). I wondered about returning them for ankle length, but my daughter says no, the longs make my legs look very long, so I’m keeping them.

3. I don’t have a lot of time for watching television, but, Arrested Development – SUNDAY! I am nearly giddy about it. (If you don’t watch, this where to find the never nude)

4. I had dinner with my former mother’s of daughter’s group this week. The group was put together by a clinical social worker, who led the monthly discussion of parenting daughter issues and eventually grew into parenting of daughters and sons and marriage therapy and personal therapy…whatever we need to talk about. This group, these women, made me a much calmer (I didn’t say “calm” I said “calmER”), better parent and helped me through some very difficult situations. I started attending when my, now 19 year old, daughter was 5. We stopped meeting a few years ago when most of the daughters had graduated from high school. Oh how I miss this group!

5. Convos With My 2 year Old video on youtube. I’m looking forward to more. Funny…and creepy.

Happy weekend to you!

051713parisianapt

051713susanb

what’s making me happy this week: 05.17.13

photos:
1. paris apartment, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/ (complete url below)
2. susan b. anthony, and likeness, http://www.jaimemoorephotography.com (complete url below)
3. beauty in sunglasses, reposted from MasonBentleyStyle.com (complete url below)

1. Spring and Summer have arrived in Michigan! The trees are in bloom. It has been in the 80s (26/27C?) with a gentle breeze. We have the windows open at night and I sometimes get to fall asleep listening to Tiger’s baseball on the radio. I want time to stand still right now.

2. Speaking of time standing still…get happy looking at the photos of a Paris apartment that has been locked since the owner fled Paris during the Nazi occupation. She lived out her life elsewhere, never returning to this apartment. The apartment was opened and photographed after her death this year. Everything in it is precious.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323297/Inside-Paris-apartment-untouched-70-years-Treasure-trove-finally-revealed-owner-locked-fled-outbreak-WWII.html

3. These portraits and this post did make me happy…(scroll down past the wedding photography):
http://www.jaimemoorephotography.com/2013/05/09/not-just-a-girl/
…but after thinking about it, it would make me happier if we just didn’t dress up our girls in costumes for photos, and just took their pictures as they are…

4. Speaking of portraits, I love this post (and all of her posts) and these photos posted on the MasonBentleyStyle.com blog which features advertisement photos for, “Karen Walker’s sunglasses based on the inspirational ladies from Ari Seth’s Advanced Style Blog.”
http://masonbentleystyle.com/2013/05/17/what-do-you-see-2/

5. I have seen more and more cartoons poking fun of the little stick figure family decals on the backs of cars (and when I say car, you know I mean minivan). This was the best one I’ve seen:
http://xkcd.com/946/

6. Finally, the dear lady at The Vintage Postcard Blog nominated me for a Pirate’s Admiration Award, which I will properly acknowledge this weekend. Like her, I knew nothing about the award. I cannot find any history or origin of the award on Google, but it seems to be an award, motivated by kindness, to acknowledge and support bloggers. You get nominated, you feel the glow, you play it forward. While the award does not include a trip around the world, or a contract with, well, anyone…to know that someone, even one person, out there reads and likes my blog— makes me happy.

Happy weekend! I hope you have blue skies and sunshine wherever you are.