072814chocomilk

072814surfingsealrocks

072814yellowmushrooms

072814goldfishyelloboots

072814bodenskirt

photos:
1) loving my chocolate milk
2) surfer, pacific ocean, golden gate park near sutro bathes
3) yellow mushrooms, noe valley farmer’s market
4) gold fish and yellow boots, japanese tea garden in golden gate park
5) my new skirt

We have had some hard weeks this month. We are still missing our puppy. My mother-in-law is in her final days. And we are dealing with some hard, worldly, issues with one of our children. It is a situation that has grown from a place of goodness and caring, but has put our child in a potentially dangerous and situation. It is a situation that makes me long for normal teenage issues like drinking, sex or breaking curfew. We have been up late many nights lately having long and intense family talks. But at least we are talking. (My advice to you as a parent is to not raise caring and sensitive kids who want to save the world.)

When I am tired at the beginning of a swim workout and have a wave of dread wash over me thinking about how many more hundreds of yards I have left to swim, I tell myself to focus on the 50 yards I am currently on: to concentrate on form; to concentrate on the pleasure of moving through the water; and to just take one lap at a time. It always gets me through the workout.

I am trying to apply the same focus to each day of this hard time: focus on what I can do today; try to set a goal and try to break the problem down to get to that goal; focus on efficiency rather than wasting so much energy on anxiety and worry; and make sure I exercise and laugh, because endorphins always help. As I tell my children, we will get through this. All will be well.

I cannot say that I am happy this week, but there have been things that have lifted my spirits. The top three have to do with chocolate…for its medicinal qualities?

1. Almond Joy ice-cream. Coconut ice-cream infused with almonds and big chunks of chocolate, now available and our neighborhood Washtenaw Dairy ice cream store, an all too convenient 10 minute walk from my house. I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I find myself with a specific craving this ice cream. No, I’m not pregnant.

2. Small, portable cartons of chocolate milk. They don’t require refrigeration, though they are best cold. I love them after exercising…and with my lunch…and as a late night snack and…No, I’m not pregnant.

3. Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. I have a Ghiradelli bar right next to me as I type. I have never liked dark chocolate, though I know it’s much better for me than milk chocolate. It turns out if you add a heavy does of salt and almonds to dark chocolate, it’s not only palatable, it’s wonderful. (I also like the dark chocolate and sea salt Kind bars.) No, I’m still not pregnant.

4. My kitchen floor is almost done and looking great. My husband has been working his *** off sanding, staining and finishing this ancient pine floor. The project started last November when we bought a new dishwasher that would not fit under the counter, even though it was the same dimensions as the old one. We ended up ripping up the flooring, which needed replacing anyway, and found 3 layers of linoleum on subfloor. Then there was black paper and goo that had to be scraped off of the floor. We discovered not so bad pine flooring that we thought we might paint. Once my husband had it sanded we decided to stain and polyurethane. Now about that harvest gold counter top…

5. Being outside always makes me feel better. My daughter and I took a long bike ride together this week, I swam outdoors at least once, I walked to and from work on some days. This Atlantic article on brain function and exercise, and being outside says being outside and exercising (and the big O for ladies) also increases brain function:
Gym workouts and sunbathing do more for your brain than crosswords and Mozart

6. My first trip ever to San Francisco was great. We packed a lot in in the few days we were there. Including my friend’s participation in the Escape from the Rock duathlon. The food, the shops, the nature, the culture, the easy transportation…I can’t wait to return.

7. The Google Maps App and the Uber Cars App. Both Apps made getting around San Francisco easy and stress free. Uber cars are controversial in some cities because they compete with cab drivers who say Uber drivers are unqualified. Uber drivers have to pass some driving and written tests, so I’m not sure if the cabbies’ claims are founded. I like Uber cars because I don’t feel like I’m getting overcharged because I’m a tourist. You can get a fare quote ahead of time, they let you know ahead of time if it is a high traffic time when fares are sometimes increased, and by how much they are increased. There is no tipping (tip is included), the cars arrive quickly, it is automatically charged to your credit card and they have lots of special offers—first ride was free for us.
Google Maps gives great and specific information for using public transportation and walking.

8. Boden’s printed cotton skirt in Papaya Geo that arrived this week (see above)

9. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
, by Daniel James Brown

I’m almost finished with this book, but don’t want it to end! There is a movie being made of this. It’s being touted as the Chariots of Fire of rowing. Here is a book trailer I found (have never heard of a book trailer before).

10. My husband showed me THIS amazing kickstarter invention. I made a small donation to the campaign so I can receive 100 of these next July. Just in time for my son’s 18th birthday.

Hope you have a good week: 50 yards at a time my friends.

what's making me happy this week 03.23.14: kumail, adam and peter

030314museumceiling

030314bellsdiner2

032314pugshadow

032314sadfruit

032114bicarbonite

032314ironicefence

032314lunchroom

photos:
1) i love the glass doorknobs in our house and won't let my husband replace them, even though some work poorly
2) the ceiling of the lobby of the university of michigan's museum of natural history where we had an after hours event
3) a late lunch of jap che and bi him bap with my daughter at bell's diner. you can see us in the mirror and a sign of spring hanging above. i have one just like it at home.
4) i love my pug's shadow. i wish i could get it without the sidewalk cracks so you can really see his curly tail
5) my daughter was in my office and arranged my fruit to let me know how she felt about her organic chemistry exam
6) my daughter came downstairs to excitedly explain an organic chemistry eureka moment to me using her whiteboard, which really just confused me and lulled me to sleep. you can see my pug is alarmed that she is invading our space
7) old iron fence shadows
8) lunch at the lunchroom in kerrytown, loved our bahn mi sandwiches

Walking back from lunch this week I overheard someone say to another person, “We’re lucky it’s so warm out today!” Moments later someone else smiled at me and said, “Nice day!” The same day my outdoor running buddy, whom I have not run with since October, texted me, “Want to run tomorrow morning?”

So by now you have deduced the weather here in Michigan has changed. It’s sunny and…30 degrees outside! No NOT Celsius. That’s good old American 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may think we are a sad and uncivilized lot here in the mid western United States. Uncivilized? Yes. Sad? No. We are HAPPY. It’s balmy! The snow is melting! We are on the other side!

Also making me happy this week:
1. The Detroit Tiger’s Baseball home opener is March 31, a week from tomorrow. Ernie Harwell announcing Tiger’s games on WJR radio was the background to my childhood summers. And even though Ernie Harwell is no longer announcing, listening to a Tiger’s game on the radio while making dinner is better than a glass of wine (and even better WITH a glass of wine). Winter is over friends: the boys of summer are back.

2. Kumail Nanjiani. I was thinking of this episode of Portlandia when I was looking into our cell phone plan this week…Anyone who has a cell phone plan will be able to relate, but may not find it funny.

3. I loved, LOVED, Adam Savage’s (of MythBusters fame) story on the Moth podcast about talking to his kids about online pornography. I was a little worried at first…but he nailed it. No pun intended. (Naughty!)

4. What made me happy about these rejection letters to famous people published by Mental Floss (by the way, greatest magazine, a subscription is a great gift for any nerdy person) is that in fact I found most of them to be very kind. May we all be so kind in our rejections.

5. Finally saw the movie, The Desendants. I loved it, despite the fact that I watched it with my mother who made a disapproving noise whenever anyone dropped an f-bomb, and there were about 3,456 f-bombs dropped throughout the film.
I love movies and books that begin with characters you really don’t like at all, and then slowly their humanity and vulnerability are revealed as you watch them evolve into better people.

6. It makes me happy that I finally finished Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch. Emphasis on FINISHED. Powered through nearly 800 pages waiting for someone in this book to redeem him or herself. Waited to care about someone. Still waiting.

Yes, I know. I read Stephen’s King’s review in the New York Times where he states, “The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.”

And yes, I also heard NPR’s Maureen Corrigan’s review. “The Goldfinch far exceeds the expectations of those of us who’ve been waiting on Tartt to do something extraordinary again, ever since her debut novel, The Secret History, came out in 1992. Hell, I feel like I’ve been waiting for a novel like this to appear not only since I read The Secret History, but also since I first read David Copperfield.”

Wish I would have read Brit Peter Kemp’s review in the Sunday Times before being seduced by Corrigan and King. “Outdoing even The Little Friend, famously a decade in the writing, The Goldfinch has taken 11 years to appear. These epic gestations are attributed by awed Tartt admirers and devotees of websites such as Donna Tartt Shrine to uncompromising perfectionism. “It’s because of perfectionism that man walked on the moon and painted the Sistine Chapel, OK? Perfectionism is good,” she has stressed. But it’s hard to spot much of it in this ineptly put-together book….Melodrama and sentimentality abound (Pippa, “like a fairy” in a gauzy green dress, is a particularly fey fabrication). Similar-seeming formulations recur. One character is “like an elegant weasel”, another like “an elegant…polar bear”, a third has an “elegant black-clad body like a python”.

For me, alarms went off early on when Tartt uses the phrase, “tugged on his sleeve”. Any respectable high school English teacher would justifiably CHOKE a student who used that cliché in her writing.

7. Feeling happy that I got my irritation with The Goldfinch off my chest. Thank you. And consider yourself warned.

Happy, happy week to you!

winter survival

February 17, 2014

021414happyvday

011614sunnypuddle

021614babyfeet

021416eskimobakingcups

021614suzannespeacock

021614huronriver

photos:
1) grapefruit cookies i made for valentine’s day
2) a bag of grapefruit cookies and chocolate for a friend
3) the sun! reflected in a puddle at gallop park
4) shopping for my niece’s baby shower, so many adorable baby clothes
5) love these baking cups, they also make little colorful, cardboard loaf pans that you can bake in
6) my sister made this…i have incredibly talented sisters
7) the huron river from a bridge at gallop park…see? winter really can be beautiful

Ann Arbor consistently makes it into top ten city lists: best places to live in the US, best drinking water, best college town, best cities for aging, best city for singles, best place to raise a family, happiest cities in the country (we’re fifth!). (If you want to learn more about Ann Arbor rankings, check out this 2012 article from annarbor.com: http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-often-placed-on-top-ten-lists/)

This past week we made it onto another top ten list, Ann Arbor was ranked the sixth snowiest city in the U.S. Gah! I like snow, I do. I love the change of seasons. I love the first flakes. I love the beauty of a snow covered landscape. When I can finally talk myself into running outside during the winter, I do love being out in it.

But we have had more than what we’re used to this winter. We are exhausted from cleaning the sidewalks and driveways. We have ice dams on our roofs that threaten to leak into our houses when they thaw. Our city streets are getting narrower and narrower as snow accumulates along the sides, and I am starting to get annoyed with my neighbor who parks at the end of my driveway, making it difficult to get out due to the snow build up in the street.

I don’t want to be irritated with my neighbors and I’m tired of the cold and the gloom. I’m tired of having cold feet and shoulders hunched against the cold. I’m tired of layers. I’m tired of the dry heat from the space heater in my office. I miss the sun.

Surving this winter without being an obnoxious whiner baby, or continuously grumpy, has been a challenge. I have fb friend who is ceaselessly gleeful about the snow. I thought maybe trying to change my attitude about the snow to be more like Julie’s may help. I tried, for about a week. “Oh the lovely snow!”, “Oh good, more snow!”, and then no. I couldn’t keep it up.

I’m really very tired of the snow.

So now I’m working on the distraction survival technique– keeping as busy as possible so I don’t have time to fret about the snow. So far, it has been mostly working, except that since it is winter break for the public schools this week, my fb newsfeed is full of sunny photos from Florida and Hawaii and today’s forecast? 4-6 more inches (10-15 cm).

Gah!

New Year BWA bwa

January 5, 2014

010414rainystadium

010414spingerle

010414lockerroom

010414puckdrop

010414chocfondu

010414bigfoot

010414wintershadows

photos:
1) a tray of santa cookies, a tradition in my husband’s family
2) driving by the university of michigan stadium (the big house) on a wet winter night. they were getting it ready for the holiday classic hockey game. 100,000 people came into to town on new year’s day to watch the detroit red wings play the toronto maple leafs.
3) spingerle cookies setting overnight before they are baked, my husband made these and they are my favorite holiday cookie
4) the women’s locker room at the ymca in rochester where my mother lives. i know it is creepy to take a photo in a locker room, but i liked the color and the repetition of the mirrors and i was discreet…which probably makes it creepier
5) downtown ann arbor on new year’s eve, the night before the big hockey game. we walked downtown because we were curious about this pre-hockey game new year’s eve party, and we were up for a nighttime walk. smelled like cigarettes, cigars with a twinge of pot. it was like being in a college bar, but outside, in 16 degree weather (-8 canadian) …and college bars no longer smell like this since smoking is illegal in public places
so many leafs fans!
6) we did enjoy our nerdy new year’s eve of a board game, pandemic, along with chocolate fondu….
7) my daughter, ridiculous new slippers and mindy kaling…a well suited trio. i loved mindy kaling’s book by the way. she is a smart, funny and powerful woman in a field dominated by males. and its a very fast read.
8) shadows from our night time walk on new year’s eve. the white streaks are snow flakes falling in front of my lens.

What breaks my heart about a new year is the very clear demarcation of the passing of a significant amount of time. A whole year. We all have a finite time on this earth: a finite amount of time to learn, to love, to laugh, to become better people, to make the world a better place, to find peace, to show gratitude for all that we have…Did I spend my year wisely?

I don’t want to even think about the time I wasted on Netflix, Buzzfeed, Youtube and the raunchy entertainment section of Huffington Post.

(Do you see why my daughter often teases me by calling me Debbie Downer, and sings this song from Rachel Dratsh’s Debbie Downer skit from Saturday Night Live? Or she sometimes does the shorthand two-toned, horn sound, BWA bwa, just to let me know I’m being a downer.)

So I’m trying focus on this shiny, new year. A new year provides an opportunity to be reflective, to bring into focus what is really important or what most needs attention in our lives. A new year provides an opportunity to hit the reset button and to tweak our course in life.

I haven’t quite pulled my priorities together for 2014, as I have been too busy panicking about 2013 being over. Forever. Never to return again. (BWA bwa)

I have some ideas; I’d like to participate in a triathalon, and/or a long distance cycling trip. I also want to get on top of our personal finances. My husband has always taken care of this and I’ve had so many other things to do, that that was fine with me. Now that I have a little more time, I’d like to be more on top of things.

Instead of making a list of things that are rattling around in my brain at the moment, I would like to find a more comprehensive way to think about how to plan a year’s goals so that when it ends, I feel satisfied and at peace.

That may require a personality transplant, or me quitting my job, which is to say, it may be impossible. (BWA bwa)

I will let you know if I find a good framework for this planning process—let me know if you find one first.

I wish you a peaceful, satisfying, love-filled, sometimes raucous, sometimes surprising, sometimes challenging, new year.

seattle photos and hawaiin thoughts
101213seattleggpier

101213seattleggwall

101213seattleandre

101213seattlepurplefeet

101213seattlestopkevin

101213seattlewaterreflection

101213seattlewaterspray

101213finnyhood

photos (from seattle):
1) steps down to golden gardens park, there are many, many more
2) golden gardens pier
3) golden gardens mermaid
4) andre the giant has a posse
5) little purple feet swinging
6) kevin…stop…please kevin
7) a warm day, plus a permissive aunt, equals a flooded patio
8) a warm day, plus a permissive aunt, equals a wet aunt
9) i was ordering sheets, a hooded doggy sweater was on sale so i had to order, it arrived while i was away, my daughter sent this photo to me while i was in seattle

Today is Ironman competition in Hawaii. I only know that because my studio cycling instructor told the class this moring and made it the theme for the workout. My favorite part was when she played the theme song from Hawaii Five-O.

Did you know that an Ironman competition begins with a 2 mile plus swim, in the ocean, followed by a 112 mile bike, followed by a marathon run?

How do they do this? I drove myself the .5 miles ot the Y this morning for my cycling class.

The record time for a man is just over 8 hours and for a woman just under 9 hours. My instructor says the record-holding woman has a smile in her face the entire time. What?

If they started their competition when I started my cycling class, they would have still been racing while I drove home, walked my dog, made muffins, cleaned up the kitchen, chatted with my family, laughed at a funny buzzfeed post my daughter showed to me, perused and edited my Seattle photos, drank my coffee, made my lunch. As I sit here and type, the fast ones are halfway through their workout.

They will still be racing while I shower, go to the hardward store, go to the grocery store, work on cleaning the linoleum glue off of my kitchen floor boards, take a walk or rake leaves, and make dinner.

And then, at least the fastest of the group, should be done.

I admire these athletes for their focus, discipline and hard work. If I were there, I would be cheering them on, wildly. I hope they are safe and smart and injury-free today. I hope they all PR.

While I am happy to be home doing what I am doing today, instead of doing what they are doing (even in Hawaii), they may have inspired me to walk to my yoga class tomorrow morning…

Hope you are doing just what you want to be doing today.

greetings from seattle

October 1, 2013

greetings from seattle

100113tapshoes

100113lego

100113nutcase

100113tutu

photos:
1) homemade birthday crowns
2) tiny tap and ballet shoes…i love that little tummy
3) my nephew’s room…i miss this
4) nutcase (bike helmet) in the evening sun
5) the pink and purple trappings of a three year old pwincess

Guess what…It’s raining in Seattle.

I’m here visiting my little sister and her family. I adore my 3 year old niece and 5 year old nephew. (I adore my sister too!) They are such amazingly capable little people. I spent some time building with Lego with my nephew, and we looked at all of his pokemon cards—things I used to do for hours and hours when my son was his age.

This morning I drove my niece to pre-school and felt so privileged to be doing so. In the car my niece gave me the run down of the instructions of tasks to complete upon arrival: coat and backpack in her cubby, then I sign her in, then she washes her hands and uses the potty, then she gets her name card and puts it on Ms. Judith’s chair, then I read the board to her, then she follows the instructions on the board.

So much to remember! But she helped me through it all. Did I mention she is three?!

My sister told me one day my neice came home and said, “MOM! Do you know we have taste bugs in our mouths?!” My sister asked, “Taste bugs, or taste BUDS?” My niece replied, “Taste BUGS!”

There is so much I miss about my kids being little, the funny stories, the Lego building, reading to my kids at bedtime, problems that can be fixed with a band-aid or hug or book.

But there is a lot I forgot about that I don’t miss…the lack of sleep, (I heard my sister up at 2am this morning, and then again at 6am when she got up for the day), the relentless Saturday schedule of extracurricular activities (though in truth I love going to my niece and nephew’s activities, but I did skip the soccer games in the pouring rain).

I don’t miss the whole process of packing lunches, getting backpacks ready, making sure kids have used the bathroom, have their gym shoes packed, are buckled into their car seats. I don’t miss the evening schedule of making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, getting the kids bathed, in their pajamas, read to, in bed on time, doing the laundry, feeling badly that I didn’t have enough one on one time with each kid and then starting it all over the next day. I forgot how hard and exhausting it all was.

The great thing about being an aunt, is that you get the good parts, without the exhausting parts! I will so miss my sister, and these two little people when I leave. I still have a hard time thinking that it will always be this way…only seeing them once or twice a year. Likely not seeing them again until summer, or maybe next year. The thought of it pulls on my heart strings.

Also pulling on my heart strings… I miss my own big kids! My son just got his license before I left and my daughter was just finishing her transfer application to the University of Michigan. I miss their faces and their own funny stories from the day, though my daughter is still making me laugh every day through texts and emails.

photo 111: assignment 8, hard light with detail

092613finnybunnyhardlight

092613creamerhardlight

092613salthardlight

092613woodenbunnieshardlight

photos:
1) wakefield chair and our puppy finnegan (deaf and nearly blind and nearly 12)
2) finny and his bunny, see how finny’s tail uncurls when he sleeps? it also uncurls when he’s upset
3) my favorite creamer, though it has never held cream, usually maple syrup
4) experimenting with salt on a black mat board
5) i loved the shadows these wooden rabbits made, i used them for my shallow depth of field post as well

It has been some time since I have written about my photography class. Being without photos today, it seems like a good day to get back to it.

According to my instructor’s assignment sheet, alternative titles for the Hard Light with Detail assignment include “sunny light”, “directional light” or “undiffused light.”

My instructor included a specific requirement of ensuring there was good detail in both the shadows and the highlight. This is tricky, which I think is the point!

When you are shooting in bright light, it is both easy to have have light areas blown out and over exposed, and shadows underexposed. The goal is to get the exposure as close to perfect as possible, by bracketing and then making minimal corrections with the exposure brush (in Lightroom). Bracketing is trying a range of fstops.

The top photo is the one I turned in for a grade. But you can see in the other photo of my puppy, that the light has blown out the detail in the rug.

My instructor suggested shooting in the early and late hours of sun, with the sun at the side of the subject, and shooting from a low angle. The texture of the subject will be more dramatic. I’m not sure I’ve captured a lot of texture, but I love shadows, so I enjoyed this assignment.

I have 4 more assignments to cover…and then maybe I’ll try the assignments all over again, before I forget things like bracketing!