Saturday, September 30, 2017

Don't Ask Dr. Google

I really do try not to go online when I have a hangnail. You always see the worst thing. And it's scary. All of a sudden you find out you have mad cow disease only really it was just last night's pizza that someone didn't put in the fridge.

So, when my lip got split and crusty in December I didn't ask Dr. Google. I live in Michigan. It's cold. My whole body dries out and gets chapped. It's what happens here.

I asked my pulmonoloigist in February -- "What about my lip?" "It's cracked," he replied. "Vaseline."

So, it was cracked. It peeled. In April I had my gall bladder attack and was given two weeks of antibiotics from the ER. It cleared up! Yay! Must have been a little staph thing. All gone.

For three weeks. Then it was back. I thought, I'll ask the dentist at my May appointment. But first, I asked Dr. Google. Chelitis seemed to be the answer. The dentist wasn't so sure but there are loads of versions of chelitis. "Ask your primary," says he.

So, I went to the PA. "I think I have chelitis," I said, giving him the wiki printout with all the photos. He gave me a steroid cream. Use it for two, maybe three weeks. I did. It cleared up. For a few weeks.

You know where this is going. In August when I went to the read doc for my physical I said "It's time I went to a dermatologist," )he immediately agreed) which I did last week. Yup. Squamous cell carcinoma -- skin cancer of the lip, thanks to the biopsy.

Now, this part of the story is more or less a good news story. It's fine. It hadn't metastasized, it's treatable, it won't kill you. It probably was due to those years of fun in the sun with only Coppertone oil and only sunscreen (those ages between 16 and 30...) I'll start a course of radiation treatment in a week or so. All will be well. (And if I finish before Halloween, I'll have a great mask!)

A little more disconcerting is a funky thyroid ultrasound. The ENT doc suggested biopsy now or wait nine months and do another ultrasound. I'll let him know in a couple of weeks when I go back but right now I'm inclined to want to just deal with one thing at a time. Still, I'll talk with my regular guy and get his take.

It should go without saying, but I'll say it. If you have something weird, a) don't ask Dr. Google, ask a real doctor and b) do it in a reasonably timely fashion. Nine months is a long time to dally. I didn't think I was dallying, I have no problem with what anyone else told me. But I should have moved sooner and the fact that I was so darned lucky was due in no part to me. Just good luck. And c) don't forget to put sunscreen on your lips!

Life is good. My face looks a little weird but I'll take it. Trust me -- beats the alternative.

I have another essay on this subject that is a little more personal (but not TMI) called Sun Spots and Sunsets at Modern Creative Life. Check it out if you're so inclined! (The theme of this month's issue is light and shadow and there are loads of good essays there -- well worth subscribing to!)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Art in the Garden -- Making Money and Friends for Your Organization

Art in the Garden. It has such a nice ring to it. Unfortunately, it was not my garden!

Our Friends of Theatre group recently hosted a small fund-friendraiser in the garden of one of our supporters. It's a great idea for an organization if the demographics work for it so I thought I'd share a bit.

First, you need a home with a lovely garden and Elinor's was. Plus, it was large enough and with enough room so you could display the art well and still have room for people to mingle. In our case, I think it was a little over 100 people who attended.

Then you determine the art you want and the artists. Our group had four potter/sculptors with different styles.

All have their own following locally, so guests included their fans as well as our theatre fans who wanted to support our efforts.

Our artists were asked to donate 15 percent of any sales they made to the group. (One artist said that wasn't enough!) So those dollars were added to the proceeds.


We decided that this was as much a friend-raiser as a fundraiser so we kept our admission low -- $25 in advance and $30 at the door. We had close to 100 advance sales plus guests at the door, so it seemed to be a good price point.

Almost all of our promotion (except printing and mailing) was free -- community online calendars, social media, press release, postcards to our mailing list as well as the artists, and our newsletter. In fact, postage/printing was our greatest expense. Additional cards were distributed in galleries and other public pick-up racks.

In terms of expenses, we obtained a gift card from one of the area stores (Meijer, for midwest readers) for $150. With that we bought party sandwiches  and veggies. A Middle Eastern restaurant partially donated and also gave us a half-off deal for hummus and grape leaves, while a bakery gave us half off macarons. Some of the costs of the half-offs were picked up by board members.

Other board members volunteered cookies and desserts, fruit, meat-and-cheese board, beverages and wine. No one left hungry and there were even leftovers, but not so many that it felt we over-bought. (Leftovers were given to theatre students who had been in rehearsal for upcoming shows! They're always grateful!)

We were worried about the weather although we could have brought things up to the terrace is there was light rain. A downpour would have been a problem. We did get a tent for the food and wine.

Set up was easy. We had volunteers at registration, at the food and bar and as "security" (basically minglers who worked the crowd but also kept an eye out.) We all helped set up and clean up which took a very short time. Artists were responsible for their own set-up and take down.

The best part was seeing so many happy people. Our weather ended up being great and people loved strolling the garden and looking at the art.

We were able to share information about our upcoming season and the artists were able to sell some of their work and gain exposure to new potential fans.

All in all, a greatly successful event that exceeded our expectations in terms of both attendance and cost. After expenses and with the artists donation, we made about $3,000 -- and a lot of friends.

Sharing this post with Share Your Cup and Pink Saturday.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Postcards from the Lake: September Song

The days dwindle down to a precious few... I thought I'd leave you with a little music to listen to while we look at the lake's September song.

I love it here in September. Most of the vacationers have gone home. Only the weekenders remain and with them, fewer big boats and jet skis. More fishing boats and quiet.

I live on Lake Time -- get up when you're ready, eat when you're hungry, go to bed when you're tired.

Of course, the unseasonably glorious 90s have made being at the lake all the more inviting. I can't remember the last time I took a swim in the lake when it was in late September. Maybe never.

We've been busy up here -- the tree planting project has been a big one. With the help of my neighbor Jim, Rick and I got four red-twig dogwoods and two Norway spruce trees planted.

It will take awhile for them to get tall enough to block out the neighbor's septic hill or house but you start somewhere!

Rick of course has been riding, grabbing every road-second out of these days before snow falls.

I've been painting (a different post to come) and bird watching!

Yes, we call this one Henry. He seems very fond of my neighbor's boat ramp.

And he also appears to appreciate the fine fishing in the twilight hours outside the cottage.

He's quite magnificent. I have to say when he flies, I am in awe.

The ducks are here, too. I call this one Docket because he seems to love sitting on the end of the neighbor's dock. I've seen them in groups of three and six, always looking for ground food, too.

There is a surplus of seagulls...

And a delegation of ducks.

The other night there were 21 seagulls on the beach, Henry, Docket and five friends and a loon went by!

No doubt they were in to enjoy the sunset.

As I mentioned earlier, the days aren't even warm -- they're hot. 90s. Loads of sun, an occasional breeze. I swam on the 24th of September, the latest I've ever been in the lake. It was so good, I told my next door neighbor they'd better get out there -- and they did!

A glass of wine. A good sunset. Peace and quiet and birdsong. (Or maybe bird-caw is better!)

I'll take it!

Till next time...

Happily sharing with Share Your Cup and Pink Saturday.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cork Poppers -- Rolling on the River with Summer Wines

Well, it's about time I got back to real life and away from Quebec! Time to pop a cork or two! Take a perfect August day, nine (of twelve) Cork Poppers, and dinner and wine to die for and you have a rolling-on-the-river good time!

We love gathering at Meredith and Roger's in the summer because we know that if the weather holds, we'll have a boat ride on the Grand River.

And more on that later! But we always start with the tasting.This month our theme was wines to drink doing something you love. For some of this, it was an older favorite wine and for others of us, a new one. (Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't!)

We started out with Barb's white sangria. We could have just stopped with that.

Honestly, this was so good -- and probably relatively lethal if one had free reign and all day, say on the beach or in the sun or just hanging out.

Here's how she made it. You'll have to juggle quantities yourself!

Mix one super-big sauvignon blank with
1/2 c. peach schnapps
1/2 c. triple sec
1/2 c. simple syrup
1/2 bottle club soda
1/2 bottle 7-up (2 litre bottle)
Add loads of fruit and chill! Serve over ice!

The first wine from Dick was Robert Mondavi 2014 Fume Blanc from Napa Valley. Fume Blanc is a dry sauvignon blanc. Everyone said it smelled good and I thought it nice and peppery but that was when the nice comments stop. Dick said, "I don't like Mondavi wines. Yet I hear people I trust who say there are good Mondavi wines."

Barb said it had undertones of skunkiness. Roger thought it had an acidic aftertaste and Cheryl -- who pretty much only drinks white said "Not the best white I've ever had." We agreed that you could throw it into the sangria and all would not be lost. But at $14.99 I'd think twice.

Roger was next with Moselland Arsvitas Riesling from the Mosel area. It clearly was the best bottle design with a beautiful floral motif that one could view from both sides of the bottle. He found this at World Market for $12.99.


I wrote "This is very good" and Meredith said "I really like this one." Cheryl said, "I love it!" and Meredith added, "You could buy that again!" At this price I would buy it just for the cool bottle!

I was next with Atlantique 2016 Rose from the Loire Valley. (World Market) OK, I did something I never do. I bought it for the pretty bottle. Don't do that. It was pretty dry and Dick said "It's nothing offensive." I wrote "for a Rose, I don't mind this too much." (We are very good at damning with faint praise.) Cheryl, on the other hand, said "Where's the slop jar?" At $12.99 I would not recommend it.

(I should say that both Dick's first wine and my Rose did lose points from all of us for not being cold enough. It was a warm day when we met and the wines were sitting out a bit too long before we began tasting. Whites should be well chilled. Ours weren't, except Roger's -- and he lives there!)

Pat was next with Apothic Red, 2014 Winemaker's Blend. Apothic is very available at most groceries and at $8.99 we agreed it was a very good wine for the price and "well worth having in the house."

Clayton and Anne brought Reserve Mouton Cadet 2013 Bordeaux from Baron Philippe de Rothschild.

Again, mixed opinion. "I really love this," I said. Roger said "This wine is a little too much for me -- too strong after all the light ones." "I think this is lovely," Barb said, but Roger said "This is like a shock to me." He got it on sale at Meijer for $12.99. Several of us thought it a very elegant wine.

Cheryl, who rarely drinks red but is "Hamilton"'s greatest fan brought The Federalist Dueling Pistols. It is a one of a series of wines honoring America's founding fathers and their ideals. A blend of half Zinfandel and half Syrah, it's from Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma.

I loved it and Dick said "This is wonderful, I wish it wasn't so good!" Someone (probably Barb) described it as a smooth, good, supple mouthful." I wrote "Pretty fabulous. This is really good!" And at $32 (Meijer) it should be!

Then it was on to the river! The sun was bright, the sky blue. Captain Roger knows where to go and where not to (he's been beached before) and it was just beautiful out!

First we saw one of Harry's cousins, a lovely blue heron.

And we had a wonderful sighting!

Yes, these are Sandhill Cranes. I rarely see them, though they do hang out in this area.

It's pretty hard to get a good photo, zoomed, on a moving or idling boat. But I was happy with this one.

And this.

You remember I mentioned "perfect day" and "sky was blue." Well, it was -- till it poured. We all clustered in the back of the boat -- which made it a little low in the water. And all the water in the top rolled down to the bottom. As did the dropping from the canopy. I was sitting on the end here and got the brunt of it.

Let's just say I was grateful to our hosts for letting me shed my soaking shorts, shoes and undies and deck myself in a beach towel sarong!

Dinner -- to die for. First, Meredith set a delightful table with a summer fun (golfing) theme.

Our party favors were jars of home made peach chutney!

And dinner! Mere is the master at Frogmore Stew. How she could work in the hot kitchen over a steaming pot, I don't know, but I'm glad she did!

Barb's salads are always to die for.

And Anne raided her garden for the freshest tomatoes, cukes and basil.

What's not to love on this plate!

Dick and I had birthdays to celebrate.

I was on top for the dessert -- madeleines and Nigella Lawson's Lemon Meringue Cake. It's one of my go-to recipes for a delicious, not-too-difficult and impressive looking dessert!

No one left hungry!

For past Cork Popper posts, check the link on the Marmelade Gypsy menu bar where posts are categorized (Italian, French, Bordeaux, etc.).

Sharing this week with Share Your Style.

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