Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bits and Pieces from the Book of Life

I'm somewhat happily dividing my life between two houses right now -- home and up north, for those last weeks of summer and early fall. Life at home has not been dull! Rick welcomed a client passing through Michigan for a lovely lunch. Burgers were on the menu with Rick's homemade buns!

I have been dealing with the bushel of tomatoes I bought last time at the lake (and I might even buy more, though I'm really getting sick of making pasta sauce!) Looks grotesque here, doesn't it, like something in a witch's cauldron. But this mixture of peeled Roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, garlic and in some batches, mushrooms will keep us very content when the snow begins to fall and a bubbling pot of noodles is comfort food. We'll probably add more fresh herbs, maybe Italian sausage, artichoke hearts, kalamatas and/or capers when we cook it off then!

We have gallons of sauce in the freezer. I also came up with a very zesty gazpacho, a tomato cuke salad...

...and a wonderful tomato tart. (So, should I get another bushel?!)

I've been savoring the last of summer's blooms. It was an extra treat to go to the massage therapist, who let me have some of her hydrangea blooms.

And from Pam, whose garden never ceases to amaze me, I got this wonderful idea to save some sunflower heads for a small platter. I love how they look -- there's beauty, even if their end state. Thanks, Pam!

In an attempt to work on a more free and loose painting style, I've been experimenting.

I rather like this one!

On September 11 I went to the wonderful musical, "Come from Away," about the community in Newfoundland that welcomed the thousands of passengers stranded after planes were grounded on that terrible day. It was so heartwarming and inspiring. Someone on my FB page posted how if only we could go back to September 12 when strangers took care of others, there was hugging and support and religion or politics didn't matter. (If it comes to your town, I recommend it. Listen to the CD first to max your enjoyment.)

Earlier that week our Friends of Theatre at MSU held a gathering at a local art gallery to kick off the season.

The art was gorgeous -- so many different things and in all media.

Also included was a group of actors who explored "Arts or Crafts" in a series of vignettes. We all laughed as three "Puritan quilting ladies" gossiped about Goody Proctor as they stitched hidden messages into their quilts.

And pretty much everyone could identify with the frustration and bafflement that Mona Lisa felt -- if only she could share her thoughts as others passed by!

It was the perfect blending of the arts -- performance, sculpture, painting, photography and more.

There have been walks to the Ditch (more on that in another post)...

....and a longing for fall apples. (Can't wait for the Honey Crisps!)

We'll be headed to the lake again, making this drive past a sunflower field growing in the median.

Oh, I hate to whiz by so fast! They are a blur!

And I'll see my favorite windmills. I can't look at them when I drive -- I'm too captivated. Always good when Rick can take the wheel!

Life really is good right now. You can never tell what a week or two or three might bring.

But right now, it is very good.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Last of the Lake Art

Before I wrap all of summer I wanted to share what I call the last of the lake art! This piece was done from a photo I took from our wee balcony at our Paris hotel, almost one year ago. At night it was so pretty because you could see the tower twinkle!

Below is a three part experiment. I wondered if I could repair a very bad watercolor I had done six or seven years ago and kept only so I could use the back of the page for mixing paint. It's very "flat." I'm wondered -- did I do this in watercolor pencil? I see more sketch lines that never really blended as well and that sometimes happens with the pencils.

First, I added a lot of color and enhanced the reflections on the water. It already looked much better.

To finished, I added some details with Micron pen. It made everything stand out better. Unfortunately, I couldn't do much with the beach towel, but as a practice piece, I was relatively happy.

This little sparrow has a slightly demented look in its eye! I think the eye is too big but was at a point where "erasing" and correction was impossible. I'll have to try again! But the rest I'm pretty happy with.

And I leave you with another portrait of my girl.

What a model!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Postcards from the Lake: Road Trips and Home Fires

Although we won't close up the cottage till late Septemberr October, and summer doesn't officially end for another week or two, it feels as though that chapter has closed. Rick and I headed home from the cottage on Thursday after our time here this week. From now on it will be weekends only from now on. Maybe extended weekends, a Thursday or Friday departure, but shorter time. Real life begins to take over with its appointments, meetings and events. All good but all somewhere other than the lake.

Our last few days didn't offer the sunny skies and warm weather I had enjoyed previously. No swims in the lake. Walks cut short by rain. The photo below was taken in the middle of the day, the sky dark, whitecaps on the lake, rain coming down, winds whipping through the pines.

So, we settled in. A cozy fire to take off the chill.

I read. Earlier in the week I had raced to finish a wonderful book, Justin Spring's "The Gourmand's Way." It chronicles the lives of six Americans, some who were ex-pats, some who returned to the states, but all who had a passionate interest in French food and writing about it. Some of the names were familiar to me -- Julia Child, MFK Fisher, Alice B. Toklas. Others were less so -- winemaker Alexis Lachine, artist Richard Olney and journalist A.J. Liebling. It reads like a well written biography but intertwining the stories like a novelist and including comments on food and wine that make one's mouth water. So, I had to cook. Unfortunately, not one person in this book would find my lunch that day worthy! (Chicken salad on red pepper with crackers.) They would, at least, appreciate that the red pepper came from the farmer's market!

Meanwhile, Rick caught up on some work, having done his long bike ride the week before.

When I picked him up in Mackinaw City he looked a little the worse for wear and was pretty hungry!

No, we passed up the Wienerlicious restaurant and stopped for a few minutes to visit our friends Pat and Susan who lived on our way home. Susan had graciously put out some snacks for us and boy, were they appreciated! Then I enjoyed a walk around her lovely garden, where she has incorporated plantings with natural things, like this milkweed.

And these bushes were a butterfly magnet! I counted at least six different ones flying around and Susan has seen many more than that at one time.

Labor Day was warm enough for us to enjoy a bit of porch time late in the afternoon. Rick made foccacia, we enjoyed a bit of wine. All good.

While we've been closeted up with the rain, I started Julia Baird's well written "Victoria the Queen." I'm also about half-through "Lilac Girls" but I find parts of it so upsetting that I can read it only in small doses. I've read many Holocaust-related novels and non-fiction but parts of this are so gruesome that I need a break from it. I'll finish -- just not all in one haul.

Of course, the rain had to stop sometime. And when it did, while still bloody cold, it at least brought out the wildlife, including this heron -- my first spotting on the lake this year.

It also brought a visit to the farmer's market where I was tempted by the apples...

But ended up buying some veggies, peaches and a bushel of tomatoes. Guess who's making big vats of pasta sauce to freeze this week!

And, before leaving I did get out for a couple more walks, longer this time. Oh, what a beautiful time to walk -- the air crisp and clear...

...and finally, the sun appears!

And we leave.  After waking up to about 45 degrees, it heats up to a beautiful sunny and 75.

And it's time to leave. At least for a week. The end of extended time; only long weekends from now on. I'll  miss it.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Postscards from the Lake: The End of Summer Walk

I love how Garrison Keillor used to begin his monologue on "A Prairie Home Companion." "It's a quiet week here in Lake Woebegon..." he would say. More often than not, I feel that way about the lake, especially as the days shorten and summer draws near its end, the skies change and there is a definite nip in the air.

I've been trying to walk while I'm up here. Sometimes my foot isn't up to the longer walks I did last summer, even if the rest of me is. My "bare minimum" circle is exactly a mile, walking along the road behind many of the lakeside cottages until I turn the corner and find myself in front of those who live in the woods.

So, I leave the vigilant Lizzie, on the hunt for (presumably) a mouse as she stares relentlessly at the area by the kitchen sink. (I have seen no signs yet, by the way). And I head off on my jaunt.

It's changing. You can tell. It's early evening, about seven, as I start out, but already the sun is sinking lower in the sky and the hustle and bustle one might find midday has quieted. I smell a campfire. Or perhaps a barbecue. Probably the latter, as it's a bit early in the evening for a beach fire. It smells good and is a sweet reminder of the times when I could be at a campfire for hours without breathing problems.

I pass by a cottage with a vegetable garden growing atop its septic field in the road across from the house. I hope the septic is doing its job because it is in pretty much full shade most of the day and those things I see from the road like they may be tomatoes that are quite a tad short.

As I walk I am more conscious of sound than when otherwise engaged. From the road I can hear a few boats cruising along the lake -- not too many, as probably most people are still eating dinner. My footsteps make a steady rhythm on the asphalt and a slight breeze (a blessed respite from the heavy winds of the past few days) rustles the leaves of the birch trees. There's little highway noise -- I keep hoping to hear the train but its schedule is far too erratic to plan anything by it.

On occasion, a car passes and we always wave. I have no idea who those people are nor do they know me. But the "wave" is just what we do. To be honest, if someone doesn't wave, I feel a bit slighted. There are many kinds of waves at the lake -- all of which I wrote about HERE. No matter what kind, it always makes me smile.

The wildflowers are still at hand but fading. Jewel weed grows in clumps, there are occasional daisies. The Queen Anne's lace is in the half-and-half stage. Half still boasts large, lacy blooms.

The other half has shriveled into a seedy ball and soon will drop those seeds for more blooms next summer.

Most prevalent is the goldenrod. A few weeks ago there was just the occasional bloom. Now they line up, like Follies girls in a row, all with their colorful headdresses.

And now and then we see an early turner -- generally a clump of maple leaves going red or elms going yellow. Fall is coming.

A flock of geese flies north (why north?) -- seven of them, squalking along the way. A few minutes later I see another flock headed west. (Why west?) There are eight in this group. Perhaps they are directionally challenged. I can relate to that at times.

After spotting Bunny Number Twelve, scampering off into the woods, I have completed my circle, landing back at the cottage. Inside, two fresh bouquets of sunflowers bought at the morning market greet me, along with a chatty cat, stretching and flirting, hoping for a treat.

I settle in to the porch, the first day in four that I have been able to sit out here, for it has been too cold and far too windy. The sun is low in the sky, casting golden shadows on the lake and a small group of ducks float by, in no seeming hurry. A small bird is at the shoreline. I can't see him well, as he is backlit but he appears to have rather long legs and moves quickly, eating his way down the shore.

Next door (the good neighbors), a young boy, maybe five, is dashing around in a black tuxedo, complete with bow tie and shirt tails hanging. "I'm James Bond," he tells me. How a five year old knows about James Bond I find a bit disturbing but as heroes go, he could emulate worse. (His uncle tells me that earlier in the day he was a ring bearer and he has been wearing the tux ever since.)

The lake is calm. The sounds of Frank Sinatra (or maybe Michael Buble) are coming from next door, quiet, just enough to get the melody. I'm inclined to ask them to turn it up a bit. But maybe not. A pontoon boat goes by slowly, the sun is about to burst out from under cloud cover for what I suspect might be a very nice sunset.

"James Bond," whose real name is Dylan, has returned in a life jacket, headed for the dock to go for a boat ride with his uncle. I hope nothing blows up. You never know with James Bond.

It has been a good day. The market, painting (three new watercolors), a good walk, a car wash (well, good until the vacuum broke before I got the second side of the car cleaned out but at least the outside is good!) and a good book.

Rick has arrived at the lake after 400 miles on the bike. Cooking out. Baking bread. grabbing on to the last of summer. Life is good.

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