memorial day ’20 weekend

It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve posted but I think it’s only been a little over a week so I guess that must just be “quarantime”. We’ve gone from miserable, wet, cool weather to upper ’80’s F. and a forecast of 90 today so that’s Michigan for you.

My yard is blooming – the peonies and hostas are growing so fast we can almost hear them, and we have lilacs, which are some of my all-time favorite blossoms. We managed to get our porch containers and hanging baskets planted this weekend, too, with some of my faves: sweet potato vine, Coleus, begonia, and wave petunias. They look a little sparse now but by the end of the summer they will be overflowing and needing constant trimming. We bought our flowers at the local hardware store, which set up an outside, open-air garden center in the corner of their parking lot. They required masks and limited the number of folks inside, and although we had to wait in line for a bit, it actually made it so much nicer once we got inside, because there was more room to shop and maneuver our cart.

Our Memorial Day felt strange without our usual downtown parade and constant flow of foot traffic on their way to the Farmers’ Market, but we still cooked out and went for a run, although it was so hot and humid that I mostly just walked (and we picked a hilly route, poor choice). Brandon and I are doing a virtual race called the Mitten Run, which started on May 20 and goes through August 28. It’s 100 days and you run 160 miles, logging your miles as you complete them, and it’s supposed to be an emulation of the live run by the same name which goes across the top of the lower Peninsula of Michigan – so essentially, you run 160 miles from Oscoda on Lake Huron to Empire on Lake Michigan! As you log your miles and times, there’s a little map that moves you along so you can see how far you are across the state. Brandon & I aren’t super far yet but it’s been good motivation to get us out and building up mileage. I miss having events to train for this summer but in addition to this, we’ve already signed up for the virtual Fishtown 5k which is a charitable event to raise money for historic Leland, MI (“Fishtown”) and if the Crim goes virtual, we’ll do that, as well.

This is all good because I feel compelled to mention that I got on the scale for the first time in almost a year and I was horrified. I thought I’d been doing okay in quarantine but it turns out I am at my highest weight since I was pregnant with Miss L. I’m not entirely sure how this happened – probably gradually, then all at once – but I HAVE to do something about it in the few weeks I have left of mandatory working from home (and after). So I’m back on online Weight Watchers’. Four days in and I’ve stayed within my points every day, had no alcohol or sugar, and have my first weigh-in tomorrow. I don’t expect to have lost, but hopefully I’ve stalled the piling-on and can start to whittle away at it. The Covid Fifteen got me!!!

Anyway, that’s about all from here in southeastern Michigan except that the cats are very happy that we finally broke down and turned on the air conditioning. I hope you are all well and safe, no matter which phase of isolation or opening-up you may be in. xoxo

squirrels, rain, and baking

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Saturday was sunny and warm so Brandon & I donned masks and hit up the local hardware store for birdseed. We also picked up some corn for the damnable squirrels but they have almost entirely ignored it. We have three black squirrels and my favorite is named Chocosquirrel and although Brandon & Miss L despise him, I quite like to look out my dining room window and see the birds clustered on the tree branches, hungry, looking on as Chocosquirrel hangs from the sunflower seed feeder by his toes and eats it all. I also put together a new bike I ordered from Amazon so now we have two bikes that are actually useful and we can ride around the neighborhood and one thoroughbred Cannondale road bike that I bought in a fit of exuberance over doing a couple of duathlons a few years ago. It hangs from hooks on the ceiling in the garage unused and probably just needs to be traded in for another useful Schwinn.

I drank some nice Malbec on Saturday night and baked a blueberry buckle with crumb topping and finished watching “The Outsider” on Amazon Prime and tore through multiple episodes of the new season of “Bosch”. Today Brandon & I ran three miles (it was going to be four but the rain moved in) and I baked some bread with my sourdough discard and then we did Fakesgiving. I took a page out of my sister-in-law’s book for this – a few times a year she just decides to make Thanksgiving dinner and have a nice holiday celebration just because. I am doing an 8-lb turkey breast, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and a homemade cherry pie. (I had all the accoutrements for a pumpkin pie, but Brandon and Miss L voted me down on that so I had to concede.)

Looking at the forecast it seems like the rain has set in for a few days but at least it’s warmer. Everything is very green and there are two ducks that walk purposefully through our backyard every so often (Miss L has named them “Damien” and “Delilah”) and we have many baby blossoms on our lilac tree.

In other news, I finally got my e-book loan of “Mystic River” by Kristin Hannah from the library and although I’m devouring it, I’m a little disappointed – it’s my first of hers that I’ve read and I’d heard so many raves over her. Is it just a romance novel?? Don’t answer that, I’ll be done with it soon and will save my final impression for SUYB in June.

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show us your books! april 2020 reads

My reading choices have been rather varied this month and are mostly based on what’s available with no library to avail myself of. Last summer my father gave me a couple of paper sacks full of books that he’d finished with, and when I rearranged my bookshelves recently I got sucked into the Lucas Davenports that I’ve inherited from him. I read Naked Prey (#14) and Night Prey (#6) and since he gave me about fifteen of them, I’ll probably be picking them up periodically from now until the end of the year. I find John Sandford very reliable and comforting (much the same as Steve Hamilton).

Otherwise, I’ve been picking up Kindle deals as I see them, and getting some long-held reserves from my local library’s online lending library. Including:

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I went through an Atwood phase just before we moved to Australia years ago, and I’m sure I read this then; anything Atwood reminds me of Melbourne in the winter. I don’t think this is her best, but even marginal Atwood is head and shoulders above almost anything else you can find to read.

Sorcery & Cecilia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede – I think I started reading this over a year ago and just finished it. Think Jane Austen mixed with twee magic and wizards, written entirely in the form of letters back and forth between cousins – one in London for her Season and the other stuck in her family’s countryside estate – and you’ll have it. I loved this at first, and found it funny and charming, and then it just dragged on, and on, and on. And on. Unfortunately the Kindle deal I got was for the trilogy so I’m in it to win it with the next two in the series, as well, but only after a good long break.

The Trapped Girl (Tracy Crosswhite #4) by Robert Dugoni – Gosh I’m enjoying this series. I picked it up after a recommendation from our host Steph and this was a Kindle deal, I think, so best of both worlds. Looking forward to hunting down the next installment.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou was another Kindle deal. It had been on my list for a long time but after listening to a podcast series and watching the HBO documentary about Elizabeth Holmes and her Theranos craziness, I pretty much knew everything I was reading and there were no new insights. I will say that everything I find out about Elizabeth Holmes reinforces what a nut job and despicable human being she is and how insane it was that she snowed so many respectable older men (I’m not going to speculate how that transpired for fear of sounding cynical).

Hard Rain / Skoenlapper (S-boek Reeks #1) by Irma Ventner was part of an offer by Amazon to read international authors; Ventner is a South African novelist and this translation of a thriller featuring the romance of a photographer and a newspaper reporter was interesting if not a total page turner. I enjoyed it, and burned through it quickly, and would likely check out others in the series if they’re translated and available at reduced prices via some sort of Kindle deal or from the library.

The Dry by Jane Harper (Aaron Falk #1) was the best book I read this month, hands down – another Kindle deal. When he visits his hometown in Australia to attend a funeral, a long-dormant death & scandal comes back to haunt Aaron Falk. Falk, a Melbourne police investigator, soon begins to wonder if the deaths, though spread over decades, are somehow connected. Set during a punishing drought, the story is atmospheric and tense, rife with bits of Australia that made me remember my all-too-brief time there. Can’t wait to pick up the sequel.

So there are my reads – thanks as always to our hosts Steph and Jana for the virtual linkup;  I look forward to seeing what other bloggers are reading.

And as a postscript, one of my favorite authors Tana French will be releasing her next book in October! Here’s the article.

Be well and stay safe. Until next month, xoxo

Life According to Steph

 

just now

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Pot Roast | sunshine | yawn.

Last weekend it was almost 80 degrees F. here in Michigan and we were living the dream – we went running in the sunshine, did yard work, sat in the green oasis of our patio, put up the hummingbird feeder and exclaimed over our first Ruby-throated hummingbird visitor – imagine that GIF of Leonardo di Caprio in “Great Gatsby” holding up a brimming champagne glass with a look of supercilious contentment and that was me. Now flash to this week, temps unseasonably cold, skies grey, freeze warnings, snow in the forecast for the weekend, and I’ve crashed, hard.

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Michigan is still on lockdown and people here have lost their minds about it. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve been on the nightly news for MAGA rednecks protesting the stay home order toting AR-15s inside our Capitol Building, a security guard murdered for doing his job by telling a customer that she had to wear a face mask, and another essential worker at a store assaulted by a gross old man who wiped his nose on her (I don’t usually read comments on news stories because it makes me fear for the future of the human race, but I did in this instance; best comments, hands down: “I woulda slapped those Stevie Wonder glasses clean off his face”).  I don’t know what is wrong with people here but I cannot fucking wrap my head around it. The vitriolic comments about our governor stem, I believe, almost entirely from the fact that she is a woman, and if it was a male governor telling the state to stay home under similar conditions (Michigan is #7 in the national rankings of Covid-19 infections) – they would not be facing this kind of backlash. I blame Trump for this tone of absolute disrespect and contempt for the greater good – we have a president who is gleeful about sowing partisan divisions and squirting kerosene on simmering resentments with tweets like “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and ravaging previous presidents (even those in his own party) for coming forward with words of unity and hope. And PEOPLE STILL SUPPORT HIM.

It actually kinda makes me want to stay home forever, honestly.

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I understand that I come from a place of privilege, and while I will never support acts like the ones I detail above, or putting anyone else’s safety at risk for any reason, I have enormous sympathy for people who have lost loved ones or are living in economic uncertainty.  I am fortunate that I can live frugally, support myself and my family, and can weather this storm, plus have the good health of my family and friends.

I am among the lucky ones who can do my job from my dining room table with my kid sitting across from me doing her work. I hate not being able to get a haircut, as I am well into the bushy-haired, mushroom-head phase of quarantine, and I am jonesing for a nice long Target walk with a Starbucks in hand, but I know these things will come in time. I realized yesterday while Miss L and I were out for our lunchtime walk that this is the longest I’ve been home with her since my maternity leave and what a true gift that is. And just for now, I will take it, where I am right now: the moody ups and downs, the bushy hair, the grey skies, the chaos and divisions, Skype calls and Google Classroom meetings, the civil disagreements, the face masks, wearing sweatpants 24/7, watching spring unfold in fits and starts, and be glad.

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this is michigan

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“the furnace is broken AND we have no wood left for the woodstove. someone here isn’t prepared, karen”

I think most folks in the northern hemisphere would see the date on my post and think, hey, April is springtime! Warmer weather and sunshine and buttercups coming up! But (sad trombone) we live in Michigan and this is not the case. It’s been barely pushing mid-40’s F during the day and well below freezing at night and I came back from my walk yesterday covered in snow and soaking wet after being caught in a freezing squall. This is not helping the overall filthy mood of Michigan during the pandemic.

SO, fate being what it is, this is the time that my furnace decided to give up the ghost. It’s not unexpected. It’s from 1994 and honestly, I haven’t done a lick of maintenance on it since I moved in. I’ve barely remembered to replace the filter on any kind of normal basis and when I do so, there’s usually enough cat hair in there to spontaneously regenerate a fourth feline. Yes I feel guilty. But I’m paying the price now as my heat went out. For 24 hours it was 51 in my house. We used a space heater during the day, went to bed last night with hot-water bottles and pissed off (but warm) cats. The repair person came (decked out in full PPE and carrying disinfectant to wipe down everything he touched) and as he pointed out the leak (“HERE”), the condensation damage (“HERE”) and the almost-entirely-rusted-out-bolt-holding-something-together (“HERE”), the look in his eyes over his face mask was reproachful. He got it going, and I’m now luxuriating in blissful warmth, but when the blower motor started up he actually flinched.

“It’s not going to last the summer,” he said.

“It doesn’t NEED TO – it will be SUMMER,” I said, quite reasonably I thought.

“Yes but this is MICHIGAN,” he pointed out, as, on cue, a gentle sleet began to tap against the windowpane.

(The upside of wearing a mask, I’ve found, is that I can stick my tongue out at people and they don’t know I’m doing it. And yes – I am extremely fortunate that I can afford repairs and replacements, I am still working, and that this didn’t happen in say, January when getting by without heat would not have been possible without severe discomfort and possibly frozen pipes. He also consoled me with the fact that there are some really good specials running now. But let me have my moment of childish spite.)

So next week I will have another cadre of PPE-swathed repair people in to replace my furnace and take several thousand of my dollars in exchange for living in Michigan where you need a furnace in frigging July.

How’s your week going?

dark and bright

I had to get off Facebook last week because I am so angry at some of my fellow Michiganders who felt that they needed to exercise their pique. While we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by families who have loved ones in the hospital, who have passed away, or are working on the front lines, many decided to storm Lansing to protest “government overreach” and what they consider to be overly restrictive stay at home orders. They blocked a driveway at a level-1 trauma center and despite doctors begging them to move their cars to allow ambulances access, they laughed and maintained they were “exercising their rights”. What a selfish, ignorant, uneducated and disrespectful slap in the face to so many working so hard to keep us safe. I’m disgusted and sad. I fully understand people who have lost their jobs or businesses, who are worried and upset about loss of income and loss of security. But clogging streets, waving Confederate flags and wearing MAGA hats instead of masks, and keeping essential workers and healthcare vehicles from accomplishing their tasks is not the way to safely or constructively express this.

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Anyway. Deep breath and move on. I can only control myself, my own priorities and my own actions, not those of others.

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And I can note and take comfort in the fact that spring is here and there is brightness everywhere – in flowers, sky, a red-haired girl, and in the reflection of sun on water.

Be well and take care of yourself and, if you can, others.

show us your books! march reads (quarantine edition)

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As always, joining up with our hosts Life According to Steph and Jana Says for this link up!

Before the Stay Home Stay Safe order came down, I rushed to the library to stock up on books. There was a reserve waiting for me, but nothing I wanted in New Arrivals (it was my first experience with a shelf picked bare due to quarantine) so I stormed the Mystery section and pulled several titles off the shelves. Fortunately, I enjoyed all of them, and I present:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – a young girl in the early 1900’s embarks on a fantastic journey via a strange book and a series of magical doors to find her family and her own identity. Despite the promising premise, I would say this just passed the time for me. It had some shiny moments but ultimately fell flat.

The Return (Inspector Van Veeteren #3) by Hakan Nesser. (modeled by Sarge in the pic above.) Love a good gloomy Nordic mystery. When kids find a headless, legless, footless corpse (always a great set up), Inspector Van Veeteren, scheduled for surgery, becomes embroiled. Told in many flashbacks as the Inspector comes to suspect that a notorious double murderer may actually have been innocent. Not the best Van Veeteren I’ve read but it was solid.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. A girl seeking a new opportunity answers an ad for a live-in nanny position. Suspense ensues. Gah. I can usually tolerate Ruth Ware but this one felt like a slog. The twist felt completely unbelievable and the ending was irritating.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley. In the summer of 1950, precocious chemist and amateur investigator Flavia de Luce – age 11 – stumbles across a series of alarming events, including a man breathing his last in the cucumber patch. Flavia sets out to solve the crime and vindicate her father AND torment her older sisters. Although this series could get overly saccharine, I liked this book a lot and found it a great antidote to quarantine. I’d love to see Flavia as a young adult.

A Bitter Truth and A Casualty of War (Bess Crawfords #3 and #9), by Charles Todd – I’m reviewing these together because no need to go into a lot of detail on the plot points. A WWI nurse from a good family solves crimes against the backdrop of the war. Enjoyed – I like Bess as a heroine and that time period is very interesting to me, the plots were a little more forgettable.

The Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes. Now that I’ve plowed through the library hoard, I’m falling back on Kindle deals. Never read anything by JoJo Moyes but got sucked into this one, set in 1946, about a bunch of Australian brides sailing to England on a decommissioned war ship to meet the men they wed in wartime. I liked the characters and the descriptions of them taking over the war ship like a raging bunch of old-timey sorority girls.

And that’s my offering for this April Tuesday, still in quarantine. Take what you’d like and leave the rest. I look forward to seeing what you’ve all been reading during this crazy month. Be well and see you next month. xo

Life According to Steph