Monthly Archives: June 2010

Up in the UP

We’ve spent the last week in my late father-in-law Joe Rovai’s house on Lake Au Train, which lies about three miles from Lake Superior between Marquette and Munising. The rest of our family unit included Mary and Patty, Lou’s sisters, Patty’s husband John, my daughter Honor and her husband John. We gathered for a memorial service for Joe at the tiny mission church he’s attended in Au Train for forty-odd years, and to tackle the dismal chore of emptying out the contents of a ninety one year life.

The citizens of the UP proudly call themselves Youpers, and revel in their stereotypes. Here’s an example on a postcard, available in any gift shop:

They love their hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and waterskiing. They eat pasties and drink beer. They talk a little funny — most Americans would say they talk Canadian (they end sentences with eh? more ofter than any Canadian I know) but to me the accent resembles that of the citizens of the province of Newfoundland — Newfies. And like the Newfies, they are the most generous,openhearted,openhanded, salt-of-the-earth folks you’ll ever meet. While I was walking in Munising with Honor and John the vibe was southern (although the temperature was decidedly northern) because passing strangers would say “Hi, how are you?”

Honor and John were looking for WiFi ,unavailable in the Hiawatha National Forest. When you run the largest tennis blog on the internet it sucks to be away during Wimbledon, but they came for Grandpa’s service anyway. May I mention here how much I love them? And John found WiFi in a second-hand bookstore/cafe and pulled up the stats at gototennisblog.com. At 11:00 am on the 24th of June 67,000 people were signed on to their site. Um, I’m gonna have to try harder here.

It sure is beautiful up there:

This is a view of the lake from the Casa Rovai.

Lake Superior at sunset.

The business with the bank, the lawyer, the appraiser and the realtor was work for the siblings and brother-in-law-John. But cleaning up and cleaning out the house was a Herculean task, that involved all of us over the course of a week. Joe kept every family photo from those of his parents to those of his grandchildren from last year’s Christmas cards. Going through those picture took forever, because of the “Oh, that’s Nonna! What year do you think it was?” Or “What year was it we took that trip to Colorado? ’63?’64? ” “God, those bridesmaid’s dresses were ugly!”

We came away with photos, twelve Limoges Bridal Wreath dinner plates, unused extension cords and dropcloths, odds and ends and lots of pix. When we arrived there  the cleanup and cleanout was intimidating, but working together we got it done. Then we sat down and talked about how terrific the house looked. Lou built it forty years ago, and it’s no rustic cabin, it’s a sophisticated house. It comes furnished, all appliances, an acre on a gorgeous lake with a patch of sandy beach and good fishing.

Speaking of fishing, my son-in-law John patched together two rods and reels from Joe’s tackle box , bought worms, and hit a neighbor’s dock or got up early and took the neighbor’s rowboat out onto a dawn-misty lake. His Dad took him out fishing when he was a kid in Kentucky, and he comes from a long line of Vietnamese fishermen. I have to mention that it rarely got above sixty degrees while we were there but John didn’t care and went for a swim. His in-laws started to have doubts about his sanity.

In better circumstances John might have decided to stay a week longer. He loves to fish. And he loves to play blackjack. The first night we were together we ate dinner at the Chippewa casino in Christmas, a town a few miles down MI 28, mostly in memory of Joe,who whiled away many the hour there at the nickel slots. It’s wittily designed on a Christmassy theme, the food’s good and Lou finally got to play blackjack, Here are snaps from dinner:

My sister-in-law Patty and her husband John.

My son-in-law John and my sister-in-law Mary.

Here’s a random shot of Honor drinking a Molson in the evening .

Honor John and Lou all won at the blackjack table that night. Two nights later they lost most of it back.

As for restaurants, ummmmm. The casino’s food was the best. But I have to say the ambiance was terrific at all of them, although I don’t think that there’s a restaurant in the UP that doesn’t serve baked potatoes in foil. You know what I mean. He’s a pic of a place called Foggy’s — low key, a bar with babies out with their parents, Tigers/Twins on TV and lots of fish mounted on the wall.

It was an intense week, but getting through it with family and grabbing every opportunity to be cheerful makes it another great memory.

Three bedrooms, two baths, two kitchens, two magnificent fireplaces lakefront property with the best neighbors — if you’re interested, let me know.

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Filed under Into the Mystic, The Great Outdoors, Travel, Worth it anyway

Father’s Day and Odds and Ends

Ian McArthur is the world’s greatest father. (Hold your dissent –it’s my blog.) My siblings, my cousins and everyone who knows him agrees with me. A safe port in any storm, a rock, an engineer with the soul of a poet. An historian, a master gardener, an opera buff who wept every time he heard Graceland. He’s so  brilliant he got out of high school when he was fourteen — in fact he did grades one through five in one year. He read Huckleberry Finn when he was eight and can still quote passages almost verbatim. He starts geraniums from seed in February under a Gro Light. He irons. He memorized the Rubaiyat so he could recite it to my mother. He has helped us out financially embarrassingly often. He has two daughters with disabilities in their fifties who still live with them, and he’s their Daddy — running the house, doing the laundry, the grocery shopping and scheduling doctors appointments.

He’s had lunch with Charles de Gaulle and got stranded on a deserted airstrip in Brazil. He did business in Japan where his surname, despite the spelling variant, was something to overcome, and he did. When my mother was in hospice for two months he never left her — he slept on a cot in her room.

When he went to his first job as a Junior Chemist straight out of the University of Toronto Chemical Engineering it was at a CIP paper mill in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. He noticed something off: the thousands of papermakers spoke French and management didn’t. He learned French, on his own, in three weeks. (He later taught himself Russian from a book.) He was a legend in that mill, later managed it and rose up the company hierarchy until he was the de facto VP Operations.

He read me a bedtime story every single night — an early fave was The Tawny Scrawny Lion. Books in Engliah were unobtainable in Trois-Rivieres so anytime he went on a business trip to Montreal he’d bring me one — typically literary totems of his youth, like Tom Sawyer or Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I remember my mother raising her eyebrows at The Idiot — she said: “This is not suitable.” She was right, of course — no thirteen year old can comprehend The Idiot. But Daddy wanted me to love what he loved, and perhaps he understood Dostoevsky when he was thirteen.

Now I’m stuck with this.  Nuff said.

I’m sending virtual cuff links, ties ,golf balls and kisses to all you rockin’ fathers out there.

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Filed under Free, Growing things, History, Home, Into the Mystic

Cheap Cheerful Car Trouble

Well, not exactly cheap.

This week both of our cars went on life support. I grieved — we haven’t had a car note to pay for five years and it’s been wonderful. Both vehicles are nine years old, and nine years ago we were kids. Our daughter lived in Chicago, not LA. I had a job and health insurance and better teeth. Lou’s hair was dark brown, not gray. My mother was alive. Dear friends hadn’t scattered to DC or Colorado.

Our mechanic Jim gave us the bad news.

The Focus needs about 1200 bucks of work. New front brakes, new pads and new coils. I have no idea what coils do, but they’re expensive. I remember my honeymoon period with the Focus — it was my first car with air conditioning and a CD player. That first winter I was a trainer at Sprint,working the night shift and I’d drive it home in soft silent snowstorms. It was my warm pod, and I had one of the most beautiful (I won’t call it spiritual)few minutes of my life, waiting at a deserted spotlight as the snow fell and Vladimir Horowitz poured Chopin’s Ballade Number 3 from the radio.

The Tiburon appeared in my driveway. Lou was fed up with the Escort and unbeknownst to me, traded it in and brought the Hyundai home. There’s a great photo somewhere of him posing with it, the beautiful bikini-clad Simpson girl next door and her zaftig scantily-clad bffs  draped over the chassis. Good times.

The Tiburon, (that sleek grey sportscar with the sunroof and everything)had become an exercise machine — the power steering was kaput, the thingy had rusted through, the model isn’t around anymore and neither is the part.

And all those road trips in those cars, years and years and years of heading across Michigan and along the 401 to Ottawa and my family. To my mother’s Christmases (Martha would be humbled) The summer trips to admire my father’s garden. The trip to Collinsville to walk the still freaky  Cahokia Mounds. And all those trips to work.

Thing is, I don’t care about cars. If it has A/C and a CD player I’m down. Before I met him Lou cared about cars in the most misguided way: sixties MGs and Triumphs and Spyders. Poverty and adulthood changed things for him. And me. We just wanted a car we could afford. All those Mitsubishis and Escorts … When the hottest car we’ve ever owned was the Tiburon, you get the idea. Our first marital vehicle was a 79 Ford Fiesta, and we loved that little  red car with absolutely nuthin’. Stick, no radio, no A/C . Nuthin.

So, we have a long drive to the UP in a couple of days and zilch vehicles. I’d done due diligence on Enterprise’s site. But yesterday, in a prairie thunderstorm Lou got us onto (in the Tiburon)the dealer strip on Ogden Avenue in Naperville. And he bought a car. And it wasn’t that expensive. It is, of course the cheapest car Toyota has on offer — yuck, I’d never even heard of the the Yaris.Yaris? What kind of name is that?

It’s cute.

But I love that we’ll have a new car for this trip, the first of many. I hope we’ll be able to hang onto this car for nine years. We traded in the Tiburon and we’re fixing the Focus . I’m someone who passed her first driver’s test at 35 and is a bad driver, but I love the memory of the silence, the snow, and the Chopin. And being nine years younger.

 

 

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Filed under Machines, On the Street Where I Live, Worth it anyway

Fake Food, Site of the Day, and Amigurumi Banana Lucheros

I don’t know what the heck has happened to my right shoulder and my neck. I can’t turn right without screaming. I suspect it’s because I dragged an Ikea bag from the library over my shoulder with a twelve volume thirty  pound payload. It can’t be that I was propped up on my elbow in bed last night tackling the new Elizabeth George, because I’ve been propping and reading in bed since I was seven.

The only checkbox I managed today was Call Patty. Yeow, it hurts.

But even as my shoulder screamed as I leaned over my laptop, I did my minimal  internet strolling. I read the New York Times. I checked in at , my daughter’s tennis site http://www.gototennisblog.com/. And Rachel’s http://www.gototennisblog.com/http://www.gototennisblog.com/ And Dean’s

winespillseverywhere.blogspot.com/.

 

And my own secret guilty pleasure: Jezebel.com.http://jezebel.com/ This is a girly site born of the Gawker/Gizmondo Empire, and I think it’s fresh, funny and smart. Their “Midweek Madness” feature, where they read and evaluate the gossip mags is must read hilarity.

Thanks to Jezebel I found this amazing amigurumi pix of crocheted bananas turned Mexican wrestlers. I am in freaking awe.

It’s fake food, it’s funny, it’s irony, it’s felt, it’s crochet and it’s Mexican wrestling. I am not worthy.

So I’m gonna have a glass of wine and try to remember if it’s ice or a heat pad.

 

 

 

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Filed under About a buck, Art, HeeHee, How Cool is That?, Site of the Day, Yarn

Index Card Update:My Hapless Attempt at Organization

Awhile back I talked about my passion for index cards, and how I use them for every purpose except those they were created for: organizing stuff. bringing order, sorting things.

Here: https://cheapcheer.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/the-3×5-index-card-oh-the-possibilities/

I hate to- do lists, scribbled on post-its or an a page torn from a notebook, Or, more likely, the back of an envelope the contents of which will get lost 20 days before the due date. They sink to the bottom of my bag, just another ingredient of Purse Soup: grocery receipts, empty matchbooks, loose change, and even older to-do list envelopes.

Remember way back,  when the online computer calendar was meant to be the answer to our organizing prayers? Just pull up the date, enter the task into the time slot, and print it out every morning. I have two problems with this . First, I remember when I used it in my professional life. Bummer, Man!  Let me try to recreate a typical day:

  1. 8:05 — review yesterday’s stats.
  2. 8:30 — Meeting with Tonya to give her a written warning about attendance
  3. 10:00 — Team Meeting — discuss falling stats and attendance.
  4. Noon — Department lunch to discuss falling stats and attendance.
  5. 2:00 — Safety Meeting.
  6. 3:oo —  Training Session.( Try to make FICA fun!)
  7. 4:30 — One on One with boss about my stats and attendance

This is a melded calendar from a few jobs. The second drawback is that the printed to-do list got lost in the paperwork on my desk, or got stirred into Purse Soup.

But here’s the thing: No one needs a to-list more than I. I’m lazy. I’d rather spend eighteen hours on my tummy reading a thriller cover-to-cover than wash the patio door windows. I can putter about in the garden on a nice day with the hours flitting by in weeding, deadheading and drinking lemonade on the patio. I have a long love affair with the internet. I like picking up a piece of fabric or a skein or yarn (or a roll of toilet paper) and making mischief. I need a to-do list right in my face, and I need it now.

That’s because there’s an Event coming up: My father-in-law’s memorial service at St. Therese Catholic Mission Church in Au Train, Michigan on June 25th. It’s a long drive and both of our cars are acting up: I guess we’ll try to fix the brakes on one, not the power steering of the other.But what I need is an In My Face to-do list, and I figured it out today with some 4X6 index cards and a piece of so 2006 photo display wirework. I was about to throw out that wire tree, then thought again. And pulled out my 4X6 index cards and made a cool, crisp rectangular to-do list. Then one for tomorrow. The cards are the right size for anything we really should accomplish in a day, and the wire holder keeps them in our face on the table. It’s the in-the face thing that works And the check-off boxes.

Here are the pix. The table was so cluttered and so hopeless as a shoot locale that I planted it a pot of rosemary. Bonus shot of Ajax lurking. We didn’t do so bad today, all in all.

But check out tomorrow:

I have a plan for saving these cards for a goofy diary . It will be cheap, primitive and cheerful. But that’s another post.

 

 

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Toilet Paper Origami: This Guerrilla Girl will be On the Move!

Of course I had to buy this book:

Toilet Paper Origami by Linda Wright. Talk about cheap and cheerful; I worked my way through its pages without using so much as a quarter roll of cheap tp.  Rosebuds, sailboats, bunny rabbits, magnolias, butterflies — so fun to make  –as well as some tailored points. I hope these ghastly pix give you an idea of what can be done in five seconds. (The topography of folded toilet paper is darn hard to catch with a camera;the photos in the book are in black and white, which helps, but they’re not great.)

Can you see the origami diamond atop the point? I like this.

This is harder to see, but with a squint and some imagination can you make out the tuxedo pleats?

This book is aimed at the hospitality industry: “Hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, Cruise Ships” and, oh yeah “Creative Housekeepers.” I don’t fit into any of those categories. The only thing I have in common with those groups is that we all stock toilet paper. But this book has opened a brave new world of cheap and cheerful guerrilla giggles.(Yes, I’m still slipping pompomed crochet sleeves over random car antennas:)  https://cheapcheer.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/guerrilla-needlecraft-the-secret-life-as-an-antenna-taggerantenna-taggermy-secret-life-in-guerilla/

Let’s put it this way: I will never again leave a ladies’s loo without  cheering up the end of every roll I can manage without discovery. And I mean every cubicle, not justthose at the Art Institute or Neimen – Marcus. In fact, the more unexpected the locale, the better — Walgreen’s, the grocery store, the library, a dive bar like the Old Town Ale House. My biggest tp folding fantasy is to somehow find one of the huge, gloomy Little Girls’s Rooms at O’Hare empty so I can nip into cubicle after cubicle folding each flapping end into a bunny rabbit.

That would take time. Then I started to think about adding a package of stickers to the antenna cozies in my purse. I could fold the classic Holiday Inn point and decorate it!

Or even leave an upbeat handwritten message:

I’ve always liked serendipity with a snippet of silly surprise. My pranks come in peace. Would you be freaked out if the roll in the restroom at Arby’s ended with a magnolia in full 2-ply bloom? Or will you consider joining my Toilet Paper Paratroopers? Men would be especially welcome — there are places even I can’t go!

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Filed under Free, HeeHee, Home, Origami, Paper

The Yin/Yang Apron

When it’s a cool rainy day in the ‘Ville and a woman’s read all her library books, decided that folding laundry is a task that can be put off almost indefinitely, and is wearied of watching the weeds grow, what’s a girl to do? Well, work through her fabric stash and bring another apron into the world, of course!

I’ve been sewing reversible aprons for  years, even though it involves two yards of fabric instead of one. For one thing, sewing a seam and turning the apron inside out is easier than all that edge finishing involved in a single layer apron. For two, you get an apron that can avoid the washing machine by a factor of two. And best of all, for a person who adores prints and design as much as I do, you get two separate looks, and I get the fun to riff on themes, trims and general apron couture goofiness.

Mary Mulari is, best I know, the inventor of the reversible apron, and a pattern of Mary’s I bought in a quilting shop in Galena, Illinois when I was visiting my sister in law, was the inspiration for my fascination for the genre. More about Mulari here: http://www.marymulari.com/

And for awhile I was content to make aprons with witty, pretty versos. But then, and I think this is my idea, I considered doing a kind of masculin/feminin thing: A pretty girly fabric  and trim on one side and a Guy print on the other. A couples’s apron? A Bi apron? Neither of those terms worked for me, soI’m gonna go with Yin/Yang apron.

The fun amusing fabric-shopping outcome of this was  finding macho cotton prints. Who knew there were so many? Cowboys, John Deere, NASCAR, Guitar Hero, golf.

John Deere.

Today it was NASCAR — I cut off the supermodel’s head because Willow was demanding to get into the picture:

And cupcakes:

Bonus pic of the Greta Garbo of cats: Ajax in the herb garden:

I realize this penchant for girl/guy prints and reversible aprons is just one of those Maggie Things — a brain worm.

But it satisfies me in so many ways .

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Filed under Five bucks or fewer, Needlework, Worth it anyway