sugar springs

enjoying morning, baby and tea by the water

At the beginning of September, Ryan, Juniper and I spent a few nights in the middle of Michigan, next to Lake Lancer at a campground called Sugar Springs.  Oh, September in Michigan may likely be the most beautiful of months.  Camping in Michigan may likely be the most beautiful of activities, too, in my mind.  Either way, I love being a little family, packing up the station wagon and setting forth for humble adventures.  Losing ourselves to lake and sky, yarn, books and naps.

Every morning we walked to the waterside and had tea and muffins on the dock.  Every night we went back to catch the sunset before collapsing into bed.  The weather was perfect, warm days and cool evenings, and the mosquitoes left us alone.  Except for a few hard teething moments, we had a perfect little vacation.

Thanks, Uncle Todd and Aunt Lindy, for loaning us your adorable camper for the week.  Thanks, Michigan, for harboring lovely white birches, tranquil waters and all those breathtaking sunsets.

stealing kisses in the grass.

our baby juniper girl.

talking about how amazing it is to swing!

baby contemplating water & grass while i knit a row.

and white birches absolutely everywhere.

juniper at sunset with papa, my two peas in a pod.


Things of late summer include tackling long-awaited knitting projects, reading through a stack of summer books, enjoying cooler August days, contemplating upcoming camping adventures, and listening to the laughter and babbling of a happy almost-toddling eight-month-old.

Ryan and I are still slowly adjusting to being permanent Michigan residents (our Virginia license plate *sniff* is gone from old Rudy).  We’ve made an offer on what could very likely be our someday dream home, but it’s a short sale, so we’re waiting for it to go through.  Waiting with bated breath and hopeful hearts.  Practicing patience.  We’ve found a church home, made some new friends, and are thrilled by the idea of living close to downtown.  I’m trying not to wish time away; life out on this dusty dirt road is lovely, too, after all.  And I know the sunshine is fleeting and never guaranteed.  It will be cold again before we know it.  Isn’t it always is that way around here?

I may have mentioned that Juniper has started to play just independently enough so I can knit uninterrupted for maybe ten minutes at a time.  My current project: a short-sleeved, flax-colored, cabled wool cardigan and I can’t even remember the last time I knit something for myself.  How very fun and rewarding indeed!  I’ll post pictures and details eventually; promise.

And summer reading continues.  I hold baby while she naps and will do so for as long as I possibly can, because someday she’ll be grown up and maybe not want to be held.  She’ll be too old for naps and too old to cuddle and besides all this, I’ll be uncool.  I know how it goes.  Anyway, while Juniper nurses and naps, naps and nurses, I sit surrounded by pillows, an occasional black tea, and some really good books.  Here’s what I’ve devoured this summer:

All Over but the Shoutin’ – Rick Bragg
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger
Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
Sunshine – Robin McKinley
My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
A Hole in Our Gospel – Richard Stearns
The Oxford Murders – Guillermo Martínez
Girlfriend in a Coma – Douglas Coupland
Simplify Your Life – Elaine St. James
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway

and am currently reading the first book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series – Alexander McCall Smith – and Sue Miller’s amazing-so-far While I was Gone.  Plus I’d really like to crack open some good ones on upholstering but don’t really know where to start on that subject.  Whew!  If Pizza Hut did Book It for grown ups, I’d have so many free pizzas.

Of these, I highly, highly recommend A Hole in Our Gospel and The Shipping News.
I’ll conclude with some pictures, specifically requested by my father-in-law.  Here you are, Tim!

our blue-eyed babe

almost always has something to say.

Peter Rabbit has become part of our bedtime routine.

toys at twilight. baby loving a length of purple yarn.

a pair of striped tipless man gloves

I have a dear older brother who spends hours and hours in a cold drafty library in Indiana.  He doesn’t just wander absently, meandering up and down isles of rarely-used books.  No, he actually studies.  Notre Dame gave him his own little tiny office where he does this important scholarly work.  Also, in wintertime, the library is cold.  My brother gets cold.  Stephen needed something to keep his hands warm while typing and writing and flipping through pages of dusty books.  So I knitted him a pair of library gloves.

Alyssa gave me the tweed.  I love tweed.  It’s Rowan, mostly dark green, with specks of almost every other color.  I striped the Rowan with Knit Pick’s Merlot Heather held double.  Three rounds of one color, three of another.  All 100% wool.  I combined my favorite classic mitten kitting pattern with Allison Isaacs and Sara Lucas’s tipless glove pattern (found in Holiday Knits) for this custom  perfect-for-Stephen-and-his-nerdy-needs pair o’ gloves.  How?  With US size 4 dpn and a little twist of the imagination, of course.  I think I cast on in early March and finished in late July.  My goodness, what a slow knitter I’ve become!  This was Stephen’s Christmas gift.  Christmas of 2010, I’m ashamed to say.  Now they are done and finally, he has them.  Just in time for the colors outside to change to a more autumnal spectrum.

for brother,

to keep this paws warm.

warm hands, warm heart, right?

During the last scene of that old movie “Splendor in the Grass” (starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty), the main character visits her first love at a farmhouse at the end of a dusty, dirty road.  His wife is barefoot, working in the kitchen and a little roly-poly baby is playing in the corner with a wooden spoon and a chicken.  I love that.  When we vacationed last week at Ryan’s parents’ house, Ryan found Juniper playing on the kitchen floor.  With an old spoon.  And while my in-law’s dog Reggie doesn’t look much like a chicken, he sure makes a good playmate.

best friends forever

playing what game, I don't know.

she really loves old spoons, which happen to double as magic wands. seriously.

For those who are wondering what’s new in the world of Juniper besides making a true and fast friend in Reggie the dog, you must know that she’s cut her two first teeth.  And she started crawling, really crawling, this past Monday.  She’s everywhere!  And now she pulls herself up to all available furniture, empties bookshelves of their books, and tries just so hard to climb stairs.  Ryan and I are certainly on our toes.  She’s so very close to waving “good-bye;” Grandma is teaching her.  I caught her laughing in her sleep last night.  How many times will she break our hearts with her adorable, silly self?  She’s got personality spilling over, everywhere, onto everything, and making all innocent bystanders fall in love.  What a girl.

rocker redo

Here is the story of a very lovely bentwood rocker belonging to our friend Adam.  Adam let us borrow this rocker when Juniper was first born.  If you ever rocked in a bentwood rocker, you know the magic: the deep, smooth rock.  The comfortable high back, perfect for resting a weary head.  And the low armrests, so ideal for nursing a long baby.  We loved rocking Juniper in this rocker.  But Adam got the rocker used, the caning was old and brittle, and one day when Ryan sat down to rock baby Juniper, the caning gave out.  Don’t worry; no one was hurt except the chair.  A large hole in the seat rendered our favorite rocker unusable.  How very sad indeed.

So it’s been on my to-do list to fix the hole in Adam’s bentwood rocker.  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to cane.  Nor do I really want to learn at this time.  I should mention that somewhere along the line, Adam gave us the rocker to keep forever.  Thank you, Adam!  But back to my conundrum: how to fix the chair without recreating the original caning.  I thought maybe I’d turn the seat into something solid, cushioned and covered, if I found the right fabric.  When I saw Waverly’s upholstery fabric “Solar Flair” on super-sale at Jo-Ann’s, I knew it was the one and could then visualize our redeemed rocker.  So another redo project began.

And here’s how we did it.  First Dad and I took the seat off the rocker.  I ripped out all the caning and touched up the wood on the rocker and the seat frame with a dark brown permanent marker.  Once this was totally dry, I treated the wood and remaining caning with lemon oil, cleaning, hydrating and polishing all at once.

bentwood rocker minus a functional seat

Dad cut a piece of wood to fit, routered the edges, and cut additional corner pieces for sturdy assembly.  I bought half a yard of 1 1/2″ foam from Jo-Ann’s (with a 50% off coupon, of course) and cut it the same size as the new seat.

all the pieces before assembly

I sat at Grandma’s sewing machine (mine is lost somewhere in the chaos we call storage) and created the piping out of the new fabric and about a yard of soft, skinny rope.

Waverly's "Solar Flair" and piping

Together Dad and I stretched the fabric over the foam and seat and stapled, stapled, stapled.  We put the piping around the edge and attached it with more staples.  Then, using his drill, we secured the upholstered part to the original seat frame, put the whole mess back on the rocker, and – presto – a brand new rocking chair.

underside of rocker seat

corner detail

newly upholstered seat

another view

and it's on the rocker!

end of story: we rock once again.

something green from papa's garden

looks to be just so delicious

yummy pea. a perfect teething toy.

Days are long in Michigan, especially in the summer.  We tip-toe and pitter-patter close to the Eastern time zone’s invisible west edge.  We play under such a big sky.  We watch dramatic sunsets, even on the east side of this green, woodsy state.  Shadows grow long, so long.  Twilight lasts forever.  We love this.

The first night we were here, I dreamed of my childhood cat.  Catherine’s spirit came and haunted all the closets of the house.  She purred and purred but we never could find her.  I think she was awakened by Laurie’s cantankerous presence.  My adulthood cat, making himself right at home; gracelessly pushing dusty kitten ghosts out of the way with his scratchy, furry cat elbows.

blissed out, i'm sure

We cook dinner for Mom and Dad.  We’re living here until we find our someday dream house.  Mom comes home from work, scoops up Juniper as Ryan and I finish putting dinner on the table.  After dinner, she entertains baby while the rest of us clean up.  Then it’s time to sit and visit with parents, grandparents, aunts, cousins and uncles on a cozy porch or deck of our choosing.  Watching the hummers, the orioles, the leaves all participating in a fluttery theatrical.  I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing like summer in Swartz Creek, nothing like being home.  Strong walls, people loving deeply.

I miss my Harrisonburg people, though.  Friendships established and strengthened over three years, my girlfriends and peers.  These people love deeply, as well.  I miss how the stone steps on the front stoop drank in sunshine all day then slowly released warmth late into the evening.  My convenient clothesline and pulley system off the back deck.  Seeing thirty people I know in just one ten-minute visit to the Farmer’s Market.  A drop-of-the-hat clothing swap party or knitting circle.  How anyone stopped by the house, anytime, almost every day.  Pam singing to Juniper in the morning a song about little birds.  I miss the mountains.

The week of the move, Juniper started clapping.  Now she’s pulling herself up on select furniture, wanting so badly to climb.  She’s putting one foot in front of the other while we hold her pudgy little hands and walk, walk, walk.  Her new sound is “gha.”  Her current favorite toy is the volume knob on Ryan’s keyboard.  She is a magic baby, we say almost every day.

giving the cheesiest grin ever

clapping with joy

then pounding with gusto

Ryan made me two lovely beds for my very first vegetable garden, in Mom and Dad’s backyard.  I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this spring and am aspiring to be Barbara Kingsolver in almost every way.  First step: plant, water, weed and love a real vegetable garden.  I planted five varieties of tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplants, marigolds, basil, chamomile, jalapeno pepper, lemon verbena, and cilantro.  Maybe it’s a bit random of a collection, but that’s what was on sale at Rich’s Food Mart on Linden road.  My little garden is growing; we harvested our first three cherry tomatoes yesterday and ate them with basil leaves and smiles last night.

garden we planted together

I’ll close with a snippet from my sister-in-law’s blog that I think is quite fitting for these Michigan (and Illinois) days: “summertime means a whole lotta time outdoors, garnering sunburns and mosquitos bites, and a lot less time indoors, hunched over the computer.  This is how life is meant to be.”  Amen, my sister-friend.  The [long Michigan summer] days are just packed [with baby-playing, gardening, napping, family and friend-visiting, and day-dreaming up possible lovely interiors of my someday [soon] dream house].