Thursday, June 23, 2011

a family reunion


I just returned from a traditional summer punctuation: a family reunion. I now seem to be on the dwindling end of summer and my time here at home. I hadn't attended a reunion of my mother's family for quite a few years (at least away from my home, since it was held here last year) because they're normally held in Michigan or Illinois and the car rides are tortuously long. The feeling of being hundreds of miles away from home with no control over my movements while being confined to few square feet of car if I ever want to get anywhere safe again has never been a thing I've enjoyed. This year, however, I wasn't going to let my peculiarities get in the way of seeing this extremely lovable side of my family all together (mostly) for perhaps the last time, since I'll be slaving away for the next six summers trying to pay for rent in Boston-- if everything goes well (that is a grim thought). So-- and this is becoming a disturbing theme on this blog-- I went into a medically induced semi-conscious state and slept most of the way there only to stumble drearily into gas stations to buy mini oreos. Maybe I was waaayy stoned or I'm just old, because the nine hour drive went by much faster than before.


The main attraction in Evanston last weekend, during the reunion, was the Custer Street Fair, which I'd been to once before and definitely enjoyed more several years ago. This year the best thing about it was the adorable doggies panting along with their fanny-pack wearing owners.


Previously, I'd been intrigued by the sand-filled glittery dragons and fluffy marionette puppets (missing this year) but this year the only real attraction for buying were the tables full of cheapo rings.



And some not so cheapo rings:


Steph wouldn't come to the reunion because she has recently fallen in love with someone and must spend every waking moment with him, so though she's recently taken time off work for visits to friends she didn't think it was worth it to come to the reunion and consequently charged me with getting her something from the Fair. I got her a claddagh ring because it was the the nicest of the lot. I'd want to keep it for myself if I didn't think that they're a bit cheesy and I'd want to buy an authentic one in Ireland someday if at all. I got myself a set of little hoop earrings, for a bit of ~flair~ instead.


It wasn't insanely hot, but it felt sweltering in the middle of Main Street with so many people, especially since I ended up walking over to it about four times during Saturday and Sunday. On the plus side, the people of Evanston definitely have a thing for pansies, which was quite a welcome sight during the bustle.





The highlight of my second trip to the Fair was finding the sale trolleys outside Chicago Rare Books (this picture was taken on yet another trip to mainstreet on Monday after the Fair ended, hence the peace and quiet). I immediately pounced on a kitschy boxed set of Barbara Pym books for $6-- which are worth thrifting because it seems that there is only one publishing house (Plume) producing them now and the paperbacks don't seem to be worth a whole $16 each-- then discovered a whole slew of gems from Waugh, Wodehouse and Christie in a way that seemed like they'd been stacked there for me. I'd have bought more, but these are all authors that I prefer to check out from the library and don't usually buy because they're such quick reads. I couldn't resist the sale though and I'll post pictures tomorrow.


Oh, and did I mention that they had a fair few of the notoriously trendy Penguin paperbacks just sitting there with the $3 Agatha Christies? I bought one and nearly bought the rest to sell on ebay, regardless of content, but I figured that I'd leave them there for someone else to discover.


The inside of the shop was casually impressive, with a lot of beautiful old books of miniature or magnificent proportions behind glass and a cashier sitting behind the high counter with a fan on him. I didn't get to look around as long as I'd have liked because I felt that everything inside was out of my cheapo budget and I don't think fan-man appreciated that I was taking pictures. I have liked to photograph all the ones I wanted to buy but I'm not that shameless.


It was really quite a lovely store though and I'd go there again. But I do live in a town without a bookstore, so I may be a tiny bit impressionable.


The next stop was a perennial favorite: Dave's Rock Shop. This place is always worth a visit with its vials of gold, cubbies full of shiny rocks, crystals, heavy copper spheres and museum in the basement. I wanted some of the emerald jewelry but, alas, could not afford the very crime novel-esque $700 necklace that sat mysteriously behind glass. One day though.


There are plenty of things to get, though, for less than that.


My mom, for example, spent a lot of time picking out the prettiest rocks from this display to fill a glass apothecary jar in her bathroom, much to the chagrin of the seven-year-olds waiting for their turn. She has a thing for rocks and boulders that is unexplainable.



My geologist uncle apparently had a small mental break here last year and spent a lot (totally understandable).


You can see what I mean when I say that most of the Fair booths couldn't really compete with the sparkling geodes. I also went to Vogue Fabric but I can't say I'd recommend going there (maybe for buttons) it as the lady ripped rather than cut my yard of fabric, which ended up having a swathe cut out of the middle of it, probably for a sample. The notions were overpriced and they had hardly any quilting fabric, but I expected that.


While all this was going on, Andreas was sucked into the guitar store and may or may not have have been ripped off on an extremely expensive Gibson that cost more than I've ever made working during the summer.


Well, it made him really happy.


OK, so excuse my money-centered talk-- I don't know where that came from because this side of the family is very nonmaterialistic-- because my favorite part of staying in Evanston (where my mom grew up and we lived for a few years) was the urban gardening and the trees. They may only have a little patch of front yard to show off, but that doesn't mean Evanstonians don't make use of it.


There are a lot of very beautiful American porches and ornamental trees. The japanese maples, in particular, made my mother very jealous (we can't grown them here).





My grandparent's house is no exception. They may be nearing eighty, but that doesn't keep them from weeding the lawn for dandelions.


This has to be the best dog walking area ever: so pleasant, so green.


(This house, above, fenced off their landscape with "caution" tape during the Fair.)




I won't deny that I wish that the part of Boston I'm moving to looked like this.


Much of the reunion was spent lounging around on the swing (which the larger male cousins broke once, per tradition) and watching the people bonking into other cars while trying to park for the Fair. It was bumper to bumper, again and again, and very riveting stuff. It made me feel better about my own parallel parking skills.


Of course, after the Fair on Monday things went back to being peaceful.




I am very glad that I went, even if I partially melted in the sun, as evidenced by this picture with my esteemable girly cousins-- who are growing up much to fast, in my opinion, and only wanted to watch horror movies and Jackass the entire time...bless them.



This is my aunt and uncle's extremely silly cockapoo who has crazy eyes and bandy grasshopper legs that let him get anything off the counter, forcing his family to store their garbage can in a cupboard. We were leaving and he happened to be sitting like this:


It is very strange because the whole family is fairly stoic but just happen to have the most (insert Austenian voice here) ridiculous dog ever.

Friday, June 3, 2011

a late may walk


I hope my lack of posting hasn't left anyone with the idea that we're still experiencing a Narnian winter in Minnesota, because this is not the case. It was winter for an inordinate amount of time, then we had spring weather for about two weeks and now it is full-blown summer. Unless you live on Lake Superior, Minnesotan weather can be very extreme: -40 to 104 degrees throughout the year. Today it was 90. When I took these pictures it was still cool.


The chance of frost only passed very recently, so we've just gotten all our planting done. We have such a short growing season that it is very popular around here to just head to the nurseries (or Walmart) and buy a pallet of already blooming annuals to fill up one's flower beds, instead of growing from seed. I'm growing from seed because most things wouldn't survive in the beds outside my window and seeds are very cheap. But it is a little sad that I won't be around to see them in their full glory-- just look at them last October. I'll be long gone in Boston (in a high-rise with no vegetation surrounding it) before my garden looks that nice again.


This is one of my Mom's beds, having gone the route of the nursery annuals. The tulip bulbs didn't do very well and this particular patch of dirt gets a lot of wind, so-- on top of our VERY HEAVY clay soil-- it is difficult to get delicate things to grow here.




See that faux terra-cotta pot in the picture above? That is all that is left of my rabid, virulent, the-apocalypse-could-come-and-it-would-remain mint (you can see it in the October link above). It came from my Grammy's garden in Evanston and has the exact same taste as it did when I used to make cups of tea with it when I was four. My mother warned me to put it in a pot four years ago, but I didn't listen. How could I NOT want mountains of Grammy's mint? Humph. Since then, I've had to constantly pull up as much of it as I possible just to keep it in check. All the time. It was everywhere. Finally, two weeks ago, I did a mint exorcism by digging it out-- dirt and all, down a foot-- and then dowsing the whole thing with roundup. If it comes back again, I might die.


These pansies are the only annuals that I could keep. Too bad the dogs have sat on them since this picture was taken. They've also made two big craters where I'd planted my Canterbury Bells. Well, they probably wouldn't have grown there anyways.


Pansies and violas are my favorite flowers. Probably because they're Victorian and look like they have smushed little faces, as in the disney Alice in Wonderland.


I think we deserve this weather after such a long winter.


Our apple tree that actually produces big green apples is in bloom this year too:


I just wish I was going to be around to see them and maybe make apple jellies. (There is something really satisfying about the feeling of scavenging and eating what you've scavenged, even if it was deliberately planted at some point...)


Which is why I felt like this next little surprise was planned just for me, to make up for things. A bird flew away from the apple tree when I approached it with the dogs, but it took me a second to see this:


...and I arched my camera above the nest to see these:


The moment felt truly serendipitous on a sunny 68 degree day.


I was a bit late taking pictures of the plum blossoms this year and, in any case, they're all infested with these creepy worms that make filmy webby nests on them, so they don't look their best this year. I just ruined the happy blue robin's egg moment, didn't I?



I tried to pick some of these big floppy clovers to press, but they'd shriveled up by the time I got back in the house.




And ah, the little twiggy oak trees we planted now have leaves:


And I can safely show you the oak leaf earrings that I bought and am anxiously awaiting in the post. There was, apparently, only one pair available and having made the mistake once of doing an is-this-genuine post on thefashionspot with an ebay steal, I thought I'd wait until I bought them. Earrings are the only jewelry items that I get a little irrational about collecting in a very cliche way. I don't care for bracelets or necklaces at all and rings fall off or I can feel them on me and this is bothersome. I think these tiny studs will be great for everyday use and serve to remind me of the days toiling under my Dad's tyrannical concept of "contribution" -- absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?


Paradise, y/y?


And if you look down, the path is covered with these wild violets.


There isn't as much of this wild phlox as there has been in years past. I think our copse needs a good burning, but we've never done it before and would probably need a permit, which is all too much work when it is so nice out.


The undergrowth is deliciously green. Even the poison ivy.



Soon-to-be wild raspberries, which are always eaten by the birds before we can get any of them.



I really have no idea what this pink-flowered vine is and it seems new, unless I've just never seen it blooming before.


Wild strawberry blossoms in the path that are always mowed over before they can produce strawberries. I've been meaning to try transplanting some of them for the last few years.




This is exactly the expression of joy I had on too:




I may or may not live in The Shire.


There was lots of bird sighting, though my camera isn't up to capturing such, so guess what they are as you will.




The doggies like to take a dip to cool themselves off in their winter coats. I always make a squeeee/ewww noise in an effort to keep them from shaking off on me.




Even the grass is in bloom.




Something that looks like yarrow.



The leaves on this tree are thick, heavy, papery and make the best wooshing noise, like waves on the beach. I think I have a video of this somewhere.


The grass is even a little dune-like.



Always lots to see on the ground:



I try to collect nice things to press when I walk. I put the pressed flowers and leaves in between two pieces of clear packing tape and they add something a little springy (and a little antiquarian) to my bulletin board all winter.

(Please forgive any typos in this post. My keyboard is mutinous.)