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So many updates, so here they are abbreviated in lieu of a proper post that may never come. 

The summer is nearly over, and while I'm not a summer person I do enjoy the freedom from schedules and routines afforded by kids on summer break. I still sometimes feel as if I'm grasping at the wind while is rushes by. Only a few weeks until they go back, schedules will shift again and one kid of freedom (from classes and activities) will be replaced by another (a few hours to myself for the first time in years as Lana goes to preschool).

Alison and the boys are back in Paris. It was a wonderful visit, and we were sad to see them go. We're already looking forward to the next time, probably on their side of the Atlantic.

She left me with wonderful memories and this amazing spread, Speculoos by Lotus.

(Sorry for the fuzzy MacBook photo)

Speculaas is a type of shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked during the winter holidays, but in recent decades it has become available all year round. I fell in love with these cookies while living in Germany, and now Alison has introduced me to a spread made of this stuff! It's lovely on crusty bread (or at two in the morning eaten directly off a spoon as I did right before this photo was taken). Good stuff!

Focals  kindly agreed to help me to hand out vouchers last Sunday at the Borders Benefit Day at the Michigan Avenue store. We handed out nearly 400 vouchers. I'm hopeful that we were able to get quite a few people to turn in their vouchers and raise some money for CWA and the Hall of Fame. Also had the chance to meet three other Chicago writers: Gary W. Moore (Playing with the Enemy), Michael Weeks (The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide), and Arnie Bernstein (Bath Massacre). Lovely men signed my books and were in good spirits even when most of the hoard that swarmed the store passed by their signing table.

I toured a print shop this morning thanks to a connection from my friend Melissa, and I learned about the modern process of printing and binding. Fascinating! I love the sounds and sights of the print shop: all the machines, the paper, the potential! I wished for a camera (and the skill to use it) to photograph some of the machines, especially the older ones with their gears and levers. They fed my imagination.

Many recent projects have been revolving around the release of The Silence of Trees. Working with the talented Madeline Carol Matz on the cover (I am confident it will be the first of many projects we will work on together).

Chicago Literary Hall of Fame ceremony planning is in the works (did I mention I'm now on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Writers Association?) as we contact special guests, entertainment, and hopefully sponsors. This deserves its own post at a later date. I hope that some of you can make it to Northeastern Illinois University on November 20, 2010.

I'll be teaching an online Writing course this Fall, so I had to rethink my syllabus. I'm excited to teach again, but a wee bit nervous about the change in media. So much of my teaching was in the delivery and discussion. We'll see how to translate this into an online experience.

Mark and I continue to work in the yard. Recent rains left us with a pond over half our property. We're trying to figure out the best ways to deal with recurring water issues. The current plan is to plant many water loving trees and shrubs. We're ripping up grass and planting things most nights after dinner before putting the kids to bed. We're also planning a rock garden for the back near the shed. Slowly it begins to take shape.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 30th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
When does your class start, and how does it work (for you) on line, do you know yet? I know it'll be awesome!

You look for wet-loving plants, while we look for dry-loving plants. Jim has the vegetable garden, and we're nowhere near a harvest, our growing season starts so late. Green beans just starting to show. Big squash leaves, no fruit yet. Nice cilantro and basil and chives. Hopeful for broccoli, peppers and cucumbers. Next year planting red Russian Kale and chocolate peppers.

I just keep planting flowers my friend Linda gives us from her garden, all our flax and yarrow and more came from her. And two itty bitty leaves of hollyhock, babies, smaller than clover leaves. She gave me five of them. Hard to believe they will grow so large. Lamb ears has taken off, also blanket and cone flowers, flax and yarrow, wild geraniums and huge blooms on the clematis plants. Our peonies are fantastic, huge and round like gigantic pink bubbles. We put three bushes in last year, don't know what kinds other than service berry bush, all to provide shelter and berries for the birds. Two took off like rockets, one didn't make it through the winter. Bushes, not birds.

Our beautiful aspen tree, planted the year we moved in and way taller than Jim now, has fungus. Jim sprays it once a week. It's in a lot of stuff in town, and I'm really hoping our tree survives this. Pine trees everywhere, in town and in the hills, devastated by pine beetles, killing whole trees.

I have tiger (day?) lilies that I planted a few years ago, the orange ones. Last year, suddenly, we had some yellow lilies, and I don't know where they came from. This year, orange, yellow again--and white, snow white lilies. So pretty. I think birds bring these flowers, pooping seeds or something. Or maybe squirrels bury seeds from someone else's garden. We also flowers from previous owner, and flowers bought at Windmill Nursery. Speaking of windmills...

Dutch Windmills! I *thought* those cookies looked familiar! I used to eat those when I was little, it's been years.

Valya, you are so busy. No wonder you can't get a grip on the winds. Happy you'll have a little time to yourself soon. Is Lana excited about going to pre-school?

love, prairie sister

Edited at 2010-07-30 03:17 pm (UTC)
Aug. 1st, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
If you get on today (Sunday), Mandy's phone # is 847-873-6922.
Love, me
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )