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Inktober Day Fourteen: Tree

Et in Arcadia Ego.

Inktober Day Thirteen: Scared

It’s what keeps me awake at night.

Inktober Day Twelve: Worried

Our dear sweet old dog, Zoë, who worried constantly about everything, always.

Drew her fur a bit too dark; I really should have switched over to a smaller micron pen, but at least it’s done, and on time.

Inktober Day Eleven: Transport

My good old Riedell 495s. Currently set up with hockey laces, leather toe guards, Pilot Falcons and Sure Grip Zombies, 98a low. Yes, I’m a gear nerd.

This sketch is pretty disproportionate, but it was late, and after 2 1/2 hours of skating, so I was pretty tired and just needed to get it done. I like the dry brush on it, so that much is good.

Inktober Day Ten: Jump

Featuring Stefanie Mainey of the London Rollergirls.

And, for the moment: I’m caught up on Inktobers! Hooray! (this won’t last. enjoy the moment.)

Inktober Day Nine: Broken

Left over from Sunday’s breakfast.

Inktober Day Eight: Rock

Kayaking with R and K at the Apostle Islands, Bayfield, Wisconsin (That’s K in the tunnel).

Inktober Day Seven: Lost

All. The. Time.

Inktober Day 6: Hidden

One of my mushrooms from today’s hike.

Inktober Day 5: Sad

The saddest thing I know of.

Michigan Mushroom March

I went for a walk in the woods today and thanks to the wet weather, there were mushrooms EVERYWHERE. I’ve literally never seen so many, and so many kinds. Inspired by this clown I watch on youtube (no, really: he was an actual clown) I took a mess of photos and put them into a slideshow. Puffballs! Destroying angels! Orange mushrooms! Purple mushrooms! (no, really: purple mushrooms. I’ve never even heard of purple mushrooms before.)

If you guys know about mushrooms, I’d love to know if you know any of the kinds I photographed, especially the really odd-looking ones.

Inktober Day Four

Today’s prompt: Hungry.

As I was sitting down to draw tonight and wondering what I was going to do for today’s entry, Paul called up from the kitchen that there was a bowl of popcorn for me. Problem solved! (Also, Paul makes the best popcorn. My popcorn is terrible by comparison.)

This was a fun little inkwash experiment, with one drop of Rapidograph ink and a lovely Raphael 8404 I’ve had for several years and don’t use enough.

Inktober Day Three

Today’s prompt: Collect.

Here’s a small portion of my collection of desk fidgets. I have a whole bowlful, but these are the ones I fidget with most often, not counting my lip balm and kneaded erasers. I have nervous hands and have found that I both learn and listen better if I give them something to worry on while my brain does its thing.

Inktober Day Two

Today’s prompt: Noisy.

After forty years of hearing them in the nighttime trees I finally looked up what insects made that conversational “Zik zik zik? Zik zik zik. Zik zik zik?” noise. They’re katydids.

As much as autumn is my favorite season, I always regret hearing fewer and fewer night bugs as the weather gets colder. I’ll miss you, noisy bugs. See you next May.

Inktober Day 1

I haven’t drawn regularly in ages, so this year I’m going to do Inktober. Today’s prompt: Fast.

Starved Rock Return Trip

The return trip was a success! Everything worked out just about as perfectly as could be expected, especially when dealing with small children and a dog. Izzy joined us for the walk, and she did really well despite the odd terrain and new people. The nieces immediately took to hiking, and the first thing we did was consult a map and have them choose a trail. They picked Kaskaskia canyon, which was the longer of the two, and it ended up working out well because the second trip seemed faster and easier by comparison.

They were fearless with all the bugs and mud, which was great. We found several huge millipedes, some six or seven inches long. This one was dead, so we got a good close look at it.

The only downside to the trip was that it had rained heavily the night before, and the paths were thick with greasy grey mud. Didn’t phase the girls any, though there were a couple of times that we had to ferry them up a steep bank or over a deep stream. Even my sister-in-law, who’s not big on either mud or bugs, had a good time and was patient with all the ups and downs. I was really proud of everybody for rolling with the punches.

We stopped for a snack at the waterfall of Kaskaskia Canyon, and the girls got to get their feet wet. Izzy made short work of all the food the kids dropped.

My brother purchased a souvenir set of binoculars from the gift shop for A, and she had fun checking out the cliffs and trees.

We also made it back to Ottawa Canyon, and the approach to the waterfall was shallow enough that we even got to walk behind it.

It’s not as dramatic in the photo, but it was a beautiful little curtain of water, just enough to be exciting for the kids, but not too intimidating.

Two canyons proved exactly enough hiking for little legs, and we went from there over to the shelter for lunch and letting Izzy run around a bit. Our timing was perfect, and the girls slept in the car all the way back home. Before she fell asleep, Tom said that E. kept saying, “That was really fun.” Cool Aunt achievement unlocked.

Best part? There’s a bunch of other canyons there and at Matthiessen State Park that we can explore next year.

I refuse to be disturbed.

So last week I went out to try a new fitness center in town. It was great, actually. I enjoyed the class I took: the staff seemed nice and enthusiastic, the center clean, the circuit training fast, efficient and fun. This morning I was greeted by an email from their head trainer, one that encouraged me to spark fitness change in myself by “getting disturbed at the body I have.”

No.

I’ve lived too long being disturbed by my body. I spent my entire life, for as long as I can remember, hating my body for being too fat, too awkward, not strong enough. I cut myself down at every opportunity. I loathed myself, inside and out.

In the last four years, I found a safe space, between my husband and sports, to work through that garbage. I’ve spent hundreds of hours training, learning to move my body through space, make it do my brain’s will. I gradually came to love moving it, feeling the first initial spark of grace and competence — though for the first several years I stomped it out from frustration more often than I nurtured it — and slowly, surely, kindling it into something more. Lately, I can even say I like my body, which for me is a lifechanging statement. I like its strong curves, the beautiful cuts of tricep muscle, the shoulders that make my friends exclaim when they hug me. It’s a journey that’s been nothing less than miraculous; ask anyone who remembers me from even five years ago. Ask Paul. I am sad it took me until 42 to get to this point, but I am grateful beyond measure that I came to understand this truth before my body started giving out in major ways.

These days I have been working out not because it is work, but because I love it, I really *really* love it. I love how my brain feels solid, stable, calm after physical activity, in ways that nothing else can help. Every time I reach for a soothing food, a glass of wine to “unwind” — I hope to achieve that feeling of wholeness. But here’s the truth: none of that works for me, at least not for more than the moments in which it happens. I’ve changed my diet enough that more than one drink or a small sweet treat leaves me feeling gross and out of sorts the following day, and the only thing that cures it is more movement, more being mindful and present inside of myself, not seeking escape routes.
I find myself returning to movement because it feels right, because I have discovered the joy of motion, because strangest of strange things, I am coming to love myself. I learned to love myself because my physical journey was fueled by love and enthusiasm and positivity from Paul, from my friends, from my teammates, even from my opponents. All that love eventually wore down all that self-hate.

And I’m not going back to that mindset, ever. And you don’t have to, either. Move because it feels good. Find physical activities that make your body and brain happy and do them. Push yourself to find a healthy place because you love yourself and want to be better, to feel better.
Just do it: Love yourself.

Cast Iron Skillet Restoration

Late this fall, I was helping my cousins clean out their mom’s basement, and we came across a stack of cast iron skillets. I don’t know much about them, but I do know that there are a few highly collectable brands — and the entire stack was nothing but Wagners and Griswolds. I half-jokingly asked my cousins if I could have one, and they said yes, that their mom would have wanted them to stay in the family regardless of their value.

A little rusty, but otherwise in perfect shape.

So of course, because I’m me, I immediately went home and looked up the skillet online. According to this article on the Wagner and Griswold Society’s website, (of course there’s a society) this pan is a Fifth-Series Griswold #9 skillet, pattern 710D, with an inset heat ring and a rounded rib handle, manufactured in Erie, Pennsylvania sometime between 1905 and 1907. It is both wondrous and a little scary that there are people who know this much about cast iron — but as a fellow history nerd, I’m grateful they exist.

The skillet was in pretty darn good shape to begin with, but since you only find hundred-year-old cookware once in a blue moon, I followed the lye-bath directions on the WAGS site to electrolyze all the gunk off.

Let's do this.

Into the lye bath.

It took a couple of dips and some scrubbing, but after about two weeks the water had turned black and thick as imperial stout. After a couple rounds of scrubbing with Dr. Bronner’s and some steel wool, I had a clean, beautiful bare iron pan.

Two weeks in the bath: I think it's working.

Scrubbing off a few decades worth of grunge.

The WAGS site suggested one seasoning coat of Crisco, but I’m a sucker for Serious Eats with their photo-heavy food-sciencey articles, so I used J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s method. The results were stunning:

Lookit that shine.

Ironically, the first egg I cooked in this stuck like glue. A few weeks later and the seasoning's much, much better.

Once I’d got the antique skillet back in working order, I took our Martha Stewart pan that had served us loyally for the last dozen years, and stuck it in the lye bath for a couple of weeks. Unlike the antique, we’d ridden old Martha hard and put her away wet, and she was covered in a gunky black crust that no amount of scrubbing could remove. That lye bath, though:

The gunk just sheeted off in 2-inch hunks. I was very impressed. I forgot to take a picture of Martha before we passed her on to some friends, but once that stuff was off, she looked like she’d just walked out of the store: perfectly clean, gunmetal-grey iron.

The experts say that the older skillets are a higher-quality iron, and that they were polish-ground to a fine finish — and I certainly saw the difference between the old skillet and Martha, who was rough and pebbly, even after I’d taken a steel drill-brush to hear a couple years ago. When you run your fingers over the cooking surfaces, you immediately notice the antique skillet’s superior quality. It’s lighter, too — the antique is an inch or two wider than Martha, but she’s lighter. There’s a lot of debate over whether or not this makes that much of a difference when you’re cooking, and I probably have some sunk-cost fallacy / confirmation bias going on, but I feel like the Erie definitely cooks better. Still, for me, it’s more about putting a family treasure back in action. Allez Cuisine!

Big News at PaulSizer.com

Over the Holiday break, I took some time and helped Paul overhaul paulsizer.com from the creaky old custom site I’d built him nearly a decade ago. WordPress has really upped their game since those days, and with the help of a theme and some custom CSS, the site is both functional and pretty darn good-looking, just in time for some big design news.

We had an absolutely wonderful week kicking off both projects: We were generously invited to the soft opening of Zazio’s to be one of the first taste-testers of the new menu, and last night we got invited to the Kalamazoo Wings home game where they launched Paul’s mark as part of their new “Futuristic” design. The game, second in a series against the Toledo Walleye, was chippy right from the faceoff, with several fights throughout the night. Goalie Joel Martin was the star of the show, handling over forty shots on goal and only letting two in. The excitement lasted right till the final two minutes, when the Walleye pulled their goalie in an effort to catch up, but the Wings scored with a long empty-net goal from behind their defensive line. Three K-Wings goals in the third period, crowd on its feet — you really couldn’t ask for a better debut of a new jersey.

Plus, as a sweet bonus from the owners, Paul also got a customized authentic jersey of his own. It’s the same one the players wear, with the fight strap and everything. We may just make a sports fan of him, yet.

Paul's custom jersey

Winter Trip: Cheboygan and Tahquamenon

For the last several years, my hiking / paddling /skiing buddy R has been trying to get me to head up north with her during the winter for a skiing weekend. I always balked, thinking the driving would be bad, or that it’d be too far, or that the cabin would be too primitive (R likes to do things like spend an entire weekend living in a snow cave). This year, badly in need of a change of scenery, I finally took her up on her offer. She invited a few other folks along, and we had a great time of it.

The Michigan DNR has several dozen rustic cabins for rent, and after some hit-and-miss with the website, we ended up with one in Cheboygan State Park, one that we hoped would have a good view of Lake Huron. Boy, did we luck out:

Despite the 15F outdoor weather, the cabin was lovely inside, with four double-bunks, big wooden tables and chairs, hooks for hanging our food to keep the mice out of our packs, and a fat cast-iron woodstove that easily warmed the entire place. The DNR stocks the firewood, and previous travellers left matches and paper scraps, so we had no trouble keeping the fire going all weekend, banking it when we left (though after the first night we did have to institute a “whoever gets up to pee has to put a log on the fire” rule). A big hand-pump was ten feet to the left of the front door, and was somehow in perfect working order despite the freezing temperatures. The privy was fifteen steps to the right of the front door, and didn’t smell at all, because of the freezing temperatures.

The following morning we got up, fixed a giant breakfast, and then went out for some snowshoeing to the coast. The path was beautiful and bright with reflected sunlight, and pine boughs laden with ice made tiny rainbows wherever you looked, clattering like tiny windchimes.

The panorama is stunning — if you look really closely you can see the Mackinac Bridge faintly in the center left, and the Nine Mile Lighthouse on the right. We couldn’t dally long, though, because the wind coming off the lake knifed right through our clothes. It was much more pleasant behind the first row of dunes.

We had to hike all our food and gear in and out, and R had the foresight to bring a kid’s snow sled along, which allowed us to bring an unholy amount of food and drink in with us. Fie upon freeze-dried food! Nothing but the best on this trip, and with six women along, we had roughly 300% more food and 500% more drink than what we actually needed.

The second day we decided to head up to Tahquamenon Falls in the UP and do some hiking around there. The falls are, if possible, even more spectacular in the wintertime. We did a short hike along the river and were astonished to see a pair of river otters sporting in a clearing, leaping on and off the ice into the black water.

The spray from the falls freezes on everything, forming icicle waterfalls and bending enormous trees over like weeping willows.

As the short day gathered into night, we had an excellent meal at the pub, and then headed back to the cabin. The following day held a bit of hiking, but was mostly a long slog home through foul weather. Though the return trip was pretty rough driving, the overall success of the trip inspired most of us to make it an annual occurrence.

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