Adultlike Wonder

Monday, February 28, 2011
When we're growing up, we're kind of told to enjoy it while it lasts. Pretty soon we all turn into big, bad adults and we drop the rosy-colored glasses. We cease to get excited about the little things, like getting to have a whole can of pop or finding exactly what we wanted under the Christmas time. We start to realize those creepy gray statues on the sidewalks are just street performers pandering for spare change. After a while, all that childlike wonder just sort of fades away. (To be fair, I still find the body paint coated street performers jaw dropping. Why would you do that to yourself?!)

But I think there's adultlike wonder too.

How else do you explain the sheer glee and excitement Andy and I experienced when we found this beauty waiting for us on the porch Wednesday?
Yep, a vacuum. 

(Okay, maybe there are some kids out there who get excited about vacuums, but I most definitely was not one of them.)

We ripped into the box and started pulling out attachments. "A pet brush," I squealed before I remembered we don't have any pets. Andy held up the carpet attachment, awe in his eyes. Setting down the carpet attachment, he preceded to brandish about the hardwood floor attachment.

After a few minutes of getting a bag in the vacuum and the hoses and all attached, Andy fired up the little vacuum. As the slightly beetle-esque appearing vacuum whirred into life, we smiled at each other.

So quiet. Such smooth action. And oh, the suction. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

What with hauling fire wood into the cabin nearly every day during the winter months, there always seems to be a layer of crud on our floor. That layer of crud translates into a fine layer of dust on everything else. But no more. Just maybe, the vacuum means a clean cabin could become a reality instead of a goal.



Is it bad to get borderline ecstatic about a vacuum?

"Nah," a friend told me. "We adults get excited about new appliances and car washes. We're simple folks."

Come to think of it, I do feel downright giddy when all the dishes are washed and there's nothing molding in the fridge.
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Leprechauns and Mysterious Moving Flowerpots, oh my!

Friday, February 25, 2011
The other day, on the way to the mailbox, I swore I heard a leprechaun.


A steady tip, tip, tap, tapping noise came from the base of nearby tree not too far off in the roadside woods. We’re a ways away from rainbow season so I thought I was really in luck. There might just be a pot of gold tucked away in the undergrowth.

For those who might not realize, leprechauns aren’t actually in the sugar-coated, marshmallow-studded breakfast cereal business. They’re cobblers by nature. When I heard that tapping noise, I assumed it was a leprechaun working away on the sole of a shoe or a shoelace rivet. (Random trivia: leprechauns only make single shoes, never a pair.) The thing about leprechauns is, they’re not very generous. You’ve got to sneak up on them, maybe grab them by the coattails, and trick them into telling you where they’ve hidden their gold.

I bent down stealthily and peered into the shadowy woods. Nothing. Then I spied a big ol’ pileated woodpecker, tapping away at the base of a balsam tree. So close, yet so far.

Spring must be coming because it seems the sprites and faeries have been burrowing out of their deep winter hiding places lately.


On Monday morning, I noticed a peculiar object out on the lake near the shore. It looked just like an overturned flower pot. There were tracks behind the object, as though it had walked out to its resting spot. But that’s just crazy, I thought.

Two hours later, I glanced out the window and did a double take. The object, which was now clearly a flowerpot, had taken a right turn in its progress across the lake. It literally looked as though the pot had either a mind of its own or a small inhabitant. I could just imagine a little mouse, or maybe even a gnome, holding the flowerpot over its head and heading off into the great yonder, setting its overhead shelter down whenever it needed a nap.


Andy pointed at the path behind the flowerpot. The path was constructed of small circles overlapping big circles in a chain pattern.

“You can clearly see that the wind flipped the flowerpot over itself across the snow there,” he said.

True.

But it was so much more exciting to think of little magical creatures run about on their tippy-toes on top of the snow, getting into who knows what sort of shenanigans.

Does this sound like cabin fever? Anyone? Anyone? Have you noticed any peculiar goings-on in your neck of the woods?  
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Lessons Learned as A Bird Brain

Thursday, February 24, 2011
We fed the birds last winter at the Shack, but I feel like life in general took place on a smaller scale at the Shack. The living space was certainly more cramped. We weren’t quite as deep in the woods. It was kind of a mini-life, where we got to try on adulthood. A trial run if you will. You should never make assumptions based on a trial run.

So why, when the few chickadees, woodpeckers, and grosbeaks who stopped by the Shack’s two feeders last year consumed about 100 pounds of bird seed, I assumed that was how much bird seed we’d go through in every winter from there on out, I have no idea.

At the cabin this year, the feeders went out in early November. Since then, we’ve consistently gone through about 50 pounds of sunflower seeds . . . a month.



Don’t be fooled. Those little buggers can really pack it away. Lesson learned.

Just the other day, when Andy mentioned needing to run into town for something or other, I asked him to pick up some more bird seed.

He turned a little green when he glanced at the deflated bag of bird seed in the corner behind the front door.

“You mean they ate all of that seed already?”

Just a few short weeks ago, I’d made the belabored bag boy at the grocery store haul a 50 lb bag of bird seed from the back of the store out to the truck.

“Sure did,” I replied.



The temporary thaw last week exposed a veritable birdie wasteland of discarded sunflower seeds. It’s gonna look real classy around here come spring. . . .

Now I know why those birds are so chirpy and cheerful all the time: they’ve basically found the land of milk and honey in our backyard.

I think I’m going to put a little jar by the feeders, kindly requesting the little birdies drop off a nickel every time they belly up to the feeders. Squirrels and Mr. Al “the man who came to dinner” Pine Marten, I expect a dime (or two) when you come calling to the “Sunflower Seed Buffet on The Lake.” I need a little more of a return on this feeding the birds thing than just your colorful (dare I say, heartwarming) company and the guano calling cards that you’re so keen on splattering all over everything.

After all, times are tough. The economy still stinks. You guys, ladies and gentlemen of the birdy world, are wild animals. Go, head off into the woods and fend for yourselves. (You know, the way you’re supposed.) The fact that you are eating me out of house and home is just too ironic.


Do you feed the birds? How many lbs of bird seed do you go through in the winter?

 Mama's Losin' It

This post is part of Mama Kat's "Pretty Much World Famous" Thursday writer's workshop. Thanks for stopping by!
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Wordless Wednesday: In Stereo

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Squirrels . . . . now in stereo at Of Woods and Words!

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Writing into Stupidity

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Inspiration is all around us. Like this icicle that looks like a hand. Or carrots . . .

“The artist goes through states of fullness and emptiness, and that is all there is to the mystery of art.” – Pablo Picasso

Writers like to call upon muses to guide us through tricky plots and help us wrap our pen around poems which float evanescently through our minds. We like our writing to feel like it comes from some external source. Nothing’s more fun than feeling like we’re simply the funnel who captures words on the page.

But common knowledge is, if you want to make a buck at the whole writing game, you haven’t got time to wait around your muse. There’s writing that needs to get done right NOW and the best way to get that writing done parking your butt in your chair and starting in, well, writing. Muse or no muse.

To be honest, I find the muse concept kind of flighty and impractical. (It’s stuff like that that gives us writers our starving artists’ reputation.) But I’m enough of a dreamer to find the “butt parking” mandate a little harsh. I mean, it kind of takes all the supposed romance right out of this writing life.

So I spend my writing life in between those two mentalities. I have to use the latter advice because I think my muse’s kind of beach bum. She spends most of her days sunbathing in her bikini and sipping pina coladas. She can’t be bothered with the whole inspiration thing too often.

I write nearly every day, but rarely in a “omigod I think I was just struck by lightning bolt” manner. And so the deadlines are met and fiction projects move forward. I try not to worry when the inspiration just isn’t there, like . . . last week.

Last week was one of the scheduling nightmare weeks which involved running all over creation. While I was getting interviews and plenty of other “pre-writing” activities done, I certainly wasn’t generating much of a word count last. Whenever I sat down to get a little writing work done, it felt like each sentence was a gigantic beach ball I could barely wrap my arms around, let alone manage to somehow shove it into my laptop and coax to nicely sit still in a Word document. Ugh!

But some weeks days of the writing life are like that. That’s when I remember one of the helpful things I heard in the writing class I took last fall. When describing his typical writing day, the instructor said: “I write until I get stupid.”

When the words really aren’t coming one little bit, it’s time for a mug of hot cocoa, a shower, a good book, or a stroll outside. The muse seems to respond well to a wee bit of pampering.
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Bachelor Food

Monday, February 21, 2011
Before we started dating, Andy assumed I couldn’t cook.

Whenever conversation turned to food during those early days when we were working together and getting to know each other, I’d usually eaten one of the following for supper the night before: spaghetti with jarred marinara sauce, rice with veggies, or peanut butter and jelly toast. My diet all through college and the years immediately following graduation consisted of meals that could be made in 15 minutes or less and generated as few dishes as possible.

While I’m still no gourmet, I was a decent cook and baker by the time I embarked for college. But given the choice of whipping up a pan of spinach lasagna or ordering Chinese takeout and heading out to the movies, I’d always choose the latter. There was just too much going on in those days of experimental adulthood to crank out culinary achievements more advanced than chocolate chip cookies on semi-regular basis.

I got to thinking about the phenomena of “bachelor food” yesterday, as I cranked out an old bachelor food standby for lunch: an egg sandwich with bacon and ketchup on toast. While I love me a good egg sandwich, when I sit down each week to figure out a tentative weekly dinner menu so I know what to buy at the grocery store, I have never once written “egg sandwiches” down as a menu item. No one ever plans to make an egg sandwich. It’s one of those things you eat when no one else is around.


I once read a newspaper column in which the author professed meals he ate while his wife was out of town consisted of unheated Pop-Tarts and a glass of tepid water. And remember in Sex and the City when Miranda managed to eat almost an entire 9x13” chocolate cake in a single evening? Left to our own devices, there’s no knowing what we might consider a “decent meal.” No wonder we’ve all been trained to be afraid of singlehood!

Does a relationship really prompt us to eat better? Everyone seems to expect newly married men to gain a few pounds in that first year of marriage. And nothing quite wilts the egg sandwich’s appeal than eating it as a meal in company.

When someone else is around, it seems we clean up our act. We add meatballs to the marinara sauce. The rice and steamed veggies turn into a Thai-inspired stir fry. We don’t mind how the dishes stack up because there’s always someone to guilt into help with clean up. We remember our palates like complex flavors. Suddenly we have a hard time imagining eating toast for dinner.

But as soon as I’m left alone for a night? Heck yes, I’m having a big bowl of pasta tossed with parmesan cheese and butter for supper. That’s right. Not even an accompanying salad or vegetable.

Maybe none of us are as far removed from our cavemen ancestors as we might like to think.
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Forced Blossoms

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year's planting."
-- Annie Dillard  

I've been working my way slowly through Annie Dillard's nature writing classic Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this winter. I grabbed the book at Half-Price Books this past summer, figuring if I was going to spend all this time writing in the woods, I ought to study one of the definitive woods writers. To be honest, it's slow going for me and Annie. I pick Pilgrim every now and then and always find wisdom in the pages. Yet in the time it takes me to finish a chapter of Pilgrim, I manage to read entire other books. I'm dabbling my way through this winter's reading, picking up a little of this and that, collecting plenty of helpful, informative kernels as I go, like Dillard's quote above.

Reading about Dillard's wintertime experiences at Tinker Creek, I was struck by the juxtaposition of, well, almost everything, the winter season offers.When the world is at its most externally abrasive, internal time seems almost mandatory and as a result, when the world is one frozen, leafless scene, we're often doing most of our annual growing.  This time of year, when my time is of my own design (for better or for worse), I can read and blog and write with only self-imposed productivity goals to add urgency to my days. For sure, this fallow time is my most productive writing period of the year.


I always wonder at the New Year being located at the end of December. To me, February always seems to be the time of year I feel most in control, when I can look back on the past 12 months and clearly see progress made.  In summer, I lose my sense of balance and start to feel as though I lead one life too many. Even after the summer job draws to a close in autumn, it takes me a couple months to regain that balance and once again become master of my own time.

In these quieter February days, I can really revel in a new writing assignment or idea. I can look back and see clearly the slow but steady progress I'm making down this writing path. Writing obligations become desirable, coveted, not just another thing to do. In the dark and cold, I'm a forced blossom, thriving not on the light and warmth but on the words flying from my pen onto paper.  Even in the deepest winter, I'm blooming.


How are you blooming this winter?
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Wordless Wednesday: Over The Hump . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
We're having a bit of thaw (up to 40F already today), the daylight lingers until 5:30 and suddenly my schedule looks more like mid-summer than mid-winter. We must be over the mid-winter hump. Spring's creeping closer every day.

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Revising the Outline: Becoming A Copywriter

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Today, Emily of The Happy Home and I are guest blog swapping. You can check out my guest post on Sloppy Toes (oh my!) over here. Emily's great post on becoming a copywriter is below. Enjoy!

I don't know too many people with a knack for words that dream of becoming copywriters.  But honestly, I hope that changes.  I went to college with a totally different plan, but have certainly found a fulfilling path.

Most of my attention, as a kid, went to fiction.  I won short story competitions, and spent hours trying to come up with new worlds and characters.  Everyone at my alma mater, Emerson College, focused on either fiction or poetry for their first few years of school.  And I'll be honest-- I'm fairly terrible at both.  By senior year, I repositioned my focus to magazine publishing.  Then, by graduation, the print publication industry fell apart in the real world.  It was time to pick up the pieces!

I graduated college a semester early, and within two weeks was employed as an e-commerce copywriter for GUESS.com.  To be honest, I have absolutely no idea why I was hired.  I had some experience with fashion journalism, but it must have been my magnetic charm that caused the team to bring me on board.  I did some pretty standard work for e-commerce copywriting-- product descriptions, banner ads, landing pages, and e-mails.

It was great work for someone who had dreamed of working with fashion magazines.  E-mails and banners brought out my inner headline writer; product descriptions were like narrating runway shows.

Copywriting is a great way to indulge your inner nerd.  GUESS was an in-depth education in fashion tech.  I was encouraged to speak with designers, sewers, buyers, and PR reps to learn as much about the clothes as I could, to sell them properly.  I can tell you the difference between every kind of pleat or pocket!

I segued from GUESS to a Hollywood PR firm.  Covering both celebrities and lifestyle products, I will be honest with you-- this was the hardest job I have ever had, and not at all glamorous.  While it was a great education in the entire Hollywood process (and I can pick Oscar winners like nobody's business now), I doubt I would ever go back.

PR might be a steadfast copywriter’s worst nightmare.  Every day is different—and if you work for a successful firm, there’s at least one new client a week.  As someone who appreciates long-term branding and strategy, I was a wreck most days.

I currently work as a writer in both editorial and copywriting for a wine and food writer.  While my main job is to contribute to his editorial outlets, I have also been hired to work as a social media and branding copywriter for his company.  This is the best of all my past jobs, rolled into one—there are definitely things I get to geek out over, plus a long-term, brand-focused goal that fits well with the way my brain works.

There are just a few things I’ve learned in my short career as a copywriter. I’m trained to avoid clich├ęs, but this one fits: learning keeps the job exciting. One way to do this is by working for a business that thrives on the unknown.

But if you can’t handle the stress (like me!), try to find a niche in which you have at least a little interest.  I honestly learn something new every day—and that’s what will always keep copywriting fresh.


Bio: Emily Steers is a Los Angeles-based copywriter. In her spare time, she works on her blog, The Happy Home.  Her copywriting clips are available at www.emilysteers.com
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Je t'aime

Monday, February 14, 2011


As we already know, I'm not one for Valentine's traditions. Not that I'm against sickeningly sweet little bunny Valentine graphics. (Because I'm not.) Rather, living a life in the woods, far removed from television and box stores and their constant warnings of the impending holiday, the day can come and go without so much as a good chocolate sale.

I'm not much of a romantic. (Just the other day, Andy said "You know, you hide your true cynical nature pretty well on the blog.) Despite being a closeted cynic, I often get called upon to write the romance guide for Valentine's Day. (What the heck?!) So here's this year's tips for defrosting romance. Enjoy the over-the-top, sheer ridiculousness!

As neither a Valentine's Day basher or lover, I see both the merits and demerits of the day. I do tend to forget to pick up baking chocolate the week before the holiday and now am left with absolutely no way to declare my love this evening with a wonderful Magnolia Bakery chocolate cake or brownies. But then true love probably doesn't need an over-the-top chocolate cake of sheer ridiculousness.

Because I think Valentine's Day is meant as a reminder. A day to slow down and acknowledge all the lovely people (don't forget all those great family members and friends!) who make your everyday life just that much nicer. And honestly you don't need grand gestures of diamonds and roses to trigger your memory.

After thinking about it for a short minute, I know Andy deserves kudos today for putting the extra blanket over me before he leaves for work on cold mornings.  The endless chauffeuring during the winter months. The laughter. The miracle of always wanting to spend more time with each other.  

How do I love thee? Oh, let me count the ways. . . .

(Enough to post this picture!)
Happy Valentine's Day!

P.S.  Be sure to stop back tomorrow when Emily from The Happy Home and I have a guest post swap. If you've been wondering about copywriting, tomorrow's the day to learn about the profession, right here at Of Woods and Words!
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A rather cruddy post

Friday, February 11, 2011
There's no denying that winter's long in northern Minnesota. It's common knowledge that you should have a hobby to help bide your time in these frozen days. When it's -30F out, everyone's in want of a thrilling diversion from the dark, long nights like knitting, cooking, skiing  . . . . crud kicking!  

What's winter crud, you ask? Why, it's the wonderful brown substance that forms when snow mixes with road salt. It has a penchant for clinging to cars' mudflaps and frames and is often found in big blobs along road shoulders.

And crud kicking? It's the casual, noncompetitive sport I learned from my father of kicking crud wherever you find it. If you see some crud built up on your car's mudflaps: tap it. If you see a big blob of crud on the shoulder of the road: shatter it with a wind-up kick.  

There's only one rule to the sport of crud kicking, which my father taught my brother and I at an early age: Always tap a ball of crud lightly before giving it your best "soccer ball" kick to make sure it isn't frozen solid. (Your toes will thank you for this.)


Oh the joy in kicking the mud flaps and watching the thick layer of crud fall and shatter on the ground. The excitement in revealing the true exterior of your vehicle. The pride in looking at all brown gunk you've just dislodged and loudly exclaiming "Wow, look at that crud!"

It might seem to be a pointless pastime, but that crud can actually build up to the point where it affects gas mileage.

A crud kicker's job's never done.

(Let's just add this to my sporadic "you know you're a redneck when . . . " series, eh?)



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Rules, rules, rules . . . .

Thursday, February 10, 2011
 Mama's Losin' It

“Sometimes you have to break the rules around you to keep the rules within you” -Martha Beck 

Any regular reader of this blog has probably identified my affinity for to-do lists.  It's no secret that I like my systems, I like my structure, and I love rules. (After all, I was a hockey referee during my teenage years.) But even as the person who gets nervous whenever I'm in the presence of people talking other people getting into trouble, I realized I've been busy breaking some rules of my own . . . .

Rule #1:  Don't move back to your hometown.


Honestly I have no idea how this happened. Then the other day I read this line in a friend's blog: I still cry every time I leave Minnesota. Maybe that's it.

Although, I love to travel, but I have a hard time really, truly imagining any other place as home. Not that I haven't spent some time imagining.  (Seattle! NYC!! London!!!) Yet there's something about this remote, rural corner of this world that's not quite ready to let me go yet. Or vice versa.

Rule #2: Don't move in with your significant other before marriage. 


Does anyone really respect this rule anymore? A year into our relationship, Andy's and my work briefly intersected and it made the most sense to share a shack/cabin and make a home of our own. Now we feel like we're married and we've skipped the whole part where Andy gets something nice and sparkly for my left hand. Oops. So that's why you don't move in together before marriage . . .

In addition: I talk over people. (I'm so, so sorry. I don't realize I'm doing it until it's too late!) I eat after 8 p.m. I break fashion and beauty rules. We're just up a lawless society up here at the cabin when you get right down to it. But what's the point in letting arbitrary rules our lives and consequently, our hearts?  

Because, there's one rule I know I'll always keep: Don't take life too seriously.

This post is part of Mama Kat's Thursday writing workshop. Thanks for stopping by!
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Wordless Wednesday: Mountains in the Sky

Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"It's strange how clouds that look like mountains in the sky are next to mountains anyway."
- John Mayer 3x5s

The old timers say we live in the middle of a prehistoric mountain range. I'm not sure that's exactly what we live in, but it is an area that bares extensive glacial scars. We have cliffs and granite and rockfalls galore.

The pictures don't really do what I saw justice, but on Saturday afternoon, I looked out the window to find the hills fading away into hills in the sky . . .

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Excuse My Dust . . . I'm Building My Platform

Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It all happened around the time I realized I would be an adult for the rest of my life. In the past year I'd graduated from college, worked for a canoe outfitters and spent six months living and working in London, England. And suddenly (BOOM!) I was back in my parents' house, working an office job in my hometown. I knew it was time to knuckle down and start figuring out that scary, map-less journey known as a career path.

Ho-hum.

I'd been harboring the idea I might like to be a bit of a writer since my high school days. Unfortunately at 23 years old, I had a college degree which made me a better-rounded individual, but provided me with little insight into how to actually support myself as a writer. So I started reading everything I could find out there about freelance writing and how to be a successful fiction writer.
 
And that's when I started to hear this mysterious word: platform

I couldn't seem to escape it. It was everywhere.  

Back in 2008, when "platform" was in its infancy as the writing world's buzzword, there's was an almost oppressive urgency associated with the word. The whole concept of coming out of nowhere in the writing world was declared a thing of the past. Unless you had a website, blogged, tweeted, had fanpages on Facebook, hosted chats, spoke at conferences, taught classes and/or had personally shook hands with the President, you were just another would-be writer wishing for success and doing little to actually garner said success. You needed to be connected or else.

I was terrified. I still get kind of itchy whenever I hear the word platform. Because a platform isn't just visibility: it's also the methodical, focused way you've chosen to present yourself and your writing expertise to the world. I have some trouble focusing my writing path.

If you're a writer too who feels like someone just punched you in the stomach every time you hear the word platform, let me share the very little that I know about building a platform. It's a slow, organic process (at least for me) to find natural niches and audiences for the writing you want to write. And you probably won't know what you do and don't want to write until you try it out. You will be finding yourself as you go. Don't jump to put a label on your platform until you really know what you love to write. Like publishing success, your platform won't happen overnight, but if you take it slow and steady steps to develop your writing and your audience, you'll be amazed at how far you can get in a few years.

Of course, the irony about this whole thing is that as a young girl, we would sometimes drive to the nearest city and spend an afternoon at a large multi-pool swimming complex. There was a huge waterslide, several diving boards and some diving platforms at the complex. One time, I spent almost the entire afternoon standing on the edge of a 20-foot high platform, working up the courage to jump off of it.

15 years ago I couldn't barely get off my platform. Now I'm clamoring to get back on. C'est la vie.
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I dream of seeds . . . bees. . . and chickens too . . .

Monday, February 7, 2011
Although the thyme and oregano in the little windowsill herb garden (who are both just getting over an aphid infestation) might care to differ, the houseplants are looking pretty good lately. The Christmas cactus and African violet have been blooming continously for months. Yesterday I was bold enough to take a cutting from the philodendron, which just recently reached the floor, to see if I could coax the cutting to take root in a glass of water.

The success of the houseplants is a heart-warming contrast to frozen world outside the front door and it prompts me to test the limits of this slowly developing green thumb of mine. Lately Andy and I have been flipping through seed catalogs in the evenings, outlining the preliminary plans for this summer's gardens.
I spend my nights dreaming of grow lights, cold frames, and organic mesclun salad green mixes.  

And that's not all that haunts my dreams lately.

On my friend Betsy's recommendation last summer, I finally got around to reading Jenna Woginrich's Made by Scratch last month. Made from Scratch is perhaps the most practical guide to leading homemade/self sufficient lifestyle currently in print. (Woginrich has a new book out, Chick Days, which I plan to get my little hands on as soon as I have enough money for another book buying binge.) As I read about Woginrich's  adventures (and her very honestly recalled misadventures) with bees, chickens, and angora bunnies, suddenly this thought stamped itself on my brain: 

I WANT SOME OF THOSE TOO!

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you might know that I dream of some day being the proud owner of chickens. And I've been interested in the concept of beekeeping ever since reading The Secret Life of Bees. Angora bunnies are obvious: I could knit right off of them!

Now every once in a while when we're sitting quietly on the couch, I'll turn to Andy and ask "Can we get some ______?"  (Insert one of the following in the blank: bees, bunnies, chickens, kittens . . . )

Then I remembered that both Andy and I work full-time, out of the house during the summer months. I have vague memories of barely having time to get the tomatoes all the water they needed last summer. The resident fox might not be such a  "Fantastic Mr." after he got into the chicken coop. And the last thing I need is a black bear going all Winnie the Pooh on me and getting into the beehive.

Still, I can't shake this notion of being the center of a lush, buzzing, busy backyard bursting with plants and creatures. It's becoming the great, golden dream, a recess in my imagination I escape to when the skies threaten snow or the wind howls. 

What are you dreaming of these winter days?
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Weekend Wishes

Friday, February 4, 2011
"To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on." 
-- Chaucer, A Knight's Tale



Things really aren't as bad as the above quote might seem to indicate, but as I'm posting this, I've got a trudge ahead of me. I'm about to strap on some snowshoes and head out across the snow-packed, wind-drifted lake for a writing date with my neighbor. 

Andy and I have been watching HBO's John Adams mini-series this week and I found a timely bit of knowledge/advice on one of the DVD's special features: a short piece on the author of the infamous John Adams biography, David McCullough. During the bit, McCullough states: "The great thing about the arts is that you can only learn to do it by doing it."

So true, so true.

No book on writing is going to produce the next Great American Novel for you. I'll happily trudge across the lake if it means some words of substance show up on the page.

Wherever this weekend finds you -- trudging or no -- Happy Friday!
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Valentine's Traditions?

Thursday, February 3, 2011
Mama's Losin' It


In general, I've never met a holiday (or a holiday tradition) that I didn't like. Epiphany is my signal to start thinking about taking down Christmas decorations. Mardi Gras calls for a King's Cake, if I remember. I love decking myself out in red, white and blue for the Fourth of July. By the time October rolls around, I'm pumped for pumpkins and subsequent turkeys and the decorating of trees.

But Valentine's Day? I have a pretty poor track record with doing anything exciting for good ol' V-day.

I usually have big plans.

Like making everyone I love one these woolly little hearts:

Or whipping up one of these guys:





Or, or, or . . . .

Yet, I never seem to get around to it. It's not that I view Valentine's Day as a strictly Hallmark holiday that doesn't deserve the time of day. I think it's nice to take a day to be sweet to all those who make your life a little lovelier. Maybe the holiday falls just a little close to Christmas. Come February 14, I often find myself still fumbling with the reins of the new year.


Valentine's Day have come and gone in my life and now it seems as though none remain. When I was little, my brother and I used to wake up on Valentine's Day morning to find a collection of small trinkets by our seat at the kitchen table. A relationship or two back, I used to receive flowers for the day, although something about the fact that I had to pout to get them made them feel not terribly sincere. Our first winter together Andy and I exchanged cards, but only because the relationship was long distance at that point.

So I go into this February with no Valentine's traditions in tow. No matter. Perhaps the most important thing Valentine's Day can do for us, regardless of how we celebrate, is to start the spring thaw in our very own hearts.
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Wordless Wednesday: Groundhogs Day

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
What did the groundhog see where you are today? I always laugh at the notion. Shadow or no, there's always six more weeks of winter in Minnesota on February 2.

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Four Star Meal at Five Below Zero

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Who doesn't the love the mid-winter?

Oh, that magical time when you can't remember a world without snow and you cease to believe there ever will be a world without snow. When you start looking at your significant other as though they have a second head and begin to believe they were placed on this earth, in this cabin with the sole intent of driving you bonkers. That my friends is the indicator that your cabin-fever-o-meter might just be soaring off the charts. Run, don't walk, out of that front door. It's time to get out of the cabin.

On Sunday, Andy came home prematurely to deal with the whole ice dam situation and effectively threw the remainder of the day into a tailspin. I don't know about you, but I can't get anything done when Andy's around, even when he's quietly sitting in the other room. I knew as soon as he walked through the door at 12:30 that my work day was done.

Just the other day, Andy had declared himself "in the mood for a Crooked Spoon dinner."

I needed to record my latest radio commentary in town and neither I nor my stomach were up for the fare served at our usual restaurant haunt that Andy was clamoring to "get a quick burger at." "Why don't we go into town and go to the Crooked Spoon," I suggested. It was an idea about as logical as the time we set out to drive 30 miles, one way, for a beer.

Still, we set out, in the Corolla, on glare ice roads. The Corolla does impressively well on snowpack conditions, but gets a little shaky on glare ice. As we moved forward, I could feel the car slipping ever so gently. "Oh this was a good idea," I muttered. Town was 55 miles away. We were going about 27 mph. This was going to take a while. 

But we did make it to town. I recorded my commentary in the peace and quiet of the Sunday afternoon radio station and then we headed down to the Crooked Spoon for a winter feast of duck on alfredo pasta and homemade meatloaf and mashed potatoes.All those nasty, cabin feverish moments started to slip away as quickly as a bit of melted butter on my tongue.  

"Look at us," said Andy, swirling his glass of cabernet. "Having a four-star dinner in five below zero."





Full of good food, we headed home. I shimmied on down the road at a reckless 35 mph. As I poked long, a car behind me quickly caught up to me, raising the hackles of my type A driving personality. Who did they think they were? "Back off buddy," I yelled into the rearview mirror. I planned to pull over at the next feasible stuff, but the vehicle had other plans. They passed me.  It was the county sheriff. (You know you're a cautious driver when . .  . .) We hadn't laughed that hard in a long time.

How do you battle cabin fever this time of year?
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