Wordless Wednesday: Winter Wonderland Arrives

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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Going Dormant

Monday, November 28, 2011
On my last day of my seasonal job last month, Andy and his mother bought me a potted mum. It was lovely: full and bushy, completely covered with mauve blossoms.  I take it out of the cramped, plastic pot the greenhouse had it in, repotted it in a terracotta planter and set it on a living room cabinet. It continued to look lovely for a good month and then it started to lose its blossoms. No big deal, I thought as I deadheaded it, to everything turn, turn.

But as the weeks go gone by, the mum's appearance continues to deteriorate. At the very time when both my Christmas cactus and African violet are loaded to barracuda with buds and blossoms, the mum just looks like it wants to kill itself. Every time I pass by, I can always hear it whisper: "Take me now sweet Jesus . . . and get it over with." 

Actually, I'm sure the mum would love to have a long, fulfilling life. Truth be told, I'm the hitch in the mum's giddy-up. Apparently, I should have been watering this sucker every day if I wanted to keep it green and lush all winter.As the mum's declined, I've queried Google with increasingly frantic searches that are some variant of  "how to keep potted mum alive indoors over the winter." The search results have been less than edifying (would someone please just devote their life to creating a helpful database on houseplant care already?) but I think I have a couple things figure out about my mum.

Turns out, I have two choices on what to do with it. (Well, three if you count my current path of plant homicide . . . Planticide? Pesticide?)

I can:
1) Begin watering the mum daily and move it to a place where it might have a better chance of getting 12 hours of daily light.  Considering that I have not seen the sun in, oh, 10 days, that's kind of a laugh.


2)  Put it in the dark, heated (but not too hot) room under the cabin, water it occasionally and let it go dormant for the winter months.

I'm leaning towards option number two, for obvious reasons - aforementioned lake of sunlight, the fact that the rest of my houseplants demand only a weekly watering (and they're lucky if they get that). And truth be told, I'm kind of jealous. Jealous of my houseplant.

Because if the mum chooses dormancy, why can't I?!

We're in the final slog of longest, darkest days until the Winter Solstice is upon us and it is dark my friends. So very dark. How dark?

Andy went into the bedroom last night at 6:30 to "stretch out" and promptly fell asleep. In these deep grey days, I slog through my workload in a half-conscious daze. As an example of how desperate things are around here, I just got down on my hands and knees to feel around on the floor, which I have not vacuumed in months, for a single milk chocolate chip I had dropped . . . so I could eat it. Seriously, put me to bed with a warm cup of cocoa and wake me up when the lake is frozen over and the sun is shining (aka, January) when I can actually do something!

Oh, these are dark days, dark days indeed. But sadly, only the mum gets to go dormant. 

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A day for community

Thursday, November 24, 2011
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May your turkey (or tofurkey, if that's how you roll) be plentiful and your tables and counter tops overflow with pies, rolls, potatoes, sweet potatoes, dressing, veggies, and whatever other starchy goodness your family and friends serve up as part of your annual T-day feast.

Currently, I'm hunkered down at Andy's mom's house, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (that is to say, I'm watching commercials and commentators, there's very little parading going on) on mute and a special "Thankfulness" edition of a local radio program. Yesterday I baked two pumpkin pies and spent a bit of the afternoon at the church doing prep work for the community Thanksgiving dinner my mother coordinates every year.

Pretty much since we moved back to my mom's hometown when I was in first grade, we've spent Thanksgiving Day at church at the annual community Thanksgiving dnner. When I was in middle school, my mom started to coordinate the dinner (today marks the dinner's 38th year) and since then, she's only taken one year off. Our Thanksgivings aren't spent in a family living room watching football. Instead, they're spent in a steamy church kitchen making mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, et al for 100+ people.

The dinner is often confused with being a charity effort, but that isn't the case at all. It's a community dinner. It's a free dinner option for anyone, regardless of their political, religious, or socioeconomic standing who doesn't want  the hassle of making the dinner themselves.  So yes, there are people who come because they have nowhere else to go, but there are also entire extended families who choose to eat their Thanksgiving dinner in this setting. Delivery and pick-up meals are available for those with limited mobility and we also offer rides to those who want to attend. The tag line for the dinner is "No charge, no sermon."  

This community seems not that far from the original (albeit probably mostly mythical) idea of the first Thanksgiving. That is, everyone coming together and bringing something to offer everyone else. However, in 2011, instead of saying, "You bring the squash, I'll bring the corn" it's more like, "you bring the Cool-Whip, I'll bring the (frozen) corn." Every single ingredient for the dinner is donated and the labor that prepares the meal is completely voluntary.

Our church also houses the county's food shelf and my mom was telling me yesterday how awkward she felt earlier in the week when she was in the church basement setting things up and a Native man came in to pick up food to bring up to the local reservation.While we all know that happy story of cooperation between the pilgrims and the American Indian that we base this holiday around is hardly the whole story, as the man left, he called out "Have a nice holiday!" This morning, a member of the local band of Ojibwe was on the radio, explaining how he feels about the holiday. "We like it," he said. "You don't have to go to work. There's lots of foods. It's an opportunity to say 'thanks.'"

So regardless of how Thankgiving really began, we do seem to agree on what today's all about: coming together, celebrating more than enough to go around, and saying "thank you."
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Meat. Lots of Meat

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Greetings from the Of Woods and Words butcher shop.

Ever since Andy got his buck a week ago Saturday, we've been busy processing venison. I'll spare you the gory details, but there has been much chopping, grinding, freezer wrapping, labeling and dishwashing going on in these parts. The cabin has about 4 square feet of useable counter space, so it's been a juggling act, to say the least. We have some very happy jays and a rather smug looking red fox who are happily gobbling up the scraps we leaves outside.

Thank goodness Andy didn't try to get a second deer with his license this season. While I'd felt we'd gotten a decent amount of meat from last year's doe -- about 20-25 pounds of venison, including sausage-- this buck easily has provided us with twice as much. Between the garden produce we put away in early autumn and the recent venison additions, our chest freezer is nearly brimming at the top and we haven't even finished "SausageFest 2011" yet.  

Speaking of SausageFest 2011, on Saturday evening, Andy and I finished up a batch of Italian sausage. And when I say batch, I mean 21+ pounds of Italian sausage.  Pretty much any bit of useable venison that's not tenderloins, roasts, or round steak, gets ground up for sausage. The ground venison is then mixed 50:50 with ground pork. Because venison is an extremely lean meat, the pork is necessary to "bind" the sausage together. The fact that we ended up with about 20 pounds of ground venison this year means we'll ended up making approximately 40 pounds of sausage. Holy schmoly!

Last year we made a batch (about 8 pounds each) of Italian and breakfast sausage. The Italian sausage was by far the favorite, which is why Andy decided we need to make so very much of it this year. We don't bother putting the sausage in casings, just freeze it in bulk for use in lasanga, spaghetti, and pizza throughout the winter. But 21 lasangas is an awful lot of lasanga. I have a feeling we'll be giving some the sausage away.

And yet, we still have 10 pounds of ground venison that needs to be converted into sausage. I'm thinking a batch of chorizo, maybe a small batch of breakfast sausage, and some jerky. Also does anyone have a good recipe for wild rice venison sausage. Google has totally failed me in my search for a wild rice sausage recipe, yet I know wild rice venison sausage is a standby in many Minnesota households, so if you have a recipe, please do share!  

All this venison must be seeping into my subconscious. Just last night, I dreamed I saw a ginormous buck, only to realize I needn't bother telling Andy because deer season was already over. (The season ended on Sunday night.) I don't even want to explore the meaning behind this one!

You're welcome to dinner any time. Just be forewarned: chances are, we'll be having lasanga.
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Being Thankful

Monday, November 21, 2011
I went to a Benedictine (Catholic) college. The college shared property with a monastery and it wasn't uncommon to have a nun as a professor. One day, in the class that was supposed to be prepping us for a J-term in Rome, the Father who was teaching the class asked a nun who had recently visited Italy to come speak with us. For whatever reason, we got on the topic of prayer.

"What's the most common prayer?" the nun asked. We all looked at each other. Umm, the Lord's Prayer? The nun cleared her throat. "When we pray, we're usually asking God for something," she explained. "Every once in a while, it's nice to say a prayer that just says 'thank you.'"

It is, isn't it?

Whether you're talking to the man upstairs or whether you're b.s.ing with a friend, sometimes we just need to stop the ongoing, droning monologue about everything we wish we had and step back and realize what we already have. If we don't take a minute to say "thank you" we risk going through life with blinders on and missing the big picture.

So today, I'm saying thank you. Not just because it 'tis the season, but because, truly, I have so many things to be grateful for.

I'm thankful to share my life with a funny, talented, thoughtful man. After more than three years together - two+ spent living together - it's hard to imagine life without my partner in crime: Andy.

I'm thankful to live in a beautiful part of the country, in a lovely little cabin on the edge of a gorgeous lake. (Sorry about all those adjectives.) Seriously, day, every season here in the woods brings something new to marvel at.
I'm thankful for self-sufficiency, for being able to stock our shelves and line our freezers with food we've picked, grown, or hunted. On a similar note, I'm thankful for no credit card debt and limited student loans, which allow us to carve out a simple life all our own. I'm thankful for enough to go around. I'm thankful to have a degree.

I'm thankful for more than enough firewood to keep us warm during the long, dark winter that's nearly upon us.

I'm thankful for enough time for hobbies, be it gardening, knitting, canning, berry picking, writing, or what have you. I'm thank to be able to use my writing as an income source. I'm thankful to have a contract sitting on my desk for employment next summer.
I'm thankful for wonderful and slightly ridiculous friends who remain an important part of my life, even when the miles between us are long. I'm thankful I'm still invited to be a part of these people's lives. I'm thankful for laughter. I'm thankful for the sense of community blogging has created in my life.

I'm thankful to be able to watch things grow. 

I'm thankful for family nearby to provide support, and occasionally, a bed to sleep in. 
I'm thankful for much more, but I wanted to end this before you were thankful that I'd run out of things to be thankful for.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving season? I'm linking up with the "Give Thanks Party" over at Ashley's, After Nine to Five.

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My Seven Wonders

Thursday, November 17, 2011
Mama’s Losin’ It

Today over at Mama Kat's, we're asked to list off the seven wonders of the world that we've seen with our own eyes. I can't pass up on an opportunity for a trip down travel memory lane and I've always been fascinated with the seven wonders of the ancient world. (It fits so nicely into that ancient Greek thing I've got going on . . . sorry modern Greece, you're kind of painful to watch right now.) And do we all remember on 7-7-07 when we all voted for the new seven wonders of the world? Just me? Okay then . . . .

Only the pyramids survive from the original list of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and lucky enough for me, I 've actually seen them! 

All right, so maybe that's just the Luxor in Las Vegas. Still, I'm counting Vegas in as a wonderment all its own.

Wonder #1) Las Vegas 

I'm not a total liar though. The Colosseum made the modern seven wonders list and I've really seen it! I have to admit that as amazing the Colosseum is, it's hardly Rome's only wonder.  I loved the Spanish Steps, the Forum, and Keats' House too.

Wonder #2) Colosseum, Rome 

I was pulling for Stonehenge to make it to the new seven wonders of the world, but it didn't make the cut. Bummer. To make Stonehenge feel better about its loss, I've visited these ancient rocks three times. (No kidding: April 2003, March 2005, and October 2007.) I love Stonehenge, but I really don't need to see it again. However, I would accompany you on a visit, if you asked nicely.

Wonder #3) Stonehenge, England 

While human made things are impressive and all, I find myself most impressed by nature's own handiwork. Take the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, for example. The Causeway is made up of thousands of perfectly octagonal rock pillars, which you can attribute to volcanic forces or giants, depending on how fanciful you feel. Nearby the Causeway, there's also Giant's Organ - similar rock pillars in the side of a cliff -- and Giant's Boot, a huge rock shaped like, well, a boot.
Wonder #4 Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

I live in a place where most trees only reach my hip. (You go wildfire regeneration!) So I'm always in awe when I see a really big tree. I mean, a really, really big tree.
Wonder #5) Big Trees, Everywhere (Example above is the Sitka Spruce in the Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington)

So maybe size does matter. One thing I consider a world wonder actually makes up my backyard. It's Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Celebrated in song and story, the lake's just down right pretty.
Wonder #6) Lake Superior, Minnesota, Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin
I really hemmed and hawed for a long time about what the seventh wonder was going to be, but finally settled on Arches National Park, in southeastern Utah. It loses some "wonder"-full points for only being semi-permanent, but in this day and age, what really is permanent, I say.
Wonder #7) Arches National Park, Utah 

My close but no cigar list:
Newgrange, Ireland
The Mississippi River, Midwest
Manhattan, New York 
Eiffel Tower, Paris 
Speyer Cathedral, Germany

What are your seven wonders of the world? Have you seen any of the wonders that I've seen? What's a wonder you want to see?

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This is hard!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I spent this past Sunday afternoon catching up with two old friends. Although we all live within a two-hour radius of each other, it seems our paths rarely cross. We're all busy doing our own thing and once in a blue moon, we pause to take a few hours and catch each other up on life and all its happenings.

One's married and having her first baby in less than a month's time. The other's still figuring out what exactly her post-college life will hold, what direction her career will take, and how a relationship might figure into all of those big questions. Then there's me. I have a stable relationship and, for the most part, a stable life, but I live at the ends of the earth and as Andy so nicely put it a couple weeks back when I was bemoaning where all my money disappears to: "Ada, you don't have a spending problem, you have an income problem."

We're all at different stages of our young lives, but we all shared a common consensus: this is hard!

A bloggy friend, Amanda, just launched her first e-book, The Grad Meets World Ultimate Guide to the First Year Out of College. The book's jam packed with all sorts of things I would have liked to have known during that first year out of college and it got me thinking. When I graduated back in the stone ages of 2007, I'd decided on taking a gap year and waiting out a tempestuous job market. (Surprise: it got worse!) But I found even when I decided I was done with the transient gap year, my transient days were anything but behind me.  Now, nearly five years out of college, I have yet to have a 40 h/w, 52 w/y, we pay for health insurance and sock away some that paycheck for your retirement sort of job. 

And I'm okay with this. I'm proud to have made as much progress as I have with my freelance writing and I'm happy to have a day job that keeps me in groceries, if not total sanity. Still, it's hard not to sometimes feel like there might be something else out there, lurking just out of reach, the golden key if you will to worry-free living.

Just this evening I was watching the Sex and the City episode where Trey turns to Charlotte and says, "I'm 43. When does it start being easy?"

As the three of us talked on Sunday afternoon, it became apparent, no matter what path you choose, it's no smooth sailing at age 25 and 26. And if Trey says it's still hard at 43, I think I'll believe him, even if he is a doofus. Heck, I beat it's still downright rough at 92. 

But then again, if it weren't difficult, things just might get a little dull.So here's to perseverance and holding our own during all life dishes out. No one ever said it was going to be easy. That's just a silly notion we all seem to pick up sometime during our undergraduate years.

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A Truthful, Toothful, Tuesday Post

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I'm going to take a cue from a friend who frequently adopts the list format for her blog posts to save time. When you make lists, you don't have to worry about completing your thoughts or making a point. And since I'm back at the cabin, at least for the time being and am woefully behind on all sorts of stuff, here's what's been going on lately . . . in list form.

1) You guys! Did you know that Thanksgiving is a mere 9 days away? What the what? How did this happen?! I'm going to have to bake pumpkin pies next week already.

2) It's Andy's birthday today!

To celebrate, I made him a bourbon molasses pecan pie from the latest Better Homes and Gardens. As soon as I took the pie out of the oven, I realized I'd forgotten the vanilla.

It's official: I can not make birthday treats without forgetting some crucial ingredient. However, I feel Andy's pecan pie will fair better without vanilla than Dad's pumpkin pie did without sugar. . . maybe. 

3) It's also deadline day. (Note the lack of exclamation points on that statement.)

The big article I was worrying about a couple weeks is due today, but I actually sent it a week ago: I just had to get a cd of accompanying photos for the article in the mail today. I feel pretty calm about the whole thing. 

However, today's also deadline day for the publication I write for monthly. I have more flexibility with this deadline and luckily all of those articles are under control. I still have about an article and a half to write before I call it a day though.  

4) Our internet is finally back!!

I'd love to tell you how helpful the internet provider was in the whole ordeal, but the truth is, after multiple calls to tech support and customer support, the person who actually fixed it doesn't even work for the company. It was a frustrating two weeks, to say the least, but like Ma Ingalls used to say: "All's well that ends well."

5) I have teeth again!

Last Monday, the dentist reglued my veneer on. On Wednesday I decided to eat a frozen cookie. Needless to say, the reglued veneer did not stay cemented in place for very long. So it was back to the dentist's yesterday where they put a permanent coating on my tooth. Grand total of the tooth ordeal = $200.  However, they suckered me into scheduling a cleaning, so they haven't quite finished milking my bank accounts yet and Christmas is still a no-go around these parts since I'll be subsidizing the dental office employees' Christmas celebrations rather than my own this year. 

5) In answer to the deer questions from the last post, the deer is absolutely not hanging anywhere in the cabin. Did I say cabin? I didn't, didn't I. Shed. I meant shed. The deer's out in the shed. I will admit I forgot it was in there on Saturday when I head out to the shed to grab some gardening supplies and I was very startled to find that I wasn't alone out there!

6) So many chores to take care of before winter's here in earnest. Last bit of firewood to split and stack; a ton of venison to butcher, process, and freezer; the dock and boat still need to come out; and all on top of the normal money making business of every day.

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Rambling, Man . . .

Sunday, November 13, 2011
We've been a little scattered around Of Woods and Words lately.

I chalk this general discombobulation to two little words: deer season. Since the season opener eve last Friday, we've been hopping around between various locales: the cabin, Andy's mom place, and my parents'. In the last week, I've spent more nights in town than I have at the cabin. As much as I often claim to have an "urge for going," something about vacillating between home and your parents' place isn't quite as glamorous as heading to MSP and catching the next flight to say, Barcelona. Besides, being transient comes with a few pitfalls:
Full Disclosure: This is actually my childhood bedroom in Jan. 2005 while packing for a semester abroad
Since we live in an area still recovering from a recent wildfire, the deer population around the cabin isn't especially remarkable. As the undergrowth regenerates, there's been an obvious increase in the deer population, but Andy thought he'd have better luck if he hunted closer to town, where there are deer, literally, all over the place. Between dental appointments, freelance assignments, and various other commitments for me, it's just been easier for us to spend free time in town, especially since we're right on the cusp of "questionable driving conditions" season.

Andy'd had enough of town by this Friday morning ("Too many people" . .  . "What are these neighbor people you speak of?" Please, do remember that town has a population of less than 2000) so he took off for the cabin and I planned to stay with my parents until Monday.

But when I got back from an article interview yesterday morning, Dad mention that Andy'd called looking for my camera. Apparently, Andy'd gotten a large buck near the cabin. Guess that whole hypothesis about there being better hunting grounds closer to town was kind of flawed.

Not knowing if Andy needed some help, I hopped in the car and headed back up to the cabin. There was indeed a large buck hanging in the cabin when I arrived. I wasn't really needed to assist with anything, but Andy sure was happy to have me around to regale with stories of the hunt. To all my vegetarian readers, you'll be happy know that I arrived too late to take the mandatory "Andy with dead deer" photo.  I kind of think dead deer pictures are tacky anyway .. .

The deer was a 17.5" antler spread and a Boone and Crockett club number, at least the way we measured it,  of 112.5. We may have missed a couple of the spread measurements for the Boone and Crockett. (FYI, the record holding Boone and Crockett measurement for whitetail deer is 213.5/8"!!)

I have to admit I'm much more pleased about Andy's success now than I was last year. (Yes, he did shot the deer on the exact same date as last year. We figure he might as well wait until 7:45 on the morning November 12 to go deer hunting each year.) I've already been busily scouring cookbooks and the internet for new venison recipes. It's a good thing I got some practice with venison cooking last year, because Andy figures we'll probably get somewhere between 40-50 pounds of useable meat from this deer. That's about double the amount of meat we got from last year's doe and yep, that rounds out to a cost of  60 cents a pound when you figure in the cost of the license . . . heck yeah!

That's the news from Of Woods and Words. For now I'm off to town (and beyond!)  to catch up with some old friends. Tomorrow's filled with town appointments and errands and maybe, just maybe, on Tuesday we'll put an end to all this rambling.


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On Being Brave

Thursday, November 10, 2011
This morning, I woke up to a winter wonderland. If you've been reading this blog long enough, you know that this didn't exactly make my day.

Okay, so normally, an inch or two of fresh snow outside the window doesn't bother me too much -- it is rather pretty -- but today's snowfall marked my first winter driving experience of this season. Considering that last winter's driving experiences ended abruptly with me on my side in the ditch, it's fair to say that I've been dreading this day. Add to that dread the fact that I'm still adjusting to the manual transmission Baja. How excited was I about the snowfall outside my window? Not very.

But I had a dentist appointment to get to. No amount of dread was going to make this better. I was going to have to be brave.

"The roads are okay," Andy said over the phone from work. "Just be careful. Use the gears to slow down."

I left the house with hour and forty five minutes to spare until my appointment. The trip to town normally takes an hour. When I pulled out onto the main highway, I realized Andy's assessment of "okay" might be a little exaggerated. OKAY?! I felt the hysteria rising my throat. The road hadn't even been plowed.

Nevertheless, our hero presses on . . .

A little ways down the road, after I'd waited at the bottom of a ginormous hill for a very minor accident involving a pickup and a truck and trail to clear out, it struck me: if police officers are just a step away from being criminals, maybe being brave is just a step away from bloody stupid.

On the other hand, I was learning some important lessons. It turned out driving a manual through the snow and slop wasn't so bad. The Corolla had handled like a hockey puck in snowy conditions; the Baja handled like a tank. "This is amazing," I thought. I shifted easy between the gears. I didn't have to touch the brake pedal at all. The car slowed by itself whenever I took my foot off the gas. I felt firmly glued to the slippery road. I giggled a little when I passed an (undamaged) Camry on its side in the ditch. I mean, who does that? (Don't answer that.)

However, by the time I was halfway down the Trail, it was apparent that I wasn't going to make my appointment.  Do you know how long it takes to get into town when you're averaging 28 mph and you've got 55 miles to chug away at that speed? (Okay, I could do the math, but that's never been my forte.) It takes a long time. Like two hours long.

I pulled into Andy's workplace, called the dentist's to reschedule, waited around long enough for the plow to pass me (I'd seen the plow coming up the Trail pretty early into my journey down the Trail, so I knew he must have made the dead end loop and was not far behind me), and kept on going. Chug, chug, chug.

I'll admit, I wasn't having the time of my life. Nor did I feel particularly brave. To be honest, I felt more boneheaded than brave. Driving through all this crap and still not making it to my appointment?  What was the point of that? This farce was nothing but a freakin' waste of time. Think of all the things I could be getting done if I'd just stayed home.

My mood changed considerably when I finally hit dry pavement. I'd just survived my first winter driving of winter 2011-2012. . . . to put it in Bridget Jones speak, feeling rather rockstar-ish.

However, the question's still hanging out there:

Brave or bloody stupid?

Still can't tell.
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Calling Off Christmas

Monday, November 7, 2011
Speaking of Christmas, (we were, weren't we?) Andy and I have made an unofficial decision to call Christmas off this year.

No, we haven't been isolated from community and popular culture for so long that we've become curmudgeons who will in no way acknowledge the holiday season. I fully plan to deck the halls, bake the cookies, play the carols, get together with friends and family, etc. etc. when the holiday season truly is upon us.

(I've been spending an extended weekend in town, splitting my time between Andy's mom's place and my parents' while Andy deer hunts and after all this time in the land of fast internet and cable t.v., I feel a need to inform the world's ad agencies that Christmas is not just around the corner. Let's hold our horses, shall we?)

Despite my firm belief that Christmas is not imminent just yet, the holiday season and all its fuss and spending has been on my mind lately.

For one thing, I've been assigned the annual holiday gift guide for the publication I'm a contributing writer for. I spent some time with Mom in the shops downtown yesterday, trying to figure some new exciting spin to put on the same ol' items from the same ol' stores for this year's guide.For another thing, it's apparent that between tires, teeth and nonexistent internet (aka, technician visit!), discretionary spending funds are going to be pretty much nonexistent this December.

There's also the little fact that we don't really need anything. Sure, there are plenty of pretty, nonessential items I'd love to have, but when I look at my life objectively, it's clear we want for nothing. Our freezer and pantry are brimming with delicious, homegrown/homemade food; the closets are stuffed with clothes and footwear; we have two cars; plenty of firewood to keep us warm through the winter; we cover our monthly expenses; and there's enough money to cover the aforementioned expenses without too much strain or stress. So why make things stressful by feeling we have to go all out with presents this year? 

Yes, I am the person who retailers hate and who is in no way stimulating our floundering economy.

Not that I won't be purchasing Christmas presents this year. But I'm approaching the gift giving this year as a way to share a small token of love and appreciation with the people I love rather than go through the sometimes stressful, sometimes frustrating process of trying to figure out larger (and more expensive) items for everyone on my list this year.  Maybe we'll just do stocking stuffers for everyone this year. Maybe small themed baskets. I haven't decided yet, but I'm hoping for a simple, but sincere Christmas this year.

It seems like this year "presents" giving us a wonderful opportunity to focus on all we already have. Why let Christmas crowd out the autumn holiday we should really be stretching out over the entire year: Thanksgiving.

Have you ever called off Christmas? Will your Christmas spending this year stay the same as prior years or do you plan to cut or expand your budget?

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All I Want For Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth

Friday, November 4, 2011
This morning, my tooth fell out.

Actually, I shouldn't be so dramatic.

This morning an entire tooth did not fall out of my mouth.

Rather, this morning, as I sat down with my plate full of bacon and blueberry pancake, bit into a piece of bacon and felt a funny sensation in one of my front teeth . . . a cracking sensation. When I went to investigate, I  pulled out a teeny white shell. The shell looked familiar, but I have to admit the first thought that ran through my head was "what the &*@#! was in that bacon?!" But I quickly realized, with a sinking feeling in my stomach, that the familiar white shell was the veneer that had been glued to my front tooth for more than a decade.

Since I was sixteen, I've had veneer caps on my two top front teeth. For whatever reason, both my brother and I suffered severe stains on our permanent top front teeth. No one's sure why. Something in the water? Children's vitamins? Who knows? The moral of the story is that the dentist decided the most fail-proof way to "remove" the stains was to cover them up with supposedly "permanent" veneers.

And it was fail-proof. .  .
See, you can even tell those aren't my "real" front teeth

Until today.

Now I'm missing the front of those veneers, exposing my weird, chiseled down "real" tooth, while back of the veneer still hangs on jaggedly. Trust me, it is not a look quite as cute as this:
Girl with Missing Teeth
As luck would have it, the dentist isn't open on Friday, so I won't know what's going to happen with this tooth of mine until Monday at the earliest. But I'm not in any pain, just a little self-conscious (the veneers always were a matter of vanity) and a little bummed out about more unexpected expenses. And while I certainly wasn't planning on having a tooth cap pop off, my brother has had both of his veneers pop off in the last few years so I knew I might be dealing with this problem sooner or later. Still, bummer.

I swear, all I want for Christmas this year are my two front teeth.

Are you listening Santa?

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Rage Against the Word Count

Thursday, November 3, 2011
I’m going to admit something that may make me sound like an overachieving priss. Back in college, when assigned 750 word papers (it could be expected you’d be writing two or three of these per English course) I consistently turned in 1000 - 1500 word papers. I never felt I could make my point in 750 words, so I just kept writing until I ran out of things to say.

Did the papers need to be twice their assigned length? Probably not. Given enough time with a red editing pen, no doubt I could have slashed out hundreds of extra words, removed redundant points and turned in a tight 750 paper. But since my papers, regardless of their length, more often than not earned “A”s, trimming the papers seemed like a waste of time. Professors may have gotten more than they’d asked for with my ridiculously long papers (for one 10-page paper assignment, I turned in 18 pages), but I got exactly what I wanted.

In hindsight, it probably would have behooved the professors to dock me points for my lengthy papers. Certainly, I successfully answered the question asked in the assignment, but my blatant disregard of the paper’s word limit really meant I hadn’t completed the paper in the manner in which it had been assigned. I would have raged against any professor who suggested I might cut my paper, (“But I can’t make my point in less than 1300 words!”) but truth of it is: they would have been right and I would have been wrong.

As it is, I’ve had to curb my verbosity all by my lonesome. Long-windedness is an indulgence; one that most freelance writers don’t get to experience.

If I turned in a 1500 word article for a 750 word assignment these days, my editors would have a shit-fit. In freelance writing, I’m given a word count because that’s literally all there’s room for in the publication. Even if the writing isn’t for a print publication, the writing still must be concise because you can’t expect to hold people’s attention for much more than 500 words on the web.

Right now I’m working on a 1000 word article for a publication with the largest circulation I’ve ever written for. It’s also my highest paying market to date. As exciting as it is, there’s just one little rub: I have enough material to write a solid 2500 word article.

In the past couple days I’ve been trying to cram every possible point I want to make for the article into the confines of 1000 words. I’ve cut and cut and cut. I’ve reworded sections and reorganized points. It feels not dissimilar to shoving just one more clown into the car.

I’ll get this sucker down to 1000 words if it’s the last thing I do. I have no choice. Regardless of when I run out of things to say, I run out of words at the 1000 mark.

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Daylights Savings Time and Wardrobe Malfunctions

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
When it comes to working from home, I have a couple rules. They have nothing to do with goals or time management. In fact, they’re so simple, they sound kind of silly.

Rule# 1: Get up at a decent hour every day. Preferably, the same decent hour every day. Coincidently, following this rule is dependent on me going to bed at a reasonable hour each night as well.

Rule # 2: Put some pants on.

As you might have guessed, lately I have not been following either rule with any great success. Something about our internet outage, which continues to drag on -- I’m currently using an archaic dial-up connection . . . Internet forever! -- leaves me feeling out of touch and slightly picked on. With the barrier of not having ready access to the internet making it difficult to communicate and research, I see no real need to spring out of bed each morning: might as well let the day unfold organically until we’re back at full capacity.

And then there’s the other fact: it is so very dark in the mornings. Andy leaves the house before 7 each morning and has taken to building a fire before he goes. As the fire crackles in the stove and the little house shakes off its nightly chill, it’s hard not burrow under the covers and fall into a final, especially cozy, slumber before starting the day. Perhaps when we shed daylight savings time this weekend, I’ll be able to pull myself out of bed at a decent hour (aka, anytime before 8), but during our current run of dark mornings and grey days, sleeping in seems inevitable.

Each morning, after I’ve broken rule #1, I proceed to break rule #2. While rule #1 exists because I firmly believe a good start to the day will buoy you through anything else the day throws at you, rule #2 exists because I’m also a firm believer that what you wear each day influences your reactions to the world around you. Regardless of what I accomplish while wearing a bathrobe, the fact that I was wearing a bathrobe while I did it kind of makes me feel like an under-employed ninny. I try to sit down in front of the computer every day, fully clothed in something I’d go out in public in. But lately I’ve taken to wearing my roomiest jeans and an old bleach-stained sweatshirt or ancient Polarfleece pullover. Not exactly the outfit of champions.

There are a couple reasons for my slovenly wear as of late. Since our firewood delivery last month, I spend about an hour every afternoon stacking wood, a filthy chore. I see no reason to get dressed twice in one day (let’s just be happy I managed to pull it off once, okay?) so I’ve gravitated towards my work grubs. That also might have a little something to do with the fact I can only seem to find work grubs in my wardrobe.

I’ve never been someone with an overabundance of clothes. I wear things until they’re shot. In college, my roommates used to throw my hole-y socks away because they knew I’d keep wearing the socks until they literally disintegrated. Because I’ve stayed the same size since hitting puberty (albeit, with a slight thickening in the thighs and upper arms in recent years) much of my clothing is a good decade old.

Right now all of my mildly fashionable jeans are all sporting a rip at the tippy-top of the right back pocket. (Maybe go up a size next time, eh?)

My eight-year-old belt finally frayed into uselessness a couple days back. All my socks have holes in the heels. When most people say they have nothing to wear, they’re usually being dramatic.

When I say I have nothing to wear, it’s because it’s the truth.

Who knew two little rules could be so tricky to keep? However, I’m determined to get back on track. After all, a well-rested slob is only good company for so long.

Do you have any tricks for getting going each morning? Any rules you live by?
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