Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Outtakes

It's been one of those week's where I'm tempted to tell you that nothing happened. But if nothing happened this weekend, then why am I sitting on the couch this Saturday morning feeling like I've been run over by a truck? I spent the last two days in town at a radio production workshop and between that and a dinner out last night to celebrate one of Andy's coworker's last day, this hermity introvert is beat.

But, but, not only was the workshop an excellent opportunity for testing out my new Smartpen, it was a great workshop. (What a nice change from my other recent attempts at continuing education!) The instructors were sweet and nurturing, but also not afraid to challenge and push the small group of 10. The workshop focused primarily on creating radio features and all that talking about interviewing, editing, and script-building just reinforces my belief that it's time for me to get out of management. Somehow . . .

After two weeks of June-like weather, we've had a return of typical northern Minnesota spring weather.   But before things got really cold and grey, Andy and I tromped back on a very overgrown, obstructed trail that's being reopened on the grounds of the museum where I work. The trail's flagged all the way to its destination (Blueberry Hill, pictured below, which has a panoramic view of the surrounding area), but between a blowdown storm in 1999, a wildfire in 2007, and absolutely no maintenance work for nearly 15 years, a lot of work needs to be done before the trail can be opened to the public. So if you're knacky with a chainsaw, let me know.
Last weekend I announced plans to finish not one, but two pairs of socks. Here both pairs are in all their glory:
 
 
What's the next  knitting project? Knitting up and felting a pair of clog slippers to replace these bad boys:
 
Not that those slippers need to be replaced. Lots of life in them yet . . . *cough*

I don't think I'll be hopping in the freshly open lake anytime soon, but we've had a couple of "neighbors" testing out the chilly water: 
Otter
Muskrat?
Sprouts keep popping up. Since we did get two inches of snow on Thursday night, Andy did bring our little pot of lettuce sprouts inside. They seem a little happier inside than battling 30 degree weather outside. 
Kohlrabi, broccoli, basil, flowers and more poking up in the seedling greenhouse
And as if that wasn't enough awesomeness for one week, check out this announcement:  

I've been hearing rumors of an Anchorman sequel since early 2008 and as someone who wore out her Anchorman DVD, I am pumped!

Happy weekend!
 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I will judge you




I have a teensy, weensy little problem with being judgmental.

I mean, it's not a big deal.

For example, the other evening we were listening to the radio and the folk singer dedicated his next song to his daughter, Sienna.

"Sienna?!" I nearly shrieked. "What kind of person names their kid after a minivan? I mean, what's her brother named? Sorento?"

But everyone does that  . . . right?  (No offense to any Mamas or Papas of Siennas -- or Sorentos for that matter -- out there.)

The truth is, I've been judgmental as long as I can remember. When I first took the Myers-Briggs back in Sunday School, I didn't really understand the difference between having a judging or perceiving personality. But my parents laughed pretty hard when they heard that all but one of my answers indicated a judging personality.  (Now why we were taking Myers-Briggs personality tests in Sunday School, I can not tell you. All I know is that I was raised in the United Church of Christ which is filled with dirty hippies bleeding-liberals the belief that we are all God's children and that there is no wrong or right way to go about religious instruction.) To this day, my introversion and judging are the two factors of my personality that show up most decidedly on such tests.

And you know those quote board you kept in your dorm room or apartment during college? One of the quotes attributed to me was: "I don't know her and I don't want to know her. I just want to judge her."  I think the quote was somehow related to someone's Facebook profile page. (Back when Facebook was just for college kids. Remember those days?) Regardless of how that quote came about, I mean, good grief.

I swear I'm not an awful, heinous person. I'm perfectly capable of being friends (good friends) with people who don't share my political, religious, or ideological belief system. I'm tolerant of other cultures. I try to approach life with an open mind.  I've just always had an issue with expressing my snap judgements verbally. Apparently the axiom "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" just never stuck in my brain.

Lately, I've been thinking I should probably work on not saying the first thing that pops into my head. You know, at least not all the time. 

But it's hard, you know.

Like last night, when I was sitting on couch, knitting away on a sock and noticed an unfamiliar truck rumble by the cabin. Because the cabin's perched on the tip of a bay, we have a great view of the road that loops around the bay and as I watched the truck creep up the road it became obvious that these people had no idea where they were. The truck went all the way up the farthest driveway, then backed out and stopped at the far end of the road.

Four men popped out of the truck's cab, all dressed in grey tops and jeans. Three of them had fishing poles in their hands and they each proceeded to hop onto various docks. Not public docks, mind you, docks owned by summer residents of the bay. One of them even jumped onto a dock which is anchored slightly offshore. (The docks are all anchored "at sea" during the winter months so they can bob around when the ice goes out and not get ripped to shreds.) The fourth member of the party walked down the road, picking up rocks and hurling them into the lake.Then, after about 10 minutes of casting their lines and throwing rocks, just as suddenly as they'd come, they all popped into their truck and drove off, never to be seen again.

All the while, I sat on the couch, knitting away. All that was needed to make me a "real" old biddy was a shawl, some glasses on a beaded lanyard, and a rocking chair. I didn't say anything at all. (Full disclosure: I was home alone.) But I sure judged the snot out of them.

Please make me not feel like a horrible person and tell me I'm not alone in making awful, off the cuff, "I don't know the whole story" judgements. And please, if you know how to make it stop, let me know!  I promise I won't judge . . . too harshly. ;)

 

Monday, March 26, 2012

And then it was gone

Our ice went out on Saturday night.

When I woke up yesterday and peered out the window, I found open water as far as I could see down the lake.

I've never been around for ice out before and I'm not sure what I was expecting. The tinkling of magic bells? A chorus of fairies heralding in the spring? The ice didn't even makes its usual groans and cracks this year as it went. Instead, it just disappeared.

Honestly, I kind of miss the ice. I may not love winter as a whole, but ice and I are good friends. (Well, maybe let's exclude black ice . . . .) Since this winter was without writing dates with the neighbor, I didn't make regular treks down the lake this winter and I feel like I took this year's ice for granted and let it go under-appreciated. Our rapid thaw this month meant the ice basically dissolved in front of our eyes and we never reached the point where the snow on top of the ice melted down to a crust as hard and sturdy as a sidewalk. No long rambles down the lake this March on top of "sugar cookie" ice like I'd hoped.

Still, between skating on the lake in December, a hike down the lake where we discovered recent wolf tracks, and a couple ice fishing excursions, it was a lovely ice season while it lasted:
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 18, 2012
March 25, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sowing and Socks (But not sewing socks)

I fell asleep last night to the pitter-pat of rainfall on the roof. While I'm no fan of sleeping through thunderstorms, I think the sound of a gentle rain is one of the loveliest sounds there is, a sweet, happy tinkling herald of spring and regrowth.

I always welcome a good rainy day, but we're especially grateful for rainfall this spring. After a low snow year, we need plenty of moisture to help the woods green up and to keep the forest fire danger down.
After last night's rainfall, the ice in the bay looks like it's seriously thinking about shipping out for the season. The ice is already out on some of the larger lakes up here, making it the earliest ice out up here ever. We're beating the prior earliest ice out dates by nearly three weeks. Yowzers!

The rain inspired more action outside today. I found a trio of sprouts out and about the yard this afternoon:

From left to right: lettuce sprouting in the cold frame, the first rhubarb nubs poking up (please let these be productive this year; otherwise I will have to barter homemade jam for rhubarb - I can't go two springs without it!), and garlic shoots. Last year, none of these guys were poking up until the end of April.

While Mother Nature is getting way ahead of herself this year, I'm planning to stay right on schedule with my seed starting schedule. I figure if I start things way ahead of time just because right now it feels like the end of May, we'll probably end up with a series of killing frosts when it actually is the end of May. (Hey, I never said I was an optimist.)

I'm not getting any more adventurous with this warm weather than starting a pot of lettuce in the cold frame because, frankly, I'm not terribly attached to the lettuce. Sure, it would be swell to have a fresh lettuce salad in the middle of April, but I'm not going to be too heartbroken if my little lettuce sprouts succumb to some unforeseen disaster in the next few weeks. Since spinach likes cool weather so well, I may start some spinach too because, well, same thing, I don't care too much if it flops. 

For things I don't have such a laissez-faire attitude towards - i.e. my tomatoes, peppers, basil, etc -- I'll be keeping them inside until late April at the earliest. Better safe than sorry.

Last night the UPS man delivered the pack of seeding starting mix and the last seeds I needed for this season, so tomorrow I'll be clearing off the kitchen table, turning on weekend NPR, and getting the first set of seeds planted. I'm planning to stagger my planting a bit more this year so I don't have nine kohlrabi that all want to be eaten at the same time this summer.

Here's what's getting sown tomorrow:
  • Tomatoes (Early Girl, Brandywine, and Yellow Pear Cherry) 
  • Jalapenos 
  • Bell peppers 
  • Herbs (Parsley, Sweet Basil, Thai Basil)
  • Broccoli (first planting of three) 
  • Cabbage (first planting of three) 
  • Kohlrabi (first planting of three) 
I should start some flowers tomorrow too, but I honestly haven't put much thought into those.  All of our prime growing real estate (that is to say: sunny spots) in the backyard are devoted to veggies, so our flower beds tend to be rather sad and scraggly. In a twist of ultimate irony, I spent my pre-gardening days longing for a flower garden, but now devote most of my energy to vegetables while Andy, who initially wanted to grow vegetables, tends to the flowers. I will for sure start some nicotiana tomorrow because it smells so very lovely on summer evenings. As for the other flowers I'll start, who knows, eh.

Other weekend plans include finishing up this little sock's mate:
If you're looking closely, yes the top ribbing is a different color. I used little bits of leftover yarn for the ribbing to make this a true stash busting project. This is my first toe-up sock and I have to say, it was a revelation; no blasted kitchener stitch! That said, although I like the appearance of the toe much better than I do on my leg-down socks, I don't particularly like appearance of the heel when handled with increases instead of decreases. However, the fact that I have more control over how much yarn I use is great for when I have limited amounts of yarn at my disposal because I can stop knitting at any point on leg. That means things like this can't happen: 


Remember those frilly anklets I started back in January? Where I ran out of yarn halfway through the second sock? The yarn I need to finish up that forgotten little sock went on sale this week (you didn't think I'd pay full price for it, did you?) and with any luck, the yarn will arrive tomorrow.  Maybe this weekend will end with two new pairs of woolen socks. . . .

And to those of you (ahem, Mollie) who kindly suggested I just finish up the sock with orange yarn, I'm sorry to say that I am a wimpy, unadventurous knitter who ordered more matching turquoise yarn to finish the anklet. I am boring.

Have you started seeds for the season? What are your weekend plans?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Freelance Writing Trenches: Tools and Gadgets

I like writing because it's low-tech. Technically, all you need to call yourself a writer is something to write with, something to write on, and a bit of imagination.There's something simple and elegant about needing nothing more than a pen and pad of paper to go about your daily work.

But in classic, "If you a give a mouse a cookie (then he'll want a glass of milk)" style, if you want to be a freelance writer, you'll need a few more items at your disposal beyond a notebook and pen. I know, I know. Rude.

While writers are notorious tech-phobes and pretty staunchly opposed to change  -- why else do we writers make a big fuss about self-publishing and ebooks? -- if you're want to compete in the 21st century writing markets, you're going to have to keep up with the times to a certain extent. The other day I read a freelance writing article (which I now can't find to link up) that said something along the lines of "Sure, you can not have a computer and be a freelance writer, but see how well that goes when someone says 'email that to me' and the best you can do is crumble up a piece of paper and throw it across the room." 

Here's my low-tech list of the bare necessities you'll need as a freelance writer:
(I bet you have most or all of these already.) 
  • A computer, preferably a laptop, that isn't terrible prone to the "blue screen of death."
  • A word processing program - Microsoft Word seems to be what most editors use.
  • An internet connection - for your email, website, and social media platform
  • Email - for contacting editors and submitting pieces 
  • A phone - for interviews
  • An invoicing system - like Quickbooks
  • A decent camera - you'll greatly increase your earning potential if you can provide decent photos with your articles. I just have basic Canon point and shoot camera which works well enough for what I need it to do, but I'd like to save up for a DSLR camera to up the quality of my photos a little bit. 
If you want to get all fancy, you could get printer too. I have a printer/scanner/copier combo which I use to print out contracts, scan clips for my portfolio, and, well, make copies. And don't forget to have a good amount of office supplies laid in: pens, notebooks, printing paper, ink, Post-Its, etc.

While I'm a fan of keeping it simple, I have to admit my arsenal of freelance writing tools got a little high-tech recently when I was given a Livescribe Echo Smartpen.
What's a Smartpen? It's a pen with a built-in recording device that works with special dotted paper. At the bottom of each page of Smartpen paper is a set of controls. To record audio with the pen, you just turn the pen on and with the tip of your pen, tap the record control at the bottom of the paper. The pen records until you hit the stop control and during the recording session you can scribble notes on the paper.

After you're finished recording, you can tap any of the notes you wrote during the recording and the pen will starting playing the audio that was recorded at the exact time you wrote the note. You can load all of the recordings onto your computer and computer program even captures a digital image of the page you wrote on during the recording.   The pen is a little bulky, but that's easily overlooked since the pen is basically magic.

My dad discovered the Smartpen when he read James Fallow's review of it in The Atlantic back in 2009  and what's good enough for James Fallows is good enough for this hard-hitting rural journalist. Although I do the majority of my interviews over the phone, this little pen will be a great aid when I do in-person interviews. I simply can't take notes as quickly as people talk and as a result, the quotes I use in most of my articles are pretty heavily edited by my memory.

While to date, I've stayed true to the general gist of what a person said in my article quotations, it's been extremely difficult to do a true word for word quotation unless you've recorded the interview, which I'm pretty psyched about my new Smartpen. No need to futz around trying to find the spot like I'd have to if I'd use a tape recorder or digital recorder to capture the interview audio; with the Smartpen I can just write something like "interesting" or "important" on the page when the interviewee says something meaningful and when I'm back in my office I just tap the word I wrote on the page and bingo, the audio starts playing right to the quote I wanted to use in the article.

The pen charges by being hooked up to a computer USB port and the battery and memory should be able to hand a full day of recording. Since most of the interviews I do are only about an hour long, that's plenty of recording time for me!

A writer really needs very few tools and gadgets to success. But sometimes, something as simple as just getting a little more high-tech about that pad of paper and pen we're using can make our low-tech careers   just a little easier.

Do you have any must have writing tools?
 

 Disclosure: I was in no way compensated for my review of the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. I'm just an enthusiastic consumer excited to have found a product that makes my writing life more efficient! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Going North

"So goodbye for a while I'm off to explore 
Every boundary and every door 
Yeah I'm going north . . . 

Up where the hunted hide with ease 
Under the arms of eye-less trees 
Up where the answers fall like leaves 
Oh and your love is all I need 
Yeah I'm going north"
- Missy Higgins "Going North"

I just got back from a very misty walk out to the mailbox. The weather's taken a turn for the grey (I woke to hear raindrops pitter-pattering on the rooftop last night), but the temperatures are still unseasonably warm. Today the temp's hovering around 50 and with no passive solar coming through our south facing windows (which Andy cleaned yesterday --suddenly our outside view got a lot brighter!) the temperature inside the cabin is about 63. A little chilly for room temperature, yes, but I will not, I will not build a fire when it's 50 degrees outside.



Besides, if I built a fire, then I'd have to change out of my cozy cashmere sweater into a t-shirt and I've had just about enough of running around in t-shirts in March, thank you very much. March through May is supposed to be prime sweater wearing season in these parts, when I can wear my frillier, lighter sweaters without having to wear Smartwool long underwear underneath and a big fluffy vest on top. But sweater season has been foiled by the Arctic meltdown of 2012 and so I am keeping the house nice and cool today,  just so my sweaters won't miss me.

I don't mean to be the dull blogger who writes about nothing but the weather, but honestly, this weather is crazy.

It looks like we're on track to have the earliest ice out ever - the previous record was in 2010 when the ice went out on April 11. We may end the winter lake trout season (which concludes on March 31st) in boats! 


Yesterday, Andy and I looked at each other and finally said the question we've both been thinking: Is the world ending?  

(I mean, a world without sweater season? Is it really worth going on?!)

Luckily, Andy, being resourceful and all, has a solution to this discomfit that comes from early ice outs and unseasonable weather. It's a solution that will result in never-ending sweater season. We just have to move . . .
to Alaska.


Now, whenever Alaska is mentioned, whenever I see an Alaska license plate, I feel the need to sing out "North! To Alaska" ala Johnny Horton. And I'm just a little nervous that if we actually moved to Alaska, there would be a lot more Johnny Horton in my life and I'm just not ready for that.

Also, considering the hit my social life has taken just by settling in bumblef__k rural Minnesota, I really don't want the majority of social contact to be with grizzly bears. (And yes, I did see Grizzly Man .  . . no thank you.) While my bags are packed and ready for Canada, I'm not sure I'm up for the land of the midnight sun just yet.

But I think everyone has a direction they're drawn in. Some people long for the sands and heat of the south. Pioneers were encouraged to "go west!" And despite several attempts in my early 20s to convince myself that I was meant to head east, it's obvious that the direction that tugs at my heart strings is north.

How north is this heart of mine willing to go? Only time will tell. But probably not all the way "North! to Alaska." Although, how many months out of the year would I get to wear my sweaters up there  . . .? 

What direction does your heart move? Anyone other than me and Meri upset about missing out on spring apparel this year?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Winter That Wasn't: Part II

So back in January, I penned a post entitled "The Winter That Wasn't." The basic gist of the post was: "Okay winter. Shit, or get off the pot." (Of course, I was far more elegant at the time.)

Well, apparently winter listened, because at some moment last week (I think it was Monday), winter decided to get off the pot. And winter didn't dilly-dally. It didn't waste time singing "Happy Birthday" to itself while it washed its hands. Nope, winter 2011-2012 took a drop of Purell and hightailed it on out of here.

I mean pussywillows on March 18th? Come on!


I wanted to love it. (After all, the moral of the story in "The Winter That Wasn't - Part I" was oh, I wish it were spring already.) But honestly? I find this absurd weather kind of creepy. It's not that we're having an early spring. It's like we've bypassed spring all together and are in the midst of summer. And I'm a girl who likes her seasons to come in the proper order, please and thank you!

I know the whole country has been experiencing some crazy high temperatures this spring. But for most of the winter, up here in northern Minnesota we've been able to hold onto some semblance of winter. That all changed last week when we started having consistent highs in the 60s. On Saturday, the temps climbed to 70s. The forecast doesn't hold any promise of it cooling off for quite some time. Already, the ice in the bay is looking downright rotten.


As a compare and contrast, here's what the bay looked like on April 11th, last year.

It's not unusual for the ice-out date for this lake to be in early - mid May. This year, it looks like ice out could come in March or early April which would be a new record. 

I want to soak up the sunshine and be enamored with this unseasonable weather. But instead I see extremely low water levels. Unless we have a veritable monsoon this spring, we are going to be in for some extreme fire danger this spring and summer.

I ran walked over to work yesterday afternoon to pick up some books and found that part of the lake's bay near the museum had disappeared. It's not a great example, but the first picture shows how the bay appeared yesterday and second shows what the bay normally looks like in May. Ugh. Low lake levels are so ugly!

I worry that this early spring will have totally ruined this year's maple syrup production. I worry about how the wildlife and flora will respond to this odd weather. I worry . . . .

I feel like the opposite of the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Rather than running around murmuring "I'm late, I'm late," I'm surveying the world around me and murmuring "Too early, too early."

Of course, I won't be terribly sad if this early spring means an extended growing season. The cold frame looked so sad and lonely in this warm weather that I just had to plant something in it. (Apparently I couldn't content myself with re-potting houseplants. I am happy this warm weather gave me an opportunity to repot a very root-bound rosemary plant out on the deck.) I sprinkled some "spring mix" lettuce seeds in a pot, watered it and put it in the cold frame. I won't be terribly upset if it suddenly grows cold again and the lettuce doesn't sprout. In fact, it may be a bit of a trick just for me to remember to water it. After all, it's not even spring yet.

Has it been unusually warm where you are? What's your favorite thing to do in the spring?

 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Freelance Writing Trenches: Business or Pleasure?

I had an epiphany early this week. As freelance job after freelance job snapped into place, I realized that if I had to, I could probably make this freelancing thing work on a full-time basis. It might not be pretty a lot of the time, but it would work . . . if it had to.

You see, at the end of last month, money was feeling a little tight. So I decided to stop letting that line on my weekly to-do list - "3 queries" - not go unchecked yet another week. I sent out three queries to publications I'd previously worked with and I got a thumbs up on all of three queries. Then, wonder of wonders, some of the articles that I'd gotten through those queries lead to more paying opportunities and suddenly I was riding a wave of freelance jobs and opportunities.

Obviously, things aren't always like this - for every lucrative writing month like this one, there'll be an equal, if not greater, dry spell when it comes to writing gigs.

That's okay.

I keep my day job to see me through those dry spells. But sometimes, it feels that I spent far too much time tangled up in the safety net that is my day job. Often I feel the day job holding me back rather than merely keeping me on my feet and I wonder what would happen if I simply left it behind me.

This week, I realized, things would probably be okay sans day job. I'm just not willing to sit around and let ends not meet. Over the last few weeks, I've proven than I can fairly easily step up my earning potential when needs be.

Which brings me to the point of this post. . . .

Money

My writing has turned into a business. Sure, I write because, as Sylvia Plath said "there's a voice within me that will not be still." But sometimes, I think it's bills rather than artistic vision that keeps that voice within chattering away. I write to get paid. 

The farther down the freelance writing road I go, the more imperative it becomes that I get paid for my words. I hate to think I wouldn't write if I didn't get paid for it, but at this point in my life, I have limited amounts of time every day and I need to invest my time carefully for the best payout. Heck, even the blog's monetized a just enough to get it to pay for its annual domain renewal.

But as an English major, someone who raised to see writing as more of an art form than a livelihood, all this talk of monetizing feels, well, a little yucky. Shouldn't writers just be happy to be writing and creating? I truly enjoy the vast majority of freelance writing gigs I take, but there's also a thrill in knowing I'm being paid a certain word rate to research and write. Does that mean I've sold out? 

Case in point . . . . A couple years back, I started doing a bi-weekly commentary for the local radio station. (You can link to it up above "Of Woods and Words On Air".) At the time, I was just starting to seriously pursue freelance writing. I didn't have many paying gigs and I happily started writing and recording the commentary for free because it seems like good writing practice and great platform building.

But lately the commentary has become a pain in my B-U-T-T. Between writing and recording the commentary, I probably spend about 2.5 hours every two weeks on the commentary, not to mention the two-hour round trip to the studio to record it and the hassle of reserving a studio, etc. In the past year, the writing for the commentary's gone flat. I feel constantly at a loss for topics. It's easy to wonder if it's really worth it.

It seems to me I have two options with the commentary at this point, (well, three, if you consider sucking it up and continuing to record it on biweekly basis) each equally shallow:

Option 1) Ditch the commentary. Shallow because, really, I'm going to ditch an obligation because it doesn't pay me?  But, but, I'm also perceptually stuck for ideas and it seems like the writing gets worse and worse as the weeks go by.  Is it good business, even if I'm not getting paid, to stick my name on writing I'm not particularly proud of?

Option 2) Attempt to monetize the commentary. Continue to do the commentary for free for the local station, but either syndicate or find a paying market for each commentary. Shallow, obviously, since apparently the only way I find value in my writing is if I'm getting paid for it. On the other hand, getting paid for writing really  does increase the value of the writing to me, which in turn should mean that the writing in the commentaries would improve.

*sigh*

They say it always boils down to money and I suppose that's true, even for dreamy, impractical writers. But as much as I delight in my freelance writing business success, it's sad to watch writing for pleasure disappear from my life, at least for the time being.

Have you ever had a hobby turn into business? Any tips for maintaining a business while remaining artistically true to yourself?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pie Confessions

Mission Pie - Dessert
So here I sit, sinking my teeth into a bite of banana creme pie leftover from my birthday. I do like me some banana creme pie and I haven't had it in years, but there's another reason why I requested it when my mom asked me what sweet treat I'd like for my birthday. I requested banana creme pie because Andy said he didn't like it.

You see, I'm usually a key lime pie sort of girl when it comes to birthday treats. But apparently Andy is a key lime pie sort of boy and whenever there's a key lime pie in the house, it has a mysterious way of disappearing. When I go into the fridge, expecting to find a third of a key lime pie, I find the plastic wrap all akimbo over the pie plate and a miniscule piece of pie with fork tine grooved sides tipped over in a pile of crust crumbs.

It's no secret that Andy and I are good eaters. Despite being 8 inches shorter and many pounds lighter than Andy, I can often match Andy bite for bite during meals. ((Bless you, metabolism.) But that all changes when everything gets tucked in the fridge and the kitchen light goes out for the night. Andy is the kind of person who thinks nothing of going into the fridge "after hours" to scoop out cold forkfuls of whatever he pleases. If he's especially fond of whatever was cooked for dinner, he'll eat it for breakfast and lunch the next day.

This "no rules" eating shocked me in the early days of our relationship. How could a 9x13 pan of lasagna, enchiladas, or what have you, be gone in less than 24 hours? I was raised in house where dinner was, and still is, a structured event. Leftovers were expected to be reheated and served for dinner at a later date and under no circumstances were you to eat those leftovers before that designated date unless you were specifically invited to. But when I moved in with Andy, leftovers go a lot less civilized. I learned that if you wanted a second piece, by gum, you were going to have to fight for it.

Things have calmed down a bit as we enter our late 20s. Entrees that used to last mere hours, now stretch out over two or three days.  Still, it's not unusual for me to grab the doggie bag I brought home the night before and find 2/3 of the contents gone when I go to eat it at lunchtime.

They say it's a dog eat dog world out there, but around here, it's boyfriend eat doggie bag world.

For my birthday this year, I wanted a truce. I wanted a temporary end to the angry squealing that ensues when I opened up the fridge door and viewed the latest leftover carnage. So here it is, four days after the pie's creation and I'm polishing off the final piece of banana creme pie on my schedule.

Honestly, this whole banana creme pie has been kind of dull. It's not much fun not sharing and anymore I think food tastes better when you've used wile to obtain it.

But never fear, the leftover games begin again tomorrow.

 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Desire To Run

For the last couple months, I've had a desire to run. Not run "away," mind you, although depending on the day, sometimes that can seem like a good idea. Just a desire to lace up some running shoes, hit the pavement and start going.

There's just one little issue.

I don't run.

My brother runs, my father runs, my uncles run. I have a cousin who runs marathons. I've been trying  to run since my preteen days and all that it's ever resulted in for me is a really red face and a bunch of loogies. (TMI? TMI.) I've managed a few 5Ks in my day, but really, I don't like running and running doesn't like me. As I've grown older, it's become apparent that pounding pavement makes my knees go in two different directions. (Any fellow patellofemoral pain syndrome sufferers out there?)

So why try again? Why bother, when I've proven it's not my cup of tea over and over again?

When I returned home from London, I ran for a couple months and I'd gotten fairly decent at it before my knees screamed at me to stop. Now, through tape and exercise, I've figured out ways to make my knees behave and since my exercise this winter has been limited to the daily mile-long round trip to the mail box and the occasional hike to the fishing hole, it's time to step my cardio exercise up a bit. I've been a slug.

While I haven't exactly been packing on the pounds this winter, I've become a little more "plush" then I care to be. After all, I'm 27 years old. If I'm not in the best shape of my life now, when will I be? I'm no star athlete, but as someone who swam and played hockey and soccer as a teen, I know my fitness level has the potential to be much greater than it is currently.

Then there's the whole bucket list thing; I've always wanted to run at least one marathon in my life. Last summer I stumbled upon this blog and began to why I've always made running a marathon one of those goals I'll worry about tomorrow. All sorts of people surprise themselves into running marathons and here I am, an able bodied 20-something, complaining that my knees are too bad to even bother trying.

Really?

I am the person who moved to London with no job prospects and no housing lined up after college and managed to live there happily and successfully for my visa's allowed six months. I am the person who took a B.A. in English - which everyone said I'd need another advanced degree in if I wanted any sort of career - and turned it into a decent freelance writing business. I am the person who bought a manual transmission car, without knowing how to drive it, which I now happily toodle around in.

But I won't run because it's hard? Really?

Every once in a while we all need a kick in the butt, a reality check. A time to stop pining and a time to start doing. 

With our current spring-like weather, much of our snow is melting. The shoulder of the road is clear and dry and ready for runners. If I put off buying a pair of running shoes much longer, I'm just procrastinating. 

So I think I'll start running again. Because I want to. Because I can.

Do you run? How did you get started? Is there anything new you'll be trying out this spring? 


 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Late Winter Snapshots: The Week That Was

It's been one of those weeks. Despite have more than enough to keep me occupied, I've managed to do the bare minimum. Why? Who knows? Somewhere, deep down, that procrastinator inside me was reawakened and I suddenly felt very, very sleepy.  It was an odd enough week anyway; both of us getting over a cold and a different work schedule for Andy.

But here are some snapshots from what we did do this week. 
On Thursday, we trekked back to "ye olde fishing hole." The forecast said it would be calm, overcast, and warm. Instead it was sunny and warm (not going to argue with that), but so windy that our footprints drifted in within an hour. We spent some time on the shore, hiding from the wind in front of campfire, but after catching one fish on a tip-up and not having any action while jigging, we packed it up pretty early in the afternoon.
 
I may not have gotten a great amount of work done this week, but yesterday I took a field trip out to one of the local maple stands for an article I'm working on about maple syrup. While freelance writing is often a rather unglamorous profession -lots of phone interviews and worrying about illustrations - I do love when a piece involves a field trip. The maple syrup operation I visited has 18,000 taps and an intricate vacuum system (pictured above) for getting the sap to their sugar house. Each year they produced about 500 gallons of pure maple syrup. (Wowzers!) With temperatures creeping up into the 40s (and above!) this coming week, the sugar run should be upon us very soon.

This is Elsie. My parents are dogsitting her and because I'm hanging out at home this weekend to get my annual fix of the Minnesota Boys State High School tournament, I'm the dogsitting assistant. Elsie is pretty sweet, but she's none too sure how about all of us.  Hopefully she'll settle down soon and get some sleep!
In other news, I turn 27 today. Yikes, where did that year go?! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring is on its way! I swear . . .

I know in about a month's time, I'll be penning a post in which I wonder where the @%!#?* spring is already, but for the time being I'm optimistic that spring is right around the corner. Never mind that today started out at 45 degrees, but now it's just above freezing and snowing.  Spring is coming, gosh dang it! Here's my proof: 

Yesterday, I watched the local fishing guide bring one of his ice houses off the lake. I'm always a little shocked to look up from the computer and spy a snowmobile tugging what essentially looks like a big box across the ice. The DNR says ice houses have to be in a couple weeks before the lake trout season actually ends on March 31st and considering that the lakes have turned into a big ol' slush pile after the snow at the end of February, it's probably wise to get those ice houses in early. 

Another sign of spring is that this Sunday, I finished up my big winter craft project. In the last few winters, I've had a large knitting project to see me through the dark winter evenings, but this year I decided to devoted my energies to finishing up an embroidery project I started back before Christmas 2010.

Andy's step-grandmother (step-grandmother sounds odd and formal, considering it's the second marriage of a widow and widower - we usually just call her by her first name) gave me some of her embroidery kits a while back. They'd come from Harrod's in London, which I found kind of exciting because I love me some Harrod's.

The tablecloth is only about 36"x36", but it sure took me a long time. It'd been years since I'd embroidered when I first picked up the project and I found the loose weave fabric putzy and slightly frustrating to embroider on. As a result, the tablecloth got put aside many times in favor of other speedier projects. For a while, the only time this project saw any attention was at crafting weekends. Finally this winter, with no important knitting project queue and a limited yarn budget, I realized it was time to just finish up the tablecloth. I'm glad I did; I'm really pleased with how it turned out.


In other "spring-y" news, we didn't get chickens, but eggs are starting to show up everywhere. Must be getting to be Easter time!
Our recent warm weather reminded me that I'll be starting the first of the seeds at the end of this month. I know a lot of you are already starting your seedlings, but seedlings up here don't get planted outside until the final weekend of May when, hopefully, we won't have to worry about frost until, you know, September.  At the local hardware store this morning, I picked up some seeds. I didn't need too many, since I'll be using a lot of the seeds left over from last year. I do still need to order my tomato and jalapeno seeds, but I was glad to buy local and am really excited about growing some winter squash this year!  (Margot, do you spy your coaster making a cameo in the picture?)


Is spring coming where you are? What are sure signs that spring is on its way in your neck of the woods? Has anyone started their seeds yet? Any big winter projects getting finished up?

 

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