That Time I Forgot I Was In a Relationship . . .

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Sometimes I forget I'm in a relationship. It's no big deal. It's not like I'm running around having affairs. I just sometimes make decisions that really should require both our points of view all by myself.

This winter I was so busy dreaming of this: 

Croagh Patrick - Ireland's Holy Mountain

County Mayo back road

Southern Clew Bay at tide out - Clare Island in the distance
That I failed to considered how Andy might feel about me jetting off to a foreign country for a week and a half this coming April.

You see, there's part of me that still feels like that headstrong, strings free, recent college grad who boldly makes her own decisions without any considerations beyond self. Back in those days, I jetted off to London for six months without a second thought and once I was back in the States, I took not one, but two vacations within the year: a weekend in Vegas and another in Seattle. Considering my uncertain employment status back then, all that jetting around on a whim wasn't exactly fiscally advisable and now that I think of it, I was in a failing long-term relationship when I started (but not when I ended) my stint in London.

So maybe I've just always been selfish and far too willing to sacrifice the health of my relationships for something I want. Erm . . . that's kind of an uncomfortable thought. 

I'm not sure we millenials were well conditioned for relationships. As children of the 90s, we were taught we could have whatever we want and not to let anything stand in our way. This was especially true for girls of my generation. (Hello girl power!) As a generation trained to take life by the balls, relationships, which really do require give and take, can be baffling at times. So what happens when an aggressively independent generation enters into relationships? 

I should say that Andy and my relationship isn't exactly hard work. It's really too best friends shacking up together. But like any relationship, it's still a balancing act as we learn and respond to each others' wants and needs. Decisions like moving, large purchases, or even switching jobs work best when we make them together, or at least discuss them at length. Despite still keeping separate finances, the line between yours and mine has blurred over the course of this nearly four -relationship.

We have plenty of shared interests to keep everyday life together amusing and far from dull. But I see no reason to let go of our unshared interests either. In fact, considering the amount of time we spend together in a small cabin in a very rural area, I think it's okay if our interests and priorities pull us apart briefly every once in a while. It helps keep the cabin aired out, you know?

 If Andy doesn't care to go to the Cities to take in a "Broadway Across America" performance, that's fine, I'll go by myself. If Andy's saving priority isn't a trip to Ireland, that's fine, I'll pinch my pennies and go without him.

You know, I'd feel bad about up and leaving Andy next spring, but currently Andy's working six days a week so he can bank extra days off to use during this fall's deer season. . . .

Maybe I'm not forgetting I'm in a relationship. To each his own, right?

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Good Night Nora

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
May 19, 1941 - June 26, 2012 

Good night Nora. Thank you for writing and directing funny, charming, sweet films that dared to "go there." Thank you for choosing a career and children. Thank you for growing older (but not old enough!) with grace and good humor. Thank you for being awesome.


“I don't think any day is worth living without thinking about what you're going to eat next at all times.”

“Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it's your last, or do you save your money on the chance you'll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in American is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?”

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

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A Culture of Desire

Monday, June 25, 2012
I've often heard that bloggers are vain and/or self centered. Why else would we fill up a teeny corner of the internets with our ramblings? But we've come a long ways from Live Journal, or whatever that archaic thing I was using back in high school was, and any more bloggers are latest and greatest corporate marketers.

I have no issue with bloggers making money. Most of us own our domain name and I see no reason not to run advertising to cover blog maintenance expenses (annual domain renewal, etc.) and make the teeniest amount of fun money too. But nowadays, so many blog posts read like thinly veiled advertising, because, well, that's what they are.

We're a people who love wanting things. From the time we were watching Saturday morning cartoons . . .
Ahh, Gak Attack!
From the acne treatments hawked at us from the glossy pages of teen magazines . . .
Actually, that wasn't a *good* burn . . .
To the ads for engagement rings and fertility treatments I find on my Facebook sidebar today (apparently Facebook ads are unhampered by convention) we have been innudated with advertising our entire life. What's more, we will continue to be innudated with ads for things we don't really need until the day we die.

I suppose it was really only a matter of time before companies started ceasing the marketing opportunity that is bloggers. What better way to sell your product then to give blog readers a genuine endorsement from a voice they already know, like and trust? As a result: yet another medium becomes clogged with advertising.

I'm not really complaining - I just find it amazing that so many things in our culture can be boiled down to a sale. So many income opportunities for bloggers require us to wade through advertising. Several websites - SocialSpark, Blogger2Blogger - attempt to match bloggers with appropriate advertisers to write sponsored posts for pay. While Swagbucks isn't specifically for bloggers, this website where you earn points (aka Swagbucks) which can be redeemed for giftcards and other items of monetary worth, revolves around disseminating advertisers' messages. The more advertising I subject myself to, the more points I earn.  
(By the way, if you're not using Swagbucks, it really is a great way to earn points towards things like Amazon gift cards since you get awarded points simply for searching the internet and you can pick and choose how you use the site.) 

I like to think I can outsmart the advertising. For some reason, I think recognizing the advertising makes me impervious to it. But who's to say that it isn't sinking in on some subliminal level? If I did have a cat, maybe I would buy Friskies cat food, just because that's the ad I see the most?

We're a culture centered around creating desire: for things we don't need, for things we can't afford. How many people have a Pinterest pinboard simply entitled "Want"? Pinterest itself is really just a place where we all gather to look at things we might want to have. I've always liked window shopping, so I like Pinterest a great deal. But really, it's just advertising, isn't it? Again, it all boils down to the sale of those shoes, the click on that backlink to the blog with the cool craft or recipe on it.

And when advertising starts to blend seamlessly into the content I would read anyway, I start to wonder: Am I seeing through the advertising, or is the advertising seeing through me?

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Happy Little Miss Homemaker

Monday, June 18, 2012
Last week, Andy and I devoted a large portion of our evenings to watching all of Mad Men Season 1. (Behind the times, I know.) Despite the affinity I felt for Peggy throughout the first season, I spent today much more like Betty than Peggy.

Well, no, I didn't spend my day chain-smoking or start consuming wine at or around 1 p.m. But I did spend my day off engaged in decidedly homemaker-esque tasks. And what a happy little homemaker I was . . . which I guess makes me less like Betty than I previously thought.  ;)

I'm what Suzy Guese calls a "nomadic homebody." As much as I love travel and a good adventure, I need an equal, if not greater amount of time spent puttering around my home to really feel balanced. After a long, busy work week, the cabin and I were overdue for some quality time together.

When I woke up this morning, a mountain of dishes waited by the sink, "past its prime" produce rattled around in the fridge's crisper drawers, the recycling spilled out of its bin and across the floor, and the bathroom was smelling less than fresh.

So today, I vacuumed the entire cabin, finally blocked an afghan for my mother, cleaned the bathroom, did two batches of dishes, did some ironing, took out the recycling and trash, and managed to prepare a balanced supper from a nearly bare fridge. Mundane tasks, yes, but each one was a major accomplishment both for the cabin's appearance and my well-being.  

I performed fridge triage, the happy results of which were a batch of crockpot marinara sauce -using some bruised and otherwise unattractive tomatoes - and these Asian inspired fridge pickles from a cucumber no longer in a state for salad and some garlic scapes from the garden.

I've been chomping at the bit to try these nutty granola bars ever since Marisa posted about them over at Food in Jars.  I have a tried and true granola bar recipe that both Andy and I like, but the chief binder in that recipe is marshmallows and I've been looking for a slightly more wholesome recipe. I finally got a batch made this evening. I'm pretty sure I overbaked them, but they're still darn nommy and *very* calorie rich. One change I would make if I were to make them again would be to use all butter instead of a mixture of coconut oil and butter. (Or I wouldn't use coconut oil that's been in the pantry for an unknown amount of time. . . ahem.)  Besides, who has two thumbs and likes butter? That's right . . . this guy.

I also fertilized the vast majority of vegetables. One patch of veggies that didn't get any fertilizer was the potato patch. These guys already got a goodly amount of Tomato-tone last week and they're looking quite content in their straw-y abode. Maybe, just maybe, this crazy "let's grow potatoes in straw" experiment is going to work. 
It was a good day.

Are you a happy homemaker or do you find chores to dull to be truly pleasurable? 

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Punching the Fast Forward Button

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Alternative Title #1: Remember when I used to update this blog?
Alternative Title #2: The Week That Was: In Pictures I Didn't Take

This last week disappeared in a "wake-up, eat breakfast, work, throw together some semblance of supper, crash in front of the latest Netflix with knitting project, shower, sleep: rinse and repeat" blur. I hesitate to tell you how busy I am (I mean, we're all busy), but with me putting in close to an entire extra day of work on Monday (thank you board meetings and scheduling conflicts), I feel like this week flashed by in an especially fleeting manner.

Each morning, I try to get myself out of bed at a decent hour (really, I do not need nine hours of sleep), so I could work on some side projects, but other than getting one measly little article off to the editors, I haven't accomplished much beyond the daily 9-5 grind. Each morning, it seems like there's just enough time for breakfast, checking email and getting a couple quick little tasks done, then suddenly it's time for me to start pulling together lunch and packing up my work backpack for the walk to work. Convincing myself to take off my fuzzy slippers and change into work duds has been a struggle all week.  

Wait . . .am I whining?

I don't mean to. What I'm really trying to say, in a less than eloquent way, is that today is my Friday (!) and that I'm so ready for it. I'm ready for a couple days when the fuzzy slippers get to stay on indefinitely.

Because sometimes, I'd just like to be like this turtle I saw earlier this week: poking around at my own pace, taking time-outs to sun myself on a warm gravel road, pulling into my shell whenever I happen upon something I dislike. Of course, a turtle's life isn't always enviable - they run the risk of being crushed by fast moving vehicles, being carried off to who-knows-where in a dog's mouth, and they do move so slowly. But I feel like this past week I've been like the Hare in the "Tortoise and the Hare" fable and I'm ready to be the Tortoise, if only for a couple days.

In other news, we had two loon chicks hatch yesterday at my work place. You know what never gets old? Baby animals. They are just so stinkin' cute.
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Do You Know What This Is?

Monday, June 11, 2012
This is Of Woods and Words' 500th published post!

"That's shocking!"

In the past, I've kept mum about my blogging milestones, but 500 of anything is big deal in my book. I mean, imagine if you had 500 pairs of shoes. Or 500 jars of jam. Or 500 balls of yarn. Heck, I wouldn't turn down $500 either. And just imagine the thousands of unpaid hours that have gone into bringing you these 500 posts. ;) When I sat down in a dark corner of the Shack, hunched over my laptop under the slopping roof, one day in early October 2009, I had no idea that this little corner of cyberspace would still be going strong nearly 3 years later. 

A better blogger would have had some sort of celebration planned for this achievement, or at the very least a good ol' giveaway lined up. But honestly, in these early summer days, the milestone kind of sneaked up on me. (Is "snuck" really not a word?) So in lieu of any "500th post hoopla!" let's just take a trip down memory lane, shall we:

Of Woods and Words was born with a rather cerebral (by which, I mean, boring) post about the rural writer. I mentioned Thoreau. Because that makes me awesome . . .erm . . . 

Since that first post:
Through it all,  Andy remains my partner in crime (although we do try to keep our trespasses to a minimum) and I'm still here . . . writing away in Minnesota's Northwoods.

Back in the day, a good day for an Of Woods and Words post would be 3 views. Now, well, I get a few more than that. We're not exactly tearing up the internet here, but this blog's momentum has only increased since day one and for that, I have to say:

Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for caring. I've stumbled into the lives of so many amazing people during this blogging adventure. I'm grateful for every single one of you and I hope you'll stick around for Of Woods and Words' 1000th post.

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How Does Your Garden Grow - Early June

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Whew! Is it hot in here or is it just me?

Today it reached nearly 90 degrees - the hottest day of the year so far. Luckily, I get to spend these hot days in air-conditioned luxury and also have a wonderful manfriend who picks me up from work with ice cream bars in tow.

With all the moisture we've been having lately, the garden love, loved this warm day. Everything's pretty well planted (and sprouted) now. There are still three little tomatillos that need to grow just a bit bigger before they get transplanted to their "big boy" pots and I've replanted some carrots and beans to fill in gaps after the initial sprouting.

Here's how it all grows so far:
The tomato plants already have blossoms. Worried, I referenced photos from last year's garden and was happy to find that last year's plants also were blossoming at this time.  It's all good. (I always get worried that if the blossoms set too early, the plants won't form enough foliage.)

I realized this morning that I have five little pepper plants this year: two jalapenos and three bell peppers. So watch this space for tales of "Five Little Peppers and How They Grew." (And yes, that was a children's literature joke. Being an English major is awesome . . . ;)

When I took this picture of our straw potato bed this morning, I was going to be all "wah, wah - no potatoes yet," but after our sultry day, that simply isn't true. After work today, I found the first three potato shoots poking through the straw. Success!!
The new raised beds could look better - both carrot and bean germination are spotty and the onions, yet again, looked destined for less than greatness. At least the garlic is holding its own . . . 

The littlest seedlings are sporting smart little tropical fish Dixie cup collars to guard against the nasty, evil cutworm. Over the last month, many local residents have been noticing teeny egg clusters on their windows, eaves, and exterior walls. Turns out, the expert think the eggs will produce a new strain of cutworms. Oh joy! Andy's been pretty vigilant about getting rid of any eggs he finds, but the thought of cutworms in the gardens is a bone-chilling one.

Growing up, we had cutworms in our garden one time and let me tell you, it's not a pretty sight. Nothing fells your dreams of homegrown produce faster then when cut worms take down your broccoli seedlings like timber. Since cutworms only attack at the base of young seedlings, a simple paper cuff about 1 inch in the dirt and about 1.5 inch above the ground should deter even the most determined cutworm.

So far no cutworm problems (whew!), but if I could keep the chipmunks from digging up all of my squash plants in their crazed efforts to plants as many sunflower seeds as possible, I would be a calmer gardener.

We're to the point in the year when the neighbors passing by like to stop to gaze at our gardens. I can't take much credit for the current beauty of the perennial bed - Andy and his mom are the flower gardeners around here - but it's nice to think that our gardens bring beauty to others' lives as well as our own.
How does your garden grow?
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Bad Life Choices = Tasty Results

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Yesterday I made a quick run to town to do some banking, grab some groceries and do a quick load of laundry. When the clothes were about halfway through their trip through the dryer, I decided I was tired of waiting around for them, so I tossed them into the laundry bag, figuring I hang them up to air-dry once I got home. After all, it had been a sunny, balmy early June morning. But no sooner had I gotten the clothesline strung between the backyard trees, then I heard a deep rumble of thunder and spied some ominous thunderheads moving in from the west. Bad life choice!

But while the clothes sat in a damp heap near the front door and the lightning flashed sideways across the bay and rain splattered the windows, I took a moment to putter around quietly in the kitchen by myself.

We've been really trying to up our veggie consumption lately and that means a lot of salad. Which consequently means we've been going through a lot more salad dressing. And I had a homemade epiphany the other day when I was standing in front of the salad dressing aisle. Suddenly it seemed so silly that I was paying for prepaid dressings full of who-knows-what, when I had the basic ingredients for salad dressing (namely: oil and vinegar) in my pantry at all times and could probably make my salad dressings for half the cost of the pre-made guys.

So I pulled out a cookbook for one of our well-known local restaurants (one which I haven't visited since my brother broke up with the proprietor's daughter . . . oh small towns!) and whipped up two batches of salad dressings. The vinaigrette took less than five minutes to make and the creamy dressing didn't take much longer. It's nice to know exactly what's going into my salad dressing and not have weird ingredients like food dyes, xantham gums, and preservatives in the mix. In fact, in place of the weird ingredients, I was able to use some locally sourced ingredients (yay maple syrup!) and put the dressings in some upcycled containers. Success!

Maple Mustard
Bleu Cheese
Also, how cool is that handy-dandy lid for the Mason jar? It's called a ReCap  and is brand spanking new product (USA made!) from a company that actually got its start from some Kickstarter funding. Despite being a pretty prolific canner, I always have quite a few empty Mason jars rattling around the kitchen, so I'm pretty excited to have an easy way to put those unsealed jars to good use.

By the way, the sun totally came out today and while the clothes were drying merrily on the clothesline, Andy and I were doing this:
We canoed down to a hidden waterfall that's gushing with all of our recent rainfall, then paddled around, trying to locate some of the old homestead spots on the lake.
Speaking of homesteads, the gardening is 98% planted now. Pictures coming soon!

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