Blue Moon

Friday, August 31, 2012
Blue Moon 
You saw me standing alone 
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Blue Moon 
You know just what I was there for 
You heard me saying a prayer for 
Someone I really could care for

Somehow I totally missed the fact that there's a blue moon tonight.

Practically speaking, blue moons aren't much to note. After all, the name "blue" moon is misleading: the moon's not going to be a lovely shade of blue, it'll be the same pearly white it always is. While there have technically been blue moons ever since the Julian calendar was adopted (nowadays, blue moon refers to the second full moon in the same calendar month), the current concept of a blue moon wasn't introduced to the American public until the 1940s when some would-be astronomer published a totally butchered definition of what Maine farmers referred to as a "blue moon." The Maine farmers' definition had something to do with the third or fourth moon of the calendar year, but the would-be astronomer said it was the second moon in the same month and the name stuck.   

Even if a blue moon really is nothing, how can you not feel a little pull of romance and intrigue when you hear a name as dreamy as "blue moon."

Neil Armstrong was laid to rest today and to celebrate both the blue moon and the first man to walk on the moon, his family has asked everyone to look at the moon and give it a wink today. I'll be winking. Will you?

This whole winking business reminds me a little of a concept I learned in Jenny Davis's young adult novel Checking On The Moon. In the book, the main character's mother is spending the summer in Europe and both the main character and the mother make a habit of "checking on the moon" each night because no matter where we go in this world, "it's the same moon shining down on all of us."
Read more ...

Me and the Universe

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
When I took my current job, I told Andy "Three years. That's how long I give that job."

And here we are, more than halfway through my third season, and I can hear the Freudian slips in the conversation every time I talk about my job. "Next year we'll . . . How I think we'll do it next year is . . . "

Next year, next year, next year.

Next year?? Why the heck am I talking about next year like it's a done deal? I haven't signed any contracts. The year ahead remains an open book.

It's no secret that my current job's potential for professional development is low. As the only employee, I'm both at the top and bottom of the work hierarchy. There's a finite amount that my salary can raise, no matter how many years I'm with the organization. There are only so many job responsibilities for me to take on. While it's not really a dead-end job, it is literally a job at the end of a dead-end road.

And you know, I'm respected and trusted in my job and like any job (especially one that deals with the public daily) there are great days and not so great days. What I'm saying is: really, it's a pretty good deal. It's just not the sort job that you could do year in and year out for, oh, the next twenty years, without feeling that maybe you squandered just the teensiest, tiniest bit of your career potential.

Yet somehow three seasons have flown on by and here I am, still in the woods with limited employment options and I. Don't. Know. What. Comes. Next.

Should I go back to school and get a law degree? No, lawyers aren't getting jobs anymore.

Should I get my MFA or MBA? I don't really fancy taking on that much debt, particularly when I'm so close to shrugging off my remaining undergraduate student loans.

Should I take a government job and relax with (relative) job security and health insurance?

Should, should, should I?

I seem to have a mild obsession with forward motion and upward mobility. But I'm rapidly reaching the end of my plotted out life and the thought of not knowing what comes next is a little disconcerting for this anal-retentive planner and plotter.

It's not that I'm at a crossroads. Rather, I'm barrelling down the freeway and it turns out the exits are farther apart than I'd anticipated.  Kind of like when you're driving through North Dakota, an awful lot of time has passed, but I don't feel like I've gotten anywhere. And once again, I'm dreading the question "What comes next." It's so easy to feel guilty about having an uncertain future. I have a feeling that one result of the Great Recession is a lot of uneasy, slightly guilty feeling 20-somethings.

So rather than feeling guilty, now is the time to embrace the unknown. After all, you can't plot out your entire life on a calendar. Life just isn't much fun if it's lived like a checklist. So in the months to come, I'm leaving the roadmap behind (just for the teensiest, tinest bit) and taking it as it comes.  . . . even if I do find the idea absolutely terrifying.

Read more ...

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Okay, so I don't really know about the geese getting fat, since Andy has yet to let me follow my lifelong fairly new minted dream of being a poultry farmer, but I do know that Christmas really is coming. I don't mean to be an alarmist, but you guys, the most consumer-ist holiday of all is a mere 16 weeks away. That boils down to just four months. How did that happen?!

I know, I know, you're probably going "Whoa there, four months is still kind of a lot of time." And you know, you're right. But the thing about the holidays is that they have a tricky little way of sneaking up on us and this year, I'm not going to let that happen. 

I'm not sure what got holidays on my brain. Maybe it's the fact that there's been a little autumn nip in the air the last week or so (although yesterday, the temp rose to 88 degrees, which I felt was highly unnecessary), the shortening days, the holiday gift guide planning I see going on at some indie blog/businesses, or maybe it's just that I bumped into an acquaintance last week who, when she heard about my temporary second job, said "well, Christmas is coming."

Considering that procrastination has always been my BFF, the holidays pose some issues for me. My freelance/contract workstyle also means that my income fluctuates drastically from month to month, from week to week. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours, sometimes it dries right up into a drought. And December, inevitably, seems to be an income drought period.

But you know what? I'm tired of hyperventilating every time I think about buying Christmas presents. I'm tired of looking at my gift giving budget and determining that I have enough money to get everyone a sock. Not a pair of socks, mind you. Just one. You may remember that back in January, I resolved to start up a Christmas fund.  Even on January 1 of this year, I knew I wanted 2012 to be the year I get my act together for the holidays. Here's how I'm going to do it:

#1 Save and Budget

Since January of this year, I've been contributing $10 a week to my Christmas fund. It's been a very painless way to slowly save up for the impending holidays and by the time Christmas rolls around, I'll have $500 in the bank specifically designated for presents and other related expenses. For me, the hardest part of Christmas is figuring out nice, meaningful gifts on a shoestring budget. By being an intentional saver all year long, I've managed to make my shoestring a little fatter this year without feeling any pinch.
"But Ada," I hear you say. "I haven't been saving for the holidays since the start of the year like you . . . how is this tip applicable to me?"

Here's the thing, Christmas is still 16 weeks away. If you saved $25 every week up until Christmas, you'd have $400. If you could manage $100 a week, you'd have $1600. Wow!

#2 Making A List, Checking It Twice

You know how they say about life, it's hard to get anywhere if you don't know where you're going? You could say something similar about your Christmas shopping list.  If you don't know who you're shopping for, it's hard to set a budget. By drawing up a preliminary game plan for your Christmas shopping (yes, now) you'll be able to scope out the best deals on items and start actually buying presents months in advance.

#3 Do It, Do It Now

There are plenty of people (mostly Andy's relatives) who aren't on my official gift buying list, but who we'll end up exchanging gifts with. That's partly why I can a shit-ton quite a bit of jams, sauces, and other food products during the summer months. Plaster a bow onto ones of those jars and you've got yourself a lovely homemade present. And will all the hard work of chopping, stirring and canning months behind me, it feels like a very easy, but still nice gift to give.

I'm a big fan of homemade presents as a way to save a penny or too. But if you decide you're going to knit everyone on your list scarves for Christmas on, say, Pearl Harbor Day, you're going to spend the next 18 days knitting like a mad person, stressed out, and wishing you had more time. So if you're planning to go the handmade route for your presents this year, now is the time to start assembling supplies and making the items. Trust me. Or at the very least, start putting some thought into the gifts you might like to make and/or give. It's not too early to start scouring Pinterest and Ravelry for cute ideas!

Anyone else planning for the holidays yet, or am I the only nut job out there planning this far in advance? Any other tips for making the holiday gift giving season full of win this year?

Read more ...

I'm Loving It

Monday, August 20, 2012
Rather than spend this post regaling you with how busy I've been (I decided to take a second job that has me working 6-7 days a week through the end of September . . . hullo Ireland next spring!) I thought I'd take a cue from Katherine over at Irish Italian Blessings and do a fun little post about all the stuff I've been digging lately.

Know what makes your life worth living? Fuzzy, felted slippers that make you slightly resemble a Muppet. I made these back in April and they are seriously the best thing to bum around the house in at the end of the day. Even after a day filled with the nuttiest tourist questions, as soon as I slip on these cushy slippers, my whole body and mind goes "Ahhh!"

And once I've got my fuzzy slippers on, what better to do then settle in on the couch with the Harry Potter flick du jour. That's right, over the last couple weeks, Andy (who was a Harry Potter virgin when we started this film fest) and I watched all eight of the Harry Potter films in order. Because I was so darn old by the time all the books got published (I'd graduated from college when the last book came out) I'd only read the last three books once and I've never even seen the last three movies. It was really fun to watch the whole story unfold in order and without two year gaps between watching each movie. I may actually be motivated to reread all the books next winter. The only issue? We ate so much popcorn while watching the movies that I'm not sure I will ever be able to enjoy this story again without a big bag of greasy popcorn next to me.
Also deserving of a spot on the "I'm Loving It" list? Yep . . . popcorn. Oh nom nom nom.

As someone who works with tourists everyday (they call me "Miss Information") I'm really loving this pin of one of fellow Minnesotan Andrew Zimmern's quotes. I think if you read between the lines of this post, I think you'll find the message "stop freakin' asking me where to see moose, already." 

Source: via Ada on Pinterest

I'm loving that even though Andy and I are basically ships passing in the night, we still managed to get out for a little brook trout fishing last Tuesday. We caught some beautiful young trout and then returned them right back to the stream. 
I'm loving that when I need to a green pepper when I'm making dinner that I just head out to the porch and pick one. And they say you can't grow peppers in northern Minnesota . . . .

I'm loving designing fun new headbands for my Etsy shop. They're just the right sized project for my pea-sized attention span these days and they're so cute.

I'm loving the never-ending batch of fridge pickles in our fridge. Our cucumber trellis is absolutely loaded with cucumbers this year. I may try my hand at some dill relish soon. Because who doesn't love a canning project?

What are you loving these days?

Read more ...

There's Something About Pie

Saturday, August 11, 2012
Fresh baked pies (cherry/cranberry and peach) waiting to head over to the pie and ice cream social at work today
"What is it about pies," Andy asked the other night. "Why do people go so nuts over them?"

Where he works, they're in the habit of providing their week-long stays with a pie. In the years that Andy's worked at the business, they've gone through a series of pie-bakers. (I suppose if we didn't live in the woods, we might go so far as to call them "pastry chefs.") One baker made pies that were too sweet and goop-y (instant pudding has no place in a pie shell, I say), another had trouble achieving an affordable wholesale price, the last had a severe gluten allergy that made assembling pie crusts rather tricky. In the end, the business opted to go the frozen, pre-made pie route, buying the pies directly from a wholesale restaurant supplier. But homemade or "home-baked," the guests don't care. They just want their pie.

What is it about pies?

I'm hard-pressed to think of another common dessert that strikes more fear in many of even the most experienced bakers' hearts. You're either a pie baker or you're not, although these days, with the advent of frozen and pre-made pie crusts, many non-pie bakers can limp along admirably. But despite the fact that many bakers would rather serve cake, cobbler, cookies, anything but pie for dessert, pie remains the ultimate in all-American desserts. (Keeping in mind, of course, that apple pie isn't really American - it's English, don't you know.)
A pie's complexity lies in its simplicity. More often than not, it's just two layers of pastry with some sort of fruit filling in between it. But a beautiful pie can quickly turn to disappointment if the crust doesn't flake when cut in or the pie filling spills out in a puddle when served.

I didn't really come from a pie eating family. My grandmother was well known for her fresh berry pies, which involved fresh fruit placed in a vegetable oil pie crust and covered with a Jell-O glaze. The fresh strawberry pie (which my brother still requests for his birthday) was delicious . . . the fresh blueberry pie with lemon Jell-O glaze remains a memorable flop. My mother's fear of pie crust meant most pies I ate as a little girl had a crumb topping, so she could avoid the hassle of a top crust. It wasn't until I discovered pie baking at age 13 that pies started be served with some regularity at home.

If you asked me if pie was my favorite dessert, I'd probably tell you "no." Ice cream and cheesecake rank above pie in my book. But when it comes to birthday treats - both those I request and those I bake for others - I find I gravitate towards pie. Key lime for me, please, molasses bourbon pecan for Andy, pumpkin or cherry for Dad.

You can't make a good pie without confidence and a bit of love for the craft. I once told an apprehensive pie baker that the secret to good pie crust was "telling the pie crust how good it was going to be the whole time you're making it." Oh and time. It doesn't take that long to roll out a homemade pie, but you just wouldn't want to rush a good pie.

So what is about pies?

I think a good pie conjures up a warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia and love. A good pie speaks of a slower pace of life, when there was time to futz about in the kitchen, when people worked hard enough to have their pie and eat it each evening, when ingredients were fresh and locally sourced, when our chief worry about what was going in our mouths was how it tasted.

Read more ...

Reaping What You Sew

Thursday, August 9, 2012
In a happy twist of timing, our garden produce started to come in just as berry season was ending, so I've been able to work at a slow but steady pace when it comes to putting up this year's harvest. (Thankfully, it appears that the love/hate relationship with zucchinis will hold off for another week or two.) I've spent much of my free time in the last few weeks whipping up batches of jam, chopping and blanching vegetables, and rearranging the freezer to hold our new onslaught of berries and produce. To date, this year's "putting up" has involved:
  • 2 gallons of frozen blueberries 
  • 1 batch of blueberry butter (8 cups)
  • 2 batches of infused blueberry vinegar 
  • 1 batch of blueberry pie filling (4 quarts)
  • 2 pounds of frozen green beans 
  • 1 batch of peach salsa (8 pints)  
  • 1 batch of raspberry jam (4 pints) 
And that's just the beginning. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen, in a month+ there will be potatoes to harvest (see below!) and soon, very soon, there will be a big batch of pole beans to content with. Not to mention ubiquitous cucumbers which are currently yielding a never-ending batch of fridge pickles.

It's no secret that I'm a rather large proponent of the homemade lifestyle, but the truth is, I've never put much thought in why I prefer "from scratch" living as opposed to a store-bought lifestyle. I always assumed part of my infinity for DIY in the kitchen was merely an appeal to tradition.

Growing up, my mother feed my brother and me homemade bread, homemade jam, and homemade cookies, etc. If you could make it from scratch, then we weren't buying the store version. While I'm sure when I set off on my own as a young adult, I really did have a choice to leave the homemade lifestyle behind me, but instead I fell right into making things from scratch because, really, it was the only way I knew.

I mean, one simply does not buy a lug of peaches for preserving when they come on sale in August unless the idea that peaches and August preserving are as much a pair as peaches n' cream has been instilled in you at a very early age. 
Ah, look at those pints of peach salsa all lined up. Aren't they pretty? They're the result of about 2.5 hours of peeling, seeding, chopping, boiling, and canning. Whew!

After the marathon session of peach salsa making on Monday, I decided to look at my homemade tendencies from a purely economic viewpoint. (Because, you guys, 2.5 hours is quite a lot of time to invest in something, you know.)

After some rudimentary calculations, not factoring in the worth of my time, I figured out that each jar of salsa had cost me approximately $2.30. Yes, when you figure that the cheapest I can buy a 16 oz. jar of a salsa in town is about $2.99, there are slight savings involved with going the homemade route, but as soon as you factor in the assumed monetary value of my time, the store-bought version suddenly triumphs as the better value. Granted, if I'd had homemade tomatoes on hand (our first red tomatoes are just about ready for picking) and if we're actually capable of growing garlic and onions, the cost of each jar would have dropped drastically, although if I factored in the time I spent growing all of the ingredients . . . you get where I'm going.

So why bother with the homemade lifestyle, other than the fact that I know no other way?

  1. Money can't buy you love . . . or homegrown tomatoes. I found this quote on Diane's Crave Cute blog recently, and while technically, I suppose you could buy homegrown tomatoes, nothing quite matches the feeling of transforming something raw and unfinished into something delicious and/or beautiful.
  2. Control. I've always had control issues. When it comes to homemade stuff, I have total control over how the finished product turns out, which I love. Don't like an ingredient in a recipe? I don't have to use it. This consequently means that the finished product tastes better to me than the store version.
  3. When I make it myself, I can avoid preservatives and other less desirable ingredients in pre-made food products. 
  4. Reduce, reuse, recycle. When you buy products from the store, you buy a new jar every time. By canning things myself, I can reuse my Mason jars for years. 
  5. It's fun. I was shocked last year when Andy implied that my canning obsession was really just a hobby. "But," I stammered. "I'm just trying to feed us through the winter." That and, well, I just wouldn't spend that much time slaving over a steamy stove top in August if it was satisfying and fun.

In other news, look what we found in the potato patch:
Yep, a real, live potato.
I have a feeling there are more of them down there too. This one got bumped off the root when Andy and I went snooping in the straw for potatoes on Tuesday, so we scrubbed it off and threw it into a pot of lamb stew (probably the most delicious and least economical stew to ever grace the inside of a crockpot.) And let me say, the potato and the stew were both delicious.
Read more ...

Weekly Shop Update: Double Knit Mittens!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Sunday! (Sundays are my Fridays . . . yippee!) I woke up today to an outside temperature in the 50s. While that's not exactly autumn weather, it's a good reminder that it won't be sunshine and 80 degree days around these parts forever.

With a little nip in the air this morning, it seems like a great time to unveil my newest item in my Etsy shop: double knit mittens! 

Soft Pink Double Knit Handmade Mittens
These mittens are knit using two strands of yarn to create a dense fabric that blocks the winds and wicks away moisture to keep your fingers toasty warm. Over the years I've knit several pairs of double knit mittens for the men in my life and have gotten rave reviews about how warm and durable these lightweight mittens are. These "pretty in pink" double knit mittens are sophisticated enough for the most fashion-forward gal, but practical enough for the woodsiest of women. Over the next few months, I'll be adding several styles of these mittens to the shop, including several men's styles. (Is it just me, or is it close to impossible to find products for men on Etsy,?)

If you swing by my shop, you'll notice that I've also added some new coffee cozies. While you're at the shop, consider making it an Etsy "favorite" so you can easily locate the shop in the future.


To help promote the new shop, as well as this here blog, I'm entering the world of blog sponsorships. Don't worry, the content of Of Woods and Words will remain largely the same (just my ramblings and blathering about the world around me) but there will be an increased focus on the handmade lifestyle.

If you're interested in sponsoring Of Woods and Words to promote your blog, business, or website, just click on the "Sponsor Me" link beneath my header for more information.You'll find the ad spots very reasonable priced (aka . . .a steal!). To launch the new program, I'm open to ad swaps; email me for more details about arranging a swap.

Thanks so much for all of your support. Have a beautiful day!

Read more ...

Garden Know-How: Pruning Basil

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
What I like about gardening is that there's always something new to learn and master.When one thinks of gardening, well, it just doesn't seem that complicated, does it? You take your seed, you plant it, water it, feed it, and eventually, harvest it. Easy, peasy, right?

But the thing is, if you really want to garden well and have the most abundant harvest possible, there are all sorts of secrets and tricks to the trade you need to know.

For instance . . . did you that you should prune your basil?

Yeah, me either.

A helpful little pin on Pinterest this spring alerted me to the fact that I should be pruning my basil plants to boost productivity. I'd learned last year that you should be pinching the plant's buds, because if the plant's allowed to flower the leaves can go bitter, but I never dreamed that the best thing I could be doing for the plants was to mow them down on a monthly basis. I mean, just take the kitchen shears to the strong, healthy plant I nurtured out a mere seed only months before? My maternal instincts (yes, I do have them) squealed with alarm at the very thought of it.

So I did some reading (thanks Fine Gardening) and it turned out to be true. To get the most out of your basil plants you should be snipping the stems off at the base (right above where there are two new sets of leaves on either side of the stem) before the plants starts to flower. It actually makes the plant grow back bushier.

Here's my basil plants after their second haircut of the season:

Not too shabby, eh? It's true, after each pruning, the plants come back thicker than ever because those little sets of leaves you pruned down to are given a chance to grow big and strong.

It turns out that each basil plant should produce between 15-20 cups of leaves. Take into account the fact that I have three Genovese basil plants and two Thai basil plants (that's cilantro in the middle of the front row) and holy moly that's a lot of pesto.I've already made two batches of pesto and frozen more than enough basil to top our pizzas for the entire winter and it's only August 1st!

I realize this entire post reads a little bit like an over-enthusiastic review of some "As seen on TV" ad, but really, isn't gardening wonderful?

They say, "If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden." But let us also remember, "If you would have basil all summer long, for the love of goodness, prune it!"

Read more ...
Related Posts with Thumbnails