Seasons Change, Winter Comes

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Looking out the window this morning, it's hard to believe that less than a week ago, I was running around outside in a blouse and silly little shoes without a jacket on. Thanksgiving was an absolutely gorgeous autumn day with sunshine and temps in the 50s. However, by the time we wrapped up our Thanksgiving gathering in the early evening and headed home, we were driving through an all out blizzard with about 10 ft of visibility. Welcome to northern Minnesota.

It seems that this snow is here to stay for the long haul. We have about 8 inches in the woods now and the bay is doing its very best to ice over. With snow in the air every day since Thursday, I doubt we'll end up with nice skating ice like last year, but that's okay - wouldn't want to get spoiled.

I'm not the world biggest cheerleader for snow and winter, but I will admit that it's a heck of a lot nicer to look out the window and see a winter frosted world rather than a dead, brown, blah one. The new winter scene outside also lends a certain legitimacy to my recent round of Christmas shopping. And since the car is still in the shop (yay me! #sarcasm #CanIStartAKickstarterFundraiserForThis?!?) I don't have to hyperventilate about winter driving yet. (And only mildly feel as though I'm on house arrest.)

It's been a decent week back at the grind. Monday was basically a wash (damn you Cyber Monday and your distractions!), but yesterday I actually got down to business and am thisclose to wrapping one of my major November projects. Woo-hoo! Also, let's all note that I've posted 13 posts so far this month. That hasn't happened since May!

Has the snow found you yet?

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Back to Work and Cyber Monday

Monday, November 26, 2012
"I don't want to go back to work today," Andy said when he came into the bedroom yesterday morning to say goodbye before he headed off to work and I headed off to sleep for another hour.

Oh, did I hear him. Last week was a "light" work week, to say the least. It was a week where one of my chief objectives on my to-do list was "bake two pies." (I did: a cherry cranberry and a blueberry.) By about 11:30 a.m. last Tuesday, I tossed in the towel on the idea of having a productive week and headed off to a journal making workshop. *cough* crafting afternoon *cough*

Not that productivity is the only measure we should use to judge our lives by. It was a week filled with family, friends . . . dare I say, "community" and it was a very nice week indeed. I hope you all had a very nice holiday too.

But goodness, it's hard to get real excited about "getting work done" after a string of days in which the biggest decision that was asked of you was whether you wanted ice cream or whipped cream with your chocolate pecan pie. (Answer: both.)

So here's a little Cyber Monday sale to ease you back into the harsh, demanding work world. Use the coupon code "CYBERMONDAY" when you check out from my Etsy shop to receive 20% on your entire order. As an added bonus, I'll throw in a handcrafted, felt mitten ornament with any ornament over $25.00. This sale is only on through midnight tonight, so do yourself a favor and get some of your Christmas shopping out of the way.

Please note, I'm having a hard time keeping my owl cozies in stock. If you were thinking of order some for stocking stuffers (or for yourself - I won't tell), drop me a line so I can give your owl cozies first priority.

Happy Cyber Monday! I wish you all a gentle, peaceful return to work.
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Thanks Giving

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Earlier this month, I stumbled upon a Pin that made me sit up and think hard.

I almost groaned when I read that Pin because if that idea ever became a reality, I'm pretty sure I'd be out in the cold, hungry and without a lick of clothing. Like most people, I don't stop very often to express gratitude for everything in my life that truly improves the quality of my existence. It's far too easy to take warm clothes in your closet, a full fridge, and roof over your head for granted, even when natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy really should be prompting most of us to acknowledge just how good so many of us have it.

I'm not an overly (or overtly) religious person, but I had enough years of Sunday school and Vacation Bible School in my youth to keep "the big guy in the sky" in mind whenever I offer up some thankful thoughts. Sometime in college, I gave up trying to figure out where Jesus and Christianity fit in my adult life, but I still hold onto an idea that there is some inherent goodness in the world that is bigger than we are. Whether you refer to that shadowy thing as the Universe, the Maker, the Goddess, Allah, the Lord, God, just plain old beauty and goodness, or whatever is hardly a matter we should bother quibbling over. But I do believe it's worth taking stock of the beauty and goodness that surrounds us on a regular basis and offering up a prayer, thought, or vibe of thanks for everything.

After all, the grateful person tends to be the gracious person. When we acknowledge the abundance that exists in our lives, we tend to want less. There are multiple psychological studies that correlate a grateful mind with an enhanced sense of well-being. It's interesting to note that Thanksgiving comes not only at the end of the fall harvest (yeah abundance!), but also at a time when the world is growing dark and people starting to slip into their season affective disorders. Really, we should be using the Thanksgiving as late autumn boost to our mental health instead of the kick-off to the holiday stress season.  

Somewhere the actual "thanks giving" of Thanksgiving got lost in worrying about potatoes boiling over, football games, and Black Friday sales that are ever creeping, creeping towards Thursday evening. I'm not saying that we don't stop to say thanks this time of year. (Hello 30 Days of Thankfulness over on Facebook.) What I'm trying to say is that there is so very much to be thankful for in our lives that it's impossible to get our arms around all of it, let alone lay out all that goodness in the laundry lists of thankfulness that become so popular in the social media world this time each year.

Going back to the Pin above, what wouldn't I want to be without when I wake up each morning? Well, I'd still want to find myself in a cozy bed with a crackling fire in the woodstove in the next room, and have a loving partner and family, and plenty of food, and lots of clothes, and employment, and a beautiful place to live, and birds that visit the feeders, and a blog, and writing skills, and a sense of humor, and lots of yarn, and the Internetz, and le Netflix, and, and, and . . . .

So this year, I'm skipping the laundry list of things that I'm thankful for, because I know to try to name every thing I'm thankful for is liking attempting to number the stars. Instead, I'll just offer up a simple "Thank you" to whoever (whatever) is out there and hope that if I remember to say those two little words a little more often, I'll remind myself and the universe of just how grateful I am for everything - and I mean everything- that I'm blessed with.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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This Ridiculous Life

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
There are times when I wonder if my life is ridiculous. And then there are times when I know my life is ridiculous.

Take last Monday for example.

Just a typical workday out of the home office. I got a couple hours of work done on a contracted project, then headed out the door to head over to the neighboring youth camp to do an interview for an article.

The camp's about a five-minute drive away, but the camp's only two bays down on the lake and since I'm sans wheels at the moment, I was hoofing it. (Remember, anything with motors hates me. Yes, I think by now that might actually be a literal statement.) I pulled on my rubber boots, hopped onto the power line just a little ways down our road and made a beeline for the camp. If I went by road, it would take me close to 45 minutes to walk from the cabin to the camp, but by using the powerline shortcut, it's less than a twenty minute hike. I guess that thing about straight lines being the shortest distance between two points really is true. ;)

It had snowed the night before and as I walked along the powerline, I noticed all sorts of little deer tracks. A lot of the shrubs (aka, "browse" in the deer hunting world) had been chomped on by little deer mouths too. I internally rolled my eyes as I realized just how much time I'd spent deer scouting this year and how ingrained deer scouting observations had become in me. I'd left a monster deer hanging in our shop back in the cabin. Deer season was so decidedly over for our household and yet here I was, in the woods, by myself, and unable to not notice deer signs. *sigh*

I had a lovely interview with Will, the camp manager. We drank tea. We chatted about winter activities at the camp (as per my article assignment) and other things, like the awkward time that comes between college graduation and what actually feels like real adulthood, and deer hunting. Of course. Will was still hoping to get a deer and had been devoting most of his mornings to hunting, but with little luck.

After the interview wrapped up, we headed outside to get a photo for the article. We headed down the cabin path and out to the camp driveway so we could get a shot of the entrance sign.

And that's when we spotted just about the littlest buck you've ever seen.

"Are you kidding me?" Will said. "Did that thing have antlers?"

 I nodded.

"Do you mind if I go get my gun?"


He ran back to the cabin. While he was gone, the deer and I stared at each other for a good long while, then the deer walked back down the road and hopped onto the powerline I'd been walking on the hour before. Will returned, I snapped a couple quick pictures for the article and then we went off in search of the buck.

Then this happened.

I know what you're wondering: why is Will wearing a life jacket? The main part of the camp is actually located on two islands (we were on the mainland) and he needed to motor over to the islands after we wrapped up the interview. 

And yeah, and why yes, another deer was shot right in front of me, which I then assisted in tracking and which I then took the obligatory "hunter with dead animal" pictures of. Oh, and then I helped drag the deer out of the woods . . . all while wearing my pea coat and a fashionable (dare I say, jaunty) tartan scarf. Happily, this was a much (much) smaller deer than the one Andy'd shot the week before and we just had to drag the deer about 100 yards through the woods . . . all downhill!  (Oh heaven's be praised!) While I'm a little sad that this deer didn't have a chance to grow up to be a bit of a monster himself, I'm glad I helped someone else stock their winter larder.

But seriously, you guys, I think I'm going pro next year as a professional deer slinger. For a totally reasonable fee, I will accompany aspiring deer hunters in the field. I will direct them as to which way the deer has gone, take the hunters' picture with the deer and then help them drag their deer out of the woods. Because, I kid you not, this is the third deer I helped move this year. I'm a lean, mean, venison moving machine.

Once Will and I had brought the deer down to the road, I headed back into the woods to head home via the powerline. After a bit of lunch, I returned to my home office to finish up my workday. Every so often that afternoon, I caught myself smiling whenever I thought of the latest "ridiculous" adventure I'd just added to my personal archives.

You know, life can be hard and frustrating, but at least there are plenty of surprisingly ridiculous moments in it to keep us smiling and in awe of all the unexpectedness life has in store for us.  

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The Poke Cake of Glory

Sunday, November 18, 2012
I've always been a proponent of homemade food. I deeply believe that homemade food tastes better than anything pre-made or pre-mixed that you can buy. My pantry shelves are free of cake and brownie mixes. There's no tube of cookie dough in the fridge. And heaven's forbid that a can of frosting cross over the cabin threshold. That stuff'll kill you.

But we all have our weaknesses. There's almost always a can of cherry pie filling in my pantry, in case I have to whip up one of my nearly-famous cherry cranberry pies. And I try to have some "emergency" Jell-O on hand because honestly, when I have the stomach flu, all I want is a bowl of Jell-O and a glass of flat ginger ale. (Andy does not get this, but that's what I was given during my annual bout of stomach flu as a child.)

And Poke Cake. I have a weakness for poke cakes.  

You know the recipe, right? You take a white cake mix, bake it up in two layer pans, then poke the cake all over with forks and pour a Jell-O mixture over the cake. Once the Jell-O's set, you slap the cake together with a heavy layer of Cool-Whip. It's corporate recipe writing at its finest. In fact, besides the Rice Krispy Bar, I'm not sure any other corporate recipe has taken such a hold on America's kitchens.

My brother loved poke cake so much that for many years during his adolescence, he requested it for his birthday. Not just any poke cake (which you can make with any combination of Jell-O flavors, like orange and lemon or berry blue and raspberry, or . . ..), but the Christmas poke cake, where one layer is lime flavored and the other is raspberry flavored. His birthday is in July. 

I don't know why, but my mother and I were talking about the merits of poke cake the other day. (I would argue that the pure trashiness of poke cake is one of its virtues.) "What's poke cake?" the ever curious Andy asked. My mother and I stared at each other in horror. I wasn't sure that you could call yourself a Midwesterner if you'd never consumed a slice or two poke cake.

So Andy requested a poke cake for his birthday last week. Strawberry, if you please.

"Oh, but I want a homemade cake," he said.

Well, okay. 

While I was somewhat suspicious that a homemade cake would be sacrilege when it came to poke cake, I decided to try out this funfetti cake recipe which I pinned a while back. Except I left out the funfetti - what with Jell-O and Cool-Whip being key ingredients, I figured that the last thing the cake need was sprinkles. (Feel free to argue this point, but I actually don't like sprinkles much. Sure they're adorable, but they taste terrible and are texturally unpleasing on top of . . . brownies, cupcakes, ice cream, whipped cream, anything.)

My mother also suggested I try frosting it with actual whipped cream, but I poo-pooed that as "too rich." (And trust me, I never poo-poo whipped cream.)

Here's the final result in all of its (mostly) artificial glory:

What I learned:

I may not actually like strawberry jello that much.

I do however like this recipe for homemade cake quite a bit. I will make it again, complete with the 3/4 cup of multi-colored sprinkles.

When you pair strawberry jello with a lemony flavored cake, you get a cake that kind of tastes like strawberry lemonade and that is by no means a bad thing.

A homemade cake does not compromise the integrity of a poke cake, but it will dry out faster than a box mix cake. 

Cool-Whip may disgust me as a substance (Whipped vegetable oil! Whipped corn syrup!) but it is a tasty, tasty, easy-peasy frosting.

Have you ever had poke cake?

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My Life Map: a book review

Thursday, November 15, 2012
As a rule, I'm not really sure self-help books are meant for Midwesterners.Yeah, we have doubts and worries and anxieties about life and our role in it during our brief time in this world just like every other person on this planet, but why on Earth would we want to talk, or even think about such things? That seems awfully personal, awfully emotional and maybe even a little selfish. We forge our way through life armed with independence, an emotional hardhat and adherence to the motto: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Around here we believe in hard work, not naval gazing.

So when a copy of Kate and David Marshall's latest self-help journal, My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, arrived on my doorstep, I assumed I needed it like a hole in my head. Part of me wondered if the book had arrived at the exact wrong time in my life (since I'd just made a commitment to a new work contract which basically guarantees that things will stay pretty much the same around here for the next two years), while a larger (and more cynical) part of me wondered if this might be a waste of time.

My Life Map engages the reader in a series of introspective questions. The questions are simple, but that doesn't mean they're easy to answer. (I mean, you try to name the top three responsibilities in your present life!)  The reader is then asked to boil their answers down to the most important points and plot those points out on a life map so that your entire life - past, present and future - is laid out in front of you on a single page. The entire book centers on the idea that if you're going to get somewhere in life, you have to know where you're going. 

 The book has a very loose format. It's not designed with the intent that you start out with the first exercise and continue through the journal in a linear fashion until you've completed every single exercise. Instead, Kate and David encourage readers to do any exercises they find helpful, but to skip over any seemingly irrelevant ones. As a result, I did the whole life map exercise, but skipped the 10-year subject map where you're asked to plot out the next ten years of your life in six areas: family, friends, learning, work, service and playing. You don't even have to fill out the pages in the book. If you prefer to do the exercises on your computer, you can download a toolkit from the Marshalls' website with all the forms you'll need to complete the book's exercises.

Despite my initial apprehension, I was surprised by how challenging I found the exercise questions and how helpful it was to have my hopes and goals for the future lined up next to my past and present accomplishments so that I could identify trends in my own life (and personality) and have a better idea of how the future might actually play out. If you need to gather your thoughts about the big picture of your life, this is a great book which will challenge your assumptions and cause you to carefully observe the trends and motivation in your life

Sure, it's naval gazing.

But how can we expect our external life to make sense if our internal life is a confusing tangle of mixed emotions and unacknowledged fears, desires, and motivations? If we want to live our lives clearly and intentionally, both a little navel gazing and a lot of hard work are in order.

You can find more information and discussions about My Life Map over at the BlogHer book club.

Disclosure: I participated in this review for the BlogHer Book Club. I was compensated for my time and received a complimentary copy of the book. However, all opinions expressed in the review are my own.
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Afternoon Tea: Homemade London Fog Tea

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Because I live in the woods, I hadn't heard of London Fog Tea until I met up with my mom at the local coffee shop last week. Apparently it's been a staple on Starbucks and Caribou's menus for quite some time. Who knew? Oh, you did? As per usual, I am the last to know.

(For all of you would-be woods-dwellers, I want you to think long and hard before you move on up here about whether or not you are willing to deal with the fact that you may be the last person on Earth to hear about such things as London Fog Tea. It's not all loons and moons and woodfires up here; there are dire consequences that come from cutting yourself off from civilization.)

So anyway, I finally had a London Fog Tea. And it was amazing. Creamy and vanilla-y with enough tea in it to keep it from being cloying. It was so good that I decided I need to figure out how to make it at home. (Because I am not driving two hours round trip whenever I have a tea craving.) Since the only ingredients in London Fog Tea are Earl Grey tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup, I figured it couldn't be that hard to pull off. Happily, it's not!

I started off by making homemade vanilla syrup. I found this great list of homemade syrups for coffee drinks over at Annie's Eats and I used her vanilla syrup recipe. It takes all of 15 minutes to make (and only about 1 minute of actual hands-on time) and the recipe is an excellent use for the vanilla beans I bought on a whim last month. I store the syrup in the fridge in an empty maple syrup bottle.

The first time I made London Fog Tea at home, I attempted steaming the milk in the microwave. I quickly deemed this unnecessary. It was putzy and dirtied more dishes for a simple single-serving drink than seemed appropriate. I also really wanted the drink to be more tea-based than milk based.

After some trial and error, I've come up with a recipe that I've been brewing up every day around 3 p.m. to get myself through my mid-afternoon work slump. It's far from identical from what you'd be served if you ordered a London Fog Tea at a coffee shop because I scaled way back on the milk. If you're a lactose no-no, you can also leave the milk out all together. I did that this afternoon and it was still pretty tasty.

Recipe for Homemade London Fog Tea

1 tablespoon (or to taste) of vanilla simple syrup (Recipe here)
1 Earl Grey tea bag (Tazo is my favorite)
Approximately 8 oz. boiling water
1/4 cup milk

Place vanilla syrup and tea bag in the bottom of your favorite mug. Fill mug 3/4 of the way full with boiling water. Brew the tea for 3-5 minutes. (I find it's important to pay attention to how long you brew Earl Grey because if you let it steep for too long, the tea gets overwhelmingly perfume-y.) Add 1/4 cup of milk. Stir together. Enjoy!

This has just the right amount of caffeine and sugar to keep me focused and working hard on my daily to-do list until the work day draws to a close. If my attention's really lagging on a particular day, I'll pair the tea with some sliced apple to help keep me on track. Much better to take 5 minutes to make myself a snack than to find myself wandering over to Facebook and Pinterest for a pointless hour when I feel my focus slipping. 

What's your favorite afternoon pick-me-up?

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November Sponsor Round-Up: Thankfulness Edition

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Holy jamoly, it's nearly the middle of November already! Before much more of this month passes us by, I want to introduce you to some of the lovely ladies who are hanging out with me this November over on my sidebar. To shake things up a little bit, I asked each of them to share what they're thankful for this month. Very apropos, don't you think? ;)

Today, I'm thankful that the sun came out, even for the briefest of whiles. The sunshine gave me the little burst of energy I needed to through my day's to-do list and it also meant I didn't have to start a fire in the woodstove until after sundown. Winning!

By the by, wanna be part of the next sponsor round-up? Check out sponsorship options here or email me to discuss swaps. 

Lynn of Turnips 2 Tangerines
Turnips 2 Tangerines

Hi, I'm Lynn from Turnips 2 Tangerines. You can always find me in my Little Kitchen in the Big Woods of Northern WI, making family favorites. Stop by and join me.

I am thankful for the love and joy that my family brings to my life. 

Right now Lynn has a Winter Giveaway going on. You could win a Nordic Ware Snowman Baking Pan, 16 oz Door County Seasonal Coffee, Two (2) Holiday mugs filled with Peppermint Candies. Check it out!

Eline of Eline S.
 Hi I'm Eline! I'm from Belgium and I'm studying tourism and recreation/leisure management. After my schoolwork I love to make my own jewelry. This blog is about my shop, my creations, cool craft tutorials and I show people where I found my inspiration. Through my blog I hope to meet other creative people.

I'm very thankful for my new 'secondhand' car. I am also very happy I could help as a volunteer on the Etsy booth on The festival of Creativity in Turnhout.

Zalika of Hope and Sugar

Hi this is Zalika. Hope & Sugar focuses on Self-development. It is a personal blog where I share my thoughts an lessons from life experiences.

I am thankful for all my existing friends and also all the new friends I made because of blogging.

Hannah of Thirsty World Designs

I'm an artist and blogger from North Carolina, and Thirsty World Designs revolves around my daily adventures, however big or small!  It's has a lot of my photography and local places, events, or cuisine as its subject!  I try to blog about all kinds of topics but it all ends up circling around the art and people closest to me!

I am beyond thankful for this beautiful season we've had, as well as the job I have received that is actually in my career field as a recent college graduate!

Tell me: What are you thankful for this November?
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Shop Update: Gettin' Cowl-y

Monday, November 12, 2012

I've been working hard to add some more products to my Etsy shop - Yes Sir, Yes Sir! - as we move into the winter/holiday season. Believe it or not, one does grow a little weary of knitting owl cozies, so I was very excited when my friend Sarah gifted me with some yarn which allowed me to turn the cowls I'd been designing in my head into reality. The cowls are all knit from very soft, 100% acrylic yarn, so they're not only good looking, they're also easy to care for.
Twisted Knit Cowl
This cowl is knit with a natural twist in it to achieve the layered look of an infinity scarf . . . without all the layers.
Mustard Yellow Trinity Stitch Cowl

My favorite cowl to date - lightweight, a great color, and a fun, bobbley pattern.

Chunky, Button Closure Cowl
A simple chunky cowl to add a fun, asymmetrical look to your outfit.

All cowls are light enough to wear all day, but when scrunched up around your neck work like a cozy scarf that keeps the bitter winter wind at bay. The cowls are reasonably priced (ranging from $25-$35), but because I so appreciate your continuing support, just enter the coupon code "NOVSHIPPING" at checkout to receive free shipping on any items in the shop through the end of the month.

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A Post With Dead Animal Pictures

Thursday, November 8, 2012
Not interested in a blog post which features dead animal pictures? Maybe don't read this post, mm-kay. Not that the pictures below are particularly horrifying or gory, but I'll understand if dead animal pictures aren't really your style. Heck, they're not exactly my style either, yet here they are, nonetheless.

This is the story of how Andy's six point buck turned into a rather hefty eight point buck yesterday afternoon. (No, not by magic.) A couple days back, Andy predicted that if Obama won the election that he would shot the biggest buck ever on Wednesday. This evoked a "Uh-huh, sure," from me, but after a pretty incredible election night which reaffirmed my faith in Minnesota, I started to wonder if he might be right.

It should be noted that both Andy and I are getting over mild colds. In fact, I did not step outside of the cabin once on Tuesday and instead spent most of the day on the couch watching Judd Apatow movies while suffering my way through the sneezing, constantly blowing your nose stage of a cold and waiting for election results to come in. After staying up to listen to Romney's concession speech, I fell into a Nyquil induced slumber and woke up with a start on Wednesday morning, anxious to hear how the two proposed amendments to the Minnesota constitution had fared.

After making some victory waffles, I decided I should probably get some fresh air, so I decided to go for a hike with Andy. We tromped around in the woods near the cabin for about an hour and a half, casually looking for deer. We were nearly back to the truck and I was starting to feel a little eleven o'clockish, so I was less than thrilled when Andy announced a "short little detour" down a swampy section of powerline.

We'd walked maybe 30 seconds down the powerline when I saw rather large buck ambling around about 100 yards from Andy.

"Andy," I hissed. "That has a huge rack."

Andy had to slosh about a bit to find a place where he could rest his rifle and I stood stock still in the swamp for about five minutes until Andy could shoot.

Here's a tip for you. If you have a head cold, dragging a 200+ pound deer several hundred yards through a swamp, may not be the best activity for you. I'd always heard Andy complain about dragging out deer, but knowing that dragging out a deer is hard and actually experiencing dragging a deer out of the woods are two very different things. By the time the picture below was taken, I was pretty sure I was dying.

Happily, when we got to the truck (an hour and a half later . . . .ooooo, so very hungry and thirsty by then), a guy from the local electric co-op stopped and helped us get the deer into the back of the pick-up. Still, my fine motor skills were pretty fried for the rest of the day. I was dropping all sorts of things in the kitchen yesterday night! 

Suddenly we have a much bigger butchering job on our hands. Luckily the new meat grinder shipped out today and I was able to pick up some pork shoulder locally because we have a lot (a lot!) of sausage making ahead of us. It's safe to say that deer season is officially over at Of Woods and Words and that we will not be going hungry this winter. (We are sharing all this venison.)

My friend Sarah and I were laughing yesterday night about how much my life has changed in the last four years or so. If you'd told me that one day I'd be helping hunt deer and be concerned about Boone and Crockett scores, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we are, and you know, here really isn't a bad place to be. 
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Hunting and Trapping in the 21st Century

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Minnesota's firearms deer season opened on Saturday morning. The deer season at Of Woods and Words came to an unceremonious end on Sunday morning.

Andy was home with a six -oint buck in the back of his truck before noon on Sunday. Bada bing, bada boom. 

In the past, the deer season's been a bit more climatic. In other years, Andy hasn't shot a deer until the second weekend of the season, so there's been more time for tension and anticipation to build as we ponder  the questions: will he even see a deer this season? Will he get one? This year, the answers to those questions came in very quick succession.

Apparently those endless hours of scouting, sighting in rifles and figuring out just where to set up the deer stand paid off. It feels like each season Andy approaches the deer season with more seriousness; this year he actually took off the entire first week of the season from work so he could devote his all energies to hunting. Of course, luck has a fair amount to do with any hunter's success, but the fact there seem to be deer running all over the place this autumn certainly was a factor in the speedy close to this year's deer season.

I'm happy to know that we'll have a full freezer of venison this winter. Over the last couple winters, I've gotten accustomed to have a stockpile of this lean protein to stretch out the food budget. Of course, if you figure in the expense of Andy's new rifle, scope and various other deer hunting accessories purchased over the last month, this venison has a pretty expensive cost per pound! But since I do the vast majority of the grocery shopping, I'll just consider a freezer full of venison a major windfall. ;)

Anyone who eats meat really should consider that their meal came from an animal that at one time was living and breathing just like them. But in this world of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, it's easy to distance ourselves from what we're actually eating. One thing I've grown to appreciate about hunting is that it allows us to become very well-acquainted with our food. You don't take dinner for granted after you've spent countless hours butchering a deer, let me tell you. I'm glad that Andy's hunting hobby not only keeps him happy, but also keeps us eating local, nutritional meat most of the year.

Hunting's been a bit of a hot button issue in Minnesota this year since the Department of Natural Resources introduced the first ever Minnesota wolf hunting. The wolf firearm season runs in concert with this year's firearms deer season and there will also be wolf trapping season later on. I'm not apathetic to wolf hunting in Minnesota, but I do feel fairly neutral on the issue.

While I certainly think the Minnesota wolf population can sustain a hunt, I worry that a wolf hunt panders to the scare tactics we were taught from Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. I'm sure a wolf coat is mighty warm and would make a fantastically cozy fur ruff, but it seems so wasteful to end another life just for fur. To me, hunting only make sense if we're truly using it for subsistence and I have a hard time fitting wolf hunting into any idea of subsistence in the 21st century. 

Taking other animals' lives will always be a complicated business; one that we need to consider carefully and not do lightly. While I'm not morally opposed to hunting or trapping, I was pretty sad about the disappearance of my two beaver friends, who had been busily building a dam and lodge in a low spot that I passed every day on my way to work.
I'm pretty sure a local trapper got both beavers a couple weeks ago. The beavers hadn't exactly chosen a great place to winter and the water was so shallow in this spot, they likely would have had a very chilly winter. Perhaps the trapper ended up saving the beavers from a miserable winter and he certainly saved a lot of the young trees in the area, which the beavers had been harvesting like mad. But I'll miss watching those beavers busily working away in their little corner of the earth. They seemed like such friendly little beasts and there's something nice about passing some other critters who were hard at work while I was heading off to my own job. I know there are more than enough beavers in this corner of the world - it's just that I was particularly fond of these particular beavers. 

I'm not really sure where I'm going for this post. Maybe I'm just trying to point out that hunting and trapping brings out all sorts of feelings in me. I'm thrilled that hunting allows us to eat locally and I'm glad that hunting seasons help keep animal populations in check. I'm sad to think that some people may hunt an animal (*cough* wolves *cough*) because they fear and/or hate it. And it's hard when animals you grew fond of disappear because of hunting or trapping.

Perhaps all these conflicting thoughts and feelings boil down to this: hunting and trapping are okay by me, but please remember to take only what you truly need from this earth.

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Book Withdrawal

Sunday, November 4, 2012
I may have a teensy weensy, itty bitty case of book withdrawal.

Sadly (happily?), I finished up A Discovery of Witches on Friday evening. After spending most of the week cruising through the book at about 100 pages a night, it was a bit of a let down.

Maybe it was a little more than a let down. I've had a difficult time fully extracting myself from the book's world of witches, vampires, daemons, and mysterious misplaced magical manuscripts ever since I closed the book cover for a final time. I'm a little embarrassed to admit just how much I loved a book in which vampires played such a critical role. (Yes, vampires. *blush*)

Back in the day (aka: high school), I read many a fantasy novel.  I loved Jane Yolen, Terry Goodkind, Tamora Pierce, and so many others. But then I went to college and there just aren't that many good fantasy books in the English major's canon, you know. It's been a long time sine I delved into a book that was so overtly fantastical and I was glad to find it so easy to get whisked off into another magical world, especially in a book that I picked up on a whim.

Author Deborah Harkness, who's a history professor, does a wonderful job of weaving scientific and historical facts into the tale to move the plot forward. She also has a knack for choosing wonderfully interesting settings (at least for this Anglophile.)

But don't get me wrong. The book's far from perfect. It starts off mighty slowly. The main character, Diana, is a historian of science and reluctant witch, researching in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Now I know that research can have it's interesting bits, at least if you yourself are the researcher. But reading about a fictional character doing research is not exactly fast-paced excitement. A fair amount of the first 70 or so pages read something like this: "I got up and went to the library. I got some books. I read the books. Then I went home." Wash, rinse, repeat. *yawn*

But then Diana discovers a magic manuscript. And then she bumps into vampire. Then the entire magical community starts to gang up on Diana.Oh, and there's a love story involving star-crossed lovers unfolding too . . . .

Harkness may have left a few too many details in her final manuscript (Really, if you must describe clothing in your writing, at least be vague enough so that the reader can draw their own conclusions about what the character's wearing.  I mean - what the heck is a blue sweater with a funnel shaped neckline?! I don't even know.) but I did find myself genuinely caring about the characters. In fact, I may have gotten a little too attached to them. I spent most yesterday suffering from  "where's the sequel already" ennui.

That's right: ennui.

Now simply no other book will do. I must find out what happens to Matthew and Diana.

That nonfiction book I'm halfway through about eating habits of immigrants living in a tenement building on New York City's Lower East Side? Sure it's interesting to read about the Jewish practice of raising and slaughtering geese for a little while. But my goodness, that sort of reading is awfully real. Where are the vampires, I ask you? Where are castles and fortresses and bad guys?

So this morning, I did what any slightly possessed bookworm does when in the throws of such book-induced angst. I went to Amazon and ordered the next book in the series.

Am I setting myself up for disappointment? Oh yeah. (The online reviews of this second book aren't great.) Still, I have a feeling once the book's in my hands, I'll be able to shut up my inner critic and enjoy this book as much as I loved the first one.
Please Super Saver shipping be kind to me. Don't be too putzy, mm-kay? 

What have you been reading lately?
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What November Will Bring

Thursday, November 1, 2012
I've been thinking a lot about schedules and goals lately. With a new month upon us yet again, it seems like a good time to chart out what I'll be doing during November. Isn't it strange to think that we really only have about one good month of "production" ahead of us for 2012? I know I can only speak for myself, but my best intentions when it comes to projects and goals over the holidays are usually derailed and I end up only getting the bare minimum accomplished. I have big hopes that this November will be focused and productive. 

Here's what I have planned: 
  • Start work on an exciting, new radio production contract. The topic has everything you could ask for: a rich history, controversy, and plenty of voices available to represent both sides of the story. 
  • Work to finish the vast majority of written work for another contract that's been idling in the background for far too long. 
  • Return to part-time work for the day job on the 12th. 
  • Be a better blogger. 
  • Assist with deer processing, as necessary. If Andy does indeed get a deer over the next few weeks, I'm supposed to whisper two magic words in his ear as soon as he walks in the door: "Meat grinder." Yup, we still haven't figured out a fail proof system for grinding what can be 20+ lbs of sausage meat. 
  • Get further engrossed in Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy. A fellow blogger highly recommended  the first book, A Discovery of Witches, last year and I finally got my hands on a copy last month during a trip to Half Price Books. Had I realized how much vampires figure into the plot, I probably wouldn't have bought it (I prefer witches, wizards, and dragons in my fantasy novels, not witches, wizards, and vampires, thank you very much), but I'm very glad I gave it a shot. I'm over halfway through the book now and am having a hard time putting it down. Unfortunately the second book in the trilogy, which came out this July, didn't exactly get stellar reviews. *sigh* 
  • Figure out what the heck we're doing for Thanksgiving. Andy and I have very different ideas about how this holiday is best celebrated, which is amusing since this is one of the most straight forward holidays around.
  • Finish up the vast majority of Christmas knitting. 
  • Knit, knit, knit owl cozies for the Etsy shop. I mean, how cute would they be for a stocking stuffer?

What are you planning for the month ahead?
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