Sunday, November 30, 2014

winding up November

November flew by me. Not sure how that happened but here it is, December tomorrow. I think in my efforts to add some structure to my days and weeks, I have over-scheduled myself. I should be more like Woodrow: Stay calm. Watch over the crowd from on high. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Repeat.

We had a very nice time on Thanksgiving Day. I cooked and cooked and baked and baked leading up to it so the food was in abundance. So much abundance that I forgot to serve three dishes. Ah, well.

Today is the day all the detritus gets dismantled and put away...all the dishes, holiday napkins, decorations, music, and table linens. Time to bring out the winter decor.

My friend, Michele, and I went to Mankato yesterday for the Livestrong 10k. We didn't run 10k and only walked a little ore than 2 miles but it waas a nice walk and we got in a long visit. Over coffee, we talked bout how cancer and Livestrong have changed us. We wondered where we would be in life without those two experiences. We would nver say cancer has been a blessing but Michele said it right, many of the changes have been for the better. We've both gotten much better at caring for ourselves.

It was inspiring, even in this small way, to be a part of Kristi and Kerri's grass roots effort to make money for Livestrong.

I have many things to do today. December is going to be my month of peace and tranquility so I have to get the busy work done before it starts. Light and love to you, my friends.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

the day before thanksgiving

I think I do this every year. I have such good intentions of coming into the holiday with everything clean and organized. I work hard at it and it looks like it almost might happen. The the shit hits the fan. I work a day. Regis works a day. Somebody comes in and stirs up our stuff. And suddenly it's the day before Thanksgiving and there is a huge mess.

Peter, April, and Elliot are coming late this afternoon so I have between now, 5 am, and then, to get things in order. So, what am I doing? Drinking coffee, writing on my blog, thinking of making some more ice candles for my friend, Shelley.

Jill sent me this:
The modern blog evolved from the online diary, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Most such writers called themselves diarists, journalists, or journalers. A few called themselves "escribitionists”.  (The word “escribir” means “to write” in Spanish.) I told her that fits perfectly. A combination of the words to write and exhibitionist. Indeed.

I have been obsessed with this grain blend this week. It was called for in several bread recipes that I wanted to try. Too cheap to pay for it at King Arthur, I found a recipe and concocted my own grain blend. It's beautiful, isn't it? I can't wait to try it in bread. Maybe Friday.

I worked at the Treaty Site yesterday. Regis and Gus gave me a ride and we went for a walk in the woods before I had to go in. So peaceful.

This is what it looks like from my little station in the front. The sun came through the overhead windows several times and I basked like a fat cat. Three customers came in and I realized quickly that I need to brush up on my Nicollet County history.

Well, the kitchen is calling me. Pictures and updates throughout the day, of course.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

embracing winter, darkness, and cold #1

2014: what I'm thankful for this year

  1. I am thankful for my little messy house, filled to the brim with food for Thanksgiving and so many cooking adventures in the past week: cranberry cake spiced with a Chinese Five Spice blend, pumpkin oatmeal cookies, cranberry whiskey tart, meatball tortellini soup, and kale salad.
  2. I am thankful for walks in the woods. After years of tramping down city sidewalks, we have discovered the trails through the woods around our town. So peaceful and pleasant. 
  3. I am thankful for opportunities to work. The Treaty Site which is not a dusty old museum but a vibrant and dynamic place to learn about where we live. The schools where I sub. My favorite places are the media centers in all schools and special ed classrooms.
  4. I am thankful for Livestrong at the YMCA. I realized as I talked to the reporter last night about my experiences, that I can't see a time when Livestrong won't be a part of my life. It was a powerful life force and those are enduring friendships. I am so glad I stumbled into it with Michele. Those dark and cold January night would not have happened had I been alone.
  5. I am thankful for my kitty Woodrow who sees a clean tablecloth as an invitation to recline on the table, stretched to his full length, looking like the king of something. I ask him to pretend when company comes, that he is not allowed on the tables. This morning, I caught him tip-toeing across the extra table with the dinner dishes and food. Don't tell anyone who plans to eat here.
  6. I am thankful for all of the things on my list of things to do: Write a letter to Rachel to thank her for the sweet note I got last week. Put the new knobs on the cabinets in the hallway. Make the ice candles for the patio. Take my necklace to Patty to be repaired. Write in my raven journal.
  7. I am thankful for the people in my family, which now includes not only my biological family, my family through marriage, my children and their families, my extended family of aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews and their circles, but also friends who are family, too.
  8. I am thankful for the health professionals who continue to take such good care of me. Dr. Cockerill, Judy Westphall, Dr. Nelson, Linda Welch, and the nurses...every one of them. I am lucky to be able to tell the doctor, "I trust your decision." 
  9. I am thankful for the books and papers in my life. I know, when I leave the house, there will be at least one book and one journal traveling with me. A guy never knows when the need to read of write will arise.
  10. I am thankful for the love of boldness. Strong spices like cinnamon and cloves, bright red glasses, loud laughter, a messy garden, fearless living even if I don't leave town.
  11. I am thankful for synchronicity: the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. A new Facebook friends turns out to be the cousin of a classmate and fellow school bus rider from my youth. An old college friend turns out to know a former neighbor and comedian from Colorado. We brush up against each other for a reason. Read about six degrees of separation here.
Eleven seems like a good place to stop. Just because something didn't make the list, doesn't mean I am not thankful for it. I write a list of five things every day for which I am grateful and it's a great happiness exercise; I recommend it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

maudlin thoughts

I know everyone's advice would be to put this out of my mind and think about more positive things. I'm trying to do that and by writing about it, I am trying to get it out of my system.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. November was a bitch of a month that year and it didn't get better for a long time. But November is what sticks in my mind as the month with the most suck. I go back and read over the blog posts I wrote in November of 2012 and get chills. Meeting with the oncologist for the first time, going to the hospital for the biopsy, surgery, the drainage tubes, the chemo port. Seeing all those bald people. Things about Thanksgiving seem to remind me of it, too, like the clear plastic glasses I had to use for drinks but ended up using for left-over parfaits. I bought some more for this year.

I know it probably isn't healthy to dwell on these thoughts but in another way, it doesn't feel all that unhealthy either. It feels sort of nostalgic. Like I can finally put that whole business in a box in the closet. I can be done with those fears for now.

So, here I go. Out into the kitchen to make pies and cranberry sauce and to think about going for a walk with Gus and Regis and to make plans to have our grandkids over to help cook. Life is good.

stopping by woods on a snowy evening

Regis has been driving the transit a lot lately so I volunteered to take Gus for his daily walk. Young Regis, his two dogs, Ella, Gus, and I tramped out into the woods behind the Treaty Site about noon. I had forgotten about the thaw so we were trudging through slick mud and wet leaves most of the way. Gus was filthy and needed a complete bath by the time it was over. Then I needed a complete bath.

I went downtown to do my last errands before the holiday. I hesitated, it being Saturday and all but the St. Peter stores were not crowded. I went to the grocery store first, the place I like the least. Of course: no kale, no feta cheese, no wheat flakes. Next the coop where I picked up those things and my local, organic, grass fed heritage turkey. He looks kind of little to feed 12 adults and 2 kids so I'll have to bring up the subject of supplementing, never a favorite around here because I tend to supplement my way into 30 days of left-overs. By the time I got to Shopko on the other end of town, my butt was dragging.

I sat down when I got home to look over the supplies and the plan. My friend, Cheryl, called to invite us to dinner. What a sweet surprise!  She had Friesen's bacon cheddar biscuits and this amazing chili. So nice to sit in front of a real fire on a dark and chilly November evening and tell stories.

I woke up 3 am...and I am trying to be quiet and still so Regis can sleep. I am on a mission today to get out the extra tables, the dishes, the silver, the glassware, and to start organizing my cooking.

Oh, no! I just checked out the Jennie-O turkey calculator and it says I should have a 19 pound turkey. Mine weighs just under 12. Oh, damn. Wait, wait. Martha Stewart says if you have lots of sides (I do.) then a 12 pound bird should be fine for 12 people. Pig wings, anyone?

Here I am at the HyVee with my three-page grocery list on a clipboard, thinking of fresh herbs and feeling sad because all of mine froze in our spell of early winter weather.

Maybe I'll go back to bed for a while. It's a little early for turkey fever.

Friday, November 21, 2014

the weird and paranormal

I keep having these weird, inexplicable experiences. I wish I had been keeping track of them because now that they are piling up, I can't remember all the details.

My old and dear friend, Sharon, who I lived with back in the 70's, got hooked up with me again via Facebook and another crazy friend we have in common. Turns out, when Sharon came to visit for the first time in many years, she was going through breast cancer treatment.

Now another strange turn of events. Our former neighbor Mike, the comedian, is performing tonight at the treaty site. Sharon saw it on FB and wrote to ask if Mike is from Colorado. Yes, he is and how did she know? Mike's mom is married to Sharon's husband's brother. Mike and Sharon have know each other for many years. Holy crap.

I have been on a baking binge lately. Yesterday, I spent hours in the kitchen making cranberry sauce and a cranberry tart. Today, I made pumpkin and oatmeal cookies because Joanne was coming and she loves pumpkin. We had a nice visit at the end of her crazy school day.

I really wanted some fresh herbs for next week but they are so expensive in the store. I went to the garden center and bought three small plants. Regis rigged up a pot so they can hang in the kitchen window...the only place that gets any sun where the cat can't reach them.

Now, I'm on a mission to make ice candles. Here's one I made a few years ago. I think I used an ice cream pail but now you can buy forms. Yeah, I don't think I'll buy a form. It's going to be cold enough in the next week that I ought to be able to turn out an army of them.

Regis and I were on the early morning radio show, Shuffle Function, yesterday. We listen to it every day and always make a donation during pledge week so we can be programmers for a day. We sit with Shy Boy Tim and Shelley who have an encyclopedic knowledge of music and movies. They love zombies and the paranormal so it's always a hoot of a time to visit with them. Tim put on my glasses to go with his red cardigan. Regis played an hour of Johnny Cash and I played local favorites.

I'm trying to maintain my focus so I can go out to the treaty site tonight at 9pm. Michael is taping a show as an audition for the Penn and Teller television program called Fool Us. I think it will be a hoot but I don't like driving after dark and Regis will be transporting mostly drunk college students up and down the hill all night. I have the phone number of the town taxi cab but that sounds like too much work.

Tomorrow I have to get busy with my holiday menu and start making lists of things to do. I am subbing Monday morning and getting a haircut in the afternoon. Tuesday, I work at the treaty site all day. Yikes. I better get serious here one of these days. Jan came to clean on Monday but I swear someone comes in here during the night and makes a mess of things.

Well, off to enjoy the Friday night lights.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

weekend in pictures

This poor post has been languishing in "edit" for days. I will just let it go and start a new one. I love fall and find so many things to do and documenting them takes the back seat.

Friday, November 14, 2014

not a heron, but dead just the same

The picture I posted the other day, of the heron, was not a heron. It was an injured pelican who was rescued by some nice folks from the cities. He had to be euthanized, though, because his injury was too severe and he wouldn't be able to recover. Good he didn't have to starve or freeze to death, I guess.

We have been walking the trails around St. Peter, Regis more often than me since I am lazy. Traverse des Sioux has an amazing trail system now of many miles, all maintained by the Nicollet Bike Shop. These trails, and the ones behind the Mill Pond, are usually less windy than the trails atop the hill. They are also very peaceful and you would never know you are within a mile of a major highway. Gus can run unleashed and he loves to lope along, picking up a stick now and then, sniffing everything in his path, and peeing on multiple twigs and branches. Ah, the life of a dog.

I'm going to the psychic expo tomorrow with my friend, Sharon. I have been looking over the list of exhibitors and I think it should be fun. We have tickets to see a medium about which I have a healthy skepticism but also a strong curiosity. There really isn't anyone I want to communicate with on the other side but maybe he can pass a message on to me from them. Seems weird, eh? I'm not going to write his name because you never know what manner of kook could do a google search and end up at my doorstep as a result.

I had to abandon a book last night. I loved Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See so I bought his first book About Grace. I plodded through the first maybe 20% but it was a tough go. Beautiful writing only takes you so far. I kept hoping he would pick up the pace but it was not to be. I started The Beans of Maine, Egypt and it's very entertaining.

I'm going to yoga this morning, then my writing group at the coop. I have a couple projects to finish up in the house this afternoon but I think it will be a quiet weekend. Aside from the psycho experience, that is.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

oncology and ravens

Regis and I cleaned off the patio in preparation for the twelve inches of snow we expected Monday. We barely got enough snow to cover the ground, but the patio is put to bed for the winter. It looks so bare out there now. No more fires in the chimnea, no more grilling, no more pool.

I've gotten very attached to the image of the raven. I spent one morning making a journal from a lovely leather notebook I got from friends a long time ago when I looked after their dad when they toured Europe. It is beautiful but I never dared to write in it. I ordered some raven digital images from Etsy and decorated it. Now, it's ready for use.

I had my 24 month oncology check up the other day. I always think I am not nervous about it. I think I have been able to stop feeling fearful because I don't want to waste time being afraid of something that will most likely (I hope) not happen. But then I go back there, I sit in the same rooms where I heard I had cancer, I see the same doctors, the nurses, the bald folks and it sets up an inner panic.

It's hard to describe just how kind and good the people are there. I have never dreaded going because I always feel like they scoop me up and take care of me. My research nurse, Judy, who is an absolute angel, gave me this beautiful book, Growing Through the Narrow Spots. The description of the book says this: This book is more than a book about cancer. It is a roadmap of sorts, encouraging the reader to look closely and patiently at all of life's challenges - narrow spots - to discover the resources, both internal and external, that are present to help navigate the passage. No one and no thing is permanent, except the presence of the divine. Change is inevitable. Transformation is intentional.

Judy and the book were two more things on my path of mystical happenings lately. Oh, did I mention I am going to the psychic expo this weekend? In my mind I call it the psycho expo. Haha! I crack myself up sometimes.

All systems checked out fine. No need to visit the oncology department again for six months. Except that I left my necklace there when I changed into a gown and have to go retrieve it today.

My utensil rods came yesterday so there is a project in my future.

Woodrow has learned that if he sits right in front of the computer screen that I might give him a treat to encourage him to move. He must be a smart cat because no matter how many treats he gets, he sits right there. Reminds me of how I used to give Bert a treat to get him to stop barking when I was pon the phone. Funny...he just kept barking.

I volunteered at the Nicollet County Historical Society yesterday and loved it. Such a lovely setting, nice people, and to be surrounded by all that history is nice. I'm setting up some social media and of course, when I did that for River Rock, I didn't write down how I did it so I am having to re-navigate all of that  confusing territory.

Well, on into this day. It will be a busy one...tidy the house, go to Mankato, help a Somali woman learn to drive, oil blending party at 4, and an evening of knitting and movie watching. Sounds like a lovely day.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

midnight and windy

One of the side effects of this better health journey that I am on is what I call my gerbil periods. I am struck with a need to do things, sometimes in the wee hours. Way more often than I was struck by that need in the past. I was a great one to overlook a closet that should be cleaned or a shelf that needed dusting. What has come over me?

This morning, I woke up at 4 and started cruising Pinterest (my electronic hoarding place) for home organization ideas. I was most interested in ideas for tiny kitchens although our kitchen is not tiny but I love to cook and storage space is short. I recently have begun to try to keep my counters tidier so moved two large pots full of utensils to a drawer. Now I have a mess of spoons and spatulas in the lowest drawer...not convenient at all. I visited a friend who had hung antique utensils in her kitchen window, almost like a curtain. So, there you go. Rod on its way, hooks ordered, a new plan is in place.

I also had the need today to clean out the kitchen broom closet. All the years we have lived here, it has been a jumble of stuff: a crate on the bottom held things that were never used. The mops and brooms were tangled together on top or jammed in the sides. I took everything out, discarded the stuff that was way past prime, moved things out that are used infrequently, and organized the rest with small nails and one crate. Now, happily, the water bottles and the vinegar that used to reside out in the open, have a place to live.

I cleaned up the back porch in preparation for Thanksgiving. The new bench with the lid was moved out there. The teak bench with the red seat cover was moved to its old spot in the living room, and the short bench was moved to the sitting area with the small fireplace. In a little house, your places of comfort shift with the seasons.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon, the pile of things to go to the basement was almost as high as the refrigerator...seasonal things, not things we never use. I have another pile of boxes to go to the thrift store. I have a couple small piles of messiness that need to be sorted and stashed but the big things are where I want them. I have a need for order that I have never felt before.

Ella came after school and we visited with Joanne, made a chicken and vegetable stir fry, and had a tea party with apple cake and tiny cups. She loves Thanksgiving so we talked menu. She is an adventurous eater and even though she pronounced the stir fry sauce as "smelly" as we were mixing it, she loved it. We always talk about the corn and blueberry salad and how she didn't like many of the separate ingredients, she really likes them together. Happens often with food, I said.

We're making lefse tomorrow so the grill, the rolling pad, the ricer, the stick are all ready to go. Ella and I made the potatoes tonight and they are cooling on the porch as Edna did and Vi did. My two lefse mentors. I have both of their recipes out on the counter waiting for tomorrow.

I went to Michele's yoga class this morning, an experience that has left me weepy more than once for a reason that is difficult to explain. Maybe it's because we are a group of aging women who love books and colorful shoes and big buttons and scented soaps. Maybe it's because the yoga work and Michele's sweet voice take us to a place of such peace and tranquility that it is, quite literally, like setting down a bag of sand. One time, I fell asleep during the shavasana. (The yoga practice is a form of ritual. In the closing of the practice comes an integration phase, where the effects of the practice are allowed to take hold and penetrate deep into the self. Shavasana is the primary vehicle of that process.)

My writing group was small today, only me, but that is fine. I sat with my coffee at the coop and worked on a poem about the last oil blending party I had. Then I got a text from a friend on whose step I thought I had left a turkey roaster yesterday. Not her step. I had to leave and track down the roaster, right where I left it on the porch of the wrong house), then take it to the right house where I was hugged around the knees by a darling tiny girl with blonde curls. Ah, life is so good.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

what I did this fall...hard to catch up!

I have been absent from the blog world for a while as I have been busy with other creative projects: de-cluttering and fixing up the home front, making a raven journal, working on a slideshow,, baking, and writing writing writing. Here are some of the photos from September and October as proof of my existence on the planet.

Regis and I went to Canby to visit Mom and to meet up with Cousins Jo and Henry.

Regis and I worked at the Grape Stomp at Morgan Creek.

We had dinner with Kathy and Jack at Suzette's.

We went to the Oktoberfest in downtown St. Peter and saw Lamont Cranston.

I pickled peppers from my garden.

I baked a ton. Pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins.

I cooked with tomatoes.

We went to the pumpkin patch at Grandma's Little Acre.

I got a new mixer and have been making bread!

We took several afternoons to drive around and look at leaves.

We walked in the Halloween Fun Run.

We walked on the trails at the Treaty Site.

We went to Zoey's 4th birthday party at the Marriot.

We went to the dog park in Mankato.

We found a trail here and there to walk.

A trail near the Treaty Site. Beautiful heron.

Mary stopped to wish me happy birthday and to take a selfie.

Another pic at the pumpkin patch.

Regis doing his best old lady look as he waits for me to take a picture.

I bought and assembled a kitchen cart.

I made a buckwheat bread.

Somebody sent me flowers!

We were amazed by the leaves!

We cooked and ate well.

Tomato tart...great recipe for cherry tomatoes.

I went to see Mary Mack.

I made Alice Water's apple tart.

I made Michele's apple cake. Many times.

I made Cuban bread.

And I made more bread. Much of it went to neighbors and friends.

Elliot spent the night and we had breakfast at McDonald's!

We had several fires in the chimnea.

Flowers from River Rock.

I went to Grandparent's Day at Elliot's school.

I decorated for Halloween.

I painted the bathroom and the hallway.

Jane and Dick came for a weekend visit and we went to Schmidt's Meat Market.

I went to a writing retreat at Knife Lake.

I got a new mixer for my birthday and make many loaves of bread!

I made a pear tatin which is an upside down tart.

I subbed in a World History class and taught about the Dark Ages.

I had an oil blending party and made a pumpkin pie sugar scrub.

I picked leaves.

It has been a grand month!