Thursday, July 31, 2014

a little bit of pretty


Sometime all I want is a little bit of pretty. I love that the chopsticks match the pretty color of the guava kombucha. The meal was delicious, the company was even better. I met with the Courage Gals. This has been such a lovely development in my life. I meet up with this ladies about once a month to talk about courage goals. All three of us made submissions that didn't make the cut and it was great to share the experience with them. In the end it did not matter that none of us made the cut, what mattered was that we tried. Now it is time to move on to the next goal.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

sunlight on the blue water


These blue water photos are a bit misleading. River water is mostly brown expect for late summer when there is green muck. The water gets real mucky where there is less movement in the water so we had to cruise around for a while to find a swifter current in order to swim in a place that was less mucky. There is 6 miles between dams on the river where we swim so there was plenty of space to move around.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

blue water


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Sunday, July 27, 2014

attitude of gratitude: abundance


If June is all about the glory of summer, I think July is all about abundance. Lots of sunshine, water, berries, lazy afternoons, late evening light, flowers, butterflies, dragonflies and boating. I feel so much gratitude for all of this in my life, right now, this summer.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
― Epicurus
For me the perfect summer day is spent out on our old boat fishing, swimming and cruising the river. Dave caught two fish! We swam all around the boat despite the green river muck. We washed up with our biodegradable soap and escaped the searing heat of July. By the end of the day we were all tired but resisting sleep.

By ten at night we were driven indoors by a lightening storm. And while there was a little bit of rain, the fury of the storm stayed just south of us, just enough south for us to enjoy the lightening-filled sky. A mere 45 minutes later, the storm had passed to the east and what followed was dazzling. There was the clear edge of the lightening storm lighting up the darkness of the night and on the west side, the sky was totally clear and brilliant with the milky way and bright constellations. At one point, the rain was sprinkling down on one side of the trailer with no precipitation on the other end, a difference of over 30 feet - no kidding. It is a new moon so there shouldn't have been much light. Yet the lightening was so bright, its flashes lit up the mirror-like raindrops on the leaves of the tall trees. It was an amazing experience!

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”
― Khalil Gibran

I can't help but think that summer is coming to a close. Yet there is still plenty of time for popsicles! Here are some great ideas.

Soon the autumn months will be here (my favorite season!) and now is the time to start planning for the next woodland projects to be done while the air is cool. We are going to build a little fort for the Lotus Bud and D needs a shed. I dream about things like this.

I'm super excited to see Rodrigo y Gabriela! I just booked our sitter and am cajoling friends to join us. No takers yet. Want to meet us there?

Rarely do we travel far during the warmer months in the Midwest. Over Thanksgiving we always head to Moab, Utah. I'm already thinking about how to pack efficiently for our long roadtrip and this will likely be real helpful.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let's face it. There really is no way to avoid the disney princess phenomenon so I'm trying to embrace it, watching the movies with a critical eye, and pulling tidbits about character building from some of the movies. The movies that were made in this century are so much better than the ones I saw while growing up. And the internet seems to be full of fun parodies and re-imagining of the princesses. Here are few I found recently:
"Walk Disney" Character Survive in an Apocalyptic World. 
Disney Princesses Reimagined as Game of Thrones Characters.
Rejected Princesses.

Live like a princess in Horst's penthouse on the Mississippi River. It just went up for sale for a cool 8 million dollars.

So if you've ever looked through my 2014 Book list, you'll see a lot of urban fantasy there. Don't judge! I blame it on an old friend of mine who got me hooked. And thank goodness for that! I need this sort of mind candy, I think of it as part of my therapy (I totally used these books to overcome my internal dialogue about exercise). The new Kate Daniels book comes out this week (I thought about KD during my kick-boxing class) and so the next weekend is going to be filled with shapeshifters, a magic sword wielding ass-kicking heroine and non-sparkling vampires. Here's a little something to balance out all that ass-kickery:  Take a look at these adorable were-pups.

“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet" 
--Thich Nhat Hahn
Good advise for me right now: Worry about yourself!

A little more on the serious side: 11 Bold Steps Taken by Remarkable People.

Have I shared this one about foxes? A couple of weeks ago, I caught site of our own neighborhood fox.

I was reminded of this little toad all weekend long. There were so many toads. If I used the word "plague" it would only be a bit of exaggeration. But "plague" implies a problem or in this case, a nuisance and these little toads were anything but a nuisance. As I walked the little paths of our land, they scattered like the parting of a sea. A few jumped to the side of each footfall and not just one jump, but more like jump, leap, hop, jump, jump, jump. Their springy leaps made me giggle.

I'll keep that image close to me this week for as long as I can.

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miss potato head


Miss. Potato Head seems to be having a great day!

In the town near our woodland property there is a lovely little farmers market supplied by people in the local area including the Mennonite community. We try to go as often as we can despite the abundance of produce I get from our CSA. We used to have a neighbor (he has recently moved) near our trailer who was an organic farmer. He comes from an organic farming community and every Saturday we would see him and his mother at their market stand. Chatting with them gave us the "in" with the rest of the farmers at the market who were at first, a bit shy and uncertain about us city folk (I think).  Over the years, we've come to look forward to the morning visits and our conversations with the farmers get longer and longer.

This last Saturday I talked  with one about the peak freshness of hand-picked raspberries and with another, the benefit of refilling the pickle jar with fresh cucumbers to get longer use out of an excellent brine. An older farmer whose apples we always look forward to had a little photo of the cutest kittens I'd ever seen. He told me that he couldn't even give away these sweeties anymore. No one needs cats in their barns or fields much these days. Roundup herbicide kills everything in the field except the corn. So no use for cats in keeping the mice population in control. While we here in the city theorize about how to resist big agro-business, the farmers of Rusk county of are living the effects on a daily basis. I was humbled by the experience.

Yet another farmer from Maple Hill Farm has been sharing his experience of turning a hobby into a working farm complete with hours open to the public to frolic with the hens, the sheep, the pigs and the cows. We had an extended discussion about the hard boiled egg and we laughed with each other a bit with theories of why white eggs are easier to boil hard and peel perfectly (he suggested wretchedly old eggs and I put forth bio-engineering). We both agreed that even if farm fresh eggs are left in the refrigerator for a month, they are still damn hard to peel. Steaming, he says, is the solution. Peels perfect each and every time. I've bought beef, eggs and sheep milk soap from him and I hope to visit the farm soon.

We've been going to this farmers market for over ten years now. I try to buy something from each farmer I speak to and we end up leaving with a lot because the ones we know well always give us extra and sometimes, for free. In the beginning the experience wasn't as pleasant. No one was rude, no, not that. It's just that they weren't all that chatty. Now I could spend well over an hour in this tiny market with about a dozen farmers. And while I'm getting caught up on all the harvest news, my daughter is running here and there chased and chasing the local Mennonite kids who wear hand made dresses and have flopping braids and nifty caps.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

color combinations


Who would have thought that purple and yellow could go so well together? Not I and yet they do. Also, I can't help but think the purple center is a fractal but it's not. I just like that word fractal which of course, came into my vocabulary because of Frozen.

I had intended more for this post today but I got too busy and now we are just an hour from hitting the road. This is the best time of year to be out in the woods. The ticks are pretty much gone, the mosquitoes are lessened and there is always a mad rush of sound in the trees.

I will be counting my blessings by the firepit tonight because there are so many!

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

for kids of all ages


Do you have a friend who is in the know of all the cool things to do around the city? I do and I'm so glad she and her daughter are in our lives! She suggested Grey Fox Pottery and while I knew I would like it I didn't anticipate loving the experience.

We had a mini heat wave here in Minnesota so this was the perfect indoor activity. Never mind that when we got there the A/C wasn't on because soon they turned it on and it became the sort of cool that I like - not frigid cold, just cool enough to take the edge off.

I'm so grateful to be in that phase of my life where I can wander the shelves of unfinished pottery and choose whatever I like and not worry (too much) about the price. 

I chose a little bud vase and this brush caddy. Towards the end, I did try the bubble technique that shown in the finished yellowish caddy. I chose to do blue on the inside and I can't wait to see it!

Lotus Bud chose a heart box and a little fairy which will be fused on. So cute! The girls did great. I feared they would tear through the painting going from one item to the other, but they both made good choices and stuck with them. When they were done, they were done. There were no broken pieces, no crazy energy that had them running around the store. So we Mamas were able to finish our larger pieces.

In fact the girls did great! They were focused on their painting, they were delicate with their technique. We all left with a sense of accomplishment!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

to the rescue!

Dave and I have been thinking about how to be our "better selves." One thing is to just get up earlier on the weekends. I am ashamed to say that there are mornings where the little Lotus Bud is up coloring and playing with legos while we try to catch a few more minutes of sleep. Old habits from our child-free days are hard to break!

So on our last day in the woods we decided to head out early on the boat instead of packing up and leaving for city right away. It was yet another good decision. The weather was warm but the river was cool. While we had made the decision to bathe in the river, neither of us were prepared to get in the cold water so quickly. Lotus Bud had different ideas and she made the decision inevitable by releasing her hot pick noodle into the river. Dave had no choice but to jump in for the rescue.

What was I doing? I'll have you know that I did make a valiant (!) effort to hook it with my fishing line. It was quite cast that brought about joyful cheers. I did successfully hook it but then I tugged a little too hard and the hook came loose. In the meantime the noodle rode the current further away from us.


You'll note that I am not in the water. I'm dry and warm in the boat looking down at my floating ducks.

I did get in just ten minutes later. But I made the choice for myself.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

experimental daisy


This is a project I've been wanting to do for quite a while with the Lotus Bud. We put blue food coloring into a glass of water and added flowers. It worked! It took a while but still it was a delight to see the petals take on a blue tinge. We also did it with purple but that didn't work. The strange thing is that some of those daisies pulled the blue out of the color combo. Interesting, yes? Yes!

I got the idea here. And it was a good one. The only thing is that this project just took a few minutes. I'm seeking projects that keep the both of us occupied for much longer.

Also, I'm trying to think of things that we wouldn't ordinarily do in the city. We are considering building a fort for the little one. Dave mentioned something about adding a swing and I found myself being totally opposed to that idea. I don't want to build her a playground because I adamantly believe that the woods should be her playground! Besides there are playgrounds nearby. In fact we took the boat to a campground to pick up some more water from the pump and right next to it was a small playground so she got a bit of that experience. I think her imagination will soar if given the opportunity to be creative out in the woods. That's how I grew up. No crayons or playgrounds in my early childhood. I had to entertain myself and I was lucky enough to grow up in a area where I had some woods and a creek to explore.

I don't like the idea of having to constantly entertain my child. Sure if it's little science projects like getting flowers to drink blue water, I'll do it. But I despise taking my child to a city playground. I would much rather take her to a park near a lake and let her run, find feathers, splash in the water. I want to her to explore the world on her own terms and not be dependent on stuff that's been made for her.

That's just how I am.

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pretty flying things


The four days away from the city were really quite good. We made the decision late Wednesday night and left later the next day. It was a much needed rupture from the city routine. I felt like we flew out to Wisconsin not unlike these pretty flying things.

We made the right decision, taking off like we did. The mosquitoes have let up, the ticks are mostly gone, no neighbors on our desolate dirt road. I didn't check my email at all! I didn't realize how much we needed this until we got there. There was a bit of time morph because the trailer clock wasn't set when we got there and it came on two hours later than the actual time. The kiddo was in bed and we were sitting by the fire at 9pm, not 11pm.

I had an acute moment sitting by the fire. There was "total silence" in the woods. The wind in the tops of the trees (in my journal I noted that I almost said "seas" as that closely resembles the sound of the wind in the trees), the crackle of the fire all added to the experience. It was in that moment I realized this was the absolute best decision. If we had planned, I would have been looking forward to getting away too much. The initial experience of getting out to the woods wouldn't bring the same relief as the spontaneous experience. This was unexpected and not in least jarring. Blissfully jarring. Total rupture led to a sort of rapture. A rapture of love and amazement of all that we have created for ourselves and all that was created by nature. Such perfection.

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I don't know what this is. Is it a fungus? Is it a flower? Is it a fungus flower?

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turtle eggs?


These are right out of my nightmares. I imagine alien critters that bite and swallow us in our sleep. It wasn't until I came home and did some research on the internet, that I found these could be turtle eggs. So I'm going with that. Turtle eggs! I wish now that I had brought them home to get a better, closer look at them.

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a collection of mid-July wildflowers


The wildflowers are in such bright colors these days. Huge swatches of yellow and giant pokes of purple. Combine all these with the tops of grasses and you get all the glory of July. I love grass seed heads, a rare sight in the city.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

river goodness


Late last night, D and I decided to head to the river. This morning he got the time off and I rescheduled my meetings. I had a brief moment of stress thinking of all that needs to get done before heading out of town. Then I saw this photo which reminded me of all the good things that await us in the woods and on the river Flambeau.

Off we go!!!

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little toad


This little guy jumped on my leg. I didn't freak out. Yay me! Instead I grabbed D's phone and looked up the meaning of frog medicine. Never mind that this is a toad and not a frog, the symbolism is the same for me. It was all about cleansing.

Tiny little toad reminded me to cleanse my spirit. I decided I needed to bathe in the river and so I did the very next day. With thunder rolling in, I resisted the distraction and replaced the muddy thoughts in my mind with clear energy.

It was exactly the sort of ritual I needed to prepare myself for the challenges of the week. I thought of it as self-care, intentional and holy.

As a cultural orphan I reserve the right to claim all the world's spiritualisms as my own. Not being grounded in any one truth, I seek and explore aspects of spirituality that have to do with renewal, kindness and compassion. And I need a constant reminder to be kind and compassionate towards myself.

I've found that experiences like this are one the greatest things of having a woodland retreat. There are so many spontaneous opportunity to take cues from nature and apply them to my own life. Things that would not otherwise pass through my radar with all the distractions of the city. This woodland life is simple and yet overfull with reminders that not everything can be known and controlled but that everything can be filled sacred meaning.

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after the rain


Last weekend we returned early from our trailer retreat because a huge line of thunderstorms came through. On the one hand, I was happy to be home in order to prepare for the board meeting. On the other hand, I think we missed an opportunity to experience the woods after a rain storm. We could have gone for muddy, splashy Jeep drive. We could have gone for pizza in town. Both are things we make no time for when the weather is sunny and hot. Instead we picked up a pizza in the city and I got harrassed by one of the owners. And then we spent the evening watching a bad movie.

There is a lot of talk lately on the internet about cat-calling. But what happens when the cat-calling is happening in a place of business with a guy holding a hot pizza hostage? This is what I did: I kept my calm until I got my pizza then vowed to never order a pizza from there again.

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feeding a four year old


When my girl was a baby she would eat anything and everything. As she grew older I think she realized that food was the one thing she had absolute control over and so she became picky. And I became insane with getting her to eat a variety of foods. She always ate healthy but not much of a variety. This girl of mine does not like mac and cheese or white bread or hot dogs - all those things that kids tend to eat, but she would eat hummus and quiche and brown bread. My therapist helped me realize that I was part of the problem, actually that I was THE problem. So I let go of it but I did continue to manipulate. No treat if you don't eat your dinner. I stuck with that and she started eating more things.

Now it's CSA season and there's tons of farmers markets and lots of things growing in the yard. I've got her cutting beans and choosing her potatoes. We've started sword fights with asparagus. We begin dinner by giving thanks for family, food and the river. Dinner time has become a lot more fun!

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

bath or soup


The little girl has turned the bird bath into a vessel for flower petal soup.

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river fowl


This time last year, I got to ride a canoe on the Mississippi River.  I got a water level view of the new Lowry bridge. The day was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and I got tons of photos at the dawn magic hour, one of which ended up in an exhibit.

This year the river levels were too high even for the barges. We couldn't do our canoe ride something I was wishing was going to become an annual thing. High river levels are common in the Spring, but now it's July.

The birds were abundant.

I love saying the word "fowl." A good friend of mine does not like eating any sort of bird - chicken, turkey, duck. She thinks fowl are foul. But we do agree that the little ones are cute.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

fox in the hood


jeez I love this neighborhood!

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baby geese


more photos of river fowl coming next week!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

peeking berries


Our trailer retreat is off a road that is maintained by the local power cooperative and every five years or so, they come and take down all the brush and small trees that grow under the power lines. This year they wiped out our blackberry bushes which may or may not be a good thing. We'll see if the extensive cut back will help them grow stronger.

Nonetheless I found some berries peeking through. These are raspberries. I think.

Did you know that raspberries have natural pectin in them? There was a year where we gathered buckets of wild blackberries and raspberries from a not-too-far-away enormous patch and I made jam. I made jam without any pectin because raspberries took care of that for me.

P.S. I was curious to see what I captured last year for my 365 photo project and sure enough, it is also a photo of growing food. Not the best photo but a good record nonetheless.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

not all sunshine


There is no doubt that it is very nice to have warm, sunny weather when at our trailer retreat. Yet the rain can be a wonderful experience in and of itself. The sound of the rain drops splattering on the roof of the Airstream is perfect for dozing. Everything inside feels all cozy and such. And outside? Well that's a whole different world of its own.

When the rain stops, the ends of the road are lost in the fog. Everything else seems closer and sparkly.

The trees drips for hours after the rainfall, the little showers induced by the wind.

The brush closer to the ground gather little mirrors and I think what an amazing time to wander and linger. My shoes and the bottom of my sweatpants get wet and I wear a sunhat to keep those pesky stalker flies away from my head.

Tiny and less showy flowers come into view. In the morning all the world seems so quiet except for the sprinkling of raindrops falling from the trees and that dang stalker fly. If I could bottle up an experience this is the one I would take back to the city with me. Everything except that fly.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

no trespassing


We post signs all around our property notifying other humans that hunting and trespassing are not allowed without our permission. We have granted hunting rights to our neighbor with the agreement that he share with us the venison. Summer and winter are the best times to keep an eye out for anyone wandering through the land because those two seasons provide plenty of opportunity to leave evidence.

The deer are habitual and they make clear straight paths through the dense brush. I love following these deer trails whenever possible. They walk the edges of our property. We rarely see them but we do hear them at night. 

Last year we had a bear in that patch of woods. I wonder if they use the same trails but I doubt it. We've seen huge swatches of flattened grass near the berry patches like a big old bear just hunkered down and had a snack. Dang bear doesn't like to share! I haven't heard that bear yet this year so maybe we'll get a few more berries.

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no escape


No matter where I go there are always dishes that need to be done. At least out in the woods I get to do them surrounded by lush greenery. Then and there the task is almost enjoyable.

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sparkling weekend


The greatest thing about having property out in the woods and nearly off the grid is that there is total rupture from daily city life. It is an almost instantaneous shift from the woes of the daily grind. Considering the tough challenges of last week, this retreat was exactly what my heart needed. Add in a few sparklers and a state that revels in their legal fireworks, and you've got all the makings of a spectacular holiday.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th!


On Independence Day five years ago we took a pregnancy test. Life's biggest irony. Now I have that family and I am astonished by how much more independent I feel. We get to make the decisions on how we want to live, what sort of family we want to be, what we want to eat, how we spend our time. That's the privilege of living in this first-world nation. Today I celebrate the freedom to be what we want to be.

Off to the trailer we go!

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Thursday, July 3, 2014



How often do you find that the one thing you were resisting held the very thing that you need? This is a truth that smacks me with lessons all the time.

I confess that I resisted Lean In but then a courageous friend suggested I read the book and suggested I go to a meeting and since it was in my hood, I went. And then I went to another meeting last night (not in my hood but that's OK because I needed to drive away). The experience kicked me out of a two day depressive episode (and yes, I need to use this dramatic description for my blues).

Summertime dinnertime should always be a bowl of cherries (amirite, Deonne?) and a breezy summery evening should be spent amongst a group of female leaders who strive through kindness and compassion to change the world. It was a place that provided the support that I am not getting through my own community. It was an opportunity to disconnect from personal woes and see myself as a conduit of charisma and power.

Indeed - it's great to be female.

P.S. Minnesota women are awesome! Check out this personal declaration of independence.

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