Beating the brrr

Most of our readers know we live in Minnesota and most of our readers – being the savvy, intelligent people they are – were aware our temps recently hit record lows (-59° wind chill). Hence, our deepest apologies if our hiatus caused you any worries.

Rest assured. We are alive.

In answer to your question as to how we managed it, we did so in the same way we handled Phoenix when it hit a record high (122°). We skipped town.

The week of the dreadful cold, we were in Denver for Hey You’s funeral.  And then our two day trip became a full week because for some reason airlines weren’t anxious to fly back to Minneapolis. Meaning I spent a full week sans laptop.

Yeah, yeah, I know I should have packed it. But it was only supposed to be two days and going through TSA is stressful enough for me. I don’t need to add a laptop to the mix.

So there I was with just my phone, checking my emails but only halfheartedly because if you’re going to get stuck in a city, Denver is one of the better places to do it. They got some mighty fine restaurants and many of them reasonably priced.

omelet with salad on top
Breakfast at The Early Bird Cafe (who ever thought to put arugula and roasted hatch chili on top of an omelet? It’s genius!)

In any case, all this is to say that once home, my inbox was cluttered beyond reason. No matter how much I tried, I could not gain the upper hand. Something had to be done.

But first, a word about the cold.

You gotta be wondering about it, yeah? How this Arizona gal is holding up? Is she filled with remorse, wondering what in God’s name she was thinking moving to such a place?

pine trees covered in snow with mailboxes in front
Pine trees at their finest

Even if you’re not wondering, I feel I must say something to my naysayers on Facebook. Those who, when I posted pictures of the first snowfall back in October with a caption that read, “It’s soooo pretty!!!” (or something to that effect), responded with a snarky and most predictable, “Tell us what you think of it in February!”

It’s now February. It’s still pretty.

bare trees in deep snow
View from my backyard. The Mississippi is back there somewhere.

Personally, I don’t see the point of complaining about weather. Back in Phoenix there were those who got upset about the heat. Some of them even seemed angry about it. Now where’s the sense in that?

Ducks at a frozen pond
The park near our home, right before the severe cold hit. I assume the ducks have left by now, though you never know with ducks. They probably have a cottage nearby.

It was about a year ago when we realized a move to Minnesota might be a possibility. Naturally, I did some research. Using search terms such as, “Winter tips” and “Surviving brutal cold” and “How do Norwegians stand it?!”

Christmas decorations in snow
Christmas lasts longer in these parts.

I learned there’s a Scandinavian saying,

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

With this in mind, I bought a Queen-size quilt with arms:

quilted down coat with fur-lined hood

Maybe you won’t find it on the cover of Vogue, but it’s rated at -50 “in moderate activity.” So far the coldest I’ve been in was a wind chill of -31°. Dog needed a walk and I couldn’t talk her out of it.

I’m here to report that Dog can do her job amazingly fast when she’s properly motivated. Also, L.L. Bean doesn’t lie. That coat is damn warm.

I learned something else from the Scandinavians: the key is not to endure winter, but to enjoy it.

Get outside when you can, appreciate the glistening snow and brisk air, wear comfy sweaters and curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.

Find the beauty in a red shed covered in snow.

Red shed covered in snow

After all, winter won’t last forever. It may seem like it, but eventually Spring will come.

So no worries about this Arizona gal. She’s handling winter like a champ.

Her inbox on the other hand…

Okay, so on Saturday I set a timer and whipped through Gmail’s Promotions folder and Personal folder in two half-hour sessions. I was on a roll! Then I hit the Social folder and it all came to a screeching halt.

That’s where all the bloggers I follow wind up, and Lordy they are a productive lot. Initially I thought I’d delete all the old posts and only read the most current, but after deleting a few I got to thinking. Is it their fault I got behind?

So then I thought, oh I’ll just read them fast and click “like” without commenting, but… well, that felt wrong too. Instead, I decided to throw caution to the wind and read every single one of them and comment too. (I’m reckless like that.)

As of now, I’ve 28 left to read. Which doesn’t sound bad but the day is young. There’ll probably be 14 new posts by dinnertime. Meaning the cold might not be bad, but the emails might do me in.

But hey, I’m not complaining. I’ll just brew a cup of tea, curl up by the fireplace with my laptop and read its soft, blue screen.

fireplace

Living in Minnesota ain’t so bad at all. 😉

The Scary State of My Inbox, Shirley Jackson, and Other Halloween Horrors

I’ve been terribly negligent with my inbox. So many unread emails, so much blog reading I’ve fallen behind on. So little writing done that I’ve lost the ability to see a proper, preposition-free way to end that last sentence.

I’ll catch up on the blog reading, no worries there. Preposition-free endings are over-rated, so sail on archaic grammarian, sail on.

What’s sad is I don’t have a good reason for falling behind in email. It’s not like I traveled with WD to Florence, or Dave on his excursion to Ireland, or toured Basque country with Joe.

I might have done a little reading. Speaking of reading, do any of you subscribe to the New Yorker?

Neither do I, but I get their free weekly newsletter. They let you read four articles a month before you get the dreaded, “You have exceeded your monthly free articles, subscribe now to continue reading” notice.

Their last newsletter included a link to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” — first published in the New Yorker in 1948, as well as an article on the letters they received after its release (most of them not nice.)

Shirley Jackson

Anyway, on account of it being Halloween, reading a few Shirley Jackson tales might be in order. And just for kicks, here’s a short article on the first paragraph of The Haunting on Hill House and why it’s possibly the best first paragraph in literature.

As for my own Halloween plans, I’ll be with my kids who are visiting for a few days. We’ll be doing our family custom: watching The Abominable Dr. Phibes, a campy horror flick with Vincent Price, and gorging ourselves on candy. (Fellow bloggers: I’ll be catching up on your antics in-between Vincent’s diabolic murders.)

Abominable

A more serious concern: Neighbor Buddy tells us to expect “around 100 to 200 trick-or-treaters.” He says many of the rural families drive into town, park, and let the kiddos wander the neighborhoods. (Eek!)

Suddenly my inbox doesn’t seem so bad.

rawpixel-1048261-unsplash

Happy Halloween, all.

What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?

My friends, look upon this book:

book ideal bookshelf

My Ideal Bookshelf — I found at the library. It’s a collection of writers, actors, musicians, artists — cultural movers and shakers — talking about their favorite books.

As I read it, I was struck by a couple thoughts. For one, I’m woefully under-read. Not only have I not read most of the books listed, many I’ve never heard of. It’s shameful, really.

Another thought: this book is strangely voyeuristic. Like you’re peeking into their personal lives and getting a sense of what makes them tick.

But really, isn’t that what our bookshelves do? They tell a story of our interests and hobbies, our upbringing and education level, even our fears or obsessions.

And tell the truth, when visiting someone’s home, don’t you look at the titles on their bookshelves and judge them just a little, based on what you find? (Yeah, me too.)

Knowing full well you’ll probably judge me for this, I’m going to pull out a few of the titles on my shelf that I think describe me best. These are the ones I either read over and over again, or I’m deeply sentimental about them. So much so, that moving them from Phoenix to Minnesota was a no-brainer.

(Note: Nearly all links lead to abebooks.com, my favorite site for buying used books.)

My bookshelf and me

On the far right is my Betty Crocker’s Boys & Girls Cookbook. I think it was a gift when I was in the fourth grade and I credit it for igniting my love of cooking. Right next to it are Anderson’s Fairy Tales and Blackbeard’s Ghost. I read those two over and over again all through my youth, and to this day have a strong preference for fantasy. Oh, and that fat book toward the left without a binding or cover? That’s a book of poetry, both silly and serious, that my dad often read or quoted from. I believe it explains my penchant for dark humor:

Willie saw some dynamite,
Couldn’t understand it quite;
Curiosity seldom pays:
It rained Willie seven days.

Next up, let’s consider my teen years: That Certain Something, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and way over on the left, Dr. Zhivago. Probably the weirdest collection for a teenage girl to be found. That Certain Something is a book on developing charm, of all things. You might say it was the first self-help book I ever read. It even has a quiz at the end to see how charming you are. (Note: for those of a certain age, the author was Arlene Francis — she of game show fame.)

As for Jonathan LS … well, as a matter of fact, yes. I was one of those teenage girls who thought Jonathan was deep. Truly deep, man.

seagull

Dr. Zhivago is when my serious reading began. It took three attempts and a course in Russian history before I finally understood the novel was waaaay more than a love story. I felt oh-so-smart when I figured it out, and in the process learned some books are worth a second (or third) try.

From there it was an easy jump to other classics, my favorites being The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. And then there’s Giants in the Earth, by O.E. Rölvaag.

Never heard of it? Neither did I until I heard a portion of it on the radio. I immediately ordered two copies, one for me and one for my dad. Reason being, the book is about Norwegian immigrants to the Dakota territories and it opens with a man walking ahead of their ox-pulled wagon — the same story my dad told about his grandfather.

Later when my dad was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, I visited him. He brought up the novel and I found out things I never knew — like how his dad would tell him stories of trolls and other folk tales, and I learned more details about his mom’s depression after his dad died (in the book, the main character’s wife suffers from mental illness). My dad passed away a few months after our impromptu book discussion. Some books you enjoy, some you recommend, others hold treasured memories. Giants in the Earth is all of those things for me.

Closing in on our Final Five, you’ll see there’s Lanterns & Lances by James Thurber. I’ve mentioned before this served as inspiration for the Feeding on Folly moniker, and as I said in my ‘about me’ page, I’m a huge Thurber fan. This book doesn’t include his most well-known writings, but it’s about 60 years old and it smells lovely.

As I Live and Breathe, A Sense of the Morning, and Here Be Dragons were all accidental discoveries. Either found in used bookstores or at a “friends of the library” sale, they weren’t my usual choices of reading but became instant favorites. As I Live and Breathe is a sweet, humorous tale of the author and his wife in the ’40s and ’50s. A Sense of the Morning contains essays on nature, but it’s so much more than that. This book reminds me how to look at the world with a sense of wonder. And Here Be Dragons… well, that book taught me way more about the world than any science class did. If you have any interest in evolution or plate tectonics, or even if you don’t have interest, read this book. It explains things better than anything else I’ve read.

That leaves us with Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Hands down, my favorite book on writing. Whenever I start feeling sorry for myself and thinking I’ll never write anything good, it helps to think of this book and picture Lamott whispering over my shoulder, “go ahead, get that shitty first draft done.” (Hmm. Might be time to reread this one.)

And there you have it, 15 of the books from my shelves. I could have shown you more, but these are the ones I feel influenced me the most – either as a writer, a reader, or simply as a human being (if being human were so simple).

And now it’s your turn. Think about the books you’ve read that made you who you are today. They might be ones you prominently display on your bookshelf, or it may be you read it once and can’t get out of your head.

List them in the comments below or, if you have a blog, write about them on your site and link it here. I’d love to get more book recommendations. After all, I’ve got some extra space on my bookshelves just aching to be filled.

my bookshelf for featured photo

Community News With Pancakes

magazineThis last Sunday at church, a woman handed me a magazine to give Husband, who is currently out-of-town.

It was one of those freebie publications you might see at a doctor’s office or hair salon, with a ridiculous number of ads and one or two articles on local interests.

The reason she was giving it to Husband is that he sings in the same group as the couple on the cover, so she figured he knew them. (He very well may, but beings how he’s out-of-town, I can’t say for sure.)

What I can say is that somewhere in the 85086 zip code, there is a woman who may or may not be in dire need of medical attention. Also, whoever Mama G is, her pancakes look damn fine.
Continue reading “Community News With Pancakes”

Weekend Reads: Tesla Motors & Uninterrupted Creativity

It’s not often a car gets my attention, but when they do I can’t seem to get them out of my head.

teslaEver since I saw a Tesla on the highway (My, but they are elegant cars), I’ve read a lot about them. I seriously doubt I’ll never own one, of course. Besides the cost, I’m perfectly content driving an inconspicuous Corolla.

But I don’t read about Corollas. Instead, I read articles like this one, How I Used and Abused My Tesla, by Steve Sasman. Even after 100,000 miles, a cross-country road trip and 500 Uber rides (!), it still looks dang elegant.

Or check out this guy in Norway, who parked his Tesla and left the doors open, then filmed it to see what would happen. Within minutes it became a demo car. (Well, honestly, what did he expect? I would have sat in the driver’s seat too.)

And I expect you heard that a few years back, Elon Musk (Seriously, how cool is his name?) released all patents for Tesla technology? You can read his blog post about it HERE. It’s all about sharing knowledge for the sake of progress, which is darn cool, don’t you think?

This next article I’m throwing in because for one, I loved it so much I tweeted it, and two, if we take his advice to heart, maybe one of us will come up with the next bestseller, or masterpiece, or groundbreaking technology: Click Here to Read.

Do you suppose Elon Musk allows himself uninterrupted creative time? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet Nikola Tesla did. 😉

We Need to Talk. It’s About Your Popups.

I was at your site a few days ago. Not sure if you saw me? I waved.

White dog next to person with laptopSomeone left a link on Facebook saying they really like your writing, so I thought I’d check it out.

I started to read your post.

I think it was the one where you went to that place? And did that thing? And then something really funny happened?

Or maybe it wasn’t funny. Maybe it was profound and life-changing.

To be honest, I didn’t read the whole piece. It’s not that your writing was bad or anything. I mean, your first two sentences were killer good. Really.

It’s just that right after I read the second sentence, a popup box just, you know, popped up, asking me to subscribe to your site.

Here’s the thing: I’m only two flippin’ sentences in! How do I know if I want to subscribe to your site?! Continue reading “We Need to Talk. It’s About Your Popups.”

Weekend Reads: Self-Talk, Sassy Librarians & Working at Snopes

White dog next to person with laptopI don’t know about you, but this weekend seemed to take its sweet time getting here. Let’s hope now that it’s here, it’ll stay awhile.

Meanwhile, here are a few suggested reads to get your weekend started right. Continue reading “Weekend Reads: Self-Talk, Sassy Librarians & Working at Snopes”

Weekend Reads: Cow Butts, Writing, and Fat People on Planes

Welcome to Weekend Reads – a new feature where I share three or four articles, websites, or podcasts I was entranced by, and then seriously annoyed my family by giving them the links and saying, “Did you read it yet, huh, did ya huh? … How ’bout now?”

Promise I won’t nag, but seriously, you should read these.

KuhFirst up, an ingenious way scientists are protecting lions, cows, and ranchers. Oh my!  Continue reading “Weekend Reads: Cow Butts, Writing, and Fat People on Planes”