Have You Seen, or Have You Heard?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

It's been quiet around these parts. Like, real quiet. I know. I know! I could hear those crickets chirping too.

But there's a reason it's been all hush, hush and mum's the word around here. Slowly but surely over the last year, the big cogs of life have been turning towards a big new chapter for Andy and myself and rather than jinx the whole thing by blogging vaguely about it, it seemed wiser to just keep quiet until things actually came to fruition.

But now, it's official. A couple weeks ago, we purchased Tuscarora Lodge and Canoe Outfitters in northeastern Minnesota on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The business is located just a few miles down the Gunflint Trail from where Of Woods and Words has been headquartered all these years.

Photo by Anne Victoria Photography
It's a big, exciting, and somewhat scary change, especially since we're transitioning into our new roles as business owners during the busy summer season. Still, we couldn't be more thrilled. If you happen to be looking for a canoe or Northwoods cabin this summer, we hope you'll consider working with us.  Even if you don't have any Minnesota vacation plans, you can still follow along on Facebook to get your daily fix of moose and wildflower photos.

With this new adventure, my time with Of Woods and Words has come to a close. I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed my time with this little blog and how much all you dear readers mean to me. Don't worry, you can still find me blogging over at the Tuscarora website. I'll be posting regularly with content very similar to what you've come to expect on these pages, just with a little extra dose of resort ownership thrown in. I hope to see you around. 

Thank you so much for reading! 
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Tuesday Tea

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Just another dreary autumn afternoon. I'm sipping Earl of Bengal tea - apparently a "new take on Earl Grey" and a new one for me (a definite perk of dog sitting for the neighbors on a fairly regular basis this past month is fairly regular deliveries of tea and local craft beer.) - and thought it was an excellent time for our weekly Of Woods and Words chat. Brew yourself a cuppa and stay for a while, won't you?

Did you have a nice Halloween? Judging by my Facebook feed full of costumes, I think you did. Halloween's a pretty low-key affair around here. The two neighborhood kids (who live a good 15 miles away) are still too little for trick or treating and a mere bag of M&Ms, which were mostly incorporated into a batch of monster cookies, made up the extent of our Halloween candy intake. After taking a couple of pumpkin carving years off after the epicness of the Smokey Bear pumpkin, I decided to go for a Game of Throne, Winterfell inspired pumpkin this year. I think I overestimated my pumpkin carving skills a bit with this undertaking and my next Jack-o-Lantern will probably be a face with a triangle nose that's hastily designed right on the pumpkin with a Sharpie.

Yes, that is a thin layer of snow you see in the foreground. It's a very prophetic pumpkin this year.

Other than devoting an embarrassing amount of time to the above pumpkin, it's been a quiet week. I'm slowly getting a schedule in place for this winter's freelance work and deciding what writing projects to focus on. I love a good routine and set expectations, so the sooner my days fall into a predictable cadence, the better it will be for everyone.

Of course, we're on the doorstep of deer hunting, and next week I'll spend more time away from home than not (large charity event, my weekly Kings and Queens of England class, out of town girls weekend, et. al), so pretending that a set schedule is going to happen any time soon is probably a bit of a laugh. But as Dwija writes over at HouseUnseen, the least I can do is try.

Along with getting all of my work ducks in a row, I'm also embarking on a six week running workout plan. Since doing the half marathon back in May, my running schedule has been full of halfassery - about 30 minutes a couple times a week, when I feel like it. While it's been nice to maintain a certain level of fitness, I'd like actually get to a point where I'm a little faster and my stomach is a little firmer. One thing that really surprised me about the half marathon was how sore my core muscles were during the last three miles. Not sure why I didn't think holding myself upright for nearly three hours while running wouldn't hurt, but obviously, some sit ups are in order.

One thing I've been meaning to show you is the progress made by the little Meyer lemon seed I planted back in late January. At the last update, sometime in April, I think, the teeny tree looked like this:

And now? 

Isn't it glorious? It makes me happy every time I look at it. It really is amazing what a little summer sunshine can do to a lemon tree (and everything, really). We'll see how tree holds up during the winter months. With the end of daylight saving time on Sunday, the great darkness is upon us once again. 

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Guess Who's Back?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I knew this year that blogging during the months I work full-time out of the home wasn't going to be a priority. Well, not only was it not a priority, it was nonexistent. I didn't even feel bad. But now I'm back . . . back again . . . Ada's back, tell a friend. (10 points if you get the musical reference.)

The thing is, I've been taking happiness and the creation of it in my life pretty seriously (as evidenced by my reading this year: The Happiness Project, The Art of Happiness, et al) and I knew from past experience that attempting to do everything (blog, keep up with freelance assignments, canning all the food, running a successful Etsy shop, etc. etc.) while I was working away from home was an excellent recipe for burnout, grumpiness, and a whole lot of guilt. So before heading into the summer,  I set up some clear boundaries and decided this work season I would focus on being happy at work and not worry about writing one bit. After churning out a couple manuscript drafts and lots of freelance work last winter, I was pretty content with what I'd accomplished so far for the year and knew that taking the summer off did not mean I would never write again. Happily, my insight was correct: I lead a pretty carefree summer and here I am writing again. All's well in the world.

Since our paths last crossed, I've been a bridesmaid.

I traveled to a foreign country (okay, so it's less than a two hour drive to the Ontario strawberry farm) to pick strawberries with my mom.

Had a beautiful bluebird August day paddle in search of blueberries.

Enjoyed the company of friends on an autumn hike around the Centennial Trail.

Knit several more sets of bridesmaid mittens for the Etsy shop and am once again swearing off mitten knitting . . . until the next order comes in.

I saw some moose too.

Currently I'm in the third week of a 20 week course on Kings and Queens of England, which is basically my new favorite thing ever. I'm slowly adjusting back to being home all day and hope to step up the writing output shortly.  I hope these last five months have treated you as well as they've treated me. We'll talk more soon.
 P.S. If you're reading this post in a reader or email, please click over to the actual blog and check out the new design. Isn't it purrdy?
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Hi, My Name is Ada

Thursday, May 29, 2014
"Are you done with your blog?" my mother asked yesterday when I stopped in to eat lunch and steal some of her speedy wi-fi to download a new batch of podcasts.

"No!" I said, somewhat surprised by the question, until I realized it really had been two and a half months since I last blogged.

How did this happen?!

For one thing, March ended up being a month full of freelance work and travel. What free time there was, was devoted to half-marathon training. Then winter just didn't stop, and somehow the days between blogging turned into weeks, which turned into months, and well, now it's 81 degrees, the lakes are ice free and the world is full of blossoms and bugs. 

The thing is, a lot has happened in these two and a half months (as you might guess), so here's the bullet point version real quick like of what's been going on since I last wrote.

Andy caught a big fish. He also got to enjoy using his snowmobile for five whole months. Yay winter?

Meanwhile, I was in Chicago, spending important time with my elderly grandparents and other family for a long weekend at the end of March. The official reason why we were all gathered was to run the annual Shamrock Shuffle 8K in downtown Chicago; my brother and his girlfriend came down from the lower peninsula of Michigan for the race too. Here's part of the crew waiting for the "L" home after the race. When I signed up for the race, I figured I'd be lucky to run the race in 55 minutes, but I actually finished with a time of 47:40. To say I'm ecstatic in this picture would be a major understatement.

Unfortunately running the race that fast triggered my old friend, patellofemoral pain syndrome. Also known as runner's knee, this malady is very common running injury (so much for a cool, funky chronic pain issue), particularly among females. It's been rearing its ugly head in my left knee since my early teens, but after running all last summer pain-free, I thought maybe we'd finally parted ways. Bahahaha.

April was a rather glum time as I kissed my beloved half marathon training schedule good-bye, iced my knee multiple times a day (during which I read a really awful Marilyn Monroe biography), spent a lot of time on the living room floor doing physical therapy, and going on a handful of painful short runs. In other words, not really how I'd planned to spend the final weeks before a May 3rd half marathon.

Knee pain aside, April had plenty of bright spots, including a bridal shower for a good friend, Easter celebrations at the cabin, and even a lovely memorial service for a great uncle. I also finished reading the Game of Thrones series . . . that only took 17 months. ;) 

Also, it kept snowing. The picture below was taken on April 25. The seemingly endless winter made it awfully hard to believe that my fifth season at work was just a couple weeks a way. Happily, I managed to get my rear in gear and actually get necessary things (you know, like gift shop orders) done.

Then all of sudden it was May and Jenny was coming into town for the Ham Run Half Marathon. I'd gone running only five times in April and my longest distance had just been eight miles. Still, I truly felt (with a little athletic tape and some ibuprofen) that I could do 13.1 miles. (Actually 13.2 miles - the course is long.) So I did.

Back in March, when I was healthy, I'd hoped to run the race in the 2:10 - 2:20 range, but considering my training and injury, when I crossed the starting line, I just wanted to also cross the finish line. 2:44:11 later, and I did. At the time I finished, I was too tired and hungry to be to overwhelmed by the accomplishment, but the more time that passes, the more I can't believe I did it - particularly after the three short runs I've huffed and puffed my way through since the race. On a bright note, after six weeks, my knee is finally pain-free again and I plan to keep it that way.

The weekend after the race, it was crafting weekend. As usual, this was such a happy fun time, until on Saturday evening, five out of seven crafters were brought down by a nasty Norovirus. Friends who barf together, stay together? Photo by the lovely Anne Victoria - pre-spewing, obvi.


With a slightly queasy stomach, I headed back to work full time the Monday after crafting weekend, and that's pretty much what I've been doing since. Today, I got half the garden into the ground, and also managed to clean the bathroom at long last (and make ice cream sandwiches - my real priority of the day). It's been a happy, happening time around here; I hope you've been well too.
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Chop Wood, Haul Water

Sunday, March 16, 2014
There's been a lot of rumblings around these parts about it being "a long winter." In fact, if my friends and I had it our way, #wilderbrothers and #buckwheatstash would have been trending on Twitter for the last month and a half. There have also been jokes a plenty about rationing out one shriveled potato a day and worrying about how we'll tunnel out of our homes through the snowy depths.

Are you picking up on the Laura Ingalls Wilder The Long Winter allusions I've been throwing down?

But here's the truth: It hasn't been a long winter. Last year was a long winter (perhaps we think this winter is just an extension of that one, since summer kind of barely happened), but as far as actual time elapsed with wintery conditions in winter 2013-2014, there's actually nothing extraordinary going on. We've had snow cover since late November and it'll probably hold until early April, just like it does every year.

Nope, the only extraordinary factor about this winter is how bloody cold it's been. As a result, we've been hemorrhaging firewood since December and by mid-February we were down to the "new" wood - the birch firewood we'd stacked in the autumn to dry out for winter 2014-2015. Argh. This means, for the last month, we've basically been trying to burn wet cardboard for heat. Needless to say, it was not going very well.

But before you send the Wilder Brothers to save us, I can happily report that we live in a wildfire recovery area, which means there's no shortage of dead trees to burn when the heating gets tough. This cheers me considerably, although a part of me has always fancied breaking up the dining chairs and chucking them into the woodstove ala Doctor Zhivago. To me, there is nothing so romantically dire as having to break up the dining room furniture with a hatchet. 

On our last days off, Andy felled a couple of dead jack pines from the property, which will tide us through until spring days (which are already partially upon us, despite the -20F temps this morning) and allow us to save the not free firewood until it's seasoned properly. As an additional bonus, removing those trees also mean more sunshine for the potato patch come summer.


In other news, this isn't exactly a spring tiding, but one of the Meyer lemon seeds has finally poked its sunny little face out of the dirt. I'm really looking forward to harvesting my own lemons sometime in the next decade . . .

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Blizzards and Blossoms

Sunday, February 23, 2014
Got snow?
After a break from snow during much of January, we received more than 18 inches of snowfall in the last 12 days. The recent snowfall lead to a surge of snow days and other cancellations and although the local school schedule has absolutely no effect on my life, last week's schedule ended up a bit topsy-turvy as I tried to time my trips into town between major snow events. It may not have been the week I originally imagined, but I did get some major dental work wrapped up and met deadlines for two freelance articles, so we're just going to mark it down as a good week.

I thought I'd catch you up on the photo roll. There was a full moon on Valentine's Day and Andy and I snowmobiled over to a neighboring lake to see if I could get any decent shoots with my little point and shoot. Although I won't be giving up my day job any time soon to pursue photography, I'm pleased with the results and think they give you a good idea of just how bright the moonlight was.

Earlier on Valentine's Day I made a batch of these: cream puffs from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You know how you get those ideas that worm into your brain and just won't let go? At Christmastime, a jar of chocolate sauce arrived in a gift basket and the jar label suggested you use the sauce on ice cream, cake, fruit, and profiteroles. Profiteroles! Since New Year's, I've been haunted by the idea of cream puffs and I finally decided Valentine's Day sound like a good time to throw roughly a dozen eggs into a dessert that disappears in the blink of an eye. Also, I resisted the temptation to make the filling out of instant vanilla pudding and Cool Whip (don't knock it 'til you've tried it) and instead followed Julia Child's recipe for Creme St. Honore. It was worth the extra effort.

Blizzard-y conditions kept us off the lake most of the week, but we sneaked in a few minutes of ice fishing before sundown on Thursday as the large snowstorm rolled in from the west. Speaking of Thursday - who watched the U.S./Canada women's gold medal hockey game? My heart and nerves are still exhausted. Ladies, ladies let us not rest upon our laurels once a 2-0 lead is secured or liefer Canada will bet us 3-2 in overtime. Moral of the story: the U.S. women have not won an Olympics since I was twelve. Cammi Granato and Karyn Bye, wherefore art thou?!

The snow that was predicted for Thursday didn't arrive until late that night. While the forecasters were a bit off on the timing, they were right about the quantity: lots.

To help break free of this monotone environment, I actually purchased flowers this week on a whim. They even smell nice.
The amaryllis is blooming too, so we have lots of dramatic flowers in the house at the moment.

If snow's got you down, remember: "Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough." -Earl Wilson
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Friday Fishing: A Photo Essay

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Andy wanted to go fishing on Friday, so he decided on a destination down the lake and packed up the snowmobile. Just another grey winter day with gusty winds, brightened a bit by the prospect of catching a lake trout.

We parked the snow machine on the border of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and started the trudge down to our destination, about a mile and half down a island dotted corridor of lake. The wind was really whipping by now and the prospect of serving as a human wind break dulled the promise of expedition, but we trudged on.


About a mile into our trek, the sun came out!

However the wind didn't quit, and our destination still felt a long ways off.

As pretty as it was, we decided to turn around and head back to the cabin to reassess.

After a bite of lunch, we were ready to tackle plan B. Enter the winter camping tent doubling up as an ice fishing shelter. We headed out just about a half mile from the cabin and set up "camp."


Blocked from the wind, with a fire crackling in the portable wood stove, plan B was pretty cozy. 

Hot beverages on demand always make things better.


And look, we even caught fish! It would have been dinner that night, but it froze solid in the time between the catching and us packing up camp for the evening. Instead, it was Saturday's dinner.

Not too shabby.

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