Winter time

For me, winter is about reflection on the past year, letter writing, curling up with a good book and some hot chocolate, and projects. Let’s start with the last first and move backward from there. (Trying to make up for my lack of posts here with a long one with lots of photos, folks!)

I taught myself to crochet in October and have been pretty much a crochet fiend since then. I made almost all of the Christmas presents I gave this year, and while that did add to my stress load a bit as the holiday approached (pretty much spent all free time crocheting), I’m glad I did it. Homemade gifts are far more appreciated than store-bought ones. Of course I forgot to take pictures of all the different lovelies I created because I was more concerned with getting them done than snapping photos. Wish I’d been more diligent about my picture taking but well, next time. I made crochet snowflakes (both with crochet thread, which is quite time-consuming, and with worsted weight yarn) for my grandmothers, ear warmers for my female cousins and sister (they all matched, but were different colors: blue, orange, 2 purple, pink), and cowls/scarves for my mom (wave stitch in a delightful autumn red), a friend (double crochet fans), another friend and my step-mom (broomstick lace in china blue). Here are photos of a couple of them:

Crochet thread snowflake

I have a whole new appreciation for these crochet thread snowflakes. They take forever! I think each of the two I made took nearly three hours.

Crochet yarn star

These yarn snowflakes on the other hand I can whip up in about 15 minutes.

Scarf for Elise

Broomstick lace cowl

Matching headbands for cousinsThese are my two of my cousins and my sister (in the middle) with their matching ear warmers. Here’s where I found the pattern.

Currently I am working on a hat for a friend who is expecting a daughter in February, two sweaters for my son (one knitted, one crocheted), and finishing a star garland that is holiday festive. I plan to have the latter finished by tonight or tomorrow afternoon before the New Year’s Eve party my husband and I are throwing. We’re excited for the party and for the fact that we’re going to celebrate the new year at about 7 p.m. so that all of our friends (the majority of whom have babies/kiddos) can go home and go to bed. When you’ve got a little boy who wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m. every day, watching the ball drop at midnight (oh and we don’t even have a TV to do that, whoops) is pretty unimportant compared to 8 hours of sleep.

I love these little projects. I’m a stay-at-home and craft all day sort of person, but I only allow myself to do that sort of thing in the winter months because it’s just too nice where I live in the summer to stay inside and craft. Summer is for gardening and hiking.

I’ll post more about my star garland soon. I’m going to post something of a tutorial for it. I found the tutorial elsewhere, but it’s in Australian crochet terms, which are a bit different than American, and I’ve streamlined/made less confusing some of the steps. I post a link to the original, of course, but I’ll update the tutorial. It’s a quick and easy garland that can really add some festive this time of year.

Stars garland beginnings

So on to reading and hot chocolate. Where we live, it snows a lot during the winter (and is currently), so we spend most of our time inside (though we love to ski, snowmobile, and snowshoe too!). And since it’s dark so much here in the northern U.S. (sun sets by about 5 p.m. and doesn’t come back up ’til 8 a.m. or so) in the winter, there isn’t much to do in the evening hours but craft and read. Here’s a photo from our living room (oh right, it’s been so long since I posted I forgot to tell you all we moved to town!)

Snowy view

My reading has changed a lot since my son was born. Used to be that I could dash through two or so novels a week. Now if I finish a novel in a month, I’ve clearly had a lot of time to read! I’m re-reading Little Women right now, which is one of my favorite books (and movie! – the one with Winona Ryder) for sentimental reasons. I love that my copy of the book has an inscription from my aunt, who gave me the book a decade ago.

Little Women inscription

The inscription reads: “Christmas 2002, To our dear Kelley, It has been such a pleasure and delight to watch you grow up into such a fine young woman. We hope you will enjoy these books just as I did as a young girl and pass them onto your own one day. We wish you all the best, Kelley, and love you very much. Auntlee, Uncle Chris, Kylee & Hali.

I have ever so many other books on my reading list, and am supremely grateful for the Amazon gift card I received for Christmas for buying books! I try to use the local library as much as possible, but with my reading time so brief every day I often have to return the books I’ve checked out before I’ve finished them (or sometimes even cracked the cover). And I also try to patronize our local book stores (we don’t have a box chain bookstore here anymore… which is so completely awesome) too, but you can’t argue with gift cards! I need to be better about updating my “What I’m Reading” tab on this blog… but I don’t get much reading in these days so that’s why it doesn’t change much! I also have subscriptions to the New Yorker magazine and High Country News magazine, so I try to get those read too.

Rounding the corner to writing letters: I love to write letters (the snail mail variety) and trade frequent letters with a friend who lives in the mountains in Colorado. We’ve been writing each other letters since college. I have a shoebox stuffed full of letters from her and need to catalogue them in a binder one of these days. I also try to write semi-frequent letters to my grandmother, and to several other friends who I know appreciate that sort of thing. I just picked up a new pen for my letter writing and can’t wait to bust it out (yes I have to have a specific pen for letter writing or it’s just not as enjoyable). I also have scads of thank-you notes to write for Christmas presents. I was raised that one MUST write thank-you notes for Christmas and birthday presents and while I loathed writing thank-you notes for years, now I’m appreciative of the fact my mother made me write them. It’s a little gesture that means a lot. Just like a letter.

Finally, winter is a time of reflection. It’s for thinking about the year gone by (and holy moly was this an epic year), and thinking of the year to come. It’s for sitting in living rooms watching the snow fall. It’s for visiting friends and talking about what they’re reflecting upon to. Few things are closer to heaven for me than sitting with good friends engaged in good conversation in front of a fireplace or wood stove while the snow falls without. Seriously blissful.

I have two New Year’s resolutions this year. And I’m not a resolutions sort of person, but this year it just feels right.

1. Do yoga 2-3 times a week. There’s a yoga studio/wellness center in my town that has yoga classes three times a week for $7 a class. I can’t wait to start on Wednesday. For me, yoga is good, low-impact exercise. And I need flexibility and centeredness back in my life.

2. Write. Every. Day. EVERY DAY. I have three novels in the works (one fiction, one historical fiction, one gothic children’s fiction) and they’re never going to get done if I don’t work on them diligently. So my goal is 500 words (one page in Word) every day. I’ve already started this resolution and today is day three of success.

So there, I did it. Snuck a post in this December. Whew. It was getting down to the wire there, folks.

Happy New Year! I have a feeling 2013 is going to be pretty rad.

Researchin’

Well, I obviously haven’t been putting a lot of time into updating this blog lately, now have I? It’s going to happen soon, though, I promise. Encountered a road block earlier this week when I spilled ice tea all over my computer. Horror of horrors! After a very frantic phone call to a friend in California who’s a computer whiz, I removed the battery, turned the computer upside down and pointed two fans at it on high for 8 hours. Followed that with submerging the computer in a bag of rice to draw out the moisture. Three days later, hallelujah, the computer lives!

In the meantime, computer-less (which is strangely like losing a limb), I’ve finally had the motivation (read: nothing to do without the computer) to get my hind end over to the town archives (which is really, really cool) to start doing research for a historical fiction novel idea that’s been taking up space in my cranium for a while. Not going to divulge the secrets of the novel here on the blog, but I’ll let you know that I know quite a lot about prostitution in the early American West now!

I have scads more research to do (which is a bit overwhelming), but I am making some definite headway, tackling the information subject by subject. Historical fiction is HARD, folks. A writer can take some liberties, but not too many. It’s important to get all the little details right, down to the way interiors of houses looked during the selected time period, to what people wore, to how people spoke. But on the other hand, there’s something really cool about taking history and making it into something new. I’ve got tons of ideas buzzing around in my head now that were inspired by true events that I’ve begun to learn about.

The hardest part, of course, is writing. Getting those ideas to translate into words and sentences and paragraphs that sound coherent. And writing a lot of those words and sentences and paragraphs. Which is a stretch for a journalist who is used to writing stories in 30 inches or less! But I have lots of free time these days and I’m itching to be productive. Hopefully all this hard work pays off!

In other news, summer has arrived in earnest in southwestern Montana. It’s been pretty hot here the past week (mid-80s, which yes, is freakin’ hot by my definition). And so lilac season has ended (sadness). But not without some photos:

Remember to stop and smell the lilacs!

Peace out, 2010

OK, so 2010 roundups are all the rage and I wouldn’t want to miss out! The ever lovely Tiff posted on her blog her favorite things from the past year, so here’s my favorite memories from 2010:

• Making a name for myself in the community I live in as a fair, impartial journalist. I’ve also made some great friends with community members this year!
• Visits from various friends and family. We had a great summer with tons of visitors (we’re hoping even more people come visit us in 2011 *hint hint*). We spent a great week with Shawn’s folks camping in Two Medicine and exploring the east side of Glacier National Park, where neither Shawn nor I had ever been. It was a great hiking summer, period. We went camping with Michelle, hung out with my mom and sister and saw Shawn’s cousins.
• Parties with our Montana buddies. Hubs and I have a great time with our Flathead County friends. Jasmine and Nate sure know how to throw parties, Tiff makes unbelievable cupcakes, Kristi always has wry, funny observations, Dillon is always good for a laugh (and if he’s not careful, a spilled drink!), Sydney is the most cheerful person I know (I need some lessons, Lil’ Miss Red!), Eric has jumped on the “Go Big Red” bandwagon with us, Britanni has a great artistic talent and generosity I am insanely jealous of and Jordan makes me laugh so hard with her stories I practically pee my pants every time we talk. Shawn and I are really looking forward to the Snob party in just a few weeks!

• Starting to write a novel. I’ve got a great idea, I just know I do. Now it’s just the getting down to work part that’s hard!
• Visits to Nebraska for Whitney and Nathan’s wedding and Kristin and Nate’s wedding (have I told you about how we have FIVE friends named Nate/Nathan? At least we don’t have to learn new names!). It was so good to get back to “The Good Life” and spend time with our friends. I was a bridesmaid in Whitney’s wedding and had a great time with my fellow ladies in the line.
• Discovering the North Fork and the Polebridge Mercantile. We spent many happy hours up the North Fork this past summer and ate many mouth-watering huckleberry turnovers. Alas, the Merc is closed ’til spring. Counting down the days until we cross the threshold into the Merc again.
• Our mini-moon trip to Seattle. Hubs and I fell fast and hard for “our future city,” and we’re already making plans for that delightful town to be our next stop in life. Visiting Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, ogling at the buildings, spending time with Molly and taking in a Husker game at a Nebraska bar in Kirkland made our trip fantastic!
• Getting married to the love of my life and my best friend, Shawn, in October. We had a beautiful wedding day and one heck of a party afterward. Going with Famous Dave’s as our caterer was a huge hit. The centerpieces I envisioned became a beautiful reality (sunflowers in mason jars) and a fun moment was watching my sister learn how to fold napkins in neat ways using her iPhone. We had a fabulous time with our guests (the party ended much too soon!) and will treasure Oct. 23, 2010 forever!

There were parts of the year that were difficult, however. The plane crash that killed Melissa and Erika, two friends and local journalists, was hard on us all. Their lives were ended much too soon, but I’m glad those two lovely ladies were having a fabulous adventure when they died. And I know I’ll see them again someday.

Shawn and I are adjusting to living apart again. Each goodbye is as hard as the last and we hate being so far apart. But I’m happy that Hubs is pursuing his desire for an engineering degree and I know in the long run our separation will seem brief. Can’t wait for it to end, though!

Here’s a few things I’m looking forward to in 2011:

• Chili cookoff with the Outside Media people in a few weeks. Let the best chili win! We’re sure our “Afterburn” chili will be a hit.

• Taking a master gardener class through the Montana State University extension office.

• Snob party with the Montana friends. There better be Jarlsberg, dah-ling.

• Seattle/Tacoma trip in March. Got to keep the love affair going. And we’re looking forward to a visit with the Gregorys.

• The launching of the Columbia Falls Community Garden.

• Hiking and camping in Glacier National Park and in the forests around Butte.

• Honeymoon trip to California. We’re hitting up San Francisco and wine country with the Knisleys. SO EXCITED.

• Meagan and Jeff’s “Junebug”. I can’t believe my friends are starting to pop out babies. But it’s a good thing and I’m so looking forward to watching my friends’ families grow over the coming years.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Good thing journalism isn’t a popularity contest

After several requests from friends, here’s my column for my newspaper this week. As editor, I write a column weekly. I’ve tried to steer clear of politics because the American public these days has a shocking tendency to assume that just because a writer states his or her opinion on the OPINION page, that opinion must trickle over to the rest of the newspaper as well. Maybe that’s the case in some publications (cough Fox News cough), but it’s not at my newspaper. I live in a very conservative area, so I’m likely to take some heat for this column. I’ll let you know if a good dialogue gets started. So, without further ado, my column:

While driving to work Tuesday morning, I switched my radio dial to National Public Radio. Over the airwaves came the announcement of President Barack Obama’s “compromise” (read: re-election strategy) with the Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts another two years.

This is not good.

But before you throw your hands in the air and run to the telephone to give me an earful, hear me out.

The Republicans threatened to filibuster the tax deal if the tax cuts were not again extended to the wealthiest 2 percent of the American population, to people earning more than $250,000 per year. Look around you. Does you know anyone who rakes in that much dough every year? If you do, chances are you can count those people on one hand.

Chances are you know far more people who fit into the 98 percent of America. The people who do not make nearly that much. In fact, chances are most people you know make $200,000 less than that. The median income for Flathead Valley, according to the 2000 Census, was $34,466, and the median income for a family was $40,702. Males had a median income of $31,908 versus $20,619 for females.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for extending tax cuts to the middle class. To the people who need the tax cuts most. To the people who have one adult in their household out of work. To the people unsure if they will make their house payment this month. How many people do you know who have lost their jobs since the recession began? It takes far more fingers than I have on both hands to count the people I know out of work.

I am deeply opposed to extending tax cuts to people who have a vacation house in Vail, Colo. and a vacation house in Orlando, Fla. To the people who take vacations to Europe every year. And in the interest of full disclosure, I was raised in a family that took those vacations to Europe.

I think it is very accurate to say that the wealthy are holding the middle class hostage.

It is telling when people like billionaire investor Warren Buffett go on national television and ask Congress to tax them more. When interviewer Christiane Amanpour pointed to claims that the very wealthy need tax cuts to encourage business and capitalism, Buffett replied, “The rich are always going to say that, you know, ‘Just give us more money, and we’ll go out and spend more, and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.’ But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

Quoting Founding Father Thomas Jefferson is ever popular in newspapers, but I see no sense in breaking that trend now. In a letter to James Madison in 1784, in what would become part of the Federalist Papers, Jefferson wrote: “Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by the individual.”

An independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, made an appeal to the president on C-SPAN that eloquently summed up the problem: “In the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the U.S. made 23.5 percent of all income. More than the entire bottom 50 percent. The top one-tenth of 1 percent earns about 12 cents of every dollar earned in America. Since 1980 to 2005, 80 percent of all new income created in this country went to the top 1 percent.”

Are you feeling the trickle down? I most certainly am not.

“We used to read the text books which talked about the banana republics in Latin America … about countries in which handful of people owned and controlled most of the wealth of those countries,” Sen. Sanders continued. “Well guess what, that exactly what is happening in the U.S. today.”

The tax cuts being extended to the top 1 percent of all American income earners will over a 10-year period equate to $700 billion in tax breaks (enough to pay for the health care bill, you know). If the legislators of this nation are truly concerned about helping the middle class and beating back a mounting federal deficit, they will see the error of their ways and extend tax cuts only to the people who make less than $250,000. People like you and me.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

Snow falling on lodgepoles (and writing confessions)

So I have a confession to make. Well, two. First of all, I failed at NaNoWriMo. I got behind after spending a weekend sleeping off a nasty cold and well, it snowballed from there. But I do have 7,000 words that I think are a great start to my novel, which I am still excited about. Perhaps I will go home tonight and write some more!

Second confession: I’m feeling rather down right now about my writing (maybe that’s part of the reason I didn’t finish NaNo?). I write for a living, so all day, every day, I am expected to be creative and coherent. This makes going home to write creatively a challenge sometimes. I also feel lazy sometimes when it comes to this blog. I want to write beautifully about even the most mundane events in my life, but I feel like I don’t have the energy. This isn’t all the time of course, but do you ever have the feeling you’re doing everything in your life half ass? That’s how I feel right now and it’s upsetting. I also read a lot of news articles, blogs and literature and I can’t help but wonder every now and then what’s the point. I can write well, yes, but not spectacularly. Guess I just need more practice.

I think I need to go stare at snow falling on lodgepoles for a while for perspective. There’s something to be said for standing still in the middle of a frozen road listening to the snow fall. I enjoyed that yesterday and shot the above photo.

Thankful

A very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

This year, a number of friends have kept “thankfulness diaries” throughout the month of November, to remind themselves how blessed they are even when family and friends are unemployed, they are far from home and it’s cold outside. Despite our woes, personal and national, we as Americans have much to be thankful for.

So here’s my thankfulness diary. I hope your diary is as rich as mine!

Nov. 1 – I’m thankful for my God-given ability to write. I started writing a novel today.

Nov. 2 – I’m thankful that I live in a country where I can safely go to a polling place, cast my vote and know that no matter how small it seems, my vote matters.

Nov. 3 – I’m thankful for lectures at Glacier Discovery Square that inform me and others about community gardening. It helps us focus our plans.

Nov. 4 – I’m thankful for teachers in this community. The students in School District 6 are getting a great education despite budget cuts.

Nov. 5 – I’m thankful for people like Elly Jones, who commits her time to making beautiful quilts for people in need. Love and beauty are powerful healers.

Nov. 6 – I’m thankful I can enjoy breakfast with my husband in Butte at Great Harvest. Their biscuits and gravy are unequaled!

Nov. 7 – I’m thankful for quality time with my husband, who lives far away.

Nov. 8 – I’m thankful for people who attend school board meetings and speak their minds in defense of their children. I’m hopeful that those people will petition their elected officials to properly fund Montana schools and continue improving education.

Nov. 9 – I’m thankful for a thriving business community in Columbia Falls.

Nov. 10 – I’m thankful for lunch with a very good friend with whom I can talk about work, good books and good food.

Nov. 11 – I’m thankful for veterans like Jesse Mann, who served his country in Iraq and sacrificed watching one of his daughters change from a baby into a little person so that I can write these words without fear.

Nov. 12 – I’m thankful for sunset over the Columbia River in Washington.

Nov. 13 – I’m thankful for a friend’s hospitality and the chance to visit Seattle for the first time. I’m thankful for the color and excitement of Pike Place Market, for thought-provoking art at the Seattle Art Museum and for a Nebraska Cornhusker bar in a Seattle suburb.

Nov. 14 – I’m thankful for hot coffee and a long drive with my husband. We love driving together because we spend the time chatting, enjoying the scenery and reading to each other from our favorite magazines.

Nov. 15 – I’m thankful for early birthday wishes from old friends.

Nov. 16 – I’m thankful for 25 wonderful years on this earth. Here’s to many more!

Nov. 17 – I’m thankful for a church that trusts me with its junior high youth. I can’t wait for many more fun youth group gatherings to come.

Nov. 18 – I’m thankful for the kindness of people in this community. I’m thankful for churchwomen who make me a quilt for a wedding present. I’m thankful for a guided snowshoe trip and “winter getaway” trip from a West Glacier resort as a wedding present.

Nov. 19 – I’m thankful for a husband who cooks me a delicious birthday dinner of deer filet, from a deer he shot himself.

Nov. 20 – I’m thankful for a fabulous group of friends who I can join for dinner, drinks and conversation, followed by a celebration of November birthdays.

Nov. 21 – I’m thankful for a church community committed to the wellbeing of its members.

Nov. 22 – I’m thankful for a warm apartment filled with the smells of a good supper and the company of two lovely kitties.

Nov. 23 – I’m thankful for my brother Josh, who turns 10 years old today! I’m also thankful for one month of being happily married.

Nov. 24 – I’m thankful for the anticipation of a potluck Thanksgiving with friends tomorrow.

(Thanks Pottery Barn for the image … I wish I could spend lots of money at your store!)

Update

So here’s a bit of an update: Some of you may have noticed my NaNoWriMo counter on the right-hand side of the blog hasn’t changed in a while. This weekend I was slain by a nasty cold, which I am still getting over. I’m planning to hop back on the writing bandwagon tonight. It is going to take some major doing to catch back up, but I don’t want November to end and be completely disappointed with myself for giving up.

Also, gotta love it when the Hubs does “man things.”

He will not be too happy about me posting this picture. But whatever. He’s putting together a shelf for the closet in the bathroom in the Butte apartment. See that nasty carpet? It reeks, even after Shawn cleaned it twice. He says it’s a good thing I wasn’t there to see the water in the carpet cleaner. We’re trying to figure out a way to get our landlord there to pay for new wood floors, which we will put in ourselves. The hallway and the bedroom are the only rooms with carpet; the rest of the enormous apartment has beautiful wood flooring. Maybe I can get friend Mark to help us put in the floors and then stick it to the landlord later. Better to ask forgiveness than ask permission, right?

And here is a photo from our wedding, taken by a friend. Don’t have the professional photos in yet.

What a handsome man. 😉

We’re headed to Seattle this weekend. I’ll be sure to take scads of photos and write a post or two about it!