Lake hikes

As I think many other folks will agree, when you’re chasing a little kid around all day, trying to get meals on the table, squeezing in a shower somewhere, and oh, yeah, starting a small business, exercise and enjoyment of the beautiful countryside that abounds without can take a back burner. Silliness, I tell you! Silliness!

So, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to do yoga. And I’ve been doing that (it feels great!). But I also want to take care of my body more than I have the past few years. It’s not only about weight loss. It’s about being physically active and cultivating a lifestyle that is a model for my children (I should say child, because no, I’m not pregnant, I’m just thinking in future tense). I want my kiddos to grow up being active. We live in an amazing place with scads of recreational opportunities, and it’s foolish to just sit at home when we could be out there in that beauty getting skinny.

So yesterday I went on a short loop snow hike (took the snowshoes but didn’t need them in the end) near the reservoir. And it was awesome. Though I’m still sore as I write this.

Starting at the beginning, I drove up to the trailhead, and when I came to the parking lot, which had about 6-8 inches of snow covering it, I thought to myself: “Self, you probably shouldn’t try to park in there. You’re going to bury the 2-wheel drive Honda Civic lacking snow tires.” So what did I do? Tried to get into the parking lot anyway! So like I thought, I did bury the front tires and that was that. Got about three feet into the driveway to the parking lot. So my friend, who was just behind me with her dogs and baby in her four-wheel-drive, snow-tire fitted car that actually makes sense in this climate/area, tried to get my car rocking so we could push it out, but no dice.

But why ruin a perfectly good hike worrying about the car? It was mostly off the road. So we flipped the flashers on and loaded up the babies and did our hike. Have I ever mentioned that 30 pounds of baby/backpack combined is sorta heavy? Well it is. My shoulders and my hips ache. But that means I did something, right? Yoga will sort out residual aches anyway.

It was a very pleasant hike through the trees around the lake. The weather was fabulous, warm actually, and we both quickly worked up a sweat and started stripping off scarves and gloves. The Peanut babbled away in the backpack and was quite content, even though I had to crawl under several downed trees with him in the backpack. All part of the adventure as I told him!

View from lion lake hike

When we were nearly back to the cars we called a local mechanic to come tug the car out. Which he did for free because he’s a nice guy.

A great little morning adventure!

Lion lake hikers

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Holiday centerpiece

OK, so I’m not really into “tablescaping” or fancy place settings when guests are coming over for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I think they look great, but I just don’t have the servingware, the candlesticks (well, I do have four… but they need polishing badly so I’m embarrassed of them currently!), the foufy fouf pumpkin-shaped soup tureens or feather Christmas trees or turtledove salt-and-pepper shakers. (Yes, foufy fouf is the technical term.) I’d like to do more nice table setting for dinners but I usually am more focused on getting the meal ready down to the last second than planning how my table is going to look. And since last time I checked my guests would rather eat food than place mats, I’ll stick with cooking good food.

However! We had some friends over for New Year’s Eve (old people with kids style! which means, eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., everyone goes home at 8 p.m., we’re cleaned up and in bed at 10 p.m.) and I did manage to throw together a last-minute center piece.

It’s a little fruity, with some rustic Montana flair, but I liked it. In my own fruity foufy fouf way.

Center piece 1

I put together the center piece with some things I already had around the house. I used a mule deer antler shed, some pine cones, a red and white snowflake bowl, a ribbon, and some glittery ornament balls.

Center piece 2

 

No nice tablecloth or anything. Just my dinged, scratched, stained, and glass ring-riddled tabletop. Someday I’ll refinish the table or we’ll get a new one. But in the meantime, despite it’s “well loved” appearance, it’s a good table and it was free. And you know what? No one said a word about the table or the center piece (OK, it was a bit weird… but I could totally see something like that popping up in the Pottery Barn catalogue, amirite?), but they liked the food!

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.

A wedding present

One of my oldest and dearest friends got married this past weekend and I was a bridesmaid in her wedding (she was a bridesmaid in mine). Elise and I have known each other since eighth grade. The first time we met was on the bus ride home from middle school. I didn’t enjoy sitting in the back of the bus with the other eighth graders because they were loud, obnoxious, and derived far too much enjoyment from shouting “PENIS” at the top of their lungs during the bus ride (most of those people are now lovely adults who I enjoy far much more than I did then). So I sat in the very front seat with the lowly sixth graders. But hey, I was always the first person off the bus. Anyway, here is the first conversation Elise and I had (keep in mind that until the very end of high school Elise weighed about 80 pounds soaking wet):

Elise: Can I sit with you?
Me: Sure, but just so you know, I’m an eighth grader. (She was so tiny I figured she was a sixth grader. Man, I was pompous back then!)
Elise (all about 4 feet 9 inches of her at that point): Me too! I’m reading “Les Miserables”!

And thus, a wonderful friendship was born. Elise and I spent many pleasant passing periods together in high school because we had many of the same classes (she always did a shuffle-dance impatiently while I took my sweet time at my locker… we were still on time to class, though!). We also got together after school and on weekends for tea and chats and filming the occasional ridiculous home movie complete with costumes (usually involving the three musketeers along with our friend Melissa). “Vive le signe de trois! Un pour tout! Tout pour un!”

Here’s a photo of said ridiculous costumes. I’m on the left, little Elise in the middle, Melissa on the right. This was taken in high school French class our senior year (those are soda bottles!). We all dressed up for, I think Mardi Gras, and throughout the day people in the halls during passing period would say: “So you’re the third musketeer!” or “Where’s the other one?”

Yes, we were THOSE people in high school. But hey, it was fun. We were well-adjusted, not-very-angsty teenagers, which apparently these days is saying a lot.

After graduation, Elise went to Minnesota for school and I to Nebraska. We started writing each other letters regularly (snail-mail letters with stamps even! 😉 ), and to this day, we continue the tradition. The contents of our letters has changed, but our friendship has only deepened over the years. It is a relationship I profoundly thankful for. It always makes my day when I find one of Elise’s letters in my mailbox.

So for Elise’s wedding, because she is the sort of person to appreciate something handmade, I embroidered a camping scene. She and her husband love to camp and hike and climb. The words on the embroidery are from the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song “Home.”

It took about a month of steadily working on it a little bit before bed every night, but I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. It was a lot of fun to make a wedding present for my dear friend.

To you, Elise! Congratulations! Lutefisk!

 

 

Friends

Well, it only took nearly 7 months, but one of our two cats has finally realized that the screaming blob is actually a sweet little person named Jonathan. Here’s a photo of the recent meeting of the minds:

Pele is of course that cat that tolerates anyone and anything, including giant dogs that get up in her face. She didn’t seem to mind Jonathan whacking her back and grabbing her fur at all. Of course once he’s a little older and can understand we’ll be having the “kitties are nice friends and we are nice to them, so be nice when petting and don’t hit” talk.

Our other cat, Pandora, still firmly believes Jonathan is a screaming blob. She’ll be the cause of the “Mom! The kitty scratched me!” wails I can already hear. One cat out of two ain’t bad, right?

A thousand words

OK, this post is probably not quite that long. But as the saying goes, that’s what a picture’s worth. Just wanted to let everyone know to check out the Gallery tab (far right, below the banner that reads “The Morning District” on the top of this blog). I’ve finally added some photos (and plan to add more over time). Check them out at your leisure!

In other news, this is my 30th week of pregnancy, and I have another OB appointment later today. Hoping again for a clean bill of health for both baby and me. I have been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for a couple of weeks now, which I do plan to talk to the OB about, but hopefully that just means my uterus is just getting warmed up for the big event and will perform like a champion! I am planning on having a natural child birth (but if I have to have an epidural or an unplanned C-section because Baby C is in distress, well, so be it), so I’m trying to prepare myself. I’ve started doing special stretches a physical therapist at the childbirth class last weekend gave me to get my body open and supple. I’m also trying to find time each day to center myself and practice focusing. I’ve heard from other moms that being able to focus and concentrate through contractions and pushing is super important.

Speaking of the childbirth class Shawn and I took, I have to say that I’m really glad we did. It was six hours both Saturday and Sunday last week, but despite the length, we learned a lot. And I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with labor and delivery and breastfeeding following the class. There were probably eight other couples besides Shawn and me there, most of them due about a month ahead of me, though one lady isn’t due until the middle of February. It was interesting to see the range of bellies present! Mine wasn’t the biggest or the smallest, but right in the middle. Some ladies knew the genders of their babies, while others were waiting for the surprise. No twins in our class.

During the class, we learned about a wide range of topics. We did some physical therapy and were given a number of exercises to do, like I mentioned before. We learned about the different kinds of pain medication (still hoping that won’t apply to me!), about C-sections, about infant care in the first few weeks after birth. We watched a number of videos on the various topics. The dads got to diaper a “baby” (ours was a teddy bear… must’ve gotten mixed up in the nursery 😉 ), and learn to swaddle. We talked about breastfeeding versus formula. I learned all sorts of random little things too; for example, you’re not supposed to clip your baby’s fingernails for at least 10 days after birth because the nail hasn’t separated from the nail bed yet and you will cut their skin! We’ll need to pick up some baby mittens!

The most helpful part of the class for me was the breastfeeding information. I’ve been worrying about having trouble learning to breastfeed, and who knows, I may still struggle, but we went through ways to help the baby learn to nurse and nursing techniques. We even talked about proper breastfeeding posture! If anything, I’m more comfortable with everything now because I know a lot more than I did, even with reading books and chatting with moms. Plus the nurse who taught the class was a riot! She was so funny and made the class go by quickly. A definite talent!

The weekend before that, I got together with the ladies from my crafty club for some applesauce canning! It was a hoot! We canned about 40 pounds of apples, which came to about 40 jars of sauce. We divided the jars between us as well as the remaining apples (local Macintosh).

Here’s Camden showing those apples who’s boss! Camden and Sharie spent a long time chopping apples to toss in the pot to cook.

After the apples cooked down for a while, we transferred them to the chinois (a marvelous tool — pick one up!), where one of us ground them down with a pestle, which separates the skins and errant seeds from the sauce. Katie demonstrates below:

It’s messy but satisfying! To the sauce we added a little sugar (one or two cups, depending on the batch) and a some cinnamon. Then we filled mason jars with the applesauce and processed them in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes. We ate homemade pizza for dinner while listening to the pops of sealing jars. A great day spent with friends.

OK, according to my word counter thingie, this post is 797 words. See? Not quite 1,000.

Cupcake heaven

This past weekend some friends came over just to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. We had a swell time playing Pit, which is basically the greatest card game ever. It’s based on the stock market (hey, stay with me here, it’s actually super fun) and involves lots of yelling and sneaky card trading. Also, the lovely Tiff of Ordinary Moonlight (a fun, thoughtful blog I highly recommend everyone check out!) made her famous cupcakes.

Now let me tell you, Tiffany is the Cupcake Queen. She makes the best cupcakes ever. No, really. She makes nutella cupcakes, Thin Mint cupcakes, pumpkin cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, margarita cupcakes and the caramel apple cupcakes below (to name a few)! Such cupcake creativity!

Are you salivating yet?

We love, love, love Tiff’s cupcakes.