{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ Long Winter, Short Ballad }

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Lo, the sweet home lights are burning

They are burning clear and bright,

They twinkle and they beckon:

“Come home this cold, dark night!”

~~~

I see their beams not far away

Across the snowy sea

But alas, my car is anchored here

At driveway’s end, unfree —

~~~

The shovel, it doth twist and scrape

At waves of ice and snow

How long the van will sit here

I confess, I do not know.

~~~

The month of February 2019 has gifted Minnesotans with 31.5 inches of snow! 

(So far)

~~~

I sat in a heated car, thinking up this poem, while my dear son shoveled us out.

~~~
(There was only one shovel.)

{ Rhetorical Question, Anyone? }

My daughter and I were sitting in the kitchen, when I casually threw out the phrase: “rhetorical question” in conversation.

Suddenly, she reacted as if someone had scratched their fingernails down a chalkboard.

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With a smile, she admitted that misuse / overuse of the phrase is a current pet peeve of hers! Then, we enjoyed some friendly banter alternated with Google searches for the proper defining of “rhetorical question.”

Can you imagine having that as a pet peeve?*

[ Was that a rhetorical question*? see definition below. ]

I feel that my grievances are slightly more normal, but you may disagree:

  • Drips of dirty wet boot slush that stretch across a kitchen floor
  • Used dental floss and dental floss picks in places other than the garbage
  • Dryer lint left on top of the dryer
  • When people say “Aldi’s” instead of “Aldi” (Picky, I know)
  • Any song by Neil Diamond
  • An unnecessary apostrophe used in a word that happens to have an “S”. (Are you with me on that one, Sara?)

Speaking of literary terms, I experienced something rather ironic last night.

I was writing a health supplement article — late into the night. The article centered around melatonin, the hormone involved with the human sleep cycle. It’s fascinating how melatonin:

  • is produced when light decreases in one’s surroundings
  • is released by an amazing, intricate system in the body which includes the optic nerve sensing a lack of light and sending proper signals to the brain
  • is intertwined with our circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness

 

I will get to the irony, but I must interject here that reading and writing about melatonin and the intricate workings of the human body reminded me that:

My Creator is an unparalleled engineer, masterpiecing to the rhythms and designs He’s planted everywhere in His creation!

Now back to the irony:

I wrote far too late into the early morning hours — disrupting pools of melatonin, I’m sure.

And, after completing the article on sleep, I proceeded to have the worst night of sleep I’ve had in years. Cold toes, unsatisfying pillow placement, hearing mysterious noises — the whole works.

How ironic, eh?*

What’s your pet peeve? Perhaps your list includes: blog posts where people whine about a poor night’s sleep, don’t get to the point, or make lists of unsolicited facts about body chemicals? Or people who scatter dashes and ellipses like grass seed? Care to share?

*rhetorical question: a question asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

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{ Polar Vortex, Wind Chill & Lots of Real Good Sauce}

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“Deadly polar vortex blasts Midwest with record-breaking cold, forecasters warn to ‘minimize talking’ outdoors… This is way colder than your typical cold front. The polar vortex has shifted, sending an incredible combo of very low temps and wind chills to the Upper Midwest…” — quote from news headlines today

Last night our washing machine didn’t work — the water had frozen inside the pipes.

We thawed them, but to keep the water flowing well, I planned to:

  • Get up at midnight and do some laundry.
  • Get up once more during the night and do more laundry.

The second nocturnal laundry phase found the water frozen-in-the-pipes again. But I was already wide awake at 3:30 a.m. So I took a hot, cozy shower, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the backdrop of a quiet house in which to complete a project.

During the frigid, early morning hours, I snapped this photo of the thermometer outside our window.

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Like a true Minnesotan, I will quantify the minus 20 degrees and add: “It was really twice as cold when you add the wind chill factor.”

Out of our four working young adults, none went to work today. This was due to cancellations and cars not starting. It was great to have them home.

Out of necessity (always, it seems, out of necessity) I concocted a hurry-up-and-make-dinner recipe. After tasting, my son said:

“See? This is how I like chicken! Not dry and with lots of real good sauce.

(I will take that as a compliment, and not read into it.)

Today, it was e x t r e m e l y. cold outside.

But I am thankful that it’s warm and happy indoors.

Quick Tandoori Chicken with Lots of Real Good Sauce

4 -6 chicken breasts, cut the way you like them or leave them whole

2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil

  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass pan.
  2. Place chicken pieces in the pan.
  3. Mix spices with the yogurt in a separate bowl.
  4. Spread yogurt evenly over chicken pieces.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.
  6. Serve with Basmati rice.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Weather map: https://www.foxnews.com/us/deadly-polar-vortex-blasts-midwest-with-record-breaking-cold-forecasters-warn-to-minimize-talking-outdoors

{ Blunders, Blossoms & More }

 

 

 

This week, I finished two things.

  • I finished a writing project– an 1800-word health article. The problem with writing about health supplements is that when I complete one, it gets me thinking, “I need some of that!” So, the jar of herbal supplement pictured above came from Amazon this week. It’s supposed to suppress my sugar cravings?
  • I finished the book The Willpower Instinct, which I added to my Winter Reading Contest list.  What I liked: The author gives lots of practical tips on how to overcome bad habits. What I didn’t like: Modern scientist authors usually present evolution as a logically accepted, scientific fact. Interesting…because macro-evolution is not science.  It does not follow the scientific method, not being observable or repeatable. That said, other than these kinds of assumptions, I really liked the book. 🙂

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On Monday, we took a rare field trip to a local ski hill, since it was Homeschool Ski & Snowboard Day.  We were the first ones that showed up, arriving 1.5 hours before the chairlifts started lifting. Mark this day down in history.

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To go skiing, I wore the LL Bean jacket that my husband gave me 20+ years ago.  One lady remarked that she liked my vintage jacket.  A little girl asked me, “How do you take that thing off?”

I’m just glad I didn’t break any bones wearing it.

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Here I am with my two beginning skiers: Gianny & Marco.  They started their beginner lesson at 10:00. The teacher shooed the parents away, so I took to the hills with my 13-year old Ava.  After 20 minutes, I thought I’d go check on the boys.  We were halfway down a hill when I heard a familiar voice yelling, “Hi, Mama!”

Words cannot describe how surprised I was to see Marco on the chairlift, seated beside two strangers.  I had left him safely gliding down the bunny hill, supervised by a team of ski instructors. But now here he was, 20 minutes later, waving and smiling confidently from high on the chairlift.  A few thoughts went through my head:

  • Did he leave the hill and follow us without permission from the teacher?  
  • What is he thinking?  
  • How can I hurry up there and help him down the hill before he tries to ski down alone?

Then, Ava and I watched him sail down the hill like an expert.  The truth was: Marco did so well with his beginner lesson that the teacher graduated him early and told him to head to the chairlift and enjoy the hills. Whaaaa?!  After I recovered from the shock, it was clear to me that he was capable and fearless. It made me giggle to see his little beginner body cruise down the hills with ease. I still smile to think about it.  He’s got good Scandinavian blood, no fear and the faith of a child. 🙂

 

 

 

So, yesterday I didn’t make dinner. (Almost as rare as a day at the ski hill.)

I ate out with my younger children. because Chik Fil A was giving free sandwiches if you wear your MN Wild hockey jersey.

Later, I came home to a few grumpy, hungry and bewildered young adults that couldn’t seem to hunt and gather food for their dinner.

(These are the same young adults that are often out and about and don’t eat the dinner that I regularly make.)

The cupboard was a bit sparse, but we had eggs, milk, bread, butter and cereal.  And a few other things.  Let’s use our imagination?

Sigh.  Mama got mad and started to bang pans around in her bothered haste to make some food. Then she walked into her room where one of said young adults had, one hour earlier, gently laid three flower bouquets on the desk with a loving note attached.

Tears. Laughter. More tears. Hugs. Repentance all around and smiles.

After this, I happened to read through Dolly Mama’s blog post and shed more tears.

So…that was a slice of my life this week.

 

{ Seasonal Me }

After a sun-robbed

Bone-bitten

Blanket-wrapped

Winter —

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I’m always ready for an Early Spring.

groundhog day

I’m an April snow-be-gone

Window-hoisting

Clutter-banishing gal

But wait – did someone say “Garage Sale?”

Drinking vernal sun

Through white Nordic skin

I’m an impatient trail-trekker

Lake-walker

Eager for

Jean-jacketed

Picnics-at-parks.

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I’m a teacher-on-summer-recess

Swimming-lesson-spectator-mom

An eye-on-the-sky weather-watching

Clothesline-addicted

August-birthday-babe.

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School? Already?

Pondering plans

While I’m apple-picking

Pickle-packing

Toes-in-dirt

Garden-gathering until

First frosty flakes.

Goodnight, garden.

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I’m a dark morning errand runner

Defying slick roads

Stocking up for the Big Snow

I can hibernate awhile

With coffee

Cream

Eggs

Milk

Bread

Cream

And coffee.

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Swadddled in a snow blanket—

Waiting for Christmas,

Birthdays,

And Valentine chocolates to

Usher me to the edge of winter

Where I stand

Toes on edge

Ready to jump

Into an early Spring…

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(I had the idea to write this as I labored with dirt-encrusted toes in a 90 degree garden yesterday.  In retrospect, the scene was so unlike who I am in the winter. If you ever write a seasonal look at yourself — please let me know.  I’d like to read it! )

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/one-way/

Photo credits:
Winter Cabin:  Jonathan Mast
Pool: Jay Wennington
Apple tree:Kelly Sikkema
Coffee: Nathan Dumlao
Frostbitten Garden: Nick Cooper
Lady on cliff: Samuel Scrimshaw
Early Spring? Photo from Groundhog Day movie

{ It’s Weduation Season Again.}

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This is not from my era.

When I was growing up, high school graduates had modest open houses.

Small numbers of close friends and grownups trickled in to eat snacks, give gifts, and ask THE QUESTION:

“So, what will you be doing next year?”

Now — at least in our community — a graduation open house is more like a mini-wedding reception.

It differs from a wedding reception mainly because:

  • Only one person’s smile muscles get tired.
  • The food is cheaper.
  • There’s no honeymoon.

But the hubbub, the invitations, the gifts – all very reception-like.

graduation cake stickers
Our cake will not be this fancy or impressive.

With helpful volunteers and nice friends who lend out their coffee pots, we have survived three graduation extravaganzas.

Number Four is staring us in the face – and it’s at the end of May.

I’m actually a little behind already.

We’ve encountered a problem, which centers around the graduate’s photos and invitation.

Graduation photos sound so easy.

  • Take a bunch of photos.
  • Pick one where the graduate looks cool and smart.
  • Make a graduation open house invitation with it.
  • Send it off a month or more before the event.

But we put off taking his photos.  With summer and fall behind us, we thought a spring photo shoot would work.

Not in Minnesota.  Not in April.  Not when you get a foot of snow abruptly dumped on you.

  1. So, the snowy April photo shoot was COLD — about 9 degrees with windchill. The graduate’s face matched his blue shirt in most of the photos.
  2. More disturbing than that, his fists were tightly & painfully clenched, as he tried to retain warmth in his cool-looking, but thin shirt.
  3. Even worse than that, his fist-clenching was uneven, resulting in a protruding middle finger.

Someone said, “Oh, no one will notice the finger.”

I can name every single uncle that will not only notice, but will mention it every year for the rest of this kid’s life.

The invitations — with a new photo– will be embarassingly late, but they are on order.

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

Photo credits: 

https://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2012/06/08/graduation-red-letter-day/

http://www.fillyourheartediblememories.com/Graduation-Cap-Strips-p362.html

{ Yesterday at Church…}

“Everyone from church is in Florida,” my children announced yesterday morning, as our slush-encrusted van dutifully hauled us to church.

 

There were several brave souls who apparently got left in Minnesota.

They were there, filling up rows and singing hymns with us.

The lively verse that begins: “I sing the mighty power of God, who filled the earth with food…” set my stomach growling, because it was also potluck Sunday, and Melanie’s aromatic chicken drummies were calling my name from the kitchen.

Hearing about Jonah put me and my stomach back on track.

  • There are several historical accounts of people having been swallowed by sea creatures – and surviving.
  • The culture Jonah ran from (Ninevah & the ancient Assyrians) happened to worship a merman-like fish god. That’s ironic.
  • I marveled at Jonah’s selfishness – not going, not doing what God clearly asked. If God clearly tells you something, you should do it, right? God’s words to me are in His book. Do I listen?

And Jonah’s pity-party at the end of the book. The account of Jonah is so…me.

Other highlights:

  • The potluck was grand. I avoided its desserts, but made up for that later at home.
  • I had meaningful conversations with a few friends, learning something new about two of them.
  • Free day-old bread on the back table is a happy thing.
  • Vivian brought us our weekly 4 dozen blushed brown farm eggs.
  • Simon’s family brought a new outdoor game that will go viral — at least at church graduation open houses.

Looking back, it was a pretty good day to not be in Florida.

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

{ Hello 2018 }

Right now, It’s 5 below zero F. / -20.6 C.

One feels layered, puffy and fat.

One is fat, because I ate too many goodies between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Thankful Things:

  • Lots of winter sunshine lately.
  • A good heating system and a cozy new down comforter.
  • No mosquitoes.

Frozen Mosquito 2

Hopeful Things:

  • In 2018, I want to….
  • Look into my children’s eyes more when I talk to them.
  • Spend less time checking my phone.
  • Renew and redecorate [in non-extravagant, budget style.]

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How Cold Is It? 

-10 degrees - You need jumper cables to get the car going.

-25 degrees - You need jumper cables to get the driver going.

-30 degrees - You plan a two week hot bath. 

-40 degrees - Californians disappear. Minnesotans button top button. Canadians put on sweater. 

-50 degrees - Congressional hot air freezes. Alaskans close the bathroom window.

-90 degrees - Lawyers put their hands in their own pockets.

taken from homeutah.edu

Photo credits:

snow — Les Anderson

frozen mosquito — Lens & Life

coins — Pixabay / Padrinan