today i bought popsicles because the popsicle brand came out with a cane sugar, real fruit kind of pop. yum!

imagine my dismay when i opened the (cardboard) box and found that the traditional paper wrappers had been replaced with …


today we get news that china is no longer buying our recyclables (a former large market).

there’s been a recent brouhaha over plastic straws and how mcdonalds and starbucks plan to eliminate plastic straws, either replacing them with paper straws or no straws. this begs the question: WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THAT PLASTIC GLASS?

manufacturers continue to plasticize everything, and most if it isn’t recyclable plastic. my waste service only takes bottles for recyclable plastic. what does that mean for the rest of my plastic? it goes in the trash, which means it goes in the landfill, which means it sits there for thousands of years.

i’ve been really aware of my plastic usage lately. i haven’t done much about it yet, but i plan to crack down on myself in the upcoming months. i need to do some research on how to reduce my plastic usage, where i’ll need to shop, what brands to look out for. i’ve already prepped for my next batch of laundry soap, which i will make with borax, soda, and bar soap.

as our landfills fill and we see photos like below making more waves, what is it going to take besides some people clucking their tongues about plastic usage and very few actually doing what they can to reduce their plastic footprint? even with some chain stores eliminating plastic bags, i still watch people go through a checkout with one item, then leave with that item they carried up to the lane in a plastic bag (WHYYYYYY).

i know i can do better; i fail over and over on the reusable bag front, but when i forget them, i make sure to stuff my plastic bags to the brim. when the checkout dude tries to put my 4 items in three bags, i say uh-uh, you put that all in one bag. at coborn’s, i request a paper bag after they ask “is plastic ok?” NO IT’S NOT WHEN HAS PLASTIC EVER BEEN OK

this is not just about straws. this is about putting the burden of plastic consumption on the consumer. this has got to start with manufacturers and them realizing that plastic isn’t the answer, even if it’s the cheaper option.* as a consumer, i will gladly pay a little more for an item encased in glass, tin, aluminum, or paper over plastic.

i know this can be done on that level because i saw it with HFCS. in 2010 when i became hyper aware of eating devil’s syrup, it was everywhere. now, about half the products that i avoided in 2010 use sugar in their ingredients instead of corn syrup. if people start demanding that less plastic be used, i bet it will make a difference.

next year my goals will include using less waste. whether that means purchasing more items in bulk, bringing in my containers to the food coop, or even making sure i really do put my reusable bags in the car.

and until popsicle brand starts to wrap their pops in paper again, no more popsicles for me, even with the revised ingredients list.

*i never understood how plastic can be so cheap when gas is so expensive. they are both made from oil. ALSO, recycled paper is basically worth nothing right now. companies could grab up that recyclable paper for $ZERO and create recycled paper packaging.

running anxiety

running anxiety

i haven’t run much this week. it’s been humid, humid, and more humid. which wouldn’t be so bad if it were 70º outside, bit it’s been 80s-90s, and that’s just a recipe for disaster. so i’ve been taking a short running break.

i get runner’s world in the mail, and this month’s has an article on running anxiety and what can cause it. one reason is because of the time you need to put into it; another is a nagging injury and how it might be affected. and a third is thinking about your time.

i’ve always had some weird anxiety when i start off for a run; when i get into it, i’m generally ok. and it’s always been related to my time and how well i’m going to do. usually in the first 20 seconds i can tell if a run is going to be ok or bad. i had a run on monday that i knew in 5 seconds that it was not going to be a good run, and it wasn’t. i ran one mile and walked home. but overall, i haven’t had many runs like that lately.

what i’ve had to do is tell myself that it doesn’t matter how well i do on a run as long as i’m out there running. so what if i run a 13-min mile? i ran for 5 of them. the best thing that helped with that was shut off the speed prompts on runkeeper. i still get a notification every half mile on my runkeeper app, but i no longer know how fast i’m running.

and maybe it’s time i take a break from runkeeper. at this point, i know my routes and where i need to run to to hit certain mileage. are the prompts needed? do i really need to log my outdoor miles on runkeeper? is the distraction of a phone needed? if a person runs 6 miles with no phone, does it really happen? perhaps it’s time for an experiment of running without a device to see if it’s the device that’s causing the anxiety.

my short running break won’t last long; ragnar approaches and i am probably signing up for a couple races between then and now. and this upcoming week promises to be very runnable, with lows in the high 50s. now i’m not sure if that means i’m heading out my door with my road shoes or if i’m driving over to st. john’s to head out on the trail, but i know it means i’ll be logging some miles. whether or not i bring my phone with me is another matter.

on laura ingalls wilder (and the ALA)

on laura ingalls wilder (and the ALA)

when asked about the most influential books i’ve read, there are two series in my top ten: one is the harry potter series and the other is the little house series. i’ve written a few times before about LH, most often when reminiscing about my aunt colettie, who snagged me remainder books from her time at the rochester school system library. i also remember reading them very young, when the librarians at the small gradeschool i went to wouldn’t let me out of the children’s section to explore chapter books.

for me there’s a romanticism to reading the LH books – from laura’s time in the big woods, gathering food from the woods and eating maple syrup candy that had been poured onto smooth cold snow, to the endless prairies of south dakota and the harsh winters with grains stored in walls. i know it was rough going, but 7-year-old me wanted to live in that world.

this past week, the association for library service to children (a division of the american library association) voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.

first, a little background on the LIW award. the award was established in 1954 when it was giving to laura herself and it’s been given every 5 years through 1980, then til 2001 every 3 yrs, then 01-16, every 2, and now every year, to a childrens author or illustrator whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to kids’ lit. past winners include maurice sendak, beverly cleary, eb white, and dr. seuss. the authors who receive this award have a “substantial and lasting contribution” and “occupy an important place in literature for American children and that over the years children have read the books and the books continue to be requested and read by children.”

the ALSC decided to change the name of the wilder medal because of the LHoP books’ racist themes throughout. they claim that the books are inconsistent with their core values. i have a beef with that. the books are a product of their time, just like mark twain’s books. they also reflect the thoughts of people around her: ma hated american indians and pa didn’t.

this line from pa in particular is pretty ahead of its time:  They “would be as peaceable as anybody else if they were let alone.” Pa says. “On the other hand, they had been moved west so many times that naturally they hated white folks.”

there was this line in the books when it was first published:

There the wild animals wandered and fed as though they were in a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no people. Only Indians lived there.

laura was just mortified when someone pointed out the line to her. she wrote her publisher post haste:

You are perfectly right about the fault in Little House on the Prairie and have my permission to make the correction as you suggest. It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not.

that line now says settlers. i think that in itself is reason to keep the wilder name on the medal. the thing is, her books fully embrace the theme of the medal. and given the above, i think laura the author embraces the ALSC’s core values, “which include inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness.”

and if the ALSC really wants to embrace their values, well, they’ll change the name of the carnegie medal as well. despite his philanthropic ways, there were some controversies in his life. and perhaps we should pore over randolph caldecott’s illustrations to make sure they also embrace those core values? and dr seuss, who also has an award named after him, supported the internment of japanese americans during WWII! (afterward, he changed his mind a bit with horton hears a who as an allegory for hiroshima.)

this all said, i can understand how someone reading the books outside of the white person lens sees these books as a glorification of racism and stereotyping of native americans. but as a set of historical, semi-autobiographical fiction that was explaining the time and perspective, i don’t know how we can’t see that laura’s books aren’t still relevant and educational.

i was reading reddit’s books forum and saw this comment:

As a proud Native American and member of the Blackfoot tribe, I am disheartened to hear that children will no longer have it explained to them what our roots are.

Growing up in public school we often learned of the struggles minorities faced in the history of this country, but my Native ancestors were ether under represented or left out all together.

These books were my first experience of what non-res people heard about my people. It raised questions that were sometimes hard, but gave all the class the ability to look at our history through the lens of today. A reminder not to repeat the mistakes of hatred from the past.

I think that this award for all its flaws sparked an important conversation. A conversation that is no more. One less source of truth about my nearly extinct people.

i think it’s important to hear those other voices. but did the ALSC just get complaints and decide to change the name based on those, or did they go out and find other perspectives from american indians, like the one above? and do the ALSC’s awards reflect the author or the author’s works? in EITHER case, if the ALSC is going to change the name of the wilder award, it needs to take a closer look at its other awards and how they relate to its core values.

i’m disappointed that the award has been renamed. while her award hasn’t been revoked and her works still widely published and read, stripping laura’s name from the long-time award does a disservice to historical viewpoints, a turn-of-the-century female author, and to the spirit of laura and other long-read authors.

no title please

no title please

i have so many things i want to do an armchair legal review of and can’t focus on which one i’d like to do. on top of that, sometimes a person just wants to not listen to the news because it seems like every day there’s another piece of craptastic news that happens. at some point it just becomes noise.

anyway, if i ever get inspired to pull out my legalese hat and put it on, perhaps i will. or maybe i’ll just turn off my phone and go for a paddle on the lake or sit on my patio and hope nothing blows up. not like i can do anything about it*.

*my resignation is starting to be overwhelming. is this the point? can i be done being angry?

mn state parks: west central loop!

mn state parks: west central loop!

i had a COMPANION on today’s state park visit. nate has three days off and agreed to come with me on my west central park loop. yay!

we headed out around 10:30 and hopped on 94 to head up to glacial lakes park, which is at the more northern end of the glacial ridge. this is a ridge running in west central mn where the glaciers left a crapton of deposits and therefore lakes.

glacial lakes is a nice park! it’s near starbuck, which is near glenwood. there’s a giant lake nearby as well as a couple smaller lakes in the park. we didn’t spend a lot of time in the park, but we did check out a scenic overlook into the lake and then i took a (very)short hike into the woods.

then it was a long haul to the very western edge of the state to big stone lake state park, which is right on the SD/MN border just below the little bumpout in the state.

i was a little excited for this visit because i can check off another county that i’ve visited. now i only have two counties left in MN before i can say i’ve visited them all.

before visiting the park, nate and i drove into ortonville to find something to eat. we ended up going to this dive bar and not surprisingly had one of the best meals i’ve had in a while. gotta love small-town bars!

big stone lake is a dammed river that creates a rather large lake on the border, and the state park is just a little piece of land with some campsites, a public water access, and a small swimming beach. the land in that area is interesting: there are stones all over, so you can’t farm the land, but it’s prairie, so it’s pretty flat and uninteresting. there are a lot of cattle grazing, and scrubby trees trying to make it on the edge of the prairie.

then another long haul to lac qui parle state park , another wide place in a river.

and this is where i got the find of the day! the largest cottonwood in the state is in this state park! it’s got a 394″ circumference at 4′ (!) and is 106′ tall! i wish i could find out if they have an estimate on how old it is. i had visions of walking to general sherman when i rounded the bend to see the tree!

holy tree!

by this time nate was maxed out. sure, google maps said the loop would take 5.5 hrs, but this didn’t count time in the parks or eating lunch. so it was close to 3:30 at this point. we hightailed it across the prairie. the nice thing about the wide open spaces is there are very few cops and the speed limit is 60mph.

the second to last stop was monson lake, which was another public access and a few campsites, as well as the still-depressing reminder about the sioux uprising.

the final stop on the look was sibley state park! this is certainly a familiar park; i think i spent every day the summer of 1998 on the lake andrew beach, frying to a crisp. i stopped in the park office, which i don’t think i’ve ever been in, and then took in the familiar lake parking lot. since nate was about ready to hitchhike back home, i didn’t spend much time reminiscing, took a pic of the lake, and we headed home by way of new london.

we got home close to 6 p.m. the amount of time i’m taking in the parks is making me nervous for my drive home from the north shore. that may end up being a 15 hour day :/

motivation monday (but on a saturday!)

motivation monday (but on a saturday!)

you know it’s been a sad state of affairs lately when you spend an entire saturday cleaning and fixing stuff around the house and afterward you’re amazed at how good it looks. i started with the living room and couldn’t get over how nice it was so i just kept right on cleaning. and i painted the wall that’s needed painting for about 8 months (still need to do something about the floor, but that’s another day’s project).

here’s an update this blog will be happy to hear about: this weekend i survived the craigslist killer and bought a new camera. a canon 5d mark III, which is a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUge upgrade from my sad 30D. oh, 30D, you did me so good for 11 years. but this will be a fantastic step up for things like STAR photography and low-light photos and overall photo loveliness. i parted with a large sum of money for this, so it’d better be SUPER awesome at stuff.

first couple photos taken with new cam? the peonies in my garden.

i’m ready, 5d. let’s get my photivation back on track.

mn state parks: blue mounds, kilen woods, minneopa, flandrau, fort ridgely, greenleaf

mn state parks: blue mounds, kilen woods, minneopa, flandrau, fort ridgely, greenleaf

after camping by myself, having a weird old time, i had a toss and turn night. i couldn’t get comfortable and it was sticky humid. finally i got to sleep and woke up at 8:30, which is SO LATE in camp world. i broke camp in record time because i had a long day ahead of me. it was still sticky humid and getting everything stuffed in their bags was kind of gross.

i headed farther south. and south dakota was calling me – come west, young woman. (or middle-aged woman.) i briefly toyed with the idea, but stuck to my schedule. one of these days i will be spontaneous.


after chomping down a cookie and a can of diet pepsi, i stopped at blue mounds state park, which was a close to a south dakota stop as i was going to get this trip. what a great park! there is a bison herd and rolling prairie and native grasses and, i mean, can you beat this for wanting to head off into the sunset?

i admit, i am a lakes and trees girl. but there’s something about driving across south dakota, the hills, the waving grasses, the sky reaching forever into the west. it’s a different sort of home feeling – maybe a feeling of wanderlust rather than home. it makes me want to travel, even if it is across the prairie.

got some bison in the distance. one buffalo needs 5.5 acres of land to live off of, and the park has dedicated people for the herd.

and once again nature wins:


then it was a short drive on I-90. i stopped in worthington to find a coffee, which i was pretty grateful for. then to kilen woods state park, another park encompassing a river valley on the prairie.

i hiked the short trail to the des moines river, which starts in shetek park – i had visited that park the day before. the sun was still trying to peek through, but at this point, it was starting to cloud over again. i didn’t spend a lot of time at this park, as i had a few more to pick up on my way home.


minneopa state park is right outside mankato, so this was a very busy park. it seems like there is a lot going on at this park. i accidentally took the bison loop, which would have been ok if everyone else and their neighbor hadn’t decided to take it as well and i wasn’t in a hurry. i did get a pic of some buffalo, so i guess there’s that! two buffalo herds in one day. not too bad.

then across the road and down about a half mile, there’s a giant waterfall. the minneopa creek was high that day and just cascading over the falls.

there was mist curling up from the falls, making it seem like i was in some sort of horror movie. but there were way too many people there for that. remember how i like my parks more rural? well, i do. although the WPA buildings at this one were pretty nice!


and speaking of not rural, let’s talk about flandrau state park, which is right smack dab in the middle of new ulm. here a was rolling through a neighborhood when suddenly, a park. i was so surprised i didn’t even get any pics. in fact, i don’t remember much about this park at all. if i remember correctly, it’s small with a few campsites and trails.

well, i was short on time.


a brief interlude for the historical society!

i headed up the river road that we took so many times on the way from new london to austin and vice versa. every time we drove the road, we passed the harkin store, and every time we drove right on past. well, it was time to stop. i was surprised it was open on a sunday since it was sunday, but i paid my $6 to the historical society and got a history lesson on the long-gone riverside town that once prospered in the area. (reminded me of crow wing up by brainerd). the harkin store is the only building that remains. it’s pretty interesting and worth the $6. a lot of the items in the store are original to the store, and the person giving the tour knew her stuff.


fort ridgely was a short drive from harkin. once again i was reminded of what a cruddy way the dakota were treated. this one is a memorial to those who fought in the dakota war in 1862. the fort’s remains are from 1853, which was built as an outpost and training ground. it made a sort of buffer between the whites settling in the river valley and the dakota. i know there is a memorial and park in mankato, and the state parks do a good job of educating people about how an entire people was kicked out of their home and sacred land, but where’s the park memorializing the american indians? i have yet to run into one. perhaps it’s still on my list.


then i made the mistake of the day. i should have checked the website for greenleaf. turns out it’s just a public water access, and the stamp was at the dnr office in hutchinson. i drove around looking for a dumb self-service station, then finally looked at their website. sigh! so i backtracked to hutchinson to get the stamp.


and booked it. it had been a long day. i was hungry, and a stop in litchfield yielded a slice of casey’s pizza (seriously if you haven’t had their pizza, check it out. and the donuts). i dismiss litchfield a lot, but every time i drive through i’m impressed. it’s got a sizable lake, a decent swimming beach, an actual town square and park. good job, litch.

the route i took home took me through eden valley, which i had never visited. and it lives up to its name. what a perfect little lake community. central minnesota at its finest!

finally i was in the homestretch, driving north of richmond to avon, which is a very scenic drive with the right amount of rolling hills, fields, trees, and an occasional small lake. and the sun decided to make an appearance, streaming down through clouds onto those lovely avon hills, and a person just has to say there’s no place like home.

mnstate parks: upper sioux, camden, lake shetek, split rock creek

mnstate parks: upper sioux, camden, lake shetek, split rock creek

saturday morning i woke up a little later than normal, rolling over as nate came to bed and wondering if i really had to get up and head out for a day of state parks. i was gone the prior weekend as well. that along with work was almost enough for me to shut my eyes and forget the $26 i spent on a campsite.

then i remembered the reason i made this goal was to get out of my comfort zone of staying at home all the time.

i do love staying at home and putzing around.

so i took off.

not even 5 miles south of avon, the rain started. sigh.

i took a brief interlude into new london where i took a driveby pic of the old wallace homestead and sent it to my peeps. then we all lamented the fact that the new HS auditorium hadn’t been around while we were there. then i tried to turn around and my trip almost got cut short when i nearly got stuck in mud. *eyeroll*

i had planned to stop in willmar to check out the farmers’ market, but it was non-existent. i think it was the rain.

then i buckled down and drove through the pelting rain. visiting state parks in inclement weather isn’t fun.


the first stop was upper sioux agency. if there’s one thing that visiting state parks has taught me so far it’s that american indians have gotten the crap end of the toothbrush (not that i didn’t know that before, but good grief it’s just so overwhelming infuriating and sad to read about it at every stop).

i drove through granite falls to get through the park, taking a meandering river road with wisps of fog rolling along the edges of the trees. then suddenly i dipped up from the valley and onto the rez, alongside the requisite casino. a short way down the road was upper sioux.

like i said, it was rain city, so i didn’t spend a lot of time here. but there were some information items about the dakota uprising and how this confluence of the yellow medicine and minnesota rivers was originally a native homeland. seems like a lot of these parks preserve confluences that were once sacred to american indians.


i continued southwest to camden state park, which has a spring-fed swimming pond and great fly fishing. i took a break to eat some lunch and took a short hike to the river.

driving along the prairie grass and farmlands that suddenly give way to river valleys where these parks are is kind of disconcerting. all at once you are disoriented, wondering what happened to the wide open skies that are now crowded by trees (i prefer the trees).


it becomes pretty apparent pretty quickly that lakes in southwest minnesota are highly regarded. lake shetek seemed like an urbanized park. the lake itself was ringed with homes, the park itself carving out a small section of the shoreline. and it was a busy park. minnesotans really like their lakes, even if they need to drive 20 miles to get to one.

there is an island, loon island, that is connected to the mainland by a causeway built by the WPA.

at this point you may be wondering why the island is called loon island, as no self-respecting loon would deem this lake cool enough to nest on. i sure was, as i was walking the odd causeway to the island.

turns out it was a case of misidentification. the island was inhabited by double-crested cormorants, which i guess sort of look like loons. they, too, dive. so why didn’t they rename the island? well, the cormorants are gone now too. in the early 1910s, residents thought the birds were depleting the fish population, so there was a cormorant hunt. and it was so successful that the birds have never returned.

*huffs* *shakes head*

humanity is proving itself more and more stupid.


now for something different! i stopped at a NATIONAL MONUMENT. yes, i checked out pipestone.

i felt like this was entering true prairie territory. i didn’t spend a lot of time here, just enough to do a short hike through the restored prairielands and to check out the red rocks.

at this point, the sun finally made an appearance and the rain stopped. it was humid and sticky, though not yet hot.

i was itching to get to my campsite.


after checking out the local scene in jasper (not much), i headed to split rock creek state park, where i was camping for the night.

the “lake” was created after the WPA dammed up the river, making it the only lake in the county.

let’s talk about dams for a moment. i want to learn more. i like the idea of lakes created, but i also like the idea of letting nature take its course. i like the idea of hydro-electric, but i also like it when salmon can swim upstream. a book that’s been long on my to-read list is john mcphee’s “in control of nature” which delves a little more on the subject. one of the info-stops along the hike to the dam mentioned how flooding has damaged the dam more than once.

maybe it’s nature saying get a clue.

that aside, i checked in and drove to my campsite, which was a little small and made me happy i had only a 4-person tent. set everything up and ate supper before heading out on a hike along the lake and to the dam.

then i read a book in my hammock and felt generally weird about camping alone.

not gonna lie: it’s not about safety; it’s about company. i spend a lot of time alone in my life. nate works overnights, so i occupy myself a lot of the time. but short of a couple work-related things, i don’t travel alone much. or at all. i’m traveling with someone or to someone. and even though i’m a giant introvert and pretty quiet, having someone else with me at the campsite would’ve been nice.

but i survived.

once it got dark, i was going to try out some star photography. around 9:30, i saw the stars start to peek out, so i decided to wait until 10:30 or so. then it clouded over around 10. well that was the end of that.

but i DID get some fireflies!

on tony bourdain

on tony bourdain

in 2005 or so, back when having cable tv was still a thing, i was cruising through channels one day and happened upon “no reservations” on the travel channel. i was intrigued. and kept watching. and kept watching tony bourdain as he traveled over the world eating its foods, good and bad, from the travel channel to cnn to on my netflix queue. i love his narration, so i picked up his books: first “kitchen confidential.” then i checked out his fiction. when “medium raw” came out, i ordered it on its publish date. i own his cookbook that recently came out. when nate and i went to see alton brown a couple years ago, alton brown said “you may think i’m the god of food. that’s wrong. that’s anthony bourdain.” i often daydreamed about what it would be like to be his fixer, what i would show him in my area of the world (not that he would ever come to central mn but a girl can dream). i meant to look up when he was on tour and go see him in whatever it was he was touring for. i followed him on twitter. i followed his production company (zero point zero) on twitter. i followed them both on instagram. i admired his F-you attitude to a lot of things, the cynicism in a lot he did, and the way you could see when his attitude warmed toward something, most likely a grandma cooking in her home. the way he and ZPZ made each episode of his travels a true work or art, the words moving with the camera shots, the focus pulling at your eye and the words at your heart. the artistry that they managed to pack in to each hour of travel talk. and still what always brought me back was his narration, his way with words, making a person yearn to be there with him, traveling the world and logging it with food, with a cynical eye, with a drink or three, a cigarette in the early days, and always, always with words.

fangirl. always will be.

farewell 38

farewell 38

sipping on a margarita on my last few hours of 38. i did get out for a run and then got some pics of a great evening sky and the light it was throwing.

i really missed spring this year. i missed the smell of snow melting to slush and then water and the thawing dirt and melting fields. we were thrown directly from the winter that never ended to summer. can i insert some sort of metaphor about life here? the days are long but the years are short. i’m about halfway through, i reckon.