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it was in the deep heart of a smoggy august when my cousin lori and i headed up the north shore and back to central minnesota to hit up 18 state parks over a 3-day weekend. wildfires in canada brought smoke across the sky, turning it from the deep azure of late summertime to a pale white with an anemic sun that tried to burn its way through the cover.

we had spent the previous day stopping at mille lacs kathio, banning, and jay cooke state parks. we were ready for the shore part of the trip.

the smog made for surreal looking landscapes along the lake; while we meandered our way up the shore, it was hard to discern where the lake ended and the sky began, and the craggy rock outcrops stood out in sharp relief.

of course we made all the stops: a mid-morning snack at betty’s pies (me the blackberry peach; lori the maple walnut), a stop at gooseberry before the crowded madness of mid-afternoon, and the ensuing parks along the highway as we headed northeast.

of all the itineraries during my summer of state parks, this was by far the easiest trip but also the most park intensive. the only park that was out of the way was george crosby manitou, and that was just a short jaunt off hwy 61. the rest of the parks along the north shore were just a pull-off hwy 61 into a parking lot, and that made for an easy trip. as we headed more northerly, the parks grew less crowded, the shore more gentle, and the drive a little easier.

prior to this, i hadn’t been past grand marais, and even then it had been 20 years since i’d been that far up the shore. while the smog persisted, lori and i persisted up the coast, and it turned out to be one of the more breathtaking drives i’d take during the summer visiting the entirety of the state. the cragginess was gone, replaced by easy slopes and tall hills filled with pines. the closer we got to the border, the more beautiful the landscape became. we stopped at grand portage national monument, and while we were too late to check out the visitors’ center, we stopped to take in the views of the bay. the smog had dissipated a little throughout the day, and standing at the edge of minnesota staring at the big lake into its canada and michigan parts, one could only try to imagine canoeing across the water for weeks and finally seeing this bay as a destination, a reprieve.

our stay that night was at judge cr magney  state park, the most northeasterly state park with a campground. i had done a lot of research before choosing a weekend to stay at this park, making sure we were visiting during a time when the moon was the least visible. the past few years i’d dabbled in astrophotography, and i was on a mission to see the milky way in as much glory as i could.

after reading the book “the end of dark” by native paul bogard, i had become more aware of how lighted we are in the more populated areas. i knew that my trips to the state parks might bring me opportunities for night sky viewing, and i had done my best to create the best conditions. while i plotted according to moonrises and new vs. full, i never foresaw the smog. another thing i hadn’t known about during my plans was the perseids showers, which were to peak that evening. i held out hope that the smog would be pretty minimal and the perseids pretty great.

on the way back to judge cr magney park, lori and i stopped at small beach on the side of the road which turned out to be an ideal spot for some star watching. the beach was comprised of small pebbles and swung around to the southeast, creating a small bay. the water was almost calm, and small waves lapped at the shore. it was still hard to separate the water from the sky at a distance, but if the sky remained clear, we’d be able to see some stars that night.

we set up camp. judge cr magney is a small campground with very few campers; the majority of visitors to the park that evening used tents or small pull-behind pop-ups. after our tent was up, lori and i went for a quick walk around the park, then decided it was too late in the day to check out devil’s kettle falls. instead, we picked up a bundle of firewood and had a fire while cooking supper on our campstove. i set up my hammock between two trees. we organized the camp box and made sure the wet towels we had thrown in the box that morning were set out to dry. after a day of driving and stopping, hiking and sightseeing, it was nice to do menial tasks with feet on the ground.

meanwhile, we had to wait for the sun to reach past astronomical twilight and into dark night, which is when the sun is 18º below the horizon. that was about 10:30 p.m. so while it appeared the sun was set, we needed to wait a bit longer. lori took a nap in the hammock. i sat in my camp chair by the fire’s embers and read a book by my headlamp. at 10:30, i whisper-shouted to lori across our site, and her head popped up from the hammock. time to go.

i was excited about seeing the stars in their full glory. lori was just along for the ride, and i have a feeling if she’d been a tiny bit more tired, she may have stayed in the tent. as it was, she dragged her sleeping bag along with her into the car. i made sure i had all my camera gear.

it’s an eery thing, starting your car in the middle of the night in the middle of a silent campground. it felt sacrilegious, especially when i turned on the headlights. i quickly turned them to parking lights until we were out of the campground loop.

not even a mile down the road, we pulled into the small beach parking lot. and as soon as i stepped out of the car, i could see it: the milky way.

most people need to let their eyes acclimate to see stars beyond the few bright ones in our skies near metro areas. it takes up to 3 hours before humans’ eyes are fully opened for night vision in full dark conditions. but we were far from any metro, or any a small town, so even with our closed pupils, the stars spread across the sky, pinpricks of white in dark.

a ball of fiery red lay low on the horizon; i don’t think i have ever seen mars so red or so clearly. i can only imagine what the night would have been like if it’d been completely smog free. if the water had been calm, we’d’ve seen the reflection on the water.

i with my camera equipment and lori with her sleeping bag, we set up camp on the pebbly shore. i did my best with my photos, moving around to get different shots of the stars, the milky way, and by chance, perseids shooting across the sky in long swipes. after 45 minutes of trying different settings and various positions (i am amateur at best), i set aside the camera and sat on the beach alongside lori and watched the stars and meteors burning up in the atmosphere.

close to midnight, i was spent from the long day along the shore, and i suggested we go back to camp before i fell asleep on the beach. at this point, i was unsure of how lori was faring with the amount of time we’d spent on the beach, and i felt a little guilty forcing her out for stargzaing. but it turns out that she was reluctant to return to camp and said she’d stay out there all night if she could. i turned back to the sky and we watched for a while longer.

when watching stars like this, at some point, you lose yourself in the sky. you get lost in the stars. you forget that you are solidly held to the ground with gravity, and part of you senses that, given release, you’d float into the galaxy – become one with the spots of light. the wide sky takes up your entire vision and the primal part of your brain says “hold on!” lest you become one with the stardust. but of course we are all stardust. we forget that we are one with the stars.

bug out

bug out

brrr it’s been cold! i mean, what good is it when it gets this cold?


with the extended cold we had, it’s possible that those invasive insects could’ve been wiped out.

but first, a list of invasive terrestrial “animals” in minnesota:

Asian-Long horned beetle*

Brown marmorated stink bug*

Earthworms (!!!)

Emerald ash borer

Eurasian swine*

European Starling

Gypsy moth

Japanese beetle

Jumping worm

Mute swan*

Sirex wood wasp*

Walnut twig beetle*

first, let’s talk about the emerald ash borer, since it seems to be one of the big bad bugs i keep hearing about. it’s the reason you can’t bring firewood with you to campgrounds and have to pay $5 for 3 logs.

temps need to get to -20º to begin to kill the borer, and at that point, about 50% of them die. around -30º is when 90% of them will die. i think we can safely say sayanora to at least 50% of the EAB larvae in the state, more like 90%.

another bug that i would probably run away from, the gypsy moth, would suffer from some cold. temps of -20º that lasts 48-72 hours kills exposed eggs, and alternate freezing and thawing in springtime can prevent hatching. i think we may have hit that -20 (or close to it).

in other entomological news, the beetle epidemic that was sweeping the black hills is over!

and while the bugs won’t be gone forever – they will eventually migrate back – this summer will give the people who manage invasive species time to implement a containment plan and basically start with a clean slate.

and since we’re talking entomology, let’s end with some etymology.

the word bug was formed in the early 1600s from the word bugge (beetle) which grew from two words: bugge/bugja/bogge and budde/budda/buddo.

bugge was a word for a hogoblin, bugja meant swolen up, and bogge meant snot. budde was beetle, budda was a dung beetle, and buddo means a louse/grub. sounds like they just took a bunch of gross things and smashed them into one word.

state park followup

state park followup

…and some other stuff!

  1. i FINALLY got my state park plaque in the mail. it took a little longer than the 6-8 weeks promised, but it arrived and now it’s sitting on a shelf.
  2. WONDERS NEVER CEASE we had a late start on monday and then TWO DAYS where campus was closed, so no work but paid days for me! in talking to other peeps, this is unheard of. but, it’s also the coldest weather MN has seen in 20 years, so i’ll take it! at this point, we’re waiting to hear on tomorrow. it’s possible that we get a late start. definitely have to work friday though!
  3. and since i have cleaned and sorted out my filing cabinet and got a haircut and altogether exhausted my non-couch items to do on my days off, i am baking some cookies today

    these cookies are like crack. brown sugar cookies from america’s test kitchen. i think i’m also going to make some chocolate chippers.
  4. as far as what’s been happening, megan and i went to the tattoo convention a couple weeks ago, which was REALLY entertaining. seeing all the peeps there, some with no tattoos, some literally covered, was a feast for the eyes. definitely worth the money to get in! i’d recommend it to anyone who wants to step outside their comfort circle!
newsflash: everyone’s burnt out.

newsflash: everyone’s burnt out.

you know, millennials, i didn’t really understand all the flack and outrage toward you. as a half millennial myself, i kind of understood (i’m a xennial – born in 79). i didn’t get the special snowflake syndrome. i thought the hipster phase was quirky. i was annoyed by the articles pitting boomers against millennials, but that was mostly because i was wondering “where am i in this?”

but overall? millennials are ok. i have siblings who are millennials. rock on.

until this article: “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation”

But when it came to the mundane, the medium priority, the stuff that wouldn’t make my job easier or my work better, I avoided it.

Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.

i read this article slack jawed, reading how people in their mid 20s-late 30s are not going to the post office, avoiding getting their knives sharpened, not submitting insurance claims to the tune of $1000. and how life is hard. the recession killed jobs. but now they’re working all the time because it’s expected of them. and most of all because they’re ill prepared for life.

before i get too far, i have a couple caveats: i’m an oldest of four. my mother was a taskmaster to all of us. minus the guy with a TBI, we’re all gainfully employed and able to make it in life. a lot of this i attribute to excellent parenting.

but, that’s not to say that being an adult is not HARD WORK. there were a lot of things as an adult* that i was ill prepared for, ESPECIALLY in my 20s and 30s.

and that’s how i became extraordinarily irritated at this article, at the author, at the stupid unfinished to-do list, at the millennial generation. sure, they can’t all espouse these ideals, but really? really?

then here’s a secret: we’re all burnt out.

i kept thinking about my mom while reading that article. the woman is probably one of the hardest working people i know. in the early 90s, she quit her job to go back to school with a house of four kids and my dad (who was kind of in and out of work and more SAHD). add on top of that managing a household, little income, and no one to tell her how to do all that – talk about burnt out. now, she’s still working, houses my brother with a TBI, and has an octogenarian husband (hi dad!). i’d imagine she’s still burnt out. and she’s no millennial.

we all had to work hard in our 20s. we all didn’t have a $45k/yr job waiting for us out of college. we all had to work at making ourselves indispensable at work. and we all can figure out how to get to the post office to put our ballot in the mail. or not, if that’s what we choose to do. this is not new news.

i left college in 2001 and worked at a newspaper for $7/hr (almost $10/hr today). then i decided to go to grad school to amass more debt, i guess. new job for $12/hr. then i got laid off. in 2006. (that’s pre-recession.) then i graduated from grad school and worked at target. then i got a job for $12/hr, where i worked for 5 years over the recession years, making it through 6 series of layoffs, until i quit to pursue a job that actually made use of my skills. that job that finally was what i wanted to do? i got it when i was 33.

from what i can tell in the article, the burnout comes from working too much. i can’t figure out if that meant that people don’t want to work 40 hrs/wk anymore or if millennials are working 60-hr weeks. and part if it, i gleaned, comes from the expectation that they would work that much. well, STOP IT. salaried? put a max on the hours you will work. yes, we know there’s work to be done, but if i stayed til my work was done, i would have to work straight for a month with no sleep.

worried about getting replaced? you’re cheap (see $7/hr above). and, if you can make yourself indispensable at work, then all the better. the reason i survived 6 rounds of layoffs was because of that. i was the last person to be hired in pre-press, and 5 people were laid off before i quit. you can learn new things – cross train, work hard during your 40 hours, and be open to change. another pro-tip: get an hourly job if you can. i have NEVER been salaried, and if i go over 40 hrs/wk, i am paid OT.

so what was i ill prepared for? budgeting was not a fun thing for me. dealing with bad roommates, figuring out how to manage school loans, debt, and eating. awful jobs. more awful jobs. bosses that sucked. figuring out what exactly i did want. you know, what most people deal with.

i’m sorry that we can’t all be a trust-fund baby, not work, and have a butler to do all our bidding. you don’t think all people would take that if offered? you’re not the lone generation to not want to do that. i think the only thing from the past that espouses the ideals that millennials would like to aspire to are the 1950s white men who went to work, came home to a meal on the table and a sparkling house (thanks to their wives), then got to sit in the living room afterward reading the paper and drinking a scotch until it was time for bed. talk about making america great again.

my dad once told me that the best time for americans was in the late 1800s. i scoffed at that and told him that may have been the best time for white american men. now is a pretty great time considering rights and amenities for women and POC, even with the current administration. if i think about if i’d rather live and work now or in the late 1800s, i’ll take now in a heartbeat. think about no electricity, chopping wood, killing and growing your food, preserving it, saving seeds, tilling with handheld tools, doing laundry over the course of 2 days, cooking on a woodstove, etc etc. it had to have been backbreaking. they weren’t watching netflix for five hours straight, that’s for sure.

i think a huge part of why millennials think they got the short end of the stick is that now there is this platform that shows everyone what CAN be. what we should strive to be. instagram, facebook, twitter – the way to show our best faces. all we see of others is the good stuff – the perfect lives. so why wouldn’t millennials be confused when we don’t have that? and better question: why don’t millennials get that that’s not real life?

real life. here’s what real life is: leaving work and heading home right away even though you know you should stop at a grocery store and pick up some milk. making a frozen something food even though you should make some real food. sitting on the couch and watching netflix even though there are clothes to be folded. getting up to run on the treadmill because that’s the one productive thing you’ll do tonight. glancing at the dirty carpet and dishes on the counter even though you’d feel better if you cleaned it up. putting off cleaning the catbox even though the cats would be happier and you’ll regret it when you finally do get around to it. and on and on and on.

and i’m not a millennial. and i’m not burnt out.

this is life. for most everyone.

sorry to break it to you, but this is how the majority of people deal with life. now think about people who are in poverty. think about oppressed groups. think about those who work two full-time jobs in the service industry. think about veterans with PTSD and other mental health problems.

not so burnt out now, are you. cuz here’s some news:

being an adult sucks.

life blows sometimes. you deal with it and make the best of it the way you can until you feel pretty ok with your life balance.

*adult? i mean, i still think of myself as 8 years old sitting in second grade staring at the guy picking his nose wondering why he’s an idiot. a lot of the time i’m not sure how anyone thinks i know what i’m doing. fake it til you make it!

here’s some pro-tips for those who can’t be bothered to sharpen their knives or go to the post office:

  • i bought a fancy electric knife sharpener. best thing ever.
  • get a kitchen scale and weigh your packages with it. buy postage online. if it fits, put it in your mailbox. if not, check out your work’s mail room – they may accept outgoing mail, including UPS and fedex. if not, and going to the post office is inevitable, leave the package on the counter, skipping the line.
  • i don’t know what to do about rebates. i wish they would all move online. but you can buy single stamps from the customer service counter at a grocery store, and they usually have a mail drop.
  • most insurance/HSA things accept online submissions these days. i was annoyed the first time i got a note that i needed to submit my receipt, but after i saw how easy it was, i got over it. save a PDF from one thing and upload it to another. can’t figure out how to save a PDF? take a screenshot. can’t figure that out? visit google.
  • i now have catfood delivered to my house through my next step might be litter.
  • if you hate grocery shopping, use free grocery pickup! i just learned from my cousin that it’s free at walmart. (i do not hate grocery shopping, so i will continue to peruse the stores.)
a run in the woods

a run in the woods

i’m thinking of getting some snowshoes, if only so i can go for an easy-ish walk through the woods at st. john’s. mid-winter treadmill blahs are never easy, especially when a person knows that running through the woods is only 5 mere months away.

a run in the woods starts with a forecast. if it hasn’t been rainy lately, it’s a good day for a run in the woods. a lot of rain means a lot of the low spots on the trails are filled with muddy water. even on not-so-rainy weeks, the low spots can still be muddy and hard to navigate with the muck.

st. john’s is about 5 miles from my house, so i hop in my car and take the short drive to park outside the prep school. take the fob off my keychain and stick it in my pocket. grab the can of OFF i keep in my car and spray down my exposed limbs, clothes, and top of my head. lock the car, then walk out on the asphalt road that runs through a cavern of trees to the freeway’s walking bridge. on my right is the stone gate.

i take a moment at the edge of the woods to stretch out my hips by swinging my legs back and forth, side to side. in the springtime, the trail is covered with old leaves that survived the winter; in summer, the trail is mostly dirt, the leaves having been desiccated; and in fall, sometimes the yellow leaves are so thick on the ground, it’s hard to know where the trail is.

my headphones go in and i take off into the woods, down the hill that greets me first thing. it’s a pleasant way to start the run. it gets harder.

the first half mile of my run, the lake peeps at me through the trees – teasing me with thoughts of paddleboarding. but i carry on and the trail gets a little harder.

hills go up and down, some a little rougher than others. sometimes there are divots hidden under brush. there is a series of hills i call the goldilocks – the first starts off ok, the second is a little harder, and the third is a bear (so to speak). toward the end of my 3-mile loop, there are two sections that are similar in grade and look, and i sometimes get confused as to how much i have left. on my 5-mile loop, there is a beast of a hill. going up or down is a challenge.

the mosquitoes are a challenge. if i forget to spray down with deet, i have a swarm of bugs following me and clinging to my skin. if the deet’s been sprayed, there is still a cloud, but they tend to stay off. however, if i stop for a moment at mile two (right before goldilocks), the mosquitoes take their chance and congregate. at this point, a lot of the bug spray has sweated off, and they strike while the iron’s hot. i have a lot of bug bites in the summertime.

it’s always wonderful thing, though, to be out in the trees running through them. the critters are out there, as are other people. summer is quiet, which is nice. once school starts in the fall, there are plenty of people out on the trails. one time i was out while the ROTC was doing some sort of training, and a creepy dude wasn’t moving except for his eyes were watching me like i was a russian operative. i said hi and he barely said hi back.

on the back part of my loop past the logging clearing, you can hear the traffic on the freeway, which cuts its way through the campus’ woods. then you loop a little bit away on a causeway next to a small lake with a swamp on the other side. in the spring, the view is breathtaking, and the call of the frogs overwhelm the hum of I-94.

my most common loop is the almost-4-mile. it ends with a rough patch, where i have to work to make it up the hill that greeted me on the run so pleasantly. and it ends back at the stone gate.

sometimes i stop at the gate; sometimes i hoof it across the road to finish up 4 miles on the other side; sometimes i take it easy and run back to my car on the asphalt.

i stretch out on the grass next to my car. i always stretch, but trail running uses different leg muscles than treadmill or road running, so i make sure to spend some extra time. then i grab my beach towel that stays permanently in my car, spread it on my front seat, and get in to drive home. i always have a bottle of water with me for the drive home, and at this point, the sun is generally close to setting.

it’s always a good day for a run in the woods.

now, running in the woods at night?

that’s a different story.

2019. i’m old.

2019. i’m old.

let’s see, 2019. let’s see what you have to offer. let’s see. (i’m avoiding the obvious “big event” happening in 2019.)

i don’t do resolutions, per se. just a nice to do list that gives me a nudge for the new year.
  1. well, what would a new year’s to-do list be without “take more photos” as number 1? i mean, it’s almost expected at this point. so, take more photos.
  2. visit the state parks i want to visit. after last year’s whirlwind visits, now i know which parks i want to go back to. i’ve got an itasca trip already planned. i’d like to head up to grand portage and actually spend time there. i also wouldn’t mind camping at blue mounds.
  3. is this the summer i perhaps run TWO half marathons? maybe! we’ll see what happens. i’m already signed up for the earth day half, and training starts in 3 weeks for that. seeing training on the horizon gives me hope that winter will come to an end.
  4. put in new floors in my house. i’ve got flooring for the entryway, which is my test subject. if that goes well, we’ll give the kitchen a go and see what happens from there. this also means i’ve got to paint my cabinets.
  5. i signed up for a yoga program through fightmaster yoga and i hope it makes me more diligent in my yoga-ing. i do yoga pretty often, but it would be great to make it a daily thing.
  6. speaking of a daily thing, remember when i blogged EVERY DAY for a year? i don’t know if i should try that again or if i should just think about it and dismiss it.
  7. do something interesting with nate – i like that on my list because it makes me think about something interesting to do with him. 2018 was a good year for doing stuff; let’s make 2019 a good year too!
  8. I GUESS I’M TURNING 40. i hope something happens for it.
YEAR IN REVIEW: 2018, the year i did stuff.

YEAR IN REVIEW: 2018, the year i did stuff.

the year i did stuff, indeed. somehow i actually completed quite a few of my 2018 resolutions. let’s review the resolution list, shall we?

1. oh what the heck, we’re throwing take more pics on the list again. i know i’ll be taking SOME photos, so we’ll see if i can up my game a little bit.

check and check. i DID ONE BETTER on this resolution. i not only took a lot of great pics this year, but i bought a NEW CAMERA. a camera that does great in low light and has a lot more bells and whistles than i know what to do with – a canon mark III. but i am really happy with it and it was a fantastic purchase. and i didn’t die at the hands of the craigslist killer when i picked it up.

as for the pics i took, i did more astrophotography, took vacation pics, and had some fun taking pics of the cats.

2. my officemate convinced me to bring over the “do something interesting with nate” item from last year since it really wasn’t accomplished. in 2018? i KNOW i’m going to do something interesting with nate. we’re going to arizona in february for my cousin’s wedding, then we’re taking a trip up to the grand canyon and over to mesa verde. 

CHECK AGAIN. something interesting with nate! i absolutely did a few interesting things with nate! not only did we go to AZ, but we went the black hills in october and we went to a few other places as well. overall, i think nate and i did a lot of interesting things this year together.

3. this could also be a good way to check off a trip item on the list. in fact, there will be a few items on this list in 2018. i feel like this isn’t much of a list if i can’t work on them because they’re already planned. so i’m going to add something that is REALLY difficult…

GIANT CHECK. not only did i go on one trip, but i went on a LOT this year. this year was the year of travel for me. AZ, UT, CO, NM, then vegas for work, then the black hills and into wyoming this fall. and that’s just out of state. cuz i spent the majority of my traveling this year on minnesota…

4. …and possibly unattainable in 2018: visit all the MN state parks. in fact, i’m going to say right now that i’m probably going to need to push this out to 2019. but at least i’m thinking about it!




i visited 72 minnesota state parks and recreation areas. SEVENTY TWO. i camped at five parks, visited 18 parks over 3 days with lori, found some awesome parks to visit again, and already have a 5-day trip to itasca planned for 2019. this may have seemed unattainable when i first thought about it, but when i sat down and sketched out how it would work, visiting that many parks was definitely doable if you put your mind to it.

the best part? i saw so many parts of minnesota that even few minnesotans visit. this is a great state. get out and see it!

5. start thinking about either a BWCA trip or superior trail hike with liz. i think this will depend on her schedule. at this point i’ve got a pretty flexible schedule compared to her.

i guess i thought about this? a lot of this depends on liz at this point.

6. consider bees and chickens again. do i want that responsibility? i mean, i can’t even correctly grow brussels sprouts, and the only reason the cats get fed is because they meow in my ear.

i considered. i’m not sure if this is something that i want to do quite yet, although the bees make sense. i’ve got that field behind my house that they would quite like.


well, that happened.

8. running? hmmm. ragnar is another possibility in 2018. possibly the granddad half relay with liz. one thing i wouldn’t mind doing that i’ve never done is volunteering at a race – being the water person or cheerer or something.

so! running! i did another half marathon this year and indeed ran the granddad half relay with liz (it sucked on my end). i have yet to volunteer at a race. i asked to volunteer at the lake wobegon marathon, but i guess they couldn’t use me. i did a lot of trail running out at st. john’s, starting as soon as i could in may. ragnar happened again, and while it wasn’t 90º with sweat pouring down my face, it was still miserable with trying to warm up in 40º. good grief! maybe next time it won’t be a weather extreme.

9. strive toward a more healthy lifestyle. ugh. this is so cliche with a new year. but i want to do more yoga, and i want to maybe up my speed with running. i’m not going to say “i’m going to lose 30 lbs and increase my run time by 1 minute/mile” but if i can accomplish something, that will work.

i don’t know if i did more yoga, but i do know that i ran my fastest-ever 5k this year. i think my speed sort of increased on the running front. i ended up doing two dietbets and lost 10 lbs or so total. right now i’m not feeling so healthy because i’ve been eating like a crazy person over the holidays, but i’m hoping to get back into some more reasonable eating patterns soon. AND, half marathon training starts at the end of january!

10. in conjunction with the healthy lifestyle thing is mindfulness. my anxiety levels have actually been pretty ok (i think due to work being less stressful). yoga is super good for mindfulness, and i got a great workbook from my mom that incorporates writing with mindfulness. i might also start using the headspace app again, which is a meditation app. there’s something about clearing your mind and focusing on the present. 

i did not do so well at this. while yoga is always good for mindfulness, i didn’t do so well when i wasn’t doing yoga. i’m not sure if this is something where i need to deliberately set down devices and do something else. i feel like my screen time is overwhelming.

11.continue being happy. even if the rest of this list isn’t touched, if my life is relatively happy, then i’ve accomplished all i need to accomplish for 2018. i’ll continue SUPping on lake sag, working on my garden, reading, writing occasionally, petting cats, and hanging out with nate and my fam. there’s not too much else a person can ask for out of life other than being happy. 

aw, nice job 2017 kate. i guess i can mark this as a check on my list!



“while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.”

what on earth is a sugarplum. maybe a sugared plum? not so!

last night, as is tradition, the wallaces read out loud “the night before christmas” with exaggerated sound effects. that evening, my dad said he was going to dream of sugarplums. my mom and i were wondering exactly what was a sugarplum. well, let me tell you!

a sugarplum is a comfit – a candy with a center that’s covered in hard outer sugar, not unlike an m&m, jawbreaker, or even a cadbury miniegg. in the 1600s, popular comfits were everyday seeds and nuts, like fennel, caraway, cardamom, almonds, ginger, cinnamon, anise, and even celery seeds.

they were particularly difficult to make because the sugar coating had to be gradually built up with sugar syrup with a special funnel. it went on for hours and hours, even days on end, until 30 layers of sugar were on the innards. as you can imagine, these were snakes for richie riches. now, not so difficult as they are mostly automated. and most likely do not include a plum.

AND, the word sugarplum meant more than just the candy. in the 1600s, it meant you spoke sweetly but might have a hidden agenda (passive aggressiveness?). to sugar plum in the 1700s meant to pet, fawn over. and in the 1800s, anything wonderful and desirable was “plum.” (think sugarplum fairy in the nutcracker.)

these days, the only time we hear sugarplum is in moore’s poem, and now you know what a sugar plum actually is.

in fact, you can MAKE a sugarplum if you wish. courtesy of alton brown:

6 ounces slivered almonds, toasted
4 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1 cup coarse sugar

  1. Put the almonds, plums, apricots, and figs into the bowl of a food processor and pulse 20 to 25 times or until the fruit and nuts are chopped into small pieces, but before the mixture becomes a ball.
  2. Combine the powdered sugar, anise seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, cardamom, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the nut and fruit mixture and the honey and mix using gloved hands until well combined.
  3. Scoop the mixture into 1/4-ounce portions and roll into balls. If serving immediately, roll in the coarse sugar and serve. If not serving immediately, put the balls on a cooling rack and leave uncovered until ready to serve. Roll in the coarse sugar prior to serving.
  4. The Sugarplums may be stored on the cooling rack for up to a week. After a week, store in an airtight container for up to a month.

(i don’t know if i would eat this.)