meta takeaways

here's a photo of a cat to keep you entertained.

here’s a photo of a cat to keep you entertained.

this is going to be a blog post about blogging. how meta.

i went to the minnesota blogger conference today and learned stuff about blogging. here are the top takeaways i got from the conference.

1. your blog post needs to be at least 300 words for google to index it. not 280. not 299. 300. THAT is the biggest thing i learned, and i believe the most useful for work, where i just started a news blog. the more we can get out on google, the better. 

2. another useful thing i learned that i will apply to work: it can take at least 9 months for a blog to really take off. i’ve gotten more than one comment about how no one’s reading the blog (they are) and it’s useless (can’t say that yet!) so why are we bothering? if we are still getting the numbers we are getting now, which are not horrible (the most read post is 500 views), then i will put a kibosh on it. 

3. i found out a useful wordpress plugin that gives a calendar view of posts versus a listing.

4. a personal thought process from novice to expert: “this is neat. -> i might be good at this. -> i’m a _______.” 

5. find 6 characteristics you value and use them as a filter for everyone and everything you work with. does content serve your audience? does your content fit your values? don’t dilute your message with extraneous crap. be the guardian leader of your blog. *

6. be the best answer. what can i be the best answer for? what is it i’m best at? what do i want to be known for?

* what are my 6 values?

1. eat well, but remember to eat socially as well. 

2. pay attention – beauty is in places you least expect.

3. be cynically optimistic. or optimistically cynical.

4. it’s ok to be excited about weird stuff.

5. be an environmentalist. we only have one earth.

6. still working on this one! 

in which there is talk of autumn

DCF 1.0

in one of my earlier memories of autumn, it is after school, and i am walking by aunt mary’s house in austin. it must be magazine selling time at our school because that’s the only reason i can think of to explain why i am in that neighborhood.

my sneakered feet kick through piles of orange and brown leaves covering the sidewalks, making the leaves fly up against my bare legs. 

on a recent run, the fallen leaves were pushed to the sides of the streets that i pound my feet on, and suddenly i felt like kicking through leaves. i veered to the left and kicked up the leaves with my once-again sneakered feet.


the st. john’s campus is beautiful to begin with, but then you add in fall, and it turns transcendent. when you walk from the bus stop to the classroom buildings, the lawn stretching out in front of the quad, the air just crisp enough, the overwhelming presence of trees, it’s like you are home. 

there is a tree in front of simons hall that turns brilliant orangey-red. students dwell under it, kick up its fallen leaves, play guitar underneath. it’s known as the god tree.

but wander to the woods and the hue turns to yellow. the trails in the woods meander over hills and along lake sagatagan out to the chapel. all along, you feel like you are floating through a yellow wonderland.

when i dream of universities and colleges, it is some variation of st. john’s, not my alma mater. 

something i wrote for an etsy item

i listed my tree photo on etsy. i wrote this for the description:

In Southeastern Minnesota, the fields go on forever, like looking at a sea of waving green. The cornfields hedge you in on your drives on country roads, while the soybeans take a more forgiving approach with their crouching stance in the field dirt. 

When fall comes, the corn leaves turn brittle and combines roam the fields in straight lines, sucking up what it needs. The soybeans turn from green, to yellow-green, to brown, the bean pods slowly losing their moisture as the air turns crisp and the nights swallow the daylight. ‘Tis the loaming.

keep on writing

the best thing i ever read written by a peer was a story in the annual csb/sju artist and writer publication, lower stumpf lake review. the last essay in the book of black and white art projects and senior creative writing poems was a long-ish essay about a 22-year-old and his car, which he affectionately named blue balls. i was so enamored by the story that i sent it to my dad to read, despite the questionable name of the car. 

i have since striven to write to that level. the only thing i know that could possibly come close is my tale of a porta-potty, which i rank as one of my best pieces of writing. 

the thing is, i haven’t read blue balls’ story in years. perhaps the level or writing is not as great as i remember, or maybe the content was what really grabbed me, as it revolved around roadtrips.


i got a subscription to national geographic from liz for christmas last year, which i really enjoy. as such, i read a lot about climate change, which is freaking me out (we’re going to lose the loon in MN and the current drought in the southwest is a huge thing – huge), but what i really like to read are the stories about places i’d like to go. this latest issue had an essay and photo essay on chernobyl, one place that really intrigues me. i’d like to go to machuu picchu some day. europe fascinates me. 

i’d love to go to these places, but the money issue is a huge factor. i can barely scrape enough cash together to go to the black hills this spring (which i am NOT complaining about! ha!). 

so i sit here and think, what did i spend my money on that i could have saved instead to take me to ukraine to check out the radioactive ruins? stuff for my house. a garden in the back. hopefully a deck next spring. 

i’m really a homebody, when it comes down to it. i love going places, visiting people, thinking about where to travel; but nothing beats walking in your red door at the end of it all and being in the place where you spend the majority of your time. 


literally, just now, i tromped downstairs to my three boxes of yet unpacked books where i knew i would find the blue balls story. true enough, “blue balls, rambo, and the open road” by john steingraeber in 1998.

(i had done a prodigious search online to no avail. apparently searching “blue balls csb sju” will result in some weird, science-y faculty blogs.)

he speaks of his navy VW rabbit (“blue”), truck stops, wall drug, and the road. it’s lovely. 

“and maybe, dear reader, maybe i’ll swing by your house, because the road never ends – you just have to figure out how to get around the place where it stops.”

may we all have a blue; better yet, may we all have a place to park blue.


a publisher in rochester puts out a women’s magazine, and my mom was looking at the most recent issue yesterday when she told me i should submit something.


so, i looked in the mag and saw they only had directions for hard-copy submissions, so i emailed the contact. she got back to me straight away, asking me where i hailed from, and then to send something.

i wonder if she’s needing writing?

anyway, i’m wondering what i should submit! oh my. i think it can be any length. i’ve got to go back and search through old blog posts.

excerpt from devil's syrup writings!

i just wrote these couple paragraphs for the last chapter of my DS book!

This part of the state is a contrast in land studies. On the one hand, there are flat expanses that open the sky up to a driver with few trees dotting the horizon. Sunsets are vast and pastel. Fields are large, but there are more owners than west central; farmhouses crop up often and are easy to spot with the small cluster of trees close to the roadside. There are far fewer trees in this part of the state, and once you’ve gotten used to trees, it’s hard to go back.

When a person heads in a more southeasterly fashion toward the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota intersection, the river valley rears its head, and valleys dip in and out of existence. One minute you’re driving across a flat expanse of corn-riddled farms and the next you’ve pushed on the brakes as you head into a rolling valley filled with trees with a river at the bottom. Nate and took a drive to a valley town during July, and as we drove along the ridge of the valley, we could see the rolling hills and trees – over the tops of corn fields.

“This would be a whole lot prettier if there weren’t so much effing corn,” he observed. Truer words and all that.

i need a thing

a thing for april to do for my blog. like take a picture of every meal. or work through a cookbook. if my dad ever finds his martha cookie book, i’ll give that a go, but what do you want to see here? anything in particular? haiku a day? cookie a day? picture of my foot every day? progressive photos of my grey hairs? cat a day?

let me know! i’m needing some ideas to tide me over til garden season.

haiku for you

veronica mars
early saturday showing
who: pizz or logan?

happy 10-year blogiversary!

ten years ago. 2004. i had just moved out from a bad living situation and was renting a one-bedroom from a nice lady landlord. branden had a livejournal account, and even though i’d been bugging him to refer me so i could get an account, he declined. “yeah, i don’t want to give it to you if you’re not going to use it.”

10 years later, who’s still blogging? huh branden?

fortunately livejournal opened up for general consumption, and i grabbed an account and started typing 10 years ago today.

10 years ago:

  1. i was in grad school after moving from one bad job to another bad job
  2. had just started seeing a guy i’d eventually marry
  3. was going through a mild quarter-life crisis
  4. still had the same old cat (chasey!)
  5. had only been using the internet for 7 (7!) years
  6. had a two-DVDs/month plan with netflix

my blog has gone through a couple transformations in the past 10 years. i went from a livejournal-hosted blog to a personal website-hosted blog in 2008. i lost a year and a half’s worth of entries in the great blog migration of 2012. my livejournal (house of kate) is still alive, but i’ve deleted everything from it and put it here. and believe it or not, i actually opened up a blogspot blog a year or two before my livejournal, but who knows what the web address is or the date i started it (it was pretty short-lived), so even though i’ve “technically” been blogging for more than 10 years, this is the easily recorded anniversary.

i have two consistent readers i know of for sure: my sisters. thanks to them for at least showing me some traffic. i know there are more of you, but my sisters for sure have read my blog over the past 10 years.

and to celebrate my blogiversary, instead of getting myself a cake, i will give my readers a list of my top ten blogs.

  1. undeniable proof
  2. a bathroom review
  3. the best kind of books
  4. goodwill toward all
  5. it’s hard, jane
  6. christmastime
  7. it was the best of times…
  8. shhh
  9. whenever
  10. home
  11. bonus: TMI Tuesday: 90s edition (read at your own risk)
life in the cheese drawer, it turns out, is cheesy and can keep you stopped up for days.

life in the cheese drawer, it turns out, is cheesy and can keep you stopped up for days.

one year


salon published an article telling the world that we need to quit with the “year of” stunts. people write books or blog about how they’re spending their year being an atheist, or living the biblical law, or being vegetarian, or cooking all of julia child’s recipes. much of the article is focused on the goal-orientation and on-off switch of the year-long stunt.

i have only one beef with these sort of experiments myself: after the year is up, it’s bye bye blog! that’s why my blog covers many varied topics, all of which, coincidentally, have to do with me. my posts are about writing, photography, eating, running, campaigns against devil’s syrup, etc…and when those things run out, i will blog about something else i’m doing.

so my 10-year blogging anniversary is quite the accomplishment, if you look at other abandoned blogs.

and ironically, i’m doing a year of blogging to celebrate. unironically, i plan to continue my blog after my year of blogging ends, because, well, this is getting way too meta to think about, so i’ll leave it at that.

i’ll admit, blogging every day for a year is going to have its challenges, but ultimately i’m not going to quit writing or get bored with it.

so, salon, you can suck it. this is one “year of” stunt that is celebrating something i’ve already been doing and will continue doing afterward, just in smaller doses. (plus, i might continue on with the daily blogging – one never knows!)

santa: mugged again

i get these form

i get these form

once again, santa was a victim of inter-stellar mugging. this was the third time, and it was getting old. speaking of old, he was definitely getting too old for this.

just last night, christmas eve, he was out on his yearly journey, his eight tiny reindeer leaping through the skies toward their destinations. he was almost done – just a few of the aleutians left to drop down chimneys and leave goodies, then it was a quick right toward home. he could smell the hot chocolate laced with bailey’s already. he was dreaming of his comfy bed. his reindeer were dreaming of carrots and oats.

then, out of nowhere, they came for him. it was like they had a wormhole homed in specifically on him every christmas eve. suddenly santa and his sleigh were bathed in a bright blue-white light; the reindeer reared, the sleigh shuddered, and they were beamed aboard.

“not again,” santa muttered. he decided to just close his eyes and let them do their thing.

once in the hull of the ship (it was a huge ship – santa more than once wondered how on earth, with all the fancy detection systems the countries around the world had, that no one had detected it. he had checked the news each of the previous two times he’d been zapped, and nothing), the speedy little suckers swarmed around his sleigh. they were children, climbing all over his sleigh and nosing into his bag. whether or not they were actually children or just transformed to look like kids so he wouldn’t be freaked out, santa didn’t know. all he knew was that he couldn’t kick a kaboodle of kids outta his sleigh.

so he sighed and let them take over. they took his candy canes, his chocolate, the remaining presents, his stash of hot chocolate (sans bailey’s for the sleigh ride), the tinsel in the glove compartment, cookies and candies, the extra stockings, jingle bells – even his naughty list! (he was getting to the age where he forgot often and so needed a list).

then they pulled him from the sleigh, and he obliged. the first time he had protested, but learned that was a mistake when they knocked him out cold and he didn’t wake up for another week. his tummy was certainly grumbling for a sugar cookie by that point.

santa stumbled to the circle in the center of the hull under a bright light. his reindeer snuffled, whites of their eyes showing, and stomped their feet.

“it’s ok lads. i’ll see you soon.” each time his sleigh and reindeer had landed safely at home in the north pole, none worse for the wear except for being stripped of anything of value and a frantic ms. claus.

a murmur in a weird language unknown to santa (and he knew all the languages) went up among the group of alien children who had led him over to the circle, then he felt a familiar swooping sensation, and glimpsing one last look at the horde overtaking his sleigh, he was gone.


his suit was getting a little warm, and why on earth was his comfy bed so unbearable this morning? his mittened hands went up to rub his sandy morning eyes, and they opened on a cityscape. and then it hit him.

mugged again.