Snowy Puppies

I recently hauled myself out of bed during one of the dark, cold hours of the morning so that I could be stuffed into an airplane with 900 other passengers on Christmas Eve and shipped over the course of nine hours to Idaho, and the only reason I did this was to see my parent’s new puppy.


That’s him chewing a strand of carpet he pulled out all by himself.

Sure, I also saw my family and we did Christmas things, but the rest of the time I took the puppy- I called him Derpy in my head- out for walks through quiet, snowy solitude, something I have greatly missed.


Never in New Jersey can you look this far and see nobody. There’s a whole mountain behind that wall of mist.

The thing about living on the east coast, as I may have said before, is that it’s crowded. It takes some effort to find a place where you can’t hear traffic. There’s no readily available fields for me to bound over or mountains for me to climb. In fact, where I live is as flat as the no I give the kids when they ask to bring worms inside.

So it was great to have the ability to take a young dog and just walk.


He doesn’t need to be leashed, because he gets nervous if you’re not within easy nipping distance.


You can almost hear his little brain deciding there might be dogs in there.

Every day on the east coast I feel a little itchy and restless, like I’m some kind of mouse living in an owl society. There’s nowhere to run that wouldn’t take a day or move of driving. I’m not sure how everyone here is comfortable living so close to everyone else.



So when I have the opportunity to come back to Idaho, it’s exciting just to have all the wide open spaces again. Also a puppy.


Really, you ought to just go find yourself a puppy and a lot of countryside, I think. It does wonders for the soul.

Or, actually, you can stay in the city and I’ll live in the country and never see you, which is better.

Belated Christmas Gifts

I’m told that the problem with buying presents for me these days is that I’m an adult, and if I see something I want, I buy it. None of this waiting half a year in the hopes that Saint Nick will bring me something anymore. It was easier for my parents and my sister when I had no money, and it looked like I might never have any money, because then they could just give me money and be done with it.


But since I’m adult, look at this plant I just bought! I forget what it’s called, possibly something like Hypothermia, but I felt a personal connection to it because it smelled funny and had a weird name.

These days, before I come home for Christmas, my parents ask me to put together a list of things I would enjoy owning that I don’t already, and then they pick just a few things out of the list so that it’s a mystery what I’ll get. This has worked well so far.

Of course, after I finish opening all my presents in Idaho, there’s the problem of how I’m going to fit them all into the four cubic inches of space my airline has allotted for carry-on luggage. Most of the things go into a box, and in the grand tradition of all Ludvigs we never send the box and forget that much of the stuff in it ever existed.


This time I received the box, but I just didn’t open it for a week or two because I was “too busy.”

I had already forgotten what I had received for Christmas, so this was like unwrapping presents all over again. The rest of this post is all just me showing off my presents, so you can go do something else now. (I thank my good friend Wendy for the very pretty shawl I laid everything out on.)


A while ago, unbeknownst to my family, I had purchased a book-shaped wallet for myself. Coincidentally, I received a book-shaped purse and a book-shaped backpack for Christmas, so now I can put my book-shaped wallet in a book-shaped purse in a book-shaped backpack, and still have enough room leftover for an actual book!


I got the games “Coup” and “Happy Salmon.” Coup is a nice little social deduction card game that’s easy to learn and quick to play, good for my board game nights. Happy Salmon, on the other hand, is the easiest way to turn functioning adults into flailing, shouting, desperate maniacs. I highly recommend it.


Did you ever want to read lengthy full-color comic books about small shirtless quasi-anime elfs that ride wolves and can talk to each other in their minds? Well, now you can! ElfQuest! Slogan: “Made in the ’70s and it shows!” (I love these things so much.)


My parents are still very concerned that I’m going to be mugged or murdered by thugs out here in the big city, so they like to give me emergency items like heavy-duty flashlights and defense spray so I can use them on my opponent and then be mugged and murdered by even angrier thugs. Also, some earrings! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

And then, last but not least, I got this beautiful thing:



I’m told it’s a sundial. A portable one, to be exact. If I were an especially competent hipster I could carry this around in my purse and pull it out whenever I wanted to know the time whilst outdoors on sunny days. Sadly, I have not yet figured out how to properly set the thing up, so I can only tell the time by looking at my phone. But it looks really classy.

This stuff really is spectacular. I have to hand it to my parents, they know what I like.

Because I tell them. In a list they request.

God bless us all, every one.

How to Write Thank You Cards (by Eleven Year Old Me)

I’ve never liked writing. Or, at least, I’ve never liked writing when it’s expected of me. I could turn out three pages of Lord of the Rings related nonsense before I would ever touch a essay assignment. The very idea that I could write something actually worthwhile is appalling- for instance, why would I want to make a living out of this? Then it’s not fun anymore!

A subset of this balking at writing expectations comes about in the form of being very, very bad at writing letters and thank you notes. I should take this time to apologize to my relatives who don’t read this blog for sometimes getting the Christmas thank you cards out in, say, early July. It’s not that I don’t deeply appreciate your thoughtful gift, it’s that writing is terrible and awful and I don’t know why anyone ever does it. Sorry.


These four cards took me hours.

But it’s that time of year again, and it’s harder to drag my feet when it’s just myself I’m fighting. Mom isn’t here to nag me anymore, so I have to adult up and nag myself, which is just thoroughly unpleasant of me.

Today, only nineteen days after Christmas, I forced myself to spit out four very genuine thank you notes. Because, again, it’s not that I don’t love the gifts I receive, it’s just that I’m very bad at things like emotions and feelings and putting things down on paper. I mean, when we get down to it, do we really need communication and the written word? What good are they, anyway?

Eleven year old me had it far easier, because eleven year old me had a system and was allowed some leeway for being a child. Eleven year old me had very specific rules for writing thank you notes, in order to stretch them out and make them seem longer and nicer than they actually were. These were:

  • No contractions. “Was not” takes up more space on the page than “wasn’t.” Marginally.
  • Double spaces after all words and sometimes between each letter.
  • Start as far down on the card as possible, and make your signature take up almost half of the remaining space.
  • Fill up most of the page with stretched out words to show your “enthusiasm”, such as: “Thank you sooooooooooooo much.”
  • When in doubt, pretend you “forgot” and say you’ll “get around to it” whenever your mother reminds you to write thank you notes, preferably holding off until next Christmas rolls around.

Nowadays, of course, I write things that actually are nice and I’ve learned to fill up the page better, but it sure is great that this generation is comprised entirely of heathens and that I can get away with a “thanks for the gift, bro” and a quick hug when I’m given something by the younger crowd.

And man, don’t even get me started about writing letters to people. I apologize in advance to my friend David, who is LDS, going on a mission, and will receive maybe two letters from me in as many years, the same way his brothers did.

It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that writing is so horribly… horrible. Just awful, y’know. But you WordPress people that I follow, keep at it, you’re doing great and you’re very interesting. Anything I haven’t written is just splendid.


The After-Christmas

Christmas is done and gone, the children are back in school, businesses are opening back up, and my friends are planning fun things forty minutes from me, which is why it’s now snowing so heavily that I can’t locate the driveway or two of the children.


These paper snowflakes feel kind of redundant now.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m conflicted about snow. I’m starting to realize that if you want the kids to go to school or want to be able to drive to Target, the roads need to be clear or you will inevitably end up upside-down in a ditch somewhere with children burying you in snow.

(Children never stop trying to bury you in snow after a certain age. It’s instinct.)

Fortunately, it’s snowing on a Saturday, which should give the schools ample time to shovel everything up in preparation for Monday. Unfortunately, it’s snowing so heavily at present that the roads aren’t really roads at all, but more like incidental logging trails covered in petroleum jelly. I foolishly tried to drive south to play some board games with friends today, and I drove for 40 minutes at 25 miles an hour on the highway. If you’re doing the math, that means it took me exactly an hour to realize I would be better off back at home with a cup of tea.

So now I’m back at home with a cup of tea, listening to the sounds of chaos outside my room, and I’m organizing the Christmas presents from my employers.

Yes, there are enough that they have to be organized.


Bottom left: Box of chocolates that are missing most of the coconut variety already.

My employers are very kind and generous people, and Mrs. Parent in particular loves giving gifts that are thoughtfully tailored to the recipient. I’m not sure they quite understand the all-consuming passion I have for magic, fairy tales, etc., but they really do their best. The purse she was particularly proud of, because she knows I like deep browns and across the chest straps.


My favorite, of course, is the tea.

The peculiar tea set they gave me was composed of one single teabag per type of tea, which is artistic if not very practical, and each tea bag has a little leaf on the end of it for decorative purposes. The covered teacup has a little hole in the top which lets the teabag string through, allowing one to steep their tea without it going cold.


Much like in fancy restaurants, you know the food is too classy for you when there’s so little of it.

Naturally the teacup can be re-purposed to fit regular teabags with enough folding and stuffing.

So now I’m stuck inside the house, but I have my own little oasis, lit by Christmas candles and smelling like chocolates and tea. It’s almost enough to forget that there are three to six boys outside my room, gleefully smacking each other with their new stuffed Pikachus.

I also gave them extreme dot-to-dot books so that they have something that requires sitting quietly for hours at a time. It doesn’t sound like they’re using them.


Don’t tell anyone I’m still playing holiday music. This could be the fourteenth day of Christmas.

Winter Wonderland, Etc.

Ten or so years ago, when it snowed, my sister and I would get all our peculiar friends together and go sledding up and down the canyon near our house. This was a poor choice for a few reasons:

  • It was a canyon.
  • The best part to sled on was a steep slope followed by a sudden three foot drop to small ledge, which was a great shock to your spine.
  • If you overshot the ledge, you had one more slope to stop on before you plummeted over the second drop and fell thirty feet onto the railroad tracks below.
  • There were trees placed very carefully every seven feet so that you couldn’t possibly avoid them all. (But if you couldn’t stop in time, it was better to run into a tree than to plummet thirty feet to the railroad tracks.)
  • It was a canyon.

We nearly killed ourselves many a time, but snow was snow, and snow must be appreciated.

Sadly, most of my Idahoan friends are off being grown-ups, with jobs and spouses and other adult things, so snow must be appreciated on my own, or perhaps with my mother and her abominable snow dog.


Yes, dog. Forge ahead and create a path for us, that our walk might be easier.


She’s not really a snow dog. This is her “Why are we doing this?” face.


If you ever wanted to shuffle through the snow like a drunken penguin with boards strapped to his feet, snowshoes are for you!

The great thing about where we live is that you can pick any direction and just walk. Sure, eventually you’ll leave your property and end up on someone else’s, but no one really cares out here. If you slip in and out without shooting a bunch of animals or chopping down trees, no one minds- heck, no one can really tell you were there. The forest around us is just big, and it makes you realize how long it must have taken people to get anywhere when they traveled by anything other than cars.




I did a lot of poking around for nostalgia’s sake. We used to spend all day running around the fields and forests as kids, doing normal things like pretending to be werewolves and burning our hands in strange club initiation rituals.


The unseen slope here, just over the crest, is the beginning of our vast sledding hill. Fortunately, my sister and I never broke anything on here. Only the neighbor boys broke things.


This egg-shaped mound of snow shows you just how deep it was around there. No, there’s nothing in the middle of it.

Coming back from Idaho, I miss this. Not necessarily Idaho, although Idaho is nice, but the vast open spaces. A “big” space in the suburbs is like my employer’s backyard, which is bigger than most of the neighbor’s, yet barely a fraction of the size of my parent’s- and my employer’s is worth three and a half of me, plus tax.

I mean, sure, my employers live near things like movie theaters and fire stations, I don’t know if ambulances are reeeaaally necessary in life.


Someday I’ll live somewhere like this again, just you wait.

Christmas in Idaho

I returned to the east coast at the hideous hour of two o’clock in the morning yesterday, which was appropriate because I left for Idaho at the hideous hour of two in the morning on Christmas Eve. I arrived at the airport over three hours early, because the last time I flew out on Christmas Eve there was an ungodly line through security of hundreds upon hundreds of people, and from which I had to be rescued ten minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave.

Naturally, when I arrived at the airport this time it was dead and I had just over three hours to kill, long before any of the shops had opened. I played a lot of Fallout.

I prepped myself for the most comfortable plane ride I could manage, because it’s a little over six hours to fly to Seattle. Of course, Seattle isn’t in Idaho, but it’s not like we have major airports in Idaho. We don’t even have Wawa in Idaho. We’ve barely even mastered highways in Idaho.

So every time I head home I fly first to Seattle, and then backtrack a couple hundred miles to Spokane (Washington), and then drive an hour or so to actually get into Idaho, and home.

When I left New Jersey, it was 45 degrees and muddy, so seeing the first hints of snow was exciting.


This. This is what I was really going home for. Not to see family or anything. It was always snow.



And Idaho delivered. Going home to Idaho was going home to a good foot of snow, lightly whipped up into drifts. It made the roads terrible, of course, but it made everything look just delightfully pretty.


For most of my stay, it looked like I was running my photos through a black and white filter.

Christmas Eve evening has always been the time that the Ludvig family opens presents (presents from Santa arrive Christmas morning). Because my parents chose to live as far away from phones, lights, motorcars, and other luxuries, our extended family likes to stay in California where it’s warm and they’re unlikely to be eaten by mountain men, so Christmas is usually the parents, my sister, myself, and the neighbor couple without children.


Not pictured here: The dog, the maniacal parrot velociraptor, chickens, cows, horse.

And it’s peaceful. Oh, so peaceful. It struck me again and again how quiet it all was. The people, who weren’t yelling at each other. The outdoors, which were silent and still and not interrupted by headlights and engines. The loudest thing in that house was the wind whistling so hard through my closed bedroom window that the curtains moved, but I digress.


My father ran out of regular wrapping paper. On left: Hint of dog’s tail.

I got a lot of neat things for Christmas, and I have pictures of none of them because they’re all on the way back to the east coast in a box, since they wouldn’t fit in my carry-on. Among other things, I received a book-shaped purse and a book-shaped backpack to go with my book-shaped wallet (I have a problem), a couple of actual books, and a really neat sundial for when I want to tell the time after the world ends.

I gave my father a nice copy of all three Lord of the Rings books, and my mother a cast iron skillet. I frequently give my mother things like spatulas and vacuum cleaner parts. She’s a very practical woman.

(My sister, being a college student working at a place where they try to sell wooden heart models, got money.)


No, really.

And it was all very merry.

My 21st

The trouble with having a birthday right around Christmas time is that it’s right around Christmas time, the time of year when everyone is frantically buying last minute gifts no matter how early they started. It’s busy, there’s things going on, everyone’s running around like mad. Jolly good fun.

This was the first year in a long time that I’ve had a proper “party,” (i.e. more than my immediate family and the neighbors who hang out at our place a lot), and it was all put together by my friend Carrot*, who is a wholly decent human being. A flawless example of what humanity should be. One of those people you have trouble being around for too long because they make you seem like a thoughtless jerk in comparison.

Really, nothing bad to say about the guy.

At any rate, Carrot organized a group of a dozen of my closest friends and we all went out to see Rogue One. Mid-late December is a lovely time to have a birthday because Hollywood likes to release the high-effort shows in time for the holidays. No weak summer comedies for us!

After the movie we retired to Carrot’s place for ordered-in Chinese food and board games. We would have gone out, you see, but it was the day before my birthday and I still couldn’t technically drink.


I had two teaspoons of alcohol that day, wrapped in chocolate and tin foil.

But that’s okay, really. I’m not a “going out” kind of person. Neither are any of my friends. It’s the reason I stopped having parties to begin with, because parties are exhausting and require you to interact with people, and wouldn’t it be much better to just celebrate your birthday from the comfort of a blanket nest in a dark corner?


Hence, board games. Always board games.

Carrot had a cake for me, which was incredibly sweet, and they painstakingly lit the whole twenty-one candles. Every year I wonder if this will be the last year people attempt to light the correct number of candles for my age.


Amelie’s boyfriend, Jonas, gifted me Redd’s Ginger Apple Ale. “It’s because you’re a redhead, get it? Get it, Jean? Get it?” *nudge nudge*

I’d have taken a picture of everybody, but I’m trying to maintain some semblence of privacy, so instead I offer up this picture of a cart full of Pikachus, and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas. As of now, I’m so officially an adult that I could order alcohol on the plane back home if I chose. I won’t, but I could.


What happens when some of the boys you take care of are veeerry into Pokemon, to your eternal torment.

* So named in this blog because he puts me in mind of Carrot Ironfoundersson, Discworld character and decent human being dwarf. They’re also similar in height.