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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Beard.

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.

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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.

Hobbit Breakfast

Do you enjoy meals that are comprised of oil, salt, and heart disease? I sure do!

Back in Idaho we grew/raised most of the ingredients needed for a vaguely omelette-shaped meal, dubbed the “Hobbit Breakfast” on account of its size. But when I moved to the east coast, I didn’t have the ingredients readily available anymore, so I stopped making it.

Until today!

I thought I’d share how to make it, because the internet is full of quality recipes that are picture-perfect and healthy, but somewhat lacking in ugly creations that equal five McDonald’s meals in calories. Frankenstein food needs representation too.

Your ingredients are:

  • Eggs
  • Milk, I guess, if you aren’t lactose intolerant
  • Some kind of seasoning. Italian, maybe
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Potatoes
  • Ham
  • Grated cheese
  • English muffins with butter, toasted

You’ll note that the amount of each ingredient is not listed. This is because it all varies depending on how much you can eat and it’s all very haphazard to begin with.

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You start with start with two potatoes. It’s usually two. Sometimes in Idaho we’d pull a potato the size of a celebrity’s purse dog from the ground, and then I’d just use one. Sometimes I’d use five if they were the size of a chicken egg. It all depends on how much your body can handle; the goal is to stuff it so you don’t want to eat for another week.

These should be diced to about the size of your thumbnail, because they cook faster and brown more evenly if they’re smaller. Then- this is the key part, really- you pour a lot of olive oil over the top of them. This is no time for moderation. We’re not healthy here.

Finally, you throw a lot of seasoning over the top. The type of seasoning doesn’t really matter; I use “Mrs. Dash” when I have it, but anything vaguely garlicky will work. Add a little salt, set it over mid-low heat, and stir enough that it doesn’t stick to the pan too often.

While that’s cooking, I start with the omelette.

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I recommend living in your rich employers’ house, so that you can use their Wisconsin 10 Year Aged Cheddar in your terrible breakfast food.

Now, you can put whatever you like in your omelette. Some people like onions, and those people are wrong. But it’s a free country, so while I can’t endorse putting in anything other than cheese, ham, and some of those diced potatoes, you can do whatever you feel is right.

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Proportions here vary depending on the size of the individual. I’m a tiny person (much like a hobbit, you see?), so my egg mix is two eggs and a small splash of milk. I toss in some grated cheese to hold it together better. Salt and pepper to mask the fact that everything besides the cheese is poor quality, and maybe a little garlic or onion powder as well.

Then, when the potatoes are done frying, you put them aside on a plate for later, turn down the heat on the stove and pour the egg mix into the pan.

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Yes, the pan that’s all dirty and greasy from the potatoes still. But yes, I also pour out excess oil beforehand. You want flavor, not a massage parlor in your mouth.

Back home our stove lacked finesse. There was high, medium, and low, and that was all we needed. Here, I tried putting my omelette on “low” and discovered that on a nice stove, “low” means “simmer your omelette mix for six hours.” Thus, this part took longer than I expected it to.

While the omelette was slowly doing nothing, I started heating the tea water (of course), pre-buttered some English Muffins, and threw them in the toaster.

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The funny thing about Thomas English Muffins is that they are not even close to the best English Muffins I’ve ever had. They taste like I tried to make English Muffins but forgot to add something like salt or love. And yet, the east coast doesn’t seem to sell any other kind. In Idaho, you often had several options; here, the English Muffin section of the bread aisle is dominated by Thomas and their eighteen different types of bland.

Note: Do not butter your English Muffins ahead of time if you don’t have a toaster oven. I much prefer buttering beforehand so that it melts into the bread as it toasts, but I don’t feel that would work well when your muffins are toasted vertically.

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When your omelette is on the verge of hardening up, drop your omelette contents onto one side so that they start to heat. Then, I recommend getting too impatient with the speed at which your employer’s stove is cooking, so try to flip it prematurely.

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Perfect.

The good news is that this recipe is very forgiving, because the end result is supposed to look bad. Even when you flip one of these omelettes poorly, it’s still all right because I always divide the omelette down the middle, to make it easier to move around and share with others.

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This could be the front cover of the next Martha Stewart book.

At this point, if you’ve timed it right (and I often haven’t), your tea should be done, your muffins should be toasted, and your potatoes are probably cold so heat those up in the microwave real quick. After that, all you have to do is throw everything together on a plate.

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There you are, Hobbit Breakfast.

It may look terrible, but the high salt content makes it very addictive, and once you’ve convinced someone to try it they will never stop badgering you to make it again (hello, sister). Alternatively, you could have a McDonald’s breakfast and delay your impending heart attack by a few years.

Happy eating!

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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Ahhh…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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No, really.

And it was all very merry.

For Want of Snow

Save for the three teaspoons of snow we received a few weeks prior, there hasn’t been any snow here this year. And that’s awful.

On the one hand, no snow means that the schools here won’t immediately jump to snow days. Last year the schools climbed over themselves to get every available day off, and as a result the children were home for half of December, not counting winter break. At least this year the teachers have only managed to get off every national, Christian, and Jewish holiday.

On the other hand, no snow means… no snow. While Idaho is busy being #FFFFFF, this particular portion of the east coast has all the charm of plain porridge, and none of the fiber.

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Just looking at this makes me want to sip some plain coffee while I draw up some spreadsheets and watch the dying fly dive-bomb the coworker in the next cubicle. 

Winter used to be one of my favorite months, but now I’m starting to understand seasonal depression. Dead, skeletal trees do make Halloween better, but they do nothing in grey winter but look even more grey. Even when it does snow, the snow doesn’t stay on them long. They don’t really capture that Christmas card feel, it has to be said.

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I tried to play some Christmas music to cheer myself up, but I think the printer is also suffering from seasonal depression.

So I resolved to make my own snow instead.

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Clip board, tape, dental floss, measuring tape, pencil, scissors, staples, many sheets of paper, and too much time on my hands.

I decided to make both three dimensional and flat snowflakes, so that I could experience paper in a myriad of ways. As such, I used the three dimensional tutorial found here, and the flat snowflake tutorial found here. I link these because I realized I was far too lazy to post all the steps here myself, and also because I wouldn’t want anyone to mistakenly believe I was able to come up with these things on my own.

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You can tell you’re doing it correctly when you’ve worked two dozen microscopic triangles of paper into your carpet too well for the vacuum cleaner to retrieve it later.

I try to reuse the scraps to make smaller versions of whatever I’m crafting, but inevitably I’m left with a small mountain of paper bits and the knowledge that my fake snow waste is probably contributing less real snow. Oh well, crafts!

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Always stop for tea, and use the rejected snowflakes as doilies.

The key to crafting, I find, is to make the biggest mess you can possibly make, so that when you have to clean it up you’re completely put off of crafts for a few months, resulting in more free time and less money spent. I think I went overboard this time; I can’t imagine wanting to make paper snowflakes again for a year. (Conveniently.)img_20161206_151905970

Lawns stay green all year long when you’re in the city, did you know?

The end result was decently adequate, which is what I inspire to in life, so I was pleased. It made the room feel more festive, and I’m every trying to transform my living space from the beige default monstrosity it started as, so every little bit helps.

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And hey, something has to distract me from the fact that I think I’m getting another cold and won’t be able to properly sing a Christmas song until Easter.

I’m Not Thrifty

When I lived in Idaho, I lived near dozens of thrift stores full of cheap secondhand clothing of reasonable quality.

(“Near”, of course, meaning “not quite an hour’s drive from”. This is about how close we were to everything in the wilderness.)

Because we were poor as muck, we did almost all of our shopping at thrift stores. Save for a fresh pack of Target underwear now and then, all dresses, jeans, jackets, shoes, and most books were bought at Goodwill, Value Village, and a myriad other smaller thrift stores. Sure, maybe we’d come out of there with clothing baggy enough to make the homeless cringe, but we bought a year’s supply of the terrible clothing for only $20!

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Look at all these colors that I, as a redhead with a redheaded complexion, cannot wear!

But when I moved to the east coast, I was horrified to discover there was only one thrift store near me, and it was filled with the sort of people who looked like they might murder you for your drug store earrings, so I avoided it. With my newly-earned riches I bought my clothes at Walmart and Forever 21, but I was still moderately scandalized every time I had to pay $15 for a shirt. A shirt.

(Of course, “near me” in city terms is “less than half an hour from me.” You can go fifty miles in fifty minutes in the country, but it takes the same to go twenty-five miles around here.)

Fortunately, my board game meetup group came to my rescue again in the form of “Jade,” a snazzily-dressed woman whose intelligence is slightly terrifying. “We should go shopping together!” she exclaimed last Wednesday. “I know you’re on a budget and I know all the thrift stores around here. It’ll be fun!”

So we went thrift-storing.

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Ah, nothing like that thrift store musk!

I’m going on a year on the east coast now and I had forgotten how great the good thrift stores can be. This was only another Goodwill, but we went during the weekly tag sale where half the items were a dollar, and it was practically heaven in a shopping basket.

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Do YOU need a band saw?! Goodwill has you covered!

My idea that I was going to spend only twenty dollars quickly went out the window. Not because of the clothing, mind you, but because as we were going through the household section I looked up and saw a “new” bread machine, still in the box.

Now, I’m living in one room in my employer’s house. I don’t need a bread machine. Basically no one needs a bread machine these days, because you can buy pre-sliced bread for a dollar at the local grocery store. There was no reason at all for me to get this bread machine.

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This is what poor decision-making looks like, kids.

I got the bread machine.

That’s the problem with being raised by a mother who always made her own bread in a bread machine. You start thinking you need one too, even though your bread will be easier if it’s from the store and more aesthetically pleasing if you craft it by hand.

Whatever. I have a bread machine now. And I fully intend to use it at least twice before I give it away to a thrift store myself.

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Also purchased: A small pile of blues, browns, grays, purples, and greens, the only colors I can wear.

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A small Japanese tea set which I washed twice because I’m always afraid the last owner died due to poison.

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Books to add to my children’s book library. The Spiderwick book will be kept in my room, they’re close enough to burning me as a witch as it is. 

It’s like Apples and Apples

Yet another big difference between my life in Idaho and my life on the east coast is that my friends here seem to be considerably busier than my friends were on the west side of the country.

A busy east coast friend of mine made the observation that people over here are always trying to move forwards, to obtain the next goal in life. They’re ambitious, often career-focused, always on the go.

By contrast, people from Idaho are sloths in trucker hats.

This is generalizing, of course. But the stereotyping holds true in my case: I’m not ambitious. I’m perfectly happy where I am. I’m building a little nest and I’m just working on making it more comfortable, not bigger.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that I have a lot of very busy friends, and even though my job can have pretty insane hours (do YOU like waking up at 5:30 and enjoy the mystery of ending your day anywhere between 6:00 and 9:30? Then live-in nannying is for you!), I’m so horribly relaxed on the off hours that feel guilty that I’m missing out on the stress of my friends.

The answer, of course, is care packages. After all, nothing cheers a person up more than receiving an assortment of random items from their overly relaxed Idahoan friend.

So while the kids were at school today, I ran a few errands, and then hopped on my new bicycle and rode the 1.5 miles to the nearest orchard, for the purchasing of goods and picking of fruits.

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Pictured here: Trees.

Besides my exercise-protesting knees, I did run into some trouble from the start: Typically, when I visit an apple orchard, I’m with one or two much taller friends to help with the picking. Going in I thought I might be able to climb trees, as I have some practice in it and I’m small enough not to immediately come crashing down again, but alas…

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Curses! Foiled again!

With that option out, I picked up my metaphorical skirts and hiked down to the very end of the rows, where the lazier people (such as myself) generally did not venture.

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Give it up, Jean. It’s not going to happen.

I did come out of it with around half a dozen apples, several cute miniature pumpkins, and a bag of cider donuts, however. I was quite pleased with the haul before I realized that when I put it all in my backpack, it would weigh as much as half a dozen apples, several cute miniature pumpkins, and a bag of cider donuts. If only I had been lazier and ventured out by car instead. That’s that east coast ambition getting to me.

Overall, however, I think it was worth it for the little packages I got to put together, one for a busy friend nearby, and one for a busy friend in Massachusetts. Got to share the comfort a little.

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Care package by mail: Card, medieval pouch with tea, assorted chocolates with a French name that makes them sound fancier than they really are.

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Hand-delivered care package: Assorted apples, one miniature pumpkin, bag of cider donuts, and a dish towel because he’s a heathen who only uses bar rags in his kitchen and bar rags are about as absorbent as the palm of your hand.