Category Archives: Uncategorized

Savor summer with Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding Pops

On my list of ways to savor the flavors of summer in this strange pandemic season, I listed “make homemade popsicles.”

I remember my mother making popsicles long ago in the ’70s. It’s exactly the type of recipe Jell-O would have popularized back then to promote sales among homemakers. Nowadays, people just buy popsicles.

But on the theory that making them myself would help savor the popsicle, I made some. Fortunately, Mom gifted me some extra molds she described as being forty years old, meaning they were the same ones she used back in the ’70s. If that isn’t a testimony to Tupperware, I don’t know what is.

I wanted to make fancy, three-layer pops with peanut butter being one of the layers (because I love peanut butter). I could not find such a recipe several pages deep into Google search results, so I made one up and it turned out great (despite my father’s skepticism about the structural integrity of such fancy pops). If you like peanut butter and making a big mess in the kitchen, you might like it, too.

Popsicles in process

June 28: Make homemade popsicles.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding Pops

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Beat milks, pudding and sugar in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Fill popsicle molds one-third full.
  2. Remove two cups of vanilla pudding mixture to a new bowl and beat in peanut butter. Fill popsicle molds with resulting mixture to two-thirds full.
  3. Remove one cup of peanut butter pudding mixture to another bowl and beat in cocoa powder. Fill popsicle molds to full and freeze until firm, about three hours.
  4. Depending on the size of your molds, you may have extra pudding. Spoon it carefully into glass dishes (so you can see the layers), and enjoy with whipped cream.
  5. Release mold from popsicle with the heat of your hands. To really savor your popsicle, you’ll lick it. But I like eating it in bites. You do you.
Pudding Pop

Yum!

 

 

 

How do I love thee, summer

We’re nearly a third of the way through summer, by Minnesota Transplant’s accounting (I mark the first day of summer as the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend), and here are dozen more ways I’ve been savoring this sweet season.

2020.06.08 walleye

June 8: Eat fresh walleye.

Somehow, I missed listing this flavor of summer on my original list, but of course, dining on walleye is a summer-must in Minnesota. Earlier this month, we drove waaaaay up north to see my parents. My father shared his hard-won bounty with us and fried it up in a pan (he is a master at frying good food; read about his fried eggs here). My Beloved and I gobbled up more than our fair share.

2020.06.08 rhubarb

June 8: Eat rhubarb something.

After our walleye feast, Mom served up bowls of gluten-free rhubarb crisp topped with vanilla ice cream. So sweet and tangy! You should have seen all the rhubarb in her garden! She had a bumper crop.

2020.06.09 radish

June 9: Dip a fresh radish in salt.

Mom gave us a tour of her garden, and while we were admiring her rhubarb, she picked a bunch of radishes. This snack was a crunchy treat.

2020.06.09 bee

June 9: Watch a bumble bee work.

This noisy insect buzzed around sipping nectar and spreading pollen while we were traipsing around the garden.

2020.06.09 watermelon

June 9: Eat watermelon.

Are you sensing a food theme during our visit to the ‘rents? Mom dressed up lunch with a fruit and cheese tray.

2020.06.09 grave

June 9: Place flowers on a grave.

It wasn’t actually me who placed flowers on my brother’s grave when we visited; Mom watered the flowers she had placed there earlier this summer.

2020.06.10 steak

June 10: Eat a freshly grilled steak.

On our return journey south to home, we stopped at my sister’s house and celebrated being carnivores. Check out those grill marks!

2020.06.11 loon

June 11: Listen for a loon.

This bird’s call wasn’t on my original list either, but hearing the distinct, eerie call of a loon is somehow built in a Minnesotan’s DNA. It says home (and also, maybe, buy a lottery ticket). A pair of loons live on lake outside my sister’s house, and this one was making a racket when an eagle threatened her baby.

2020.06.13 al fresco

June 13: Dine al fresco.

My Beloved and I relished in a special occasion: meeting my stepson’s fiancée’s parents for the first time. We dined beneath a tiki hut outside of a Caribbean fusion restaurant. Minnesota was just opening its restaurants more widely after months of pandemic-related closures, so eating out was a real treat (as was meeting my stepson’s future in-laws).

2020.06.15 marigolds

June 15: Appreciate marigolds.

Marigolds’ unpleasant musky odor doesn’t excite the nose, but their bright color demands attention. On a walk to the post office, I admired my neighbor’s marigold presentation in a front yard caldron.

2020.06.20 bouquet

June 20: Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.

I can take no credit for creating this lovely crown of fresh daisies and baby’s breath beyond making a phone call to the local florist. She was delighted to create it for me since so many brides have canceled their bloom-festooned occasions this summer. I indulged in this adornment to celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (and to wear to a very small dinner party we hosted last night).

2020.06.20 bonfire

After our guests departed, I wanted to dance around a bonfire in the back yard, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” style. Alas, it was raining, so we lit some candles under the picnic table umbrella and toasted with a shot of tequila as a nightcap.

2020.06.20 sparkler

June 20: Light a sparkler.

I bet you assumed lighting a sparkler was meant for Fourth of July. Well, I might do that, too, but as a final welcome to the official first day of summer, I lit a sparkler and twirled around the patio, avoiding raindrops. Here’s to squeezing every last bit of joy out of summer, folks!

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

~Puck, in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

 

A summer playlist for the ages (especially if you’re 50-something)

“Make a summer playlist” is among the 108 things I wanted to do to savor the summer of 2020. Sure it’ll probably be remembered better for coronavirus and racial divisiveness, but I’m not letting the best season of the year slip through my fingers. Or in the case of music, through my ears.

I don’t know yet what song will say “2020” best years from now, but here are fourteen pop songs that say summer to me personally. If you’re not a fan of pop or the ’80s, you can hereby be excused because the list is heavy on both. But if you like it, you can search for “108 Days of Summer” on Spotify and listen for yourself.

Minnesota Transplant’s 108 Days of Summer Playlist

“Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp: I actually don’t like this song all that much, but I can’t hear it without thinking of Labor Day weekend 1982 when a charming outsider who was a fan of John Cougar, as he was known at the time, taught me to French kiss.

“When Doves Cry” by Prince: I’m from Minnesota. How can I make a playlist without including Prince?

“Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits: This song is more about its visuals than its sound. Cartoon men lugging around appliances on MTV remind me of staying up late to watch Friday Night Videos.

“Nasty” by Janet Jackson: I went to Valleyfair with my boyfriend during the summer of 1986, and he equipped the backseat of his car with a boom box (because the car radio sucked) so we could listen to Janet Jackson on the way.

“Back in the High Life Again” by Steve Winwood: This came out the summer after my Valleyfair boyfriend dumped me, but I still lifeguarded at the pool in the small town where he lived. So sad.

“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette: I ruined Jagged Little Pill for my husband at the time by playing this CD on repeat during a summer road trip.

“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day: This song reminds me of the TV show ER. It was introduced to me when it was the soundtrack for a young patient’s tragic death.

“Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean: I ran a marathon in the summer of 2006, and the lightweight radio hanging on my shorts was perpetually tuned to KCLD-FM.

“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley: Ditto with “Hips Don’t Lie.” I ran many miles with this song playing in my ears.

“Wake Up Call” by Maroon 5: For a while, every playlist in the world included something from Maroon 5, so I figured this one should, too.

“Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield: This song always makes me think of my Beloved. I was listening to the CD from which this song comes on repeat about the time I met him.

“Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People: This song came out in September of 2010 so it’s not actually a summer hit, but I remember hearing it while working out at Snap Fitness and being appalled by its subject matter. But yet, its catchy tune just won’t leave me alone.

“Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE: I can’t hear this song without thinking of my stepdaughter and a trip my Beloved and I took with her and my stepson to the Croatian coast in June of 2016. This song was playing at all the American-esque cafes and bars, and the reference to the ocean in the refrain just says summer to me.

“Truth Hurts” by Lizzo: She makes a reference to the Minnesota Vikings in this hit that was heard everywhere last summer.

# # #

What music says summer to you?

11 ways to savor summer down, 97 to go

Conscious that more urgent topics deserve attention, I am nonetheless savoring this sweetest of seasons. Please don’t judge. Even the highest-minded of us can appreciate a distraction once in a while.

I’ve determined that one way to savor summer is to record me savoring it. Let me count the ways. Here are a few of the 108 ways I’ve savored summer so far:

2020.05.23

May 23: Pick a dandelion.

2020.05.23.asparagusI didn’t actually pick a dandelion, but this bunch is one of the biggest I’ve seen. Fortunately for some weed-killer-wielding landscaper, it wasn’t in someone’s yard; I found it on the side of the road in an asparagus patch (stretching along behind the dandelions there). I hadn’t harvested wild asparagus before, but it was a bit of a game, picking spears out from among blades of grass. My Beloved and I walked for about 300 yards, finding a couple pounds of spears. Technically, I think eating asparagus is a way to savor spring, but it was still delicious on Memorial Day weekend.

2020.05.24

May 24: Eat corn on the cob.

It shouldn’t be so delicious so early, but my Beloved picked up fresh corn on the cob at the local mushroom farm, and it was as sweet and tender as I expect it to be in July.

2020.05.28

May 28: Get a pedicure.

My Beloved and I ventured out for a pedicure. We wore masks, and we agreed to wash our hands upon entry (the technicians washed our feet). It felt like an extra-special treat this year especially.

2020.05.29

May 29: Smell lilacs.

I spent an hour one morning exploring my own yard. The white-flowered bushes that line most of the perimeter are in frothy bloom this time of year, and three lilac bushes decorate the row. They are as sweetly perfumed as they look.

2020.05.30

May 30: Fill a birdbath.

It wasn’t on my original list, but one can’t fill a birdbath in winter in the upper Midwest because it freezes solid. I filled my mother-in-law’s birdbath after my Beloved power washed it clean. Her birds can appreciate even more crystal clear splashing now.

2020.05.30 picnic

May 30: Picnic.

If you dine on a picnic table, it’s a picnic. My Beloved and I enjoyed some Chinese take-out in the park.

2020.06.01

May 31: Drink wine outdoors.

My Beloved and I subscribe to Zerba Winery’s wine club after we tasted this particular brand of the nectar of the gods during a jaunt through Washington state a couple of years ago. We imbibed on a bottle of Cabernet Franc on the patio while my Beloved grilled a couple of steaks.

2020.06.03

June 3: Take a twilight walk.

Summer light is just different in Minnesota. The angle of the sun, the long days—something just makes an evening walk in my home state stand out. During a visit with my Adored stepson, his fiancée and my granddog, I accompanied them on a twilight walk. You can even see the almost-full moon there among the treetops.

2020.06.04

June 4: Take a boat ride.

My Beloved invested in a new-to-him boat this year, and I joined him on the St. Croix River on what he called the maiden voyage (it was actually his second outing, but this boat ride lasted longer than just getting the engine up to full speed and down again). I assume this will be the first of many boat rides this season.

2020.06.05

June 5: Mow the lawn.

I lent a hand to my stepson by mowing his lawn. Naturally, I mowed it on the diagonal because I think it looks better that way. I classify this act as a way to savor the scents of summer, though I can’t say I truly appreciate the scent of freshly cut grass; I was thinking too much about working up a sweat.

2020.06.06

June 6: Lay on the ground and look at the clouds

On an absolutely perfect 60-degree morning, I practiced yoga on my stepson’s back deck. While in savasana, I gazed at the clouds drifting by rather than closing my eyes. They look almost tropical, these are the leaves of the rather unique hackberry tree in my stepson’s yard.

# # #

How are you savoring summer?

108 precious days of summer

It happens every five or six years: the calendar gods bestow us with an extra long summer.

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (June 20 this year), but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, including last year and next year, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day. But this year, Memorial Day falls as early as possible (May 25) and Labor Day occurs as late as possible (Sept. 7). That means there are 108 days of summer—a full week more than usual.

The calendar hasn’t been structured this way since 2015, and before that 2009. A quick look back reminds me I was spending precious early days of that summer of ’09 watching Little League baseball, running long distances and grocery shopping. Actually, those are not the worst ways to spend summer days.

In a year when spring this year wasn’t only weird, it was isolating and downright scary, the prospect of a long summer sounds pretty appealing. Even if I can’t enjoy it in the usual ways, I want to savor every one of those 108 days.

So I made a list of ways to appreciate the sounds and scents and flavors of summer, one for each of those exquisite days. Some of the things on my list might not be possible in a pandemic (stock car races,  a parade, fireworks), but I’m operating from an optimistic perspective, which is probably healthier if not entirely logical at this point. I packed in lots of little ways to enjoy summer, not matter what COVID-19 has in store.

Some of the items on my list are specific to my interests. I can’t roller skate, I hate golf and cotton candy is way too sweet for my tastes, but those summery things might be right up your alley, especially if you don’t eat meat or wear a ponytail, which made my list.

108 days of summer

If you like the idea of celebrating summer right down to slapping mosquitos, mowing the lawn and making fried green tomatoes, I turned my list into an image so you can download it and print it out.

Beginning Saturday, the first official day of Minnesota Transplant’s summer, here are 108 ways to fully enjoy it.

Sights of summer

  • Go to a county (or state) fair.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Attend a family reunion.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds.
  • Light a sparkler.
  • Go to a drive-in movie.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Stop at a historical marker.
  • Take a road trip (interstate highways don’t count).
  • Appreciate marigolds.
  • Watch the sun rise.
  • Watch the sun set.
  • Watch (or listen to) a baseball game.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Count the stars.
  • Watch a bumble bee work.
  • Watch fireworks.
  • Enjoy sunflowers.

Sounds of summer

  • Listen to the wind through windchimes.
  • Go to an outdoor concert.
  • Listen to a rainstorm.
  • Listen for a cardinal.
  • Pay attention to crickets.
  • Make a summer playlist.
  • Listen to a mourning dove.
  • Listen to children playing outside.
  • Listen to frogs in a pond.
  • Count the seconds between lightning and thunder.

Flavors of summer

  • Eat a fresh tomato.
  • Eat corn on the cob.
  • Make homemade popsicles.
  • Eat an ice cream cone.
  • Eat a s’more.
  • Make fried green tomatoes.
  • Dip a radish in salt.
  • Drink an iced coffee.
  • Drink wine outdoors.
  • Eat watermelon.
  • Eat a freshly grilled steak.
  • Make cucumber salad.
  • Eat a hotdog (preferably a Chicago dog).
  • Buy meat from the source.
  • Shell peas.
  • Make gazpacho.
  • Make berry cobbler.
  • Drink a tropical cocktail.
  • Dine al fresco.
  • Eat a fresh peach.
  • Eat fresh basil.
  • Picnic.
  • Drink an Arnold Palmer.
  • Drink freshly made lemonade.
  • Attend a backyard barbecue.
  • Blow bubbles with bubblegum.

Scents of summer

  • Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.
  • Take a walk after the rain.
  • Smell lilacs.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Eat rhubarb something.
  • Smell peonies.
  • Use coconut sunscreen.

Doings of summer

  • Walk through rain puddles.
  • Do goat yoga.
  • Swing.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Day dream.
  • Lie in a hammock.
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Read a book outdoors.
  • Go for a boat ride.
  • Kiss in the moonlight.
  • Walk along the shore.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Kayak.
  • Sunbathe.
  • Dance.
  • Take a twilight walk.
  • Walk a labyrinth.
  • Pick a dandelion.
  • Wear a ponytail and baseball cap.
  • Take a day off.
  • Play 7-up (it’s a one-person game with a tennis ball).
  • Watch ants at work.
  • Pick berries.
  • Shop a garage sale.
  • Write a poem.
  • Sit around a campfire or bonfire.
  • Slap a mosquito.
  • Wear shorts and sandals.
  • Attend an outdoor church service.
  • Get a pedicure.
  • Ride in a convertible (or open the sun roof).
  • Go to a farmer’s market.
  • Play mini golf.
  • Go for a run (even a short one).
  • Chase a monarch butterfly.
  • Go to a flea market.
  • Place flowers on a grave.
  • Collect shells.
  • Paint a rock.
  • Visit a sculpture garden.
  • Go to stock car race.
  • Splash in a pool.
  • Go to a sidewalk sale.
  • Raise a flag.
  • Hang sheets on a clothesline.
  • Throw a frisbee.
  • Ride a bike.

Talking to Strangers may be enjoyed best by having the author talk to you

True confession: I somehow got subscribed to Audible for a whole year before questioning the money that was being deducted from my bank account. When I figured it out, I had eleven credits to use. I’m too cheap to just let them go, so I scanned the available titles, downloaded eleven books in a half hour and cancelled the subscription.

To wring value out of my lax bookkeeping, I had to create a new habit in order to listen to my library of audio books. Because not listening to them would be almost as wasteful as not downloading them.

Talking to StrangersFortunately, a twenty-hour drive from Texas to Wisconsin was on the calendar. Thus, I found myself listening this past week to Malcolm Gadwell’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know.

Was it better than coronavirus coverage on National Public Radio? Infinitely. Was it better than listening to the same old songs on Sirius’ ’80s on 8? By far.

Those twenty hours didn’t exactly fly by (mostly because I’m too old to ignore the inevitable aches and pains that accumulate by sitting in one position for so long), but they did go quickly, and I learned a lot of useful facts along the way.

For example, do you think CIA spies must be very good at spotting liars? Well, they’re not.

Do you think suicide is the result of depression? Well, yes, but not only that.

Do you know why binge drinking is a major factor in campus rapes? You might have your suspicions, but Gadwell spells it out for you.

Then he ties all these conclusions about the challenges of talking to strangers in a professionally wrapped package that explains why encounters between white cops and black people have the potential for going terribly, terribly wrong.

Using sociological and psychological research, Gadwell challenges commonly held views all while telling a fascinating story. I already knew I liked his approach, having read his books The Tipping Point, Blink and David and Goliath. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, you’ll probably remember some of the research and facts he shares. His stories stick with you. (And I can’t emphasize too much: even if you don’t care about horrors brought to light by Black Lives Matters, you’ll understand the liars, alcoholics and suicide victims in your life a lot better.)

Hearing Gadwell make his points in his own voice elevates the experience even more. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll also hear the voices of people he interviewed—scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. Plus, there’s a theme song! The audio book is so much more than any standard audio book.

If you have a curious mind and want to fill it with something other than noise, try Gadwell’s audio book. Whether you’re a stranger, or just strange enough to have a bunch of Audible credits to spend and a long drive ahead of you, you might agree with my suggestion.

Mothers as ghost busters

Mother Day Sign

Last year’s Mother Day sign at ye olde Church Sweet Home.

It’s Mother’s Day. Despite how weird it will be in the middle of a pandemic, whether you’re with or away from your children, I’m wishing you as much happiness as you can squeeze out of this lemonade situation.

As I casted about for a good topic for a holiday like today, I thought, of course, about writing about my mother, whom I won’t get to celebrate with but cherish especially now after a little health scare earlier this year and now a novel coronavirus that is especially harsh on people of my mother’s generation. But I’ve written about her many times, including this post on another Mother’s Day.

As I pondered alternative subject matter, I thought of a This American Life episode I listened to a couple of weeks ago. In the “Call Me Maybe” segment of Episode 697: “Alone Together,” contributor Sean Cole talks about the relationship he’s refined, mostly through weekly phone calls, with his stepfather Ed after his mother died.

“I call Ed. We talk,” Cole says. “For this specific need I have [a ritual to remember Mom], it turns out he’s the perfect person to call. Maybe you’ve got somebody like that. A personal ghost buster when there’s something strange in the neighborhood, when things are looking their worst. That person who will know what you’re talking about even if they can’t understand what you’re saying. And all you’ve got to do is call.”

I admire that “personal ghost buster” line because:

  • a) it’s a great veiled reference to Ray Parker Jr.’s lyrics for the movie that only kids of the ’80s would get,
  • b) it’s a good description of everything a good mom should be,
  • c) that’s what my own mother is, especially in these ghostly times,
  • d) and yet Cole is describing his stepfather. As a stepparent myself, I aspire to such lofty heights.

I hope I am someone to call now who will know what you’re talking about even if I can’t understand what you’re saying (though I know very well my talkative and charismatic husband spends the lion’s share of phone time with my stepchildren, and I can hardly get a word in edgewise). And naturally, I wonder what role I’ll play in the future in my stepchildren’s lives if I should outlive their father. Sean Cole’s story of Ed gives me hope that I might be remembered and called on Mother’s Day and other days.

“If you’re seeing things running through your head,
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

~ Ray Parker Jr., the songwriter (and philosopher)

 

Knit 1, purl 2, knit 6, breathe

dishrags for mom

Before COVID-19 was worldwide news and long before it forced us indoors to isolate, I resolved to knit more.

Actually, it was a New Year’s Resolution. Sort of. My notes say, “knitting? 6 projects?”

Real definitive, there. But yet, I have followed through.

I’ve been knitting and purling since junior high school when I taught myself to knit so I could make a bikini (yup, true story, didn’t ever actually wear the see-through bikini though). Knitting is either a granny’s activity or a cool thing Cameron Diaz and Charlize Theron do between takes, depending on who’s touting it. I’m probably more like a granny than a Hollywood celebrity with a big Instagram following, but I’m in charge here, so we’re going with the theory knitting is hip.

It’s also great meditation.

Zen and the Art of KnittingIn Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity, author (and knitter) Bernadette Murphy writes:

Best of all, knitting is slow. So slow that we see the beauty inherent in every tiny act that makes up a sweater. So slow that we know the project’s not going to get finished today⁠—it may not get finished for many months or longer⁠—and thus, we make our peace with the unresolved nature of life. We slow down as we knit. Our breathing and heart rate drop and knitters who’ve been at it a while experience a trancelike state that provides the same benefits as other forms of meditation.

Sounds like the perfect anecdote for a pandemic, right? “Unresolved nature of life”? It’s the theme of things in a pandemic. My timing couldn’t be better.

I started by finishing a couple of dishcloths I began at least five years ago.

dish clothes

When I posted these stellar creations to Facebook (because I like to stick to noncontroversial posts so I don’t tick off my liberal, conservative, religious, atheistic, immunocompromised, unemployed, vegan and paleo friends, and knitting is a safe subject, if a little dull), my mother remarked she could use some new dishcloths.

Hey, her birthday was coming up. Great idea! I’ll knit some more dishcloths for her. Knitting a gift is quite lovely for both the knitter and the recipient because the knitter gets plenty of time to think about the person who will one day use the item. Murphy put it this way:

“In sweaters I make for others, I gently pass on my positive desires for their lives; these garments give warmth while embracing the wearer in a hundred-thousand little prayers.”

sun flowers

Sunshine against a backdrop of clouds.

I chose to knit dishcloths for mom in the Sun pattern from Leisure Arts’ Trendy Knit Dishcloths because Mom doesn’t get enough sunshine in the Minnesota winters and could use something bright. I made one in yellow, one in melon and one in bright orange.

doilies

Mom loved them, but she didn’t put them to use in the kitchen sink. She used them as doilies. Now I think I need to make a couple of doilies for my nightstands.

But first, I finished a project for myself.

In Zen and the Art of Knitting, Murphy suggested a Sleeveless Rolled Neck Pullover as a basic get-going pattern. I selected a nice veriegated yarn in blue, green and gray, and created this:

sweater

It’s not the disgrace the bikini was years ago, but I’m not going to model it for you. It turned out the way I imagined it.

If you’re counting, I’m up to four projects this year plus two halves, so I need to do at least one more in order to accomplish my goal. The real accomplishment is not projects, but peace and creativity.

What’s keep you creatively fueled right now?

I said launch, not lunch!

Fans of Bob Denver and Sid & Marty Krofft will certainly recognize the title of this post as a twist on the opening sequence of Far Out Space Nuts, a zany live-action Saturday morning ’70s sitcom featuring two NASA janitors accidentally sent into space.

Clear evidence that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to write for television.

Or write a book for that matter.

It’s launch day for my latest memoir (you knew I was going somewhere, right?): Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul is available at major booksellers worldwide.

CSH Book Front Cover Only

Back in 2017 when I was rarely writing anything here at Minnesota Transplant, I blogged everyday over at Church Sweet Home about turning an old church into a showplace home. That raw material became a book. If you’re looking for a true story about how a Minnesota native and a Bears fan turn a sow’s ear in southern Wisconsin into a silk purse, then you’ll love this book. Plus, it’s the perfect choice in the middle of a pandemic when you need to be reminded of how wonderful home can be. Here’s the official blurb:

After buying an old Methodist church to renovate into their home, a plucky fifty-something couple who gets excited by reclaimed wood and deals on Craigslist goes to work, undaunted by risks to their marital relationship, creaky bodies and bank account.

The 126-year-old structure has been stripped of pews, the altar, even the kitchen sink. The wiring is a Frankenstein mix of early 20th century knobs and tubes, copper wire and modern Romex. And the seller discloses the 40-foot bell tower is “rooted,” which the intrepid homebuyers Tyler and Monica take to mean as “rotted.” Friends wonder if there are bats in their belfry, literally and metaphorically, as the pair spends months juggling contractors of varying dependability, wandering around a thousand home improvement stores and sanding miles of wood floors, laboring to prove the doubters wrong.

Based on the real-time memoir Monica blogged by night, Church Sweet Home chronicles the amusing, exhausting and ultimately satisfying fixer-upper follies of turning a derelict community treasure into a dream home.

Given this strange COVID-19 world, I’m not having an in-person launch party. I’m throwing a virtual one! Join me for a Facebook Live book reading at my author page. One of the main characters (wink, wink) will be there, too, and we’ll be toasting with tequila (we’ll explain why, but if you had tacos for lunch because it’s Cinco de Mayo, why not tequila for happy hour?). Here are the details:

If the link doesn’t work, try searching for “MonicaLeeWriter” on Facebook to find my author page (go ahead and “like” it while you’re there).

And if you want to read the book, well you can get Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul everywhere there’s wifi.

The paperback is $12.49 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Prefer ebooks? You’re in luck. The ebook is $4.49 and available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo.

Blogging: An analysis

Yesterday, over at my author blog (mindfulmonica.wordpress.com), I wrote about creating and sticking to a blogging schedule. The last step of that process is “evaluation,” which I promised to write about here today.

I’ve been blogging regularly on one of my blogs or another (I have four, each with a different purpose) for more than ten years. Some of you have been following me here since the beginning (thank you, loyal readers!). At my peak, I posted 387 times on three different blogs in 2012 (also, not coincidentally, the year my first memoir came out). At my laziest, I posted 107 times in 2016 (that’s still an average of twice a week, so “lazy” is relative).

Blog Stats

Don’t look for a button on WordPress to generate this report. I created it on Excel.

If just sitting down to write something is the goal, then I smashed it. I’ve written more than 2,600 posts in the past ten years. Even if 90 percent of those posts are junk, I’ve written a lot of good stuff over the years (I would argue that only about 86% of those posts are junk because I think I hit it out of the park at least once a week, but I quibble).

However, if my goal was sales, well, I fell far short. I estimate I’ve collected about $3,500 in royalties over that 10 year period, and oof, that would make me, well, probably hungry and homeless.

This hopelessness all came to a head in June of last year. I’d made a New Year’s Resolution to write six blog posts a week, which I more or less stuck to through June. But I wasn’t feeling it. My creative well had run dry, and I felt like I was posting uninspired retreads. When I analyzed my stats, I couldn’t justify keeping up my resolution for the rest of the year, and I pretty much quit posting unless I had something to say, which wasn’t often (maybe you missed me, and if you did, thank you).

Because one of my primary goals by blogging was to keep up a writing schedule, I refocused my writing on my work-in-progress, Church Sweet Home, the memoir that comes out on Tuesday.

I resumed a regular blogging schedule six weeks ago, in part because my dear mother told me she missed it, in part because I had time on my hands during the stay-at-home pandemic orders, and in part because I was launching my new book. The break had given me a chance to refill my creative well again, and it’s been good to sit down to blog regularly.

The lesson here is, know why you’re blogging, and revisit your purpose every once in a while. If you’re blogging to make money, well, get another job. But if you’re blogging to practice the craft of writing and connect with like-minded people, then I wish you the best of luck in blogging to meet those goals.