Tag Archives: Weather

Though the cacti may wilt

The lonely hummingbird feeder in the midst of the storm.

The mountains and hills may crumble,
but my love for you will never end;
I will keep forever my promise of peace,
So says the Lord who loves you.

~Isaiah 54:10 (GNT)

Evidence of the winter freeze last month in Texas still is apparent.

Our hummingbirds are gone.

Before the freeze, more than one dainty bird drank his fill from our hummingbird feeder hanging off the deck.

No birds came for a sip of sweet nectar for three weeks after the freeze. One hearty bird arrived Sunday; I suspect he was migrating north, and we were only a rest stop.

Pieces of this tree blocked the walking path for a while.

The trees in the cedar forest in which we live suffered lost limbs, broken by the weight of the ice, many of which still hang limply from their bodies. There simply hasn’t been enough time for the housing development’s maintenance workers to prune them all.

The palm trees, planted on fancy estates around Lake Travis, are definitely dead, and cacti all over may not be dead but they are much worse for wear.

Century plants appeared ready to reach out and grab passersby before the freeze.

I believe this is a Century plant, agave americana, a unique succulent plant native to Mexico. They received the name Century plant because it was believed that they flowered every hundred years. In fact, most plants bloom in 20 to 30 years.

Century plant cacti are used like shrubbery around here. Before the freeze, they reminded me of Audrey II, the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

The Century plants after the freeze.

Now look at them. Theoretically, one can trim the dead leaves, but I think a lot of them are goners. They may never get their chance to bloom.

Elsewhere in the aftermath, I read news stories about the untenable state of Texas’ power grid, I hear news of armadillo infestations (only in Texas), and I see Facebook posts with smiling women wrapped in towels, grateful recipients of finally operational showers.

For most of us, life in Texas is back to normal. Temperatures now in March reach into the seventies and sometimes eighties, and it’s warm enough at dawn that I can do yoga on the deck.

But it was dicey there for a week in February.

It never got below zero in the Austin area.

A hearty Minnesota might scoff. If you’re from Minnesota, it’s not even winter until it gets below zero. Twenty above is practically spring like.

But 20 degrees with snow for a week in Austin is cataclysmic.

Homes are not built to retain heat. Pipes are not insulated for prolonged cold. Road crews do not invest in tons of salt they may never use. Drivers who have never experienced icy or snow-covered roads don’t know how to drive in it.

My Beloved and I holed up in our condo for that week. Fortunately, we had an abundance of groceries, and my quick-thinking husband had the presence of mind to fill the bathtub when we still had running water.

We endured intermittent power outages for four days and no running water for six. Wearing two spring jackets and socks for mittens, I ventured out to check the mail once only to discover that snow and gloom of night was preventing these couriers from their appointed rounds, too.

I flinched every time the power went out, worrying about whether the coffee maker had finished its work, and my greasy, unwashed hair was horrifying. The dirty dishes in the sink haunted me a little, but I reminded myself I was a tough Minnesota native. Who needs first-world luxuries?! I was proud of how I was surviving a Texas winter storm disaster!

But as I was vacuuming the morning we hoped to get water—doing whatever cleaning I could in anticipation of getting water to do more cleaning—I started weeping when I took a break to look at memes on Facebook and listen to Fun’s “Some Nights.”

Why would a 2012 pop song make me cry?

Well, “Some Nights” is about existential angst, so there’s that, but it was a matter of timing, not import. When I heard the song, I felt like I was on a ledge with nothing to hold on to. I was stressed out—about simple things, I fully admit, like laundry and no TV—and I had been denying my stress for days. “I’m tough, I’m OK, it could be worse.”

The tears were cathartic.

A few hours later, my Beloved and I had a big, stupid fight about who would shower first. Not that we each wanted to go first, but we fought to let the other one go first. How dumb. For me, the yelling was, again, further evidence that we hadn’t been processing what we were feeling.

Disaster requires coping. Denial is a powerful coping mechanism, and it’s the go-to tool in my self-protection toolbox.

Unfortunately for the hummingbirds and cedar trees and cacti, denying the truth of the cold weather didn’t save them.

Though the mountains may crumble (and my greasy hair may hang limp), a greater presence remained through it all offering gifts of peace and love.

And I was reminded, sometimes I am the mountain.

71 ways to welcome winter

My mother’s least favorite season is winter. The season is long where she lives in north Central Minnesota, it’s gray and the closest she can get to gardening is perusing seed catalogs.

So when I made a list last year of ways to savor summer, she kept asking me for ways to savor winter. Summer was easy for her to savor; winter much more challenging. I made that summer list to recognize what a strange year 2020 had been already by May. I didn’t want summer to slip through my fingers like spring had. So I came up with 108 ways to savor the season, one suggestion for each day between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day.

Mom and I sat down together and brainstormed such a winter list. A similar list for winter would require more than 108 ideas for some places (I’m looking at you, Minnesota, ye land of eternal winter) and a lot different ideas for other places (what do you have to say for yourself, Texas?). It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to the pandemic blues we’re all enduring, but it’s a start.

Welcome Winter

Sights of Winter

  1. Watch the snow fall through the window.
  2. Look for the waves in the snowdrifts.
  3. See sundogs around the sun.
  4. Appreciate daylight.
  5. Look for a cardinal.
  6. Appreciate the blooms of a Christmas cactus.
  7. Look for glittering snow.
  8. Gaze at the Wolf Moon (January full moon).
  9. Watch Northern Lights.
  10. Buy a poinsettia.
  11. Enjoy (or make) an ice sculpture.
  12. Pick out a winter constellation.

Doings of Winter

  1. Watch a fire in the hearth.
  2. Take a twilight walk.
  3. Snuggle up with a cozy blanket.
  4. Shovel a snow-covered walk.
  5. Feel your nose hairs freeze.
  6. Finish a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
  7. Read a book.
  8. Throw a snowball.
  9. Wear a hat and scarf.
  10. Hang Christmas lights (if not on a tree, somewhere).
  11. Go ice fishing.
  12. Light a candle.
  13. Watch a football game.
  14. Have an indoor picnic.
  15. Wear at least three layers.
  16. Enjoy a Christmas movie.
  17. Play a board game.
  18. Take up (or practice) a hobby.
  19. Take a sauna.
  20. Make a scrapbook.
  21. Wear a down jacket.
  22. Plan a vacation.
  23. Take a nap.
  24. Watch a comedy.
  25. Wear long underwear.
  26. Enjoy a spa day (DIY or professional).
  27. Knock icicles off the eaves.
  28. Pay a visit to someone.
  29. Host a party (even a little one, or a Zoom one).
  30. Send a care package to someone who needs one.
  31. Be charitable.
  32. Enjoy a basketball game.
  33. Visit a library or bookstore.
  34. Hang a calendar for the new year.
  35. Send holiday greeting cards.
Dad took this picture of Mom on the road outside their Minnesota home on January 2, a day when the snow dressed the trees in glorious crystal robes. Can’t you just hear the crunch of snow beneath Mom’s boots?

Sounds of Winter

  1. Hear the crunch of snow beneath your boots.
  2. Listen to the blizzard winds roar.
  3. Listen to a choir (preferably Christmas carols).
  4. Read The Night Before Christmas.

Flavors of Winter

  1. Eat chili.
  2. Catch a snowflake on your tongue.
  3. Make potato soup.
  4. Drink cocoa.
  5. Eat a broiled grapefruit.
  6. Make a batch of Christmas cookies.
  7. Make lefse.
  8. Enjoy a parsnip soup.
  9. Prepare a Monte Christo sandwich.
  10. Turn a frozen food into something delicious.
  11. Eat squash.
  12. Drink warm mulled wine.
  13. Eat chicken noodle soup.
  14. Drink champagne (maybe at midnight).
  15. Make a hot toddy.
  16. Drink a fancy coffee drink.

Scents of Winter

  1. Smell the pine scent of a Christmas tree.
  2. Bake gingersnaps.
  3. Make an all-day batch of rice pudding (with lots of cinnamon and butter).
  4. Make a winter bonfire.

Welcome winter, friends, or it may turn on you. Any ideas Mom and I might have missed? Please share in the comments.

Travel Tuesday: Crater Lake National Park

Just when you might think you’ve had enough of winter (or an interminably wet spring), you’re reminded of a place that is still measuring the snow on the ground in feet.

And it’s beautiful just the same.


The snowbanks at the visitor center towered over the cars.

Two years ago in May, we visited Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. The caldera in which the lake is cupped is at an elevation of 7,000 to 8,000 feet and therefore chilly, even in May; we had to climb a 20-foot snowbank in order to catch a glimpse of the lake. And that was after a 90-minute drive through winding roadsit’s as remote as it is stunning. Forty-six feet of snow—feet, not inches—fell at Crater Lake that year; in February of this year, the park experienced the second biggest monthly snowfall in nearly 70 years at 154 inches. Road crews use rotary plows equipped with fans that can shoot snow 75 to 80 feet in the air, but Rim Drive (the road circling the lake) remains blocked at this time of year.



But forget about the snow; the real show is the lake. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the world’s deepest volcanic lake. Replenished only by rain and snow, Crater Lake is widely considered to be the cleanest, clearest large body of water in the world.

When my Beloved and I were there two years ago on a calm, sunny day, it was the bluest reflecting pool I’ve ever seen. It was so calm, it was like a mirror of the shore and the sky. Those white streaks in the water? Those are the reverse images of the wispy contrails in the sky.

Crater Lake, resting inside a caldera formed 7,700 years ago when a volcano collapsed, was established as a national park in 1902 and has been protected from lakefront developers who might sully its rugged shores. As I mentioned, it’s a remote National Park but it’s worth the trip if you find yourself in southern Oregon. As a destination, I would recommend visiting it later in the summer (when there’s less snow and easier travel).

Summer begins tomorrow: I declare

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (usually June 21) but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, this one included, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day.

One hundred and one glorious days of summer. And next week feels like a bonus week in May. How often is it that we get four more May days after Memorial Day? In our family, in additional to the regular holidays of Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, we celebrate a half dozen birthdays and our anniversary during summer. This year, we have two family reunions to attend. So much to savor.

Speaking of savoring, I think everyone around here is salivating for some real summer days. It seems like it’s been overcast since September. I tire of dodging raindrops. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.

ice cream

You scream, I scream, we call scream for ice cream.

I struggle with assigning a sense to summer. Spring’s fresh air and lilacs win with the sense of smell. Autumn probably gets the color award, what with its fantastic changing leaves and orange pumpkins and golden waves of grain. Does summer best minister to our sense of taste when we enjoy sweet and creamy ice cream cones and juicy fresh tomatoes and buttery sweet corn? Or is it our sense of hearing that summer amplifies? Is it a coo of a mourning dove, the wind rustling the leaves or the laughter of children wafting through the neighborhood that say “summer” to you?

So tomorrow is the first day of summer as declared by Minnesota Transplant, and the perfect opportunity to ponder how you will best experience it. As any good Minnesotan knows, summer is fleeting and we must appreciate every moment. What will you savor?

Aaah, summer—that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.

~ Darell Hammond, the philanthropist, not the comedian


Blooms in their original place

Another gray day in paradise. The wet fields are preventing farmers from planting their crops, but you know what they say about the upside of April showers: They bring May flowers.

Here are a few tulips I’ve glimpsed recently. Tulips have lovely blossoms that are best viewed in situ.


This bunch is growing in the middle of nowhere, clinging to a steep hill. “Life, uh, finds a way,” doesn’t it Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park).

tulips red

These tulips are growing in front of the sign at the other church in town.

tulip yellow

This single yellow beauty is growing in the garden left behind by the former gardeners of our church, now home. It’s a persistent bugger; I have pictures of the bloom last year at this time, too.

I ran across something else today, too, that seems appropriate for the subject matter. I saw this quote in a vanity sink. Yes, you read that right. Kohler made an Artists Edition sink painted with prairie flowers and this verse:

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”

~ Aldo Leopold

Leopold was an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac.

Pine boughs whispering

So, this happened.

Snow on April 14

At breakfast, I could see the dirt with tiny spears of green grass that is our lawn. About 11ish, it started snowing. Snowing! On April 14. Not unheard of but also not welcome. And then it didn’t stop for hours.

Pretty soon, the snowplow went by.

My Beloved drained the snowblower of gasoline a couple of weeks ago, so even if the streets were clear, our sidewalks weren’t going to be. I just watched the white stuff come down, my jaw on my chest, unbelieving.

pine tree

So then I wondered what it was like this time of year last year. I figured this snow must be a fluke.

2018 april 14

This picture was taken exactly a year ago. That’s our camper in the back yard of our rental house. For some reason, we backed the pickup up to the front door. Maybe we were loading luggage, trying to get away.

My point is that snow in mid-April in southern Wisconsin is not all that unusual, so I better believe it.

Fortunately, the forecast calls for highs in the 60s midweek, so this terrible reminder that winter is not a three-month season but a five-month one will disappear in the spring sunshine and be forgotten soon enough.

So there’s that.

Spring, nothing beats it

spring tulips

If ever there was a symbol of spring, it’s tulips.

Welcome, First Day of Spring. We’ve been longing for you.

Depending on how you slice it, today is the first day of spring. The vernal equinox occurred at 4:58 p.m. yesterday, so yesterday might qualify but only as the first evening of spring. Today, oh, we have a full day!

Spring is my favorite season.

I love how it sounds and smells and feels.

Birds are chirping, and frogs are gallooping.

The air smells fresh and watery. My nose hairs aren’t crispy cold, and I no longer have to smell exhaust fumes while my car warms up.

Spring feels spongy like a melting bog — the earth is forgiving again.

And spring is colorful! The sky is blue, not gray! Well, today is gray, but even the clouds are not so imposing–I see sunlight burning through. The ground is green, not white! There are birds with orange breasts (!), and golden sunrises begin each day.

The snow here in Southern Wisconsin isn’t quite gone, but the melting ice drifts are few and far between. I’m not quite ready for sandals, but I put away my down coat and mittens. Even more bold, screaming children in T-shirts are tearing around the playground across the street.

Welcome, Spring. How I have missed thee.

Cold enough, eh?

Well. wouldn’tcha know it, the third week of January came a week late this year. The same sloppy Polar Vortex that can’t keep its boundaries straight can’t read a calendar either.

I haven’t written a blog in nearly a week because I have no inspiration. And if I had inspiration, my motivation has slipped through the door to (and fallen on the ice, no doubt). It’s tough to work up a head of steam when it’s so cold, the hairs in your nose freeze.


That’s sunshine behind them thar frost covered windows.

It was 24 degrees below zero this morning in southern Wisconsin, if my Beloved’s Weather Underground app can be believed. Every square inch of the windows in our unheated entryway was covered in frost. Jack Frost comes out to play when Old Man Winter gets unseemly.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go outside. I worked upstairs in my home office with the space heater on and a hot cup of tea. But many of my Midwestern friends posted pictures or videos of their car temperatures, the wide-open roads bereft of rush hour traffic and even shows of boiling water vaporizing in the frigid air.

This is crazy cold, the stuff of legend. “You remember that January in ’19 when it got down to 30 below zero? My car wouldn’t start even when I had it plugged in! My eyelids froze shut! I didn’t warm up until Valentine’s Day!”

[Did that reference to plugging in your car go over your head, my sweet Southern friend? Up here in God’s country, we have devices known as block heaters that, when powered with an extension cord, keep the oil in a car’s oil pan liquified (or at least viscous enough to flow through the engine). Yup, that’s Scandihoovian ingenuity at work, you betcha.]

We Midwesterners endure run-of-the-mill cold every year. Like, the high temperature hasn’t risen into double digits for a week, and when it finally does, a foot of snow drops out of the sky. That kind of thing happens every year. But temperatures fifty or sixty degrees below freezing? Well, that’s once-in-a-generation type of cold. That’s the stuff a good Minnesotan takes pride in. “Twenty below? That’s nothing! I go ice fishing when it gets 20 degrees below zero–just makes the beer taste better! Now forty below, that’s something to see. Or feel, rather. Only the toughest endure that kind of cold.”

Fortunately, February is quite literally right around the corner and she’s bringing balmier weather with her and the distraction of the Superbowl being played in Atlanta. We Midwesterners don’t care much about a couple of teams from the coasts trying the best one another in a Southern city, but heck, we like any reason to make a hot dip or place a friendly bet. We’re just glad the cold gave us our chance to exercise our bragging rights.

When it’s hot, think cool

Coping with summer’s heat requires air conditioning, swimming gear and the right attitude.

Statistically, we’re smack dab in the middle of the hottest two weeks of the year in Illinois, Iowa and the southern halves of Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Coming right up, July 15 through August 1 are the hottest two weeks for the northern halves of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

If one has a mindset that these days are Old Man Winter’s answer to our prayers in March that he get the heck out of town, then one can endure the dog days of summer better.

We asked for days like this. Days like this are a gift. Days like this will be go away eventually.

That’s the right attitude. It’s hot now. But it will be cold again.

With that in mind, I’m sharing an image taken a year ago in June when my Beloved and I visited Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona is the type of town that inspires night life, so one late evening we stopped by IceBarcelona (get it? Ice? Bar? Celona? I love wordplay like that) for a drink.

On the way in, there’s a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea for an al fresco cocktail, the perfect respite from the 20-degree atmosphere inside the ice bar. Patrons can borrow natty parkas and gloves. Everything, including the bar and the furniture, are made of ice; drinks are served in glasses made of ice, of course. Elaborate, seasonally changing ice sculptures decorate the place.

Naturally, it’s called the coolest bar in Barcelona.

Here’s a shot of my Beloved and I on the ice couch in front of a sculpture of an Imperial Walker (it was a “Star Wars” theme when we were there). That’s an icy cold screwdriver in my hand.


Here’s to hot July days. Cheers!

Cream of Crisper Drawer Soup, heavy on the asparagus

It’s that time of year.

No, I’m not talking about the third week in January, the worst week of the year. (Stock brokers around the country can attest to this! But no, that’s not what I mean.)

OK, well, I am. A little.

I’m talking soup. And it’s soup time because, well, it’s cold outside and a nice hot soup warms the house and the soul. (Won’t help your stock portfolio, though. Sorry.)

I talked to my mom earlier this week, and she assured me she was staying indoors (away from the bone chilling temps in central Minnesota), keeping busy. Making soup. Chili. Minestrone. Something called Barley Burger Soup (you had me at “barley,” Mom).

So I made soup for supper, even though my Beloved proclaimed “yuck” (fine, enjoy your boxed macaroni and cheese).

I’ve posted a recipe for “Cream” of Asparagus Soup in the past, but that recipe was a faux cream version. This one actually calls for a half cup of half and half. Because, why not?

I also cleaned out my fridge. Because that’s what a good soup is for. Using stuff up. Plus it turns a greenish asparagus soup into a more golden hue. Like the sun.

I hope you enjoy.

cream of asparagus carrot sweet potato soup

Cream of Asparagus & Orange Leftovers Soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 leftover red pepper, chopped (bonus if it’s roasted)
  • 20-25 spears asparagus
  • 1 cup leftover baked potato and baked sweet potato (I knew I’d find a use for this!)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Shredded parmesan to garnish


  1. Break tough ends off asparagus and separate tips to use later. Roughly chop remainder into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Heat olive oil in a largish sauce pan and add all vegetables except asparagus tips and leftover baked potatoes. Saute until onion is translucent.
  3. Add chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or so until vegetables are tender. Add potatoes 5 minutes from the end; they’re already cooked and you just need to warm them up. Add lemon zest at the very end, right before blending.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add asparagus tips and simmer for 6-8 minutes (until tips are tender). Stir in half-and-half and warm (don’t boil), and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2. Garnish with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.