Thursday, January 30, 2014

A New Mug

It's snowing today and blowing like crazy. Temperature is a balmy 16 °F right now. I'm in my office right now writing a bit and drinking a nice cup of coffee from a new coffee mug - it's a Doctor Who Disappearing TARDIS mug. When you pour something hot into the mug, the TARDIS (the TARDIS is a time machine - the letters stand for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space) gradually disappears from one side of the mug and appears on the other. It's super fun to drink coffee out of it!

My new coffee mug - the TARDIS is in the process of disappearing
in this picture. It appears on the other side. It's cool.
I confess, I found this wonderful disappearing TARDIS mug on sale and bought it to give to one of my brothers. Both Don and Joel are Doctor Who fans and would have loved the mug. But I'm now a Doctor Who fan and, well, I'm a bad sister and kept the mug for myself. Sorry brothers! I'll make it up to you and buy you sonic screwdrivers or something.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Great day for a bike ride!

I just got back from a short fatbike ride in the coldest temps I've ever ridden in. Wunderground tells me it's about -10°F but feels like -22.

Normally I wouldn't head out for a bike ride today but my bicycling friend, Christopher Tassava and a whole bunch of other athletes are biking, running and/or skiing the Arrowhead 135 right now. The race is 135 miles and goes from International Falls to Lake Vermillion, Minnesota. The competitors have 60 hours in which to complete the race. They started at 7:00 this morning and at my latest check of the results, Christopher and another Northfielder, Jerry Bilek (owner of my favorite book store, Monkey See, Monkey Read), are still in the race. At this point, about a third of the bikers have dropped out.

I figured if Christopher and all the others can get out there and brave the elements and race through the wilderness I could certainly suit up for a leisurely 20 minute ride around my neighborhood. So I did.

It was nice and sunny outside and I wasn't too cold. There were many times when I had to get off my bike and push it through snowdrifts so the going was slow. But you know what? My ride was kinda fun in no small part because riding a fatbike always makes me smile :-) Plus the snow is really, really pretty when you take the time to look at it. I'm amazed at what the wind does to the snow - it creates beautiful patterns in the snow. Absolutely gorgeous!

I wanted to take a picture of the pretty snow and also wanted to take a cool picture of my biking shadow so I could show you but when I pulled out my camera phone it felt the cold air and promptly shut off. I did take a post ride selfie, though.

Stay warm!




A Field of Flowers on a Cold Day

It's another cold day in Minnesota. It was -17 °F with a windchill of -40 this morning and it's been blowing like crazy so that major roads were closed and just about every school. My kids weren't supposed to have school today anyway because it is a teacher work day. So we slept in and are having a nice, lazy day. The kids and I are downstairs listening to classical music on iTunes Radio. Owen is working from home and though he doesn't get a lazy day but did get to sleep in a bit and avoided an hour long commute on crappy roads.

I've been doing some organizing in my office but have switched gears now because Owen needed my quiet office for a conference call. Perhaps inspired by the cold weather, I'm working on creating a field of flowers right here in my kitchen. No, I'm not creating a real field of flowers (who knows? it may be June before we see flowers in Minnesota!), I'm working on creating a field of flowers quilt.
Field of Flowers in progress
I made one of these Field of Flowers quilts before and it hangs in my home's entryway. The quilt that I'm working on today will be in a totally different color palette and will likely hang in my office. Like my first, this quilt is all in batiks. My background fabrics are a variety of browns and my flower fabrics will be in turquoise and purple and  I plan to toss in some black and pink and, well, we'll see what looks best when I get to that part. This is a quilt that has to sort of tell you what works when you start laying out the flower petals.

My first Field of Flowers quilt hangs in my entryway.
The fun part of this quilt is that each one is totally different. I've seen about 40 of these quilts in person or in pictures and no matter what fabrics people choose, they turn out great.

Making one is really quite easy. The background is a bunch of squares of fabric sewn together. Simple. All straight sewing and though there are seems to match up, no one will notice if they don't because they will be looking at all of the great flowers. The flowers are simply cut out of fabric and fused onto the quilt. Then, the quilt needs to be quilted to hold the flowers in place. My friend, Anne Tuma of Down Under Quilting in New Prague did the quilting for me on my first field of flowers and will do this new one as well. The machine quilting that Anne does to finish off these field of flowers quilts is really fabulous. I'm excited to see what she does with the quilt I'm working on right now. My goal is to get this quilt done this week as Anne wants to borrow it and my first field of flowers for a presentation she is giving on color in quilts.

Better get back to work on my field of flowers!
Close-up look at Anne's machine quilting.
Anne offers quilting classes and I think she may be offering the Field of Flowers quilt class again this summer - be sure to check out her Classes page on her website if you are interested.

You can also see some examples of this quilt in other colors if you click HERE
Anne has also pictures of several Field of Flowers quilts (and many other quilts) on her Down Under Quilting Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cold Day? Hot Tea!

The weather has turned cold again here in Minnesota. The temperature this morning when I drove out of my garage was -16°F. Brrrr. The sun has been shining, though, and that makes for a pretty day out here in the country.

I've been working on a story most of the afternoon and am feeling pretty productive. To reward myself, and to warm myself up because the house is cold as our furnace was out for the better part of the day, I did something that always makes me feel great - I brewed a pot of tea.

I must be in a mood for travel today because the tea mug I'm using is my London mug and the tea pot I chose from my collection has on it a painting of Paris.

As for my tea choice today it's one of my favorites - Lavender Earl Grey.


Ahhh. Now that's a nice way to settle into the afternoon.




Thursday, January 16, 2014

A New Book! Finding Harmony

I had a great surprise in my mailbox yesterday - a new book to read! The book, Finding Harmony, is due out everywhere on February 1st but I am super lucky and got a pre-release copy of the book. Yay!
Here's the new book - Finding Harmony. I love the cover!
Finding Harmony is the third novel in the Kate & Annalise series written by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Though I already have a stack of books to read, Finding Harmony is going to the top of my list because I have been waiting, somewhat impatiently, for it to get published.

Why? Because I was so taken with the storyline in books one and two (Saving Grace and Leaving Annalise) that I've wanted the series to keep going. In fact, back in July when I finished reading Leaving Annalise (at 2:00 a.m.) I immediately tweeted Pamela to ask her if she was going to write another book in the series. I wanted more! I was pleased to get a tweet back saying that, yes indeed, Pamela had another Kate & Annalise book in the works.  I've been waiting to read it ever since.

How did I find Pamela's books in the first place? Well, I "met" Pamela through the 30 Days of Biking challenge a few years ago. We ended up on a virtual bicycling team called Loving the Bike and, through that connection, discovered that we are both writers in addition to being bike riders. Then, through following Pamela's blog and tweets, I discovered she was writing a book, Saving Grace.

Months later, I discovered Pamela was on a 60 city book tour and would be coming to a Barnes & Noble near my home. So I went to the book signing, met Pamela and her husband, Eric, in person (hugs all around - I was so comfortable with them it was as if we were old friends) and went home that afternoon with two new books to read - Saving Grace and Leaving Annalise.

I got to meet Pamela Fagan Hutchins in person at her book signing in Minnesota.
Now I'll be honest with you, I wasn't expecting to be impressed with Saving Grace. I knew that Pamela published the book on her own (she actually created her own publishing house in the process - SkipJack Publishing) and I had read self-published books before and found that most lacked in quality editing and, usually, the writing lacked as well. I also don't often read murder mystery romance books that have"voodoo spirits" in them so was a little unsure if Saving Grace was my "type" of book. Likely because of my doubts, I started Saving Grace and put it down after a bit. I do that with books fairly often - I'm a bit too busy to just sit and read or maybe am not in the mood for a certain book at a certain point in time. Soon, however, I found I had the time to sit and really give Saving Grace a go.

I figured the book would be a decent read but discovered instead an excellently written, superbly edited book with funny characters and a compelling storyline. So much for wondering if Saving Grace would be my "type" of book - a good story is a good story and I really enjoyed Saving Grace and found myself up until the wee hours of the morning finishing it. And, since I already had Book Two in hand, I started reading Leaving Annalise right away and could not put it down. And, yes, ever since I finished it I've been waiting to read more. And now that I have Finding Harmony in my hands I can!

Guess what? I'm giving away a copy of Finding Harmony. Would you like to win it? Just leave me a comment on this post or email me at myrnacg@integra.net. I'll put everyone's name in a hat and choose a lucky winner on February 1st.

If you want to order a copy of Finding Harmony or one of Pamela's other books (she writes non-fiction, too, including a book about indie publishing), visit Pamela's Amazon page. For information on Pamela's writing adventures and get news and updates on her book tours and the like, be sure to check out Pamela's blog at: http://pamelahutchins.com










Saturday, January 11, 2014

Read More - Here's my stack of books!

I plan to Read More in 2014 and I already have a good start. I finished two novels already (I started The Aviator's Wife in 2013 and finished it in 2014 and the second, A Week in Winter, I read in a few days) and have a good start on The Great Gatsby. I have a short stack of books that I want to get to reading right after I finish Gatsby.

Books to Read
Here's a bit of info about each book in my stack starting with the book on top (I stacked the books without much thought - there's no significance to the order they are in)

Stitches by Anne Lamott - Lamott is one of my favorite writers. I picked up Stitches and did start to read it but then life got terribly hectic and I put it down. I didn't read at all for a spell. That wasn't fun at all.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - This is a book that I've always thought I should read because it's famous and some people say Gatsby is the Great American Novel. The thing that actually made me start reading the book is, well, the recent movie version of the book directed by Baz Luhrmann. I watched the movie with Owen and Rose and was so taken with the story that I decided I had to read the book. So I've started reading it and love it. Love it. After I finish the book, I plan to watch  the version of the movie with Robert Redford (I saw at least part of that movie years ago). And probably read the book again. It's that good. At least it is so far!

Visiting Tom by Michael Perry - I like Perry's books and I've had the pleasure of hearing him read from a couple of his books at readings. I also attended one of Perry's writing workshops. I like the guy. I like his writing. I decided today when I was in my favorite book store, Monkey See, Monkey Read, that I just had to get Visiting Tom.

The Names of the Mountains by Reeve Lindbergh - This novel by a daughter of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh has been on my "to read" list for some time. Now that I finished The Aviator's Wife, a fictional novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I'm especially excited to start reading it. Published in 1992, I'm pretty sure I picked up this first edition hardcover at Monkey See, Monkey Read awhile back.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - I found this book on CD at the library and "read" it that way a few months ago. I think it's a wonderful book and decided that I needed it for my collection so I ordered a hardcover of it. Set  in England and first published in England, I would love to get a UK copy of the book some day. That would be awesome! This book makes me want to walk across England. Of course, I wanted to do that before I read the book so maybe the book didn't actually make me want to walk across England - but it renewed that desire. The book also makes me believe in the goodness of people and gives me hope.

Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide  by Paul Howard - This memoir was a Christmas present from Owen. I've been intrigued by the Tour Divide bike ride, an unsupported mountain bike ride from Canada to Mexico, ever since watching the great movie, Ride the Divide. On top of that, a local bicyclist, Ben Oney, rode this race a couple of years ago. Owen and I have talked about riding the route, or parts of it, sometime. I have a hunch that Owen may want to read this book, too!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Read. Write. Ride.

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions but I did come up with a simple formula for making 2014 a great year.

In short in 2014, I will:

  • Read more
  • Write more
  • Ride more
That's it - you can be done reading my blog now. 

However, you can keep reading if you want a a slightly more fleshed out version of my Read more, write more, ride more goal.


Read More -  I have a good start on reading more having finished two fiction books already this year (The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin and A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy). I'm also well into The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (a Christmas gift from my daughter, Rose).

  • I want to read books in an actual chair with a cup of coffee or tea. You know, relax and read a book instead of sneaking a few moments with a book in the bathroom, say. 
  • I want to let go of the guilt of reading and get my brain around the fact that a writer needs to read and that downtime with a book is good for the soul
  • I don't have a number of books I am setting out to read but I would like to spend some time reading every day.

Write More - I wrote a ton of website content in 2013 but didn't write much for publication or - gasp - for the sheer joy of writing so in 2014. So to start things out:

  • I have a goal to finish a very short bicycling piece by the end of the weekend
  • I have an airplane restoration article that I started months ago and want to finish by the end of the month and send it out to an aviation magazine
  • I have a bicycling essay I started and want to finish and send out for publication - uh, how about by the end of February? Sounds good.
  • I'd like to keep up on my two blogs (this one and the 1947 Dodge Blog I write with my brother)
  • And I want to write in my journal more often. Not daily, perhaps, but several times per week.
Ride More - I've got every bike I need (though not every bike I want, but never mind that) to ride year-round on pavement, gravel and snow and I just want to ride them. Last year my milage was somewhat low, yet all of my miles were good miles - and some of them were absolutely awesome! This year I've already gotten a start riding my fatbike in the snow. And I want to keep on going!
  • I do want to up my milage this year but I don't want to get stressed out with the numbers.
  • I want to do one of the MS rides this year, hopefully the week-long ride across Minnesota. 
  • I want to get my gravel bike set up so I feel comfortable riding it - then ride it more.
  • And, this is the biggie, I want to stop comparing myself to other riders. They may be faster or more skilled or go farther than I do. But - news flash! - I need to worry only about one rider and that's me.
It goes without saying I want to do other things in 2014 - spend time with my family, travel more, floss my teeth every day, exercise, be the real me, sing, dance, laugh, walk the dog - all that sort of stuff. But I think if I take care of my simple list of three, other things in my life will fall nicely into place.

Here's to a great year!

There's lots of snowy trails and they are just waiting for me to ride them on my fat bike, Bear!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I'm Writing Something...

It's been ages since I've blogged. The idea of writing to catch you all up on what's new and all that just keeps me from writing because the task seems too daunting. As for trying to write something clever about the New Year, well, I just tried that and got stuck. But I think it makes sense to write something, to get myself going again with my blog. So here I am writing something.

This isn't going to be anything spectacular at all - but I am writing something in the hope of keeping the flow going and blogging more often. But so I don't bore you with this first effort of the year...I'll just keep this post short and sweet.

Here's a picture of my fatbike, Bear, in the snow and a gentle reminder that, even when it's cold, you can still get outside and enjoy the beauty of the world (wear proper clothing, of course!)

It's been cold, cold, cold here in Minnesota with wind chills of -40° F. Despite the cold temps, I have gotten out on my fatbike a couple of times already in 2014. Granted, I did not get out on the coldest day but I did manage to get out when it was below zero. My rides have been very short, 20 minutes or less, but it sure felt great to get outside and move in the fresh air. And, once I got moving, I wasn't that cold.

It's sunny out today and above zero. And I'm going to go out and ride soon. Because, even though I sometimes find it a struggle to get myself out the door and on my bike in the winter, I feel wonderful once I do.

Bear in Snow