Autumn’s Last Breath — And a Peek of Winter (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 2)

The mums are still blooming, and the later-turning trees continue their attempts to embrace the palette of Fall, even while Winter tries to push in several weeks early with its monochromatic color scheme!

Cluster of Red and Gold

Blanketing the Mums

Clinging to Fall

 

Grateful that Mother Nature finds a way to make it pretty, even as we curse winter’s early arrival — the change of seasons bring new wonders! Plus, the early “peek” of winter always “piques” our interest in winter activities …. cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, anyone?!

~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Peek” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Peek.

Supporting the Little Guys

As the crab apple trees and lilacs both came into their full glory, filling the yard with the fragrance of a delayed Spring, I took an additional day of vacation to extend a long weekend, and frantically scrambled to eliminate as much dog and cat hair as possible, while putting together an extra-special spread for the women of my book club.  We are usually pretty low key, but it’s not every day we are honored with the author at the table with us!

Crab Apple Blossoms and Lilacs in Duluth

With a couple of mutual friends in the club, the author of Locally Laid was gracious enough to find time in her busy schedule to join us for the evening to discuss her book.  Lucie Amundsen was fresh off the circuit of events surrounding “One Book Northland,” the annual community-wide book event in Duluth, Minnesota, and is a frequent speaker and instructor on both writing and agriculture-related topics.

Locally Laid, the book

In full disclosure, but honestly not influencing my review of the book (otherwise, I would simply not have put together a blog post at all!), I have come to know Lucie through a variety of intersecting organizations and activities. Before I became acquainted with Lucie personally, though, I became acquainted with her eggs — those of you following my blog for some time may recall this frittata recipe and encouragement to vote for Locally Laid Eggs as part of the Super Bowl commercial promotion contest (link to that post here)!

Lucie herself is kind, smart, and humor-filled — and the book reads as you would expect from someone like that: well-written, funny, and enlightening about what smaller farmers face in trying to break into the big ag industry and over-crowded grocery shelves. While my family has been a fan of “LoLa,” the little chicken that could (along with her “truly worth-every-penny” eggs) from the beginning, I was not aware of the full story behind this start-up until reading the book. Alongside the business story you also receive a healthy dose of classic Northern Minnesota life and understand why we love it here.

Chicken napkin rings to honor Locally Laid.

My book club has gathered every other month or so for the past 5 years, rotating among our dining room tables in the evening after work, enjoying interesting conversation (sometimes which even touches upon the book!), while sharing a light dinner and wine. The book’s theme this time gave me a chance to break out the chicken napkin rings, and do a little fun browsing for “compatible” wines.

Poultry, Agriculture, and "Uncaged" Wines

And a special book club guest provided an excuse for a festive (yet simple-to-prepare) dessert: Fresh Blackberry Napoleons with Cream Cheese Mousse (link to full recipe provided).  To add a little color, I mixed in some raspberries with the blackberries, and used a four-berry preserve.  The recipe is easily adapted to a variety of fresh fruit preserves and berries.  It can be partially prepared ahead of time and ready to assemble just before serving – a perfect book club option!

Fresh Blackberry Napoleons with Cream Cheese Mousse

If only I had hosted this book later in the summer, I could have gone to “Farm LoLa” and picked the berries myself to use in the dessert!

Locally Laid is an award-winning book, and is an excellent choice for an engaging book club discussion.  If you are fortunate enough, perhaps you (with or without your book club in tow) can catch Lucie at one of her upcoming speaker events, listed on Locally Laid’s website: http://locallylaid.com/the-book/.

~ Kat

Spring’s Persistence Pays Off

Today is May Day, and the blustery winds off Lake Superior are doing their best to prevent Spring from fully showing herself.  Patience must be a virtue when waiting for Spring in northern Minnesota.  We are well into April before the first colorful signs appear.

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A world in miniature comes alive as the longer days of (at least periodic) sunshine warm the ground.

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Delicate blossoms unfold themselves on the drab floor of last year’s greenery.

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Scilla, crocus, snowdrops … the welcome first signs of renewal after the never-ending cold, gray months of winter.

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April is a promise that May is bound to keep. ~ Hal Borland

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye Spy

Eye Spy …. a dragonfly!  And a mesmerizing eye it is ….

Four-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, Northern Minnesota

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge“Eye Spy” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Happy Third Anniversary (to me)!

Three years ago this week, I took the leap and hit the “publish” button for the first time.  The blog “Travel. Garden. Eat.” entered the blogosphere.  Three years of blogging = 314 posts, 21,118 visitors, and 48,048 views.

As I begin year four of my blogging journey, it is interesting to look back on posts of interest — whether yours or mine.  Some have been shared far and wide, others that I hold dear because of the memories they evoke may have stayed closer to home – it’s all good.  When one first tentatively puts that post out for public consumption, whether the effort is viewed or “liked” holds more importance, but I think over time that becomes less and less a point of attention.  Instead, this blog continues to be my creative outlet, for words and images.

Versailles on a Rainy Day
Versailles on a Rainy Day

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

~ Anaïs Nin

The topics of traveling, gardening and eating merely serve as a base — life is rich and varied, and I think blogging often provides the opportunity to remind oneself that the little things in life are often the most rewarding.  A walk in the woods can be just as rejuvenating and eye-opening as a journey across the sea.  Our own backyards often yield just as much interest as the backyards of our neighbors far and near.

Beargrass in Glacier National Park
Beargrass in Glacier National Park

The most viewed posts over the past few years reflect that philosophy of interest near and far.  For the five months I blogged in 2012, the posts with the highest views were all in response to Weekly Photo Challenges — a great way to engage bloggers on a wide variety of topics, and  help inspire a little creative stretch from time to time!  The challenges of Big, Renewal, and Everyday Life generated the most traffic that first year.

Buona sera, Trastevere!
Buona sera, Trastevere!

In 2013, traveling and eating both were reflected in the most viewed posts:

Pre-wash rinse, courtesy of the cat

Moving on to 2014, one of the most popular posts for visitors was my visit to the Apostle Islands’ Ice Caves, “It’s Not Too Late for the Party: Day-Tripping to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.”

Kat in the cold seat
Kat in the cold seat

And, finally, 2015 — a year not over yet, but one in which I finally returned to gardening in “Gardener’s Mecca in Minnesota: An Illustration of the ‘Why’” for the most viewed post this year-to-date.  Interestingly, one of my older posts, “Iceberg Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park” also has been a popular post this year — it is a favorite travel memory, so always happy to revisit that one!

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”

~ Ansel Adams

Iceberg Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park

Thank you to all who have followed along since the first year, as well as those who have joined more recently — all 989 of you (spammers and all — I don’t flatter myself to think that I have almost 1000 engaged followers, but I am grateful and amazed by how many truly interesting and engaging bloggers and readers I have met along the way!).  For a little celebratory fun, I updated the look of the blog, and welcome any feedback you have — Font hard to read? Like the layout? Miss the old look?  All comments welcome.

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Thanks for reading – blog on!

Ciao! ~ Kat