Sunday Column: Spring Cleaning.

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I spent my work break today pulling woodticks off of Gus.

I’ve never seen so many ticks on a dog in my life. I think there were more ticks than dog actually.

I’m horrified.

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And I’ve even taken preventative measures. Nothing can stop the little bloodsucking bastards around here.

So there’s that.

On my next break I’ll tackle brown dog…there’s more square inch of actual dog, so I’m guessing there’ll be more tick…

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‘Tis the season

And it’s also the season for spring cleaning and raking and fencing and painting and all around maintenance and clean up.

We do this a little bit every spring when the weather warms up, but there’s a sense of urgency this year because Little Sister is getting married out here in like two months.

Yeah, that little sister…tell me we haven’t all grown up…

Anyway, a big party to plan means we’re doing things like pulling weeds in front of the barn where there’s usually a bunch of hay.

No one’s ever pulled weeds out from in front of the barn ever in the history of the world, so that was fun.

Seriously. I have an entire pickup full of dried out six foot tall pigweeds waiting to be disposed of when the wind decides to give it a rest.

Oh, and I bought paint for the little tin tack rooms too. I’m going to match them to the barn. It’s going to be adorable.

Just call me Martha Frickin’ Stewart, Queen of the Barnyard.

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Sometimes all we need is a party around here to get our shit together, and picked up and thrown out. Seriously. We even cleaned the shop a little. Well, at least got rid of some of the Tupperwear bins full of childhood things none of us girls could throw away when we moved out of the house. Because one day I might want to display that old 4-H horse show trophy in my adult home.

Sheesh.

Anwyay. So that’s what’s been on my mind. Weeds and grass and woodticks and weather and weddings and putting this place together.

I have to focus on something or I’m going to have a mental breakdown about the fact that my little sister is grown up enough to get married and own a home…

Wahhh…

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Coming Home: Giving the farm the Martha Stewart Treatment
by Jessie Veeder
4-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: We’re just kids in cars

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A few weeks ago, in Western North Dakota, three teenage boys were driving home together from a basketball tournament when the pickup they were in hit an icy patch on the highway and slid into the path of a semi.

None of them made it home that night.

When news of a tragedy like this spreads to our small town and rural neighborhoods, our hands go to our mouths and our hearts drop as we think of their families and remember our own losses.

These three young boys, though I didn’t know them, have been on my mind and on the minds of those across this state, which seems to get bigger and smaller all at once as we reach out and connect in our shared stories and experiences.

After this column was published I received email after email from those who were remembering someone they lost, or those grieving, or those comforted by reading words that were on their minds.

Thank you for those notes. The human experience is as tragic as it is beautiful and I am fortunate to have an outlet in which I can reach out and express my personal thoughts with the hope that they resonate with someone.

Your words back to me mean the world to me. It’s the reason I keep attempting to put thoughts down week after week.

Because we need to know that we’re not alone out here in this unpredictable world.

Coming Home: We’re just kids in cars
by Jessie Veeder
3-9-15
http://www.inforum.com

Throwback Thursday (or the horrifying path known as Memory Lane)

I don’t always participate in Throwback Thursday, but when I do, I make sure the photo is epically embarrassing, and drags at least one of my siblings/cousins/parents/best friends down the horrifying path known as Memory Lane with me. 

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No, that’s not Christopher Robin. That is my little sister.

And no. That is not Madonna. Madonna might wear matching socks over her stirrup pants and a scrunchy on the top of her head, but I doubt she would button the top button on her turquoise silk shirt.

That’s big points for modesty right there.

Big points for modesty and sisterhood and fluffy bangs and the first day of country school back in the day where my idea of fun was catching frogs in the crick below the house and sliding down cactus filled gumbo hills in the pouring rain.

But not before I changed out of my school clothes, for the love of spandex.

No, not a minute before.

Happy Thursday. May your memories be as sweet as they are mortifying.

(Sorry Big Sister, I didn’t think it would be fair to leave you out of this one…)

Sunday Column: My great grandmother was Strong Man Johnson

A few weeks ago I gathered a group of women together for coffee and a visit at the pioneer museum in town. I was asked to craft a story that featured farm woman advice for city girls and, while I had a few ideas, I thought it would be wise to get the conversation flowing from  the minds and experiences of women of all generations.

So I called my friend Jan, who grew up with my dad on a ranch down the road, and she called her mother, the woman who raised her out there, and taught Jan enough about making chokecherry syrup and canning salsa that Jan could be of help to me in one of my  “canning emergencies…”

The two women joined me, my mom and another three generations of women to talk work and worry, weather and washing machines and what it was like, and what it is like,  to raise children and crops and cattle out here on the edge of the badlands.

Really, I could have stayed with them chatting all day and into the night. The history and knowledge, the fortitude and respect and connection to place was palpable. But so was the humility. They were all so humble when faced with questions about their accomplishment and hardships on a land and under a sky that could be so beautiful and so brutal all at once.

I asked them what they learned out there so far away from the conveniences of town, and what it was like without the help of today’s modern technology when there was so much on the line.

My friend’s grandmother, who homesteaded her place, and then helped her sister follow suit before falling in love with a town boy and moving him out to the farm with her, gave the end all answer:

“You just roll up your sleeves and do what has to be done. There is no other choice.”

And so this has been on my mind as I’m working to extract all the wisdom and lessons and strength in these women’s’ stories.

And I’ve been thinking of my own grandmother, and her mother, a first generation Norwegian immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island when she was only 16 and made her way west to Minnesota before marrying and moving out to their homestead in Western North Dakota when she was only 18.

She raised twelve children and lived well into her 90s.

I was a young girl when she died, but I do remember visits to her room in her nursing home, her teasing the grandkids with her cane and this photo that set on her night stand, the youngest on her husband’s lap added to the photo later to make the family complete. My grandma Edie, dad’s mother,  is the girl in the middle with the bow.

I wish I would have been old enough to ask her things. I wish I would have known her.

Now all I have is stories and other people’s memories, my dad’s particularly, of a woman who used to call herself “Strong Man Johnson” before heading out the door of the house and pretending to lift it off its foundation at the grandkids’ delight and horror.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. My Great Grandmother Gudrun, Strong Man Johnson.

Coming Home: Winters on the prairies took immense strength
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

And now, after it’s been published, I’ve received a few emails from those who knew her, one in particular from a woman who cared for her in the nursing home and remember’s Gudrun’s story of baking five loaves a bread every day.

The spirit of these women drives me. It inspires me and it reminds me that I am braver and more capable than I think I am. Because it’s in this heart that pumps this blood, the blood of strong women.

May we raise them. May we praise them. May we be them.

My grandma Edie. One of Gudrun’s five daughters

Sunday Column: About an impromptu sledding party

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Last weekend we had an impromptu sledding party with the neighbor kids.

I just happened to be hanging out with my nephew building a snowman in 50 degree weather, so it was perfect timing.

Impromptu is always perfect timing for me. Especially in the winter when the days can get sort of long without a project or a visit or two from the neighbors.

We gotta stick together around here.

Stick together and then, you know, let small children push us down an icy hill into a quickly melting crick below.

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It was fun watching my friends’ kids playing on the same hill where we used to play, sliding down with their dads, squealing the same kind of screams, laughing the same kind of laughs and pushing it to the limit they way we used to, you know, trying to see how many could actually fit on a sled at once without crashing into a pile of tears and bloody noses at the bottom.

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There were rice crispy bars, 

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Snowball fights,

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Soaking wet mittens,

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Negotiated rides back up the hill…

IMG_1406And a failed attempt at a swimming pool sled…

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It was the best way to spend a winter afternoon out here in the middle of all this snowy hills.

It was just like old times.

Coming Home: Sledding quickly into the life we imagined
by Jessie Veeder
2-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Sunday Column: The Heart Won’t Lie, and other embarrassing stories about my love of Reba McEntire

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Well, I made it home again, home again Jiggity Jig from Nashville last week and promptly lost my voice to a sweet little cold that settled into my chest and reared its ugly head midway through belting out a Bruno Mars song with the band on Saturday.

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And now I sound like a raspy gremlin and Husband is finding it all a little too amusing, walking around the house saying “What?” every time I attempt to tell him something.

Yesterday, he threw a pillow off the loft to where I was standing on the floor below just to hear what I sounded like when I screamed without a voice.

And then he laughed his ass off, because I sounded like a choked and dying rabbit.

Needless to say, phone conversations have been fun today…

Anyway, speaking of voices, this week in my column is a confession about my age-old obsession with a certain red-headed country diva known by the name of Reba McEntire.

It had to be declared sometime, and because I was in music city, I felt now was the time.

Funny though, what really got me thinking about Queen Reba was a recent visit I had to Minneapolis on my way to Nashville last weekend. See, I have this group of friends I met and hung on tight to after working at a performing arts school my first summer out of college. We try desperately to get together at least once or twice a year despite being scattered across North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado.

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When we do get together we almost always wind up, at the end of the night (or beginning of the morning) sitting around searching YouTube and our iPods for our favorite late 80s/early 90s country songs so that we might sing them together at the top of our lungs.

We find it quite amusing and comforting and sentimental all at once. And because we all know most of the words, it makes us feel good about ourselves too…

When the party gets to this point, any guests we might have acquired throughout the evening are undoubtedly running for cover, but last weekend I invited my cousin and best friend forever, Seth, originally from a small town in South Dakota, (now transplanted to the middle of Minneapolis where he has his PhD and does smart PhD things), over to meet my gang. I just knew they would all get along swimmingly.

Half way through the first Judd’s singalong I was certain.

See, cousin Seth, being my childhood best friend, cousin and pen pal, has had to endure my love for Reba since the beginning of time.

And if I remember correctly, I am certain his sister and I conducted similar sing-alongs at the farm house in our youth, probably with a video camera and most certainly with costumes.

Yes, if you pulled into gramma’s farm yard any summer in the early ’90s you’d likely find us standing on a pile of hay bales singing “Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down.”

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The evidence of our bond surfaced early. Here I am, in my leotard and tights, clutching my blankie and leaning on him for support…

Which leads me to the time when I got a new Reba McEntire tape, the one where she shares a duet with Vince Gill called “The Heart Won’t Lie” circa 1992 and I decided that cousin Seth needed to be the Vince to my Reba.

I imagined the two of us singing into my plastic karaoke microphones, hitting the harmonies, debuting our performance to the entire family at our Christmas gathering, maybe trying to assemble some sort of costume theme, blowing them all out of the water with the incredible fact that I sounded just like Reba and him like Vince…

(Thank you Lord for not inventing YouTube until after my adolescence)

So I copied down the words, dubbed him a tape, wrote him a letter and dropped it in the mail.

And, because my cousin inherited his mother’s desire to save every piece of evidence from our embarrassing childhoods, years later he photocopied all the letters I wrote to him and sent them back to me…lest I ever thought I might have been cool.

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Now, I’m embarrassed to report that Cousin Seth and I didn’t actually get around to performing our song during the innocent and forgivable phases of our youth. No. We decided to try our hand at it in the wee hours of the night during Pop’s birthday party on the deck last summer…after two or three vodka tonics too many…

But it was still epic.

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An epic fail…but a sweet little throwback to a childhood bond and a lasting love for music sparked by Reba herself…

Coming Home: Seeing a hero in person is still inspiring
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Ugh, I bet Queen Reba never gets laryngitis…

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If you have a minute, vote for me in the North Dakota Music Awards. I’m up for “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Original Country Band” with these yahoos up there.

VOTE HERE
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ndmafinal

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Sunday Column: Small houses. Big love.

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Here’s hoping your house was too small to hold all the love this holiday.

Coming Home: Cramped quarters make the best holiday memories
12-29-14
by Jessie Scofield
Fargo Communications
http://www.inforum.com

And because we didn’t party enough, and the temperature gauge dropped well below zero here in North Dakota, we decided to head south for a bit.

See ya in Cabo!

Christmas Card Rejects.

It’s that time of year again.

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Time to roll out the holly, fill your cup up with egg nog, bake something and send out the Christmas Cards!

Now, we’ve talked about our card already here, about how, regardless of our small little family, I chose a photo of Husband and I sitting on a cooler at a music festival after a few drinks and a few hours in the sun and dust.

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I think it’s festive in its own way, you know, minus the roaring fire, twinkling tree and coordinating Christmas sweaters.

It will do just fine I think. It has to.

Because it was our only choice.

I’ve mentioned this before, a few years back, that each time the holidays roll around I’m faced with the dilemma of finding a suitable photo of my Husband and I that doesn’t make our friends and family concerned for 1) Our Relationship and 2) Our Mental Health.

It’s a tough task.

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And after spending the last few years traipsing around the countryside photographing beautiful families and beautiful couples and sending them off into the holidays armed with at least one or two catalog worthy shots, I have yet to coordinate my own JCrew photo shoot for me and my man.

We are not photogenic.

We are awkward.

And this is our catalog…

IMG_2733Merry Christmas (and no, our house still isn’t done)

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Happy Holidays from my nose and his beard

DSCN6339Warm wishes from Florida. We’re not tourists. And no, this isn’t Husband’s first time to Disney World, no matter what the button on his polo says. 

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Celebrate! The Dweebs have been released from the ranch!

IMG_2434 Happy Festivus…IMG_2510 No,no, we haven’t been drinking.  

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Aww, cute, we should cuddle up in front of the tree…take off your cap and act like you like me…
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Nevermind, put it back on…
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Uhhh, Happy New Year?

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Good tidings from the Scofields…and the creepy guy behind us…

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Sweet dance moves…
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Sweet dance moves…
  IMG_6143An attempt before…IMG_6258  It all went horribly wrong…(and I’m not just talking about my hair)

IMG_9481Do we love each other? Yes. Are we having fun? Of course. 
Does it look like it? No. No it does not.

IMG_8243Aww anyway…IMG_8244 Here’s to good cheer. 

Happy Happy Christmas Card Season One and All!
Hope the catalog of your beautiful life has more options than ours.

Peace, Love and awkward family photos,
Jessie & Chad

(Oh, and the dogs too)

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Holidays: How they hold us and haunt us

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Last weekend marked the end of deer rifle season here in North Dakota. My uncle from Texas arrived in the middle of the week with his son-in-law and nephew, Pops took some time off, Husband willed Saturday to come quicker and the entire Veeder Ranch turned into a hunting camp, just like it does every year at this time.

Boots dripping with melted snow were strewn in my parent’s entryway, a combination of camouflage, hunter-orange, fleece, wool and leather piled up on the chairs. Men were up and out with the sun sitting on hilltops and sneaking through draws.

When our Texas Uncle comes to the ranch it’s like an extended holiday around here. We all sort of hang up our evening plans and get together around mom’s table while Pops fries up fish or beef or, if there was some success that day, venison.

Ever since I was a little girl, and as long as I’ve lived in this place, this is the way it’s been.

Most years I go out with them on the hunt at least once. Because there’s something about being out with the boys who grew up here, my dad and his brother, together walking the draws they know so well, sitting quietly on the hilltops taking in the familiar view of their childhood, doing what they’ve always done, that’s always been comforting to me.

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Since we almost lost dad early this year, each tradition spent since his recovery has been regarded as a gift and a little more precious than it was before.

I seem to be seeing the world more that way lately.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches I imagine it’s timely to be so grateful for second chances, for family, for walking behind my husband on a warm early winter evening, keeping quiet while he carries his bow, turns around and smiles, waving me along.

It’s never been difficult for me to be grateful for these things.

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But never in my life have I seen the world and the people in it as fragile as I see them these days.

Never have I been more aware of time and what it means for us.

And as much as I’m grateful for all of the things that fill this life of ours, during the holidays especially, I become the most aware of what we don’t have.

And who or what others are mourning.

Because what we don’t have, who we are missing, sits like a silent ache in the quiet corners of our houses.

IMG_9778Yesterday I sat down to make a Christmas Card and for the first time in my life I felt sort of silly about the whole thing.

“Who the hell wants a picture of just the two of us?” I said out loud to my husband looking over my shoulder. “Christmas Cards are for people with kids, and grandkids, so their families can see how cute they are. How much they’ve grown. We just keep getting older. This feels pathetic.”

It wasn’t sadness coming out of my mouth, but frustration. Frustration that the life I was in was perfectly good and that I should be perfectly grateful, but I couldn’t will myself to be those things at the moment, not even in the name of the holiday spirit.

All I could muster up was annoyance and a sort of anger that other people have family photos taken for the occasion, snuggling into one another on a blanket or in front of a fireplace, birth announcements for Christmas cards, big extended family shots with grandkids on Santa’s lap, and all I could scrounge up from our archives was a photo of us sitting on a cooler at a music festival drinking beer.

It was a moment of pure envy. Pure poor me. It was ugly. (Others have lost more. Others have less to lose. Others suffer more than we can comprehend.)

And it sort of scared me.

Because I love that photo of us sitting on a cooler at a music festival drinking beer.

I love that we have a life full of those sorts of photo opportunities. I am proud that despite all of our losses we are still trying, but most of all, we’re still living a fun life, striving for fulfillment. Holding on to one another. Laughing.

We have other dreams, dreams that don’t fill the empty void of a family we feel as incomplete, but dreams nonetheless.

We’re ok really. Most days we’re just fine.

But how do you portray this when picking out a Christmas card? The templates available to us are smattered with children frolicking in the snow, “Joy to the World” in big bold letters across their footprints.

Staring at the photo of my husband and me, in our early 30s, sun kissed and smiling despite seven years of trying and failing at creating one of those Christmas Card Template families, all I could see were our friends and family, the ones who know of our struggles, opening the card and shaking their heads.

“Poor Jessie and Chad,” they would think to themselves.

“Joy to the World” didn’t feel appropriate then.

And neither did anything with the words “Merry” or “Bright.”

But it was all bullshit. Justified bullshit, but bullshit still, and I knew it.

So did my husband.

He said, “You’re sending these to people who love us. My grandma. Your grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Our friends. They love to get mail. They will love to have a photo of us and I like this one.”

“I like this one too,” I said and carried on.

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If I learned anything this year it’s that we don’t know what the hell is going to happen. I’ve been walking through 2014 with that sucked so close to my chest that some days I can’t breathe.

But as the year progressed, as summer came shining down on our shoulders, when my little sister got engaged, as I watched my nephew turn 4, working on growing up into a cool little person, I watched my dad get better, stronger, more himself, the worry release from my mom’s face, I realized that not knowing how this is all going to turn isn’t all scary.

But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s sad. And always it makes the holidays a little bit shaky for us. Because being so damn grateful and so damn frustrated and so damn happy and so damn worried at the same time is confusing and emotional, especially when it comes to cutting down and decorating Christmas trees and making sugar cookies alone together in this house.

Yes, traditions can hold us together as much as they can haunt us.

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I guess that’s what I’m trying to say here. That some of us celebrate as much as we mourn during this time of year. I say some of us. But maybe it’s all of us. And that’s ok.

I imagine my dad and his brother walking across these pastures where they were raised, and I doubt they take many steps before they think about their father and how he taught them to shoot their first rifle, how he was with them when they got their first big buck, two grown men, two grandfathers, just missing their dad.

I look at my husband looking back at me, waving me along the trail out there on our own hunt, I feel him standing behind me in the kitchen, I watch him cutting down another tree to stand in our house for the season and I know we can do it. We can be sad and we can be happy. Scared and hopeful as hell.

And we can sit together on that cooler under the hot summer sun, a little tipsy from one too many, smiling eyes under sunglasses in the face of a good and unpredictable life and we can be so frustrated and so thankful and so much of all of the heartache and happiness that sits in our bones under that skin that makes up the arms we have around each other and we can put it on our Christmas card, and despite all that we think we don’t have that we should, we can write “Joy to the World” if we want to.

But I don’t think I want to.

This year, I think I’ll just pick “Peace.”

Winter

Sunday Column: Winter and heavy whipping cream…

IMG_9739Out here, in this season, snow comes and goes quickly. We froze our butts off early last week, only to be welcomed by a thaw at the end of it, followed by 30 mph winds that blew the snow sideways on Sunday.

Coincidently this is also the day we chose to clean out the shop and our basement, sending me winging boxes of unusable crap into the garbage pit only to have it all fly back into my face…like three of four times…before I decided to approach the whole chore from the opposite direction. You know, wind at my back…always the right choice.

A choice made after almost the entire contents in the back of the pickup blew out across the prairie on my way to the dump, sending me flailing after it.

A choice made after the old pickup without a parking brake nearly rolled into said garbage pit while my back was turned, you know, flinging things.

Winter. Some days you’re such a bitch.

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Oh, but we have ways of coping around here.

Because when the season of snow-pelting-you-so-hard-in-the-eyeballs-they-threaten-to- freeze-shut is upon us, we strip off our forty-seven layers and head to the kitchen to whip up something warm, preferably with noodles and heavy whipping cream.

Yes, if we have to have winter, at least we have heavy whipping cream to get us through.

IMG_9779So that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s about the recipes Husband and I concoct in our little kitchen to pass the time on long winter nights.

Coming Home: Bring on the heavy cream, butter and winter weather
by Jessie Veeder
11-23-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_2906And I realize that the holiday season is just starting, and we have a trip to Cabo in the works to help ring in the new year, so really, I should just take it easy and have a salad for gawd sake, but for some reason the thought of squeezing my pasty white squishy body in a bathing suit in a month or so is not scary enough to keep me from a second helping of Husband’s famous cream noodles.

Yes. You read it up there. Homemade noodles fried and smothered in cream.

There’s that. And then there’s the two giant pots of knoephla soup mom and I cooked up for the crew of hunters/family this weekend. And yes, it was me who convinced her to add another pot.

Because you can’t have enough creamy soup. You can’t have too much! You can always save it and have it for lunch every day until Christmas!

Want to see how it’s done? I show ya here:
Cowboy Cooks Knoephla

And don’t even get me started on the traditional holiday cheese ball I’ll be concocting on Thursday…

Or the fact that all I want for breakfast for the rest of my life is a caramel roll followed by a donut washed down with seven cups of coffee.

Because it’s winter and I’m ssstttaarrrvvinnnggg.

It’s winter and my primal instincts are kicking in.

“Stock up, stock up, stock up…” they whisper. “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from.”

And I believe the voices. Even though I do.

I do know where my next meal is coming from.

It’s coming from my refrigerator and from the imagination of the man with deep German immigrant roots who can make anything with enough butter, flour, cream, potatoes and a side of pork.

Ugh, I’m so hungry. I can’t wait until 6:00.

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