Life and Waffles

It’s not too often that the threat of a being snowed in at the ranch for a couple days doesn’t mess with a series of laid out plans to make the 30 miles drive to work, move some cows, see a concert, put on an event or catch a plane out of this arctic tundra.

For Little Sister the freezing rain and blowing snow turned a four and a half hour drive to the Black Hills in South Dakota into something more like ten.

For my parents on a mission to see Bruce Springsteen perform in Minneapolis last night, it meant leaving early and timing their departure so the storm followed them, ensuring they had a chance to miss the snow, but not The Boss.

There was no way they were missing The Boss.

For others it meant a day off work, a day in the ditch, or a night spent sleeping in a hotel room when all you really wanted was to be home with your family snuggled up on the couch with something cooking on the stove.

For us it meant lighting the fireplace, rounding up the power tools and getting some shit done around here.

But ever since the first snow flake fell a few weeks ago I’ve been starving. So in preparation for the storm and the scheduled house construction project I stopped by the grocery store on my way out of town on Thursday to stock up on the essentials I would need to finally make some of those mouth-watering recipes I’ve been scoping out on Pinterest since last December.

Because I had no weekend gambling or concert plans and I was alright with watching the storm settle in nicely over our little cabin in the oaks, as long as I had the necessary ingredients to feed us.

Because I’m starving.

So as the freezing rain coated my world with ice on Friday and dumped a pile of snow on the whole mess on Saturday morning, I pulled on my wool socks and rummaged around in my cupboards for the flour and sugar and other baking type things…because today was the day I was going to attempt these: Homemade cinnamon roll waffles

I’ve had my eye on these little breakfast shaped pieces of heaven since last winter’s recipe pinning marathon. So on Saturday, I was determined that they come to life in my kitchen.

Now, I have to tell you that I am not a cook. Or a baker. Or a domestic diva. But the thought of these waffles sitting on my breakfast table waiting for a hot, buttery cinnamon drizzle followed by a sweet and sugary cream cheese frosting must have provided me with a sort of Betty Crocker out-of-body-experience.

Nothing was going to stop me from serving these babies up hot to me and my Carpenter Cowboy–not an overflowing waffle iron, not a microwave butter explosion, not a kitchen prepped to be torn apart for the impending tile project and certainly not my lack of culinary skills. I was going to make these things.

From scratch.

And I was going to eat as many as I wanted.

Because it was a snow day and this is what you do on snow days.

And I was starving.

So I did. And I’m telling you here because I was so damn proud of myself, the same way I am when I manage to accomplish anything worth eating in the kitchen. And I was wishing someone, besides Husband, was snowed in in this house to help me eat them and tell me how ass-kickingly domestic I’ve become…because there is only so much cooking-compliment-fishing the man can handle, no matter how much he likes the waffles.

Because the man can make his own damn waffles, so he’s not that impressed.

But I was. So to go along with our crock pot roast dinner, I made this.

Hasselback Garlic Cheesy Bread


Ok, so it doesn’t look as mouth-watering as the photo attached to the original recipe, but, c’mon, I made this from freakin’ scratch people. Me. I did that.

Home. Made. Bread.

And when I say homemade, I mean it. Yup, the successful homemade waffles gave me the little nudge of confidence necessary to tackle the things you need to make bread from scratch– like yeast and Husband’s Kitchenaid Mixer.

So as my dearly beloved braved the weather to work on shoveling and checking the horses and other man-type things, I was inside trying to figure out how the hell to use the mixer, waiting for the bread to rise, rolling it out, putting it on a pan and waiting for it to rise some more.  I concocted my own garlic butter, used that pastry brush thingy that I shoved in the back of my drawer and brushed the top of the loaves, baking them until they turned a perfect golden brown. And when Husband came in from the cold, there I stood covered in flour with hands on my hips, content and proud at my delicious accomplishment, wishing again, that someone else was there to taste it, because surely they wouldn’t believe me.

Or him.

I mean really, for all of the things my husband is to me, he seems to lacks the enthusiasm gene.

Anyway, the snow fell and the weekend moved from Saturday into Sunday and we worked on transforming this house into the home we dreamed of.

I stained doors and we put up the backsplash in the kitchen.

Husband made sawdust and I swept the floor,  poured us a couple cups of coffee and then a couple glasses of wine. I braved the weather to snap some photos and he laughed when I came in covered in snow with frozen fingers.

We didn’t look at the clock, we just paid attention to the way the light fought its way through the clouds and into the house that smelled like breakfast bacon and cedar.

I didn’t fix my hair or put on makeup and for two days the only other souls we encountered had four legs and fur and were sleeping on our floor.

This is the way I imagined our winters in this house. And it isn’t often that those imagined things play out the way you thought them up. Especially when it comes to cooking and home construction. And I don’t know why it happened to work out this particular weekend. I don’t know why I didn’t have plans to play music, or to catch a party or a concert or gamble down in Vegas, except that I didn’t.

And neither did Husband.

Because more than anything in the world I think the two of us, whether or not we will admit it, really only want to be here, eating each other’s cooking, cleaning up after one another, following our plans and building our life nail by nail, board by board and tile by tile.

From scratch.

Like the waffles, which turned out pretty good, against all odds.

Once I was a mermaid.

We are preparing for a weekend winter storm here and as I make a checklist of the things I should pick up for supper and plan for the things we can get done around  the house while we’re stranded, I’m feeling grateful for this unfinished home and worried about the families on the east coast braving winter weather after enduring such a devastating storm.

Sometimes we feel so safe here in the middle of the world, landlocked and grounded under familiar skies that promise nothing less than snow and wind and lightning and rain and winds that we lean into.

Winds that hold us up some days.

Sometimes that sky swirls and rages and touches the ground, scaring us, but not surprising us.

Because out here that sky is predictably unpredictable, but never has an ocean wave washed over our homes. Never has a river swallowed us up.

Never have I been forced to run from a storm.

And I can’t imagine it. I cannot imagine the ocean, a world so mysterious to this prairie girl, deep and powerful and dangerous and magical, splashing over my neighborhood, remodeling city streets, breaking down buildings, rearranging houses and changing my world.

When I was a young girl I used to sit on the granite rocks on the top of the hill beside my grandmother’s house and pretend that I was a mermaid swimming in the sea. I imagined those rocks were coves at the bottom of the ocean, the biggest stretching so high that the tip jutted out of the water, allowing my mermaid self to sit at the surface and look out at the mysterious landscape of the shore.

I don’t know why I wanted to be a mermaid. At that point in my life I had never touched the ocean, never felt the sand under my toes or tasted the salt of the water. In my mind the ocean was warm and clear and as fresh as the lake I swam in on hot summer days. I imagined the waves gentle and calm. I imagined whales making grand appearances on the surface. I imagined big ships and sailboats gently rocking between waves. I imagined diving with colorful sea creatures–giant turtles, yellow fish and orange sea horses. I imagined myself with long flowing hair and a sparkling tail, breathing under water in a world so colorful and crystal clear. So different from my own.

It never occurred to me that I could become seasick on my first boat ride across and ocean bay when I was seventeen.

I never dreamed the power of the waves could knock me down and roll me across the sandy ocean floor. I didn’t understand the sting of the salt on my skin or the bitter taste it could leave on my tongue.

I never thought my first encounter with a dolphin in the wild would find me as a grown woman on my hands and knees under the breakfast table of the cruise ship, nose pressed to the porthole glass, crying with excitement and wonder as the creature jumped and splashed and swam alongside our giant boat.

Our world is so big.
Our world is so big.
Our world is so big.

I see it on television, snippets of elation and suffering, misunderstanding and sacrifice, disagreements and hopefulness on the faces of people on top of mountains, inside skyscrapers, under the heat of a desert sun, along suburban streets and next to the ocean.

And I am landlocked and tied to a place that’s tied to me, under a sky that’s spitting out snow and threatening to blanket us in white for days on end. But I am not scared of the snow. The snow is my ocean and I feel like that mermaid I used to pretend to be, sitting out on a rock far away from the rest of the world that looks so small and mysterious from the unchangeable distance.

And as I say a quiet prayer of thanks to the prairie, I add a reminder to not hide too safely in the familiarity of this place that I dismiss the power of the ocean and the people who love the shore.

Because once I was a mermaid.

Mother Nature. It’s a woman thing…

Good morning from the land of indecision. And by that I am referring to the weather.

And me. But we’ll get to that later.

Ok, so remember when we talked about that spring thing and the melting and the running water and the removal of the wool caps and scarves and my fantasy about wearing cut-off pants and running through the sprinkler.

Well, that’s all shot to shit now and after the last few days, I am firmly convinced that nature is a woman.

A moody one.

Out my kitchen window're supposed to be able to see the red barn...I can't.

Because just as she gets nice and comfortable with a bit of sunshine and blue skies, raising all of our hopes up of sun kissed skin and BBQs, she laughs like an evil queen in a Disney movie and then throws some more snow and wind and fog and freezing ice in our faces…only to come back and apologize with something like a rainbow or 70 degree weather.

Ah well, like a rocky relationship, we’re all used to it by now.

And for those you who think an all out school cancelled, no travel advised, wind whipping snow pellets in your eyeballs, no Schwanns man for the rest of your life and zero visibility day is unheard of after spring has been declared,  I’ll tell you, you haven’t met Mother Nature in North Dakota. In March.

No birds today...

Yes, Mother Nature can be a completely unpredictable, annoyingly indecisive bitch sometimes.

And I can relate, because I have had those kind of days. I am a woman too and lately I have been driving myself crazy with a little project I like to refer to as “Mission: the rest of our lives” and I have displayed all of the above qualities and more during this process. So I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Mother Nature for mirroring the conflicted mood I’ve been in by slamming sleet and snow against our windows and blowing a drift across the door and blocking husband and I inside this little house together in the middle of a bathroom remodeling project, forcing us to make some damn decisions already.

Because it worked.

See, after we sold our house in Dickinson at the end of December, husband and I have been discussing and researching and making decisions and canceling plans and going through books and websites and talking out where exactly on the ranch we are going to live for the rest of our lives.

As you know, I have lived here, in the house my grandfather built, since June. And since I moved my shoes and bed and table and books and music and body between these walls almost a year ago, slowly I have found myself coming back into my own again. I have rediscovered this landscape where I grew up and began to throw myself into the things I loved to do as a kid, because I couldn’t help it, I felt 10 again. I picked wildflowers, rode my horses, explored the old barn, walked the coulees, played in the rain and rescued lost kittens.

And I wrote about it, worked through it and relaxed a bit into myself again.

But during this time I have always had it in my head that my existence in this spot, with the window that looks out to the barn and the other that faces the corrals, would be temporary. Our plan was to build a house over the hill and leave this house the way it is, with some updates and an open door to guests.

That was our plan, so we moved forward–kind of. We talked to builders and picked up pamphlets and searched the internet for custom homes and asked questions and never really did set it up and move on with it already.

What I was most excited about was fixing up this house. Putting in some new floors, siding, deck, appliances–the works. I wanted to see it glisten and shine again. But really, what about our house already? What was wrong with us? What was the hold-up on making our forever home?




Well, on Sunday we brought home some tiles to fix up the shower in the farm house. Tiling. Not my favorite by the way. And as we were taking a trip out to the shop to get the tools, on the way back husband stopped short of the door and put his hands on his hips. He leaned back. He inspected. He moved around the house making noises like “hmmm…” and “wellll…” and “huh.”

I watched him for a bit, my arms full of tools. Then I asked the inevitable “What?” “What are you doing? We have a mission here.”

He turned to look at me through the foggy air and mist that settled in on the barnyard and over the square brown house before the storm hit and out of husband’s mouth came words that, simply said, seemed to clear that fog and mist and hovering clouds that had existed in my mind as indecision…

“We could stay here. We could stay in this spot. We could make it work.”

I sat down on the deck that is in desperate need of repair and put my head in my hands.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes,” I whimpered.

“Yes,” I wailed.

“Yes,” I sobbed.

“Yes. I want to stay here.”

And so we took the time that was reserved for tiling that Sunday afternoon and talked it over, made some drawings and gave ourselves some options on how it could work.

And I was happy.

And still am.

And think I always will be here.

At home.

Even with the storm wailing outside and painting this house and barn white.

Even while other people were hunkering down against the storm yesterday and watching bad movies we were inside tiling and tiling and making plans for more work like this.

Even when I can’t get my car out of the snowbank.

And since many of you are snowed in today I think this might be a good time to share with you a little extra reading: My winning essay and answer to the question “Who Inspires You” for the “Inspired Woman” magazine out of Bismarck, ND.

Read it and then tell me why I didn’t listen to myself and figure this whole forever-home thing out months ago when I placed the last period at the end of the story.

It must be a woman thing.

You can see the entire article in the magazine, complete with photos, here: Inspired Woman Magazine

P.S. The decision to stay in the this location doesn’t mean we won’t have space for guests. It just means we will have different space available…

And so a girl changes her mind and I am confident it will work out for the best.

A Monday report

Happy Monday everyone. I hope all of you North Dakotans made it home safe and warm after the crazy weather that hit our great state on Friday. Because as I was telling my dramatic story about the mis-adventures of a potentially one-eyed pug while safe in the walls of this little house, the wind was whipping snow across a landscape freshly coated with ice, shaking the trees and making me bite my nails thinking about husband out on the road.

I couldn’t see my barn, blinded by the wall of white in what I am sure, now that we are out of it, was the worst storm of the season. Friends and neighbors who had braved the much calmer morning weather to get to work, events, the grocery store, meetings and neighboring towns, were blindsided by how quickly the wind picked up leaving  many of them stranded in office buildings, interstates, county roads, gravel roads, churches, welcoming strangers’ homes, hotels, restaurants, gas stations and community buildings.

As the wind screamed over the prairie, over 800 people were being rescued off of the roads by the National Guard and rescue workers with big trucks and snow machines. But miraculously and thankfully, when all was said and done, according the Bismarck Tribune, there were no related deaths from cold or traffic accidents, husband and pops made it home safely and we were greeted the next morning with sunshine and a promise of warmer weather.

In true North Dakota fashion.

And while I was thinking about my stranded friends who were updating friends and family about the low-visability and utter amazement about the conditions with light-hearted Facebook postings, texts, video clips and phone calls, my thoughts were with them out there amid that adventure…

and those suffering from the devastating results of the earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan as I watched the heart wrenching events play out before me on the news.

Because it’s times like these you are slammed in the face with how little control humans have over the world. We can build our bridges and sky-scrapers, update our technology, drive the fastest car and continue the advancement of medicine, but Mother Nature, in all of her awe and glory can bring us the highest highs only to slam us with the most desperate of situations. And over everything else humans are capable of accomplishing– building, inventing, developing, progress–  in the end our most invaluable traits continue to be human kindness, generosity, resilience and our ability to heal and help and believe in times like these.

So that being said, in honor of this beautiful day given to us in the calm after the storm,  I would like to share with you some exciting news. Because this great state, with the people who brave the storm to help weary travelers and welcome strangers into their homes during a blizzard, have welcomed me and my stories into their homes as well through the radio waves. Yup, excerpts from “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…,” read by Yours Truly in all of my northern accent glory, will be featured on Prairie Public Radio a few times a month.

You can listen in your car, or on your radio at home if you are in the area. But you can also listen online at

My first reading, “The ghosts of winters past”, aired last week. And despite my re-recording it approximately six-thousand times to accommodate for the swearing and “uuugggghhhss and oooohhhhsss” each time I slipped up while holding on to hope that my voice would change from a thirteen-year-old with an uncontrollable northern accent to that of a sophisticated female radio commentator, I think it turned out ok…at least that is what my relatives told me.

Because that’s what relatives have to tell you about things like this.

I wouldn’t know because I can’t bring myself to listen to it even one more time.

Anyway, you can judge for yourself by listening to it here at “Hear it Now”.

And now that my voice is back, I am prepared to return to the ruthless radio voice recording ring once again and I would love your feedback and suggestions on what stories you would like to hear me read on the radio. Any favorites in the archives? Anything you would like me to talk about that I haven’t yet? Send me an email or leave a comment and let me know.

What a great little adventure, thanks Prairie Public for the opportunity. And thank you all for your support. I feel so fortunate to be from an area that encourages its people and welcomes their thoughts and art and music into their lives. And I am feeling blessed that I am here, safe and warm, surrounded by the people I love in all of this dramatic, unpredictable, beauty…

…with a voice to tell you I love you, feeling like that needs to be said today…

From spring fever to no heater

NOTE: What you are about to read was written yesterday afternoon with every optomistic hope that it would indeed make it to the internet and to your supportive and beautiful eyes before the day was over. What I didn’t expect was a morning blizzard that turned into an afternoon with no power that carried its party on into the night, only to jolt me out of bed at 3 am with “SURPRIZE! Power’s back and I  left every light in the house on. Idoit.”

So good morning. I’ve never been so happy to see the sun and to hear that damn bathroom faucet (the one we need to fix) drip.

But you know, little experiences like that, the ones where you can’t bathe, or watch television and surf the internet at the same time and then plop a hot-pocket in the microwave, toast a waffle and reheat soup from last night (I must be cooking in this scenario) while turning the lights off and on at your own free will are good for a couple every once in a while. It forces you to be innovative and creative with your forms of entertainment and heat sources. It makes you light candles and wear that fashionable headlamp you usually only get to wear camping. It gives you a chance to practice those shadow puppets and still make it to bed by 7:45…

This is what I saw when I tried to look at husband last night...And "Tell it to the light" was his response to everything I said. Hilarious. Just. Hil.Ar.Iou.s.

Whew, am I rested.

Anyway, read on to catch my perspective of what I was sure to be a dire situation that wasn’t meant to end well yesterday afternoon.

Today seems a bit brighter…mostly because I think my body temperature is back in that normal range again and I have lived to tell you about it…

From spring fever to no heater

We had a glimpse of spring here this week. And when I say glimpse, I mean snow melting, water rushing, big huge puddles, mud, wind, sunshine–the whole thing. It was a little freaky.

I mean, I could see grass on the hills. I haven’t seen grass since Halloween!

I was so excited about the whole thaw thing that I attempted to go out walking in the hills yesterday, figuring I could balance on top of the shoulder-high drifts long enough to get me to the open spaces and up and on with my life without my trusty snowshoes.

I was wrong.

And found out about how wrong in the first three seconds I veered off of the exposed scoria road, (oh dirt how I’ve missed you) climbed up the first bank and fell into snow up to my crotch…

with both legs….

I was utterly stuck. …

Damn those cookies.

Damn the cream cheese I smear on everything.

Damn the butter and the frosting and the chips that taste so much better with guacamole and cheese…

Anyway that was that. At least now I know I have a little more “Lassie” style training to do with the dogs to get them to assess these types of situations and then go for the rope …or at least to the neighbor with a couple barks signifying that, “What Chug the Pug? Jessie is stuck in a, uh, snowbank?”

Yes, this snowbank. The one I thought was no big deal. They are laughing at me. LAUGHING!

We will have to work on that.

So, with no help from my companions, I pulled and dug and scrambled and panicked and sweated and kicked and cussed and wept a little until I got my sorry ass, attached to my jelly legs attached to my wool stocking-clad feet shoved into major moon-boots up and out of there…


I decided to continue my walk on the road.

The glorious road that was clear and dry and winding and pink just the way I remember it.  No traffic. No dust. No ice. No snow. Just me in my ten-pound moon boots and my worthless pups clumping along like the old days of summer (give or take a few layers).

And just like that I decided I could get used to this spring thing.

Before the thaw...

After. Ok, ok, not a huge improvement, but this girl takes what she can get...

And just like that it all turned on me as I rose from my slumber this morning to prepare for my 75-mile trek to get to a meeting by 9:00 am. And you might think that’s a long way to go for a meeting, but I must remind you that my beloved small town-hometown is 30 miles away. The nearest Wal-Mart?  75 miles.  My meeting was not in Wal-Mart, but it’s the best I can do get it across that 75 miles is nothing for us and our road weary vehicles with the dirt caked bodies, cracked windshields and missing headlight (well, maybe that’s just my vehicle…)

Anyway, these types of regular trips have been particularly trying this winter with the uncommon weather we have been experiencing here. But this morning I wasn’t thinking anything of it because my spring fever had carried over from the previous afternoon you see. Nothing could stop me. Not the icy fog. Not the freezing rain. Not the chilly, snow infested 50 mph wind, not the zero visibility or the big truck in the ditch, not…wait…what the hell? Why are these people in the ditches? Why can’t I see? Why am I driving 5 miles per hour?

Where am I?

Well, almost a good half way to my destination that’s where. Half way there and this girl with the tulips and green grass growing in her brain had to turn her frozen ass around in order to hold on to hope of ever seeing the pug…I mean her husband again…

Don't worry. I'm coming for you!

So I did.

And stopped in town along the way to have my pops drive me the rest of the way because I was tired of seeing my life flash before my eyes.

It’s exhausting.

And it’s the least he could do for his daughter who has to stay here to hold down the frozen fort while he traipses off to Jamaica with his dearly beloved.



…so now I’m home.


And it’s 1:30 in the afternoon.


And the power’s out.


So I did all of the things a woman can do to stay relatively productive in a primitive situation like this…like unload the dishwasher and catch up on Glamour Magazine and play some tunes on the guitar and say a prayer to the heavenly father that I wasn’t born during homesteading, pioneer, no flushable toilet days….

And I am now under the blankets wondering if the wind could actually blow this little house away….

So if you’re reading this at any point today, Thursday, it’s because the light and heat and water and telephone to the house that has been out at this point for a good two hours has finally been restored and my laptop battery lasted to the end of the point I am trying to make….

If you are not reading this I am frozen in my bed, cradling the pug for body heat, the cats are licking the remnants of the chips and salsa I ate for lunch off the front of my shirt and the lab has undoubtedly gone for help (because we had a discussion about never leaving me stranded again).

But you won’t know that until it hits the papers…because you are not reading this…

Oh, I hope that’s not the case, but oh, my fingers are starting to get a bit chilly and I’ve resorted to wearing my beanie indoors.

And so it seems I’ve made it to my point:

Sometimes the universe drops in your lap one single situation in which you have to search for an excuse NOT to take a nap.

And that, my friends, is the up-side of this situation.

Winter. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.

Good Night.