Monday, January 26, 2009

Snowboarding Saturday.

When I was a kid, we used to vacation at Lutsen Mountain---I know it has always been a great resort. Now I realize that they are also very friendly neighbors, and they make it easy for locals to visit.

Shelby, our Grand Marais friend Lars and I decided to take on snowboarding last Saturday. We're all pretty comfortable skiing, so we wondered--how hard can it be??

Lars was enthusiastically emailing us, reassuring us that the temperature was above zero and not too windy down by Lake Superior, so we bundled up, and headed down. (Incidentally, I've just discovered Underarmor long underwear. I don't know who invented that magic stuff, but it feels like I've been shrink wrapped in an electric blanket. It REALLY works. Take it from me.)

My first realization: snowboarding isn't anything like skiing. Lately I've been Telemark skiing, which is still a challenge for me, but basically the same skill. My friend Susan described snowboarding as stapling her feet to a plank and then trying to get up. I still haven't learned how to get up right. I have to flip myself around and get up on my knees. I was hoping to look cool like all of the snowboarder dudes, but I lost that dream right out of the chute.

The Lutsen bunny hill has a dandy new invention that took us up the hill on a conveyor belt. Truly a blessing for me, (recently disabled by the plank). Heavy adults only slide back down a little bit near the top--not a problem after the initial panic.

We sweated away the cold cold day. It's amazing the core body work-out that I got from falling (kind of scary with both feet the plank) and then flopping around like an inchworm to position myself to get up. It was a lovely white and blue day at Lutsen, and it felt great to get out in the frigid sun. I was reminded again that life can be really fun. Too many indoor days, and I can forget that.

See the hills behind Shelby? The steep ones? Before I was disabled with the plank, I had no trouble with any hills. Now, the bunny hill was my new world.... I started looking at those hills with a sigh, like they were mountains. Did I mention that Shelby and Lars are actual talented athletes? Able to take visual information and quickly transform it into physical action. I was still trying to get up. Why couldn't I just stand up from a sitting position???? I guess I could have taken a lesson, but what a waste of time it would have been for someone to stand there and give me hints on how to get up?
It didn't help to have the 4 year olds scoot by me. And all those people snowboarding down the big hills. Did they start all out like me? Very humbling.

In the end, I did manage to shift my weight around and sort of carve my way down the hill. Maybe I'll even brave the chairlift to Ullr with the kids next time. It's a great thing to find a new skill ---just out of my grasp, yet clearly within reach. It's flow. It's the best kind of fun, and we adults don't take advantage of it nearly enough.

All three of us were smiling as we hobbled back to the car, and later to the town sauna/hot tub. We were grateful for Lutsen Mountain, for blue sky, for snow, for Lake Superior, and especially for snowboard helmets.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

School Closings

Questions keep coming at's just hard for people to imagine what we do in the middle of the woods at 45 below zero...when school is canceled two days in a row. No respite trips to Target, that's for sure.

Some feel sorry for us. Andy's folks worry about their grandchildren. My college roommate gets our local temperature on the weather channel of her phone...and writes me "Sheesh...what are you doing there?" emails.

When it is really 45 below we hunker in. But the last couple days our subzeros have moved up into the 20 below range...and yesterday maybe even a warmer.
So, I'll detail our snowday yesterday...
Our bus driver Annette usually calls the night before. We're one of the earliest pick ups...even though we also get an auto-email notice. The kids explain why she is the best bus driver ever: she keeps the climate just perfect, she doesn't play the radio too loudly, she never speeds, but she gets to school on time always, she can get up any hill "Mom...last year on that icy day when we couldn't get up the hill by Gunflint Lodge...Annette just kept gunning it somehow...we went up that hill. You can't believe how she got that bus up the hill sideways........"

School was cancelled= kids are always pleased. Daniel has been making some kind of artisan bread dough that waits in the refrigerator...something Justin the crew cook taught him last summer. So he started the morning making carmeled rolls (experimenting with some kind of mystery flour from the coop yesterday...more on the disaster pizza dough later). Our friends from down the road called...wondered if the kids wanted to come over...and if we wanted to get together for a snow day dinner.

I was heading into town for a meeting at the school anyway. Surprise! When it's cold, we still drive! We don't have a garage, but we do have a place to plug in the plow truck. And faithful Christine (the other truck) starts every day, she only complains with a little toot of her horn at the start when it is so cold. (not sure what that is about). We had sun, we didn't have was 10 below-felt downright balmy.

So, I dropped the kids off on my way to town...the rule is that we always travel with enough emergency articles of clothing to cover all exposed flesh---just in case we need to hike down the road for some reason.

The four friends spent the sunny afternoon climbing "Mount Anna" somewhere near Hungry Jack Outfitters. A place with really deep snow and impossibly hidden windfalls and trippers. Good warm clothing, sun, a warm house for breaks...the cold wasn't a problem.

I drove home as it was getting dark at 5:30....the snowpack on the Gunflint Trail doesn't melt these days...and as I rounded one curve, a moose scared the bejeebers out of me. I didn't actually come THAT close to hitting her, but it was really up to her to amble off the road, and my veins were coursing with adrenaline so my knees and elbows ached. I have a friend who claims it's good to practice with adrenaline, to stay dose for the day! Whew.

Our families met back up here at Tuscarora for homemade pizza...with Daniel's nasty bread crust. I imagine good chefs make learning mistakes like carpenters do...and this was one small snafu on the road to great chefdom. After polite dinner we played "Small Change" on the local Grand Marais radio station WTIP. It's a goofy call-in trivia quiz show. People call in to compete for....nothing. Not even a score. Great fun.
Then, all eight of us went out to the snowshoe trail. Last week I had a magic storybook moonlight blue snow deep woods hike, and I was dying to share it. Only, last night-- complete cloud cover, not even stars. The established trail was much trickier in the pitch blackness, but they were all good sports about it. Somehow the white snow reflected some light from somewhere...and we picked each other up again and again. Only a few partial group domino experiences. It's almost impossible to stay standing when someone falls onto your snowshoes then on your legs. The snow was soft and deep, we had good hats and layers and scarves/gators.

Good to go....lucky snow day!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Daniel was complaining as he was putting on his jacket this morning...he said Shelby's parka must be warmer...because she never scrunches her shoulders to her ears on the bus. So, I made him try on one of my (slightly bulkier) parkas. As he tried it on..he said "no way Mom, I'm not wearing one of YOUR jackets...look at this big ugly thing...this is for people who live where it is REALLY REALLY cold.


Yesterday, it was cold enough for the shy fox to brave a visit to the bird feeder...and drive Denali crazy....
....which was a welcomed distraction, because she spends half of the day with her head on my lap waiting waiting.....waiting for me to take her out to play.

When I took the kids out to the bus this morning...the temperature gage on the car was dropping (it's coldest at the mailbox...must be some sort of "Round Lake Effect" here---because it was only -39 in our driveway). Anyway, the temperature gauge showed -40, then -41....then it said OC. What does OC mean? Off the Charts? The kids decided "Oh Crap"

Outlandishly Cold???

The moon was full and the sky was bright, but we could still tell that the days are getting longer, the eastern horizon definitely lighter by the mailbox at 6:45am..not only will this cold snap break tomorrow...spring is coming!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January Calendar

It feels like we're living in a calendar around here...the snow stays so sunny....dazzling winter days.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wow, it really snowed last night...isn't it wonderful?

Everything familiar was disappeared! The world looks brand-new.

A new year....a fresh clean start!

It's like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on!

A day full of possibilities.

It's a magical world Hobbes, ol' buddy.

Let's go exploring!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Broomball Blast

The Tuscarora Broomball rink is ready for action! We'll provide the sticks. The only rule is: try really hard not to hit anybody in the face. Once last year, Nancy got hit in the lips with the ball. We were all very sorry and it looked very painful. And we tried very sympathetically not to laugh for the rest of the night (even though she looked like Charo) because it hurt her cracked fat lips to smile.

Come and join us please! We're always up for a game.