”5 Things I Saw Today” – July 2021

  1. Electricity surrounded by water. Everyone knows that water and electricity spells a big shocker. Today I saw the pedestal for our campsite electric hookup surrounded by water. Hmm, that could spell more trouble than a night of torrential downpours.
  2. A bedraggled, soaking wet squirrel. The morning light brought more than just blessed camp stove percolated coffee. We also had a visitor to our campsite. First time I saw a squirrel looking miserable and hating his life. I always thought the woodland creatures had secret shelters and never got wet in storms. It was a young thing. Maybe he didn’t know the secret yet. I gave him an almond and his countenance changed in just a few bites.
  3. A top notch, wood fire oven pizza in a town with a population of 502. Never thought we would find real Italian pizza out in the country. There are treasures and successes where you least expect to find them. Maybe right around the corner, a few miles in the direction you never took before. Don’t believe the naysayers, give it your all.
  4. A swarm of birds all bent on fighting me to the death. Okay so maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but here’s how it went. Sitting under a pavilion built like the open frame of a barn, I noticed a pair of swallows and a mud nest. Looking a little closer I saw a few more nests. These birds have beautiful contrasting browns, creams, and orange shades. They are proud little birds that fly like ace fighter pilots dipping and skimming close to the ground, swooping up with their characteristic scalloped, tails. They were a joy to watch. Another pair came under the pavilion and busied themselves at their nest. I looked up, then walked around realizing there were at least ten nests hidden in the eaves, plastered against the electric conduit, on top of the light fixture. I saw a head bobbing in one of the nests so I stepped up on a picnic table to get a better look. Mind you the ceiling is twenty or thirty feet high. In a split second, a swarm of swallows came swooping in like a cloud, whistling and scolding me, surrounding the one nest that seemed to have hatchlings in it. It was surprising and wonderful how they knew a threat was there and they all responded. Very cool community going on in that bird population.
  5. People laughing and excited in the middle of a mud swamped campsite. It’s amazing how if people are bent on having fun, no amount of rain, mud and altered circumstances will stop that from happening. Taking an evening walk around the campground just after a day of downpours, we passed a site with four canopies put together making a huge shelter. Underneath adults and kids were lounging on chairs or running around, a movie was playing on an outdoor screen, popcorn was popping some where in the midst of the melee. We passed a dad (had to be a dad, he had bags of cotton candy in his hands) sloshing over muddy grass, catching himself before he slipped but never losing that big contented smile that comes with truly good times. We camp as a couple. No big party going on at our site but that dad smile was contagious and I’m thankful to witness this family’s undeterred joy.

There are so many things to see around us, good, amazing, inspiring, humbling things. All the stuff of a good story! Go out and find one. Get up and write one!

5 Things I Saw Today – Camping / Turkey Chili Tip

  1. Baby toads like bugs- Taking a grassy, woodland path to a small pond, I looked down and saw bugs crawling everywhere. My first thought was giant ticks but the scientist in me was too curious to run away. I reached down and allowed one to jump on me. To my utter amazement it was a tiny toad. When I say tiny, I mean super, spectacularly, small. The one in the photo was not the smallest one I saw. It was hard to believe that an amphibious life could be that small.
  2. 17-year-old Cicada – I have a thing for bugs (and trees, and birds, and animals…okay so living things). I was lamenting that I forgot to bring my phone when my husband and I ended up on an impromptu hike (yes, we do that when camping in the woods). I said to him “I should know better to always bring a camera. Otherwise, I might miss recording something like this…” I pointed to a whitish looking thing on a tree up ahead. When I walked up to it and realized it was a newly hatched 17-year-old Cicada, I was doubly mad at myself. We ended up going back to camp and trekking out again (not a difficult hike) so I could get the shot.
  3. A kid yelling at the top of his lungs on an electric scooter – Normally loud, raucous children would be annoying, especially at a campground that is somewhat remote and in gloriously natural surroundings. We saw the family settling in their campsite up the road and within just a few minutes this seven or eight- year- old boy was speeding down the road on his electric scooter, yelling whatever was on his heart at the top of his lungs. He did this back and forth for a good forty minutes. The next morning at a reasonable eight thirty, he was at it again but this time he added bits of singing. I’m not sure if it was meant to be rap, but whatever the case, he was completely in his world. Why was this be notable and not just my rant of complaining about wild children? The joy and pure enthusiasm this child displayed was inspiring. How much I wanted to join him and be as free, oblivious of anyone else and shout and sing all that was on my heart.
  4. Chili bubbling on camp stove with cornbread – Is there anything better than a hot meal, of (low fat turkey – I mention for all my health conscious followers – tips to making this chili great below) chili and warm corn bread on a chilly rain, drenched camping night? Did you like that play on words – chili and chilly! That’s like a corny ‘dad joke’ in honor of Father’s Day.
  5. Old bills and junk mail going up in flames. It’s funny in a sad way how modern life, which has created so many conveniences, improvements in healthcare and avenues of entertainment for humans, has simultaneously complicated our lives to the point of causing depression. Don’t you think? We have a practice of instead of shredding old bills, confidential documents, and correspondences, we collect them in a basket to bring on our camping trips. Watching the latest batch, curl, and flare in the flames, brought to my mind how much information a modern family has to navigate, take action on and somehow get passed without feeling overwhelmed. These things are like wasps circling my head, ready to sting whatever peace I might have with a question, a fear if I fail to respond, a missed opportunity. When the kids were in the house, that was compounded with school mail and forms. Watching the paper examples of this deluge of information burn was somewhat cathartic. At least these have been deemed inactive. But for every paper having its last glory day of life, there are ten more in an electronic format and that’s no even talking about work. It’s no wonder some of us are running for the hills, seeking to ‘go off the grid’, live like hermits or Hobbits. Sounds good to me.

Tips on making turkey chili not taste flat:

  • Heat up a fry pan with a little, cooking oil then add the ground turkey in an even layer.
  • Don’t mix it up.
  • Keep the heat somewhat high.
  • Add spices as you prefer on the top side of the meat. We add garlic, garlic, garlic, chili powder X2; cumin; salt; basil, oregano, sometimes smoked paprika otherwise plain paprika.
  • Let the meat dry out and almost burn before turning it over.
  • Add more oil if needed to keep the sizzle going.
  • Blast the other side of the meat; add spices to the new top-side.
  • Once the meat is what would normally be considered, over-cooked then add in other ingredients as preferred such as chili spiced diced tomatoes, siracha for heat, beans with sauce, ketchup or salsa for moisture. Simmer forever then serve or better yet, make a day ahead of planned meal, refrigerate overnight and heat up to serve the next day. We do this the night before a camp-out.
  • The key point here is to nearly burn the turkey before adding additional sources of moisture. It adds a depth of flavor that combined with the spices and a little heat, does not scream ‘turkey’ or make anyone ask “where’s the beef?”.

Write on! Camp on! Make Chili or whatever else seems appropriate for a camp night in close quarters of a tent or teardrop camper.  

5 Things I Saw Today – April 30, 2021

  1. Thousands of seeds raining down in the sunshine from within the bright green of our maple tree. The tree opened her arms wide and set her children free. They danced and twirled and spread their wings in the joy of life. With every breath from the sky, a new handful released. The wind and tree together setting them off on their life’s journey. I stood under the tree feeling like a child in midst of it. These moments need to be captured. They are gifts.
  2. A thin, long, millipede with long antennae, looking otherworldly, fascinating and creepy at the same time.
  3. My ‘grand puppy’ chewing on a bone. Got to love that cute face. No really we have to love that face because we’ll be babysitting her for a week. If you think babyproofing a house for a two year old is hard, try doing it for a big puppy that vacuums tissues up until no one knows for sure, was that box full or empty?
  4. A disrespectful email to one of my team members. Made me see red. It shouldn’t surprise me but it does, that people can be so immature to think that being a leader means being assertive and being assertive means grabbing what you want from the negotiation table when no one is looking. I didn’t let that one slide by without calling her out. People need to realize in real life a nasty person is not revered like they are on television. Let’s make sure it doesn’t happen in our writing too.
  5. Unmade bed. My husband is OCD. His morning routine is maddeningly predictable except this morning. He’s retired and took on making the bed weekday mornings. So when I came in from my morning run and the bed was unmade, it was cause to check on him. He was at his usual point, making a bowl of oatmeal. I didn’t say anything, didn’t ask, but I made the bed. It could have been for any number of reasons. He didn’t feel like it, which he’s entitled to however out of character. He decided to switch up the routine, also strange but change can be good. He may have just forgot, the most concerning possibility so I’m not going to ask; “let sleeping dogs lie” until they get in the way.

That’s it. Just random observations on a random day. Maybe one of them will knock a few ideas loose in your mind and get you writing a short story, a chapter or an email to someone who needs to hear, you’ve got their back.