Weekend Coffee Share 2/18/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be lounging in the sunshine with our drinks of choice.  I’d be in a light flannel and we’d be watching the crusty piles of snow turn slowly to puddles.  We’re in a remarkably warm stretch of weather–unusual for Minnesota this time of year.

Good weather like this reminds me of a scene in the film Lars and the Real Girl.  After going bowling, Lars and Margo linger outside chatting about the weather like good Midwesterners.  Lars comments that it’s been warm lately and spring is on the way.  Margo replies, “It’s just a thaw.  Spring doesn’t come until Easter.”

So, while the sunshine and warmth is amazing, I’m not getting my hopes up.  It’s just a thaw.  We’ll probably have a new foot of snow by next week. Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share: 1/14/17

If we were having coffee, I wouldn’t be that chatty at first.  Even though it’s 10 AM as I write this, I’m still in my early-morning haze.  Since it’s January, it’s been terribly cold and snowy in Minnesota, which is perfect sleeping weather.  I hate being parted from my warm blankets… even if it means getting coffee with you.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve joined in the coffee share.  I’ve missed you all!

Life has been pretty slow over the past few weeks.  Aside from work, I haven’t had many places to go or things to do.  The holidays were so busy that I’ve been thankful for the lull.

At work, I’ve been making an effort to plan ahead.  Learning to be a librarian involves so much more than checking books in and out.  One of my goals is to start reaching out and creating community partnerships–starting with making a list of organizations and businesses to promote events at.  In addition, I’m working on being more organized and planning ahead.  The holidays snuck up on me and, aside from a few decorations, I really didn’t do anything special for my patrons.  I don’t want that to happen again!  I’ve already outlined activities and displays for next month and hope to continue the trend.

This weekend, I’m going to the cities to hang out with a friend from college.  We’re going to see La La Land (which I’ve already seen, but adored so much that I need a second round) and get dinner afterwards.  We’ve been tossing around going on a trip together this spring and will hopefully start making plans.

The rest of my weekend is likely to be spent indoors enjoying all the DVDs and graphic novels I’ve checked out from the library.  I also hope to do some writing for my blog.  I’ve got an idea for a new series that I hope to get going.  Stay tuned for more information on that in the future.

How has your week been?  Anything interesting going on in your life?  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Share link up at Part Time Monster

 

Gondolas & North Shore Connections

The North Shore of Minnesota is a feast for the spirit.  When I look out on the thick pine forests, rugged cliffs, and never ending water, all is well within me.  In a way, the beauty reminds me of who I am.

When I published my post “Thoughts From a Cold Boulder” last month, I thought that was my last time I’d get to see the place that is so dear to me.  Thankfully, I have a mom with connections.  She’s a lobbyist by trade and she represents several communities around the state.  Her job is to use the legislative process to get money to help benefit the well being of her clients.  Often times, this involves boosting tourism.

One of Mom’s biggest clients is Lutsen Mountains, the largest ski hill in the state.  Because of her connections, we were able to take a free two-day ski trip during my Spring Break last March.  Which was AWESOME.

Over the past year, Lutsen has put a lot of money into installing a new gondola.  This investment will (hopefully) bring in more people.  As the largest business in the county, this benefits the entire community.

Yesterday morning, there was a big opening ceremony for the event.  Mom decided to attend and, like the little mooch that I am, I tagged along.

We arrived Thursday night.  Mom was invited to dinner with the owners and the local senator (who is also the Senate Minority Leader and the third most powerful politician in the state).  I ate separately and enjoyed a relaxing evening watching Sleepless in Seattle in our room while she rubbed shoulders with the powerful, influential people of Cook County.

My original goal for tagging along was to go skiing.  I mean, what’s the point of going to the largest ski hill in Minnesota without hitting the slopes?  Sadly, due to an unnaturally warm December, most of Lutsen’s runs were closed.  They were making snow like crazy to be fully open by the weekend… but not in time for us.  No skiing for me.  😦

When the time for the ceremony came yesterday morning, Mom and I made our way to the shiny new gondola platform.  We were stopped and informed that it didn’t open for the general public for half an hour.  Mom quirked her head and goes, “Did Charles and Tom go up already?  We’re with them?”  That’s my mom–name dropping like a pro.

The ride from the platform to top of Moose Mountain was stunning.  They’ve been hard at work making snow and the trees were all coated in a thick layer of white.  The gondola cars have wide windows and we could see for miles and miles.  We were riding through the sky above the winter wonderland all the Christmas songs talk about.

The ceremony itself went very well.  Speeches were made, the ribbon was cut, and everyone moved inside to the chalet for coffee and cookies.  I met Lutsen’s owner and his wife invited us to come up and ski with them.  (Too bad I’m leaving the country in a few weeks…)  I met the important senator.  His wife, Laura, was VERY sweet and spent a long time talking with me.  I also met many of my mom’s Grand Marais work contacts–various business owners and such.

I’ve been attending these kind of events–press releases, grand openings, legislative hearings, etc.–since I was a kid.  I’ve learned to be a fly on the wall, following two steps behind Mom while she talks and makes connections.  I speak if spoken to, but usually stay pretty quiet.

After everything was done, we rode the gondola back down the mountain and headed to Grand Marais for lunch.  We had soup at the town’s coffee shop, then stopped by the home of one of Mom’s friends.  He’s the director of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and his wife is from England!  We stayed for a long time.  The adults talked while I made friends with one of their huskies–a retired sled dog from Scotland.

It was a long four-hours home, but the drive along Lake Superior was beautiful as always.  We went to Gooseberry Falls State Park to see if the waterfalls were still running (they were!) and made a stop in Duluth for coffee.

I love the North Shore.  When I visit, I’m reminded of who I am.  It’s almost like coming home.  From a young age, the beauty has put roots in my heart and become part of me.  I’m thankful to have had so many opportunities to visit throughout my life.  I don’t know when I’ll be back, which makes me really sad.  But no matter where I go, no matter how much life changes, it’s always there waiting to remind me of where I’m from.

On the Road Beyond Hancock

Today, I’m trying something different.  Here comes a poem…

afternoon fog lingers over the countryside

———-

fields do not roll…

they stretch, one after another

after another

after…

———-

the air I breathe is solid and white

it glimmers and the sunshine cannot break its hold

———-

as I pass by,

the silver patches

of tree branches laden with glisten & glaze

loom from the haze

winking

———-

is this real? I wonder

or is it all a dream?

———-

As I drove across the prairie yesterday afternoon, heading home from a visit to my college town, I found myself on unfamiliar roads in an afternoon fog.  The sun was shining, but I could not see more than twenty feet in front of me.  The land in that part of the state is unbelievably flat, with a big, open sky.  Everything was white–the air felt fathomless and empty.  Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, the trees were covered in hoar frost.  I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of my car, and spent several minutes taking in the view.

It felt like I had been dropped into a fairytale.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

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On the Shelf: Winter by Marissa Meyer

FINALLY, the conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s fantastic Lunar Chronicles series.  This book was released on my birthday and it was one of my favorite gifts.

This post contains spoilers.

winter-finalMy rating: 4 / 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

To answer the question in the summary: Yes they can.

I knew that these books would tie up neatly.  The tone in which they are written doesn’t imply defeat.  It was clear that all would end well, that Cinder would cast down Levana and reclaim the the Lunar throne.  I knew that the four couples would get together.

But, oh, how I loved the ride.

The thing about this series is that it’s not perfect.  To be honest, the characterization is patchy at points.  I like most of the male characters, but some of the heroines *cough*Scarlet*cough* are boring.  The plot tends to be predictable.

But what Meyer does is create a world and enjoyable that is so original that I can’t help overlook the weak points.  I loved my time in these books.  There are a lot of dystopian YA worlds out there and while the way her Earth is structured is similar to many of its contemporaries, the existence of Luna makes hers unique.  I mean, she’s got a society of magical aliens who can manipulate people’s minds who live on the moon!  How cool is that?

I adore the way Meyer merges dystopian lit with fairytales.  She balances them well.  Throughout the series, we see familiar moments: Cinderella losing her shoe, Red Riding Hood searching for her grandmother, Rapunzel escaping her tower, Snow White eating a poisoned apple.  But they’re morphed: Cinder is a cyborg and loses a foot and Cress is a computer-hacker and escapes a satellite.  Meyer strikes a wonderful balance between reteling stories from long ago while creating something new.  She has the hallmark moments, but those moments don’t overwhelm the story.  It’s almost as if the story pauses over the moments, acknowledges the source material, and then pulses forward into something entirely new.

While some of her characters get old, the rest are incredibly endearing.  Cinder is probably my favorite.  For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know I’m a sucker for a good Cinderella retelling and Meyer’s princess has stolen my heart.  I mean… she’s a cyborg mechanic!  How cool is that?  She meets the fairytale requirements, but also throws them off entirely.  I also really love Carsewell Thorne, the dashing, obnoxious thief who is the hero of the third installment of the series.  Cress is timid to the point of being annoying, but definitely grew on me.  I couldn’t help love Winter and Jacin’s relationship.  Iko, though, remained one of my favorite characters.  Even though she’s an android, she is incredibly human.  She’s the perfect companion for Cinder, matching Cinder’s quiet intensity with her bubbly charm.  More than once, her swooning and sighing over attractive men and beautiful fashion made me laugh out loud.

I won’t go too far into revealing plot details, but the story doesn’t disappoint.  Characters are constantly coming together and becoming separated, various storylines weaving together towards the final conclusion.  The final showdown between Cinder and Levanna is extremely satisfying.  The happily-ever-after wraps up all the loose ends.

When I reached the end of Winter, all I wanted to do was go back and read the series again.  Meyer’s fairytale retellings are endearing, successful, and I know they will grow on me the more time I spend with them.

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Fan art by candy8496 on DeviantArt

Be sure to check out my review of Fairest: Levanna’s Story as well!

On the Shelf: Fantasy Trilogies Galore

I’ve been reading a lot lately, but have totally shirked my book reviews.  Oops.  The stresses of my new job have me spending evenings rolling around on the couch in a sweater and leggings, avoiding anything that requires thinking.

So, until I’m able to write any focused reviews, here’s a bit of what I’ve been digging into over the past few weeks!

His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers:

I’ve been seeing things about this trilogy for quite a while, but never engaged until now.  I downloaded an ebook version of the first novel, Grave Mercy, from my local library and was off to the races.  I completed the trilogy in five days and loved them so much I ran online to order physical copies.

These books aren’t the most well-written in the world, but they’re incredibly fresh and original.  The premise is a convent in medieval France where they are dedicated to serving Mortain, the patron saint of Death.  Novices are trained as assassins and sent into the world to do Death’s bidding.  Each book is very different in flavor, although all have their share of romance.  Grave Mercy is, in many ways, a political thriller.  Dark Triumph is very dark and personal.  Mortal Heart is a coming-of-age tale.

If you like historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, these books are a must-read.

The Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

I read the first three books of this now-longer series in high school and have been hankering to revisit them ever since.  That being said, I picked up Rhapsody on a Friday and had all 2,000+ pages of the series read ten days later.  You’d think that a series this long would have dull points, but I couldn’t put these down.  (And this is my second time through!)  Haydon has created a story that suck you in and doesn’t let go until the ride is done.

The books tell the story of Rhapsody, a young singer who finds herself swept into an adventure across Time to learn of a prophecy that foretells her destiny to be a key force in destroying evil.  Through her journey, she encounters a vast array of characters that are diverse, complex, and wonderful.  Haydon’s universe is vast, with deeply structured, believable cultures and religions.  Her world-building is top-notch.  The scope of the story is epic, leading up to a satisfying, memorable conclusion.

If you’re a fantasy fan, add these to your list.

Right now, I’m also re-reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I’m loving it even more this time around.  Maybe I’ll make a focused On the Shelf discussing it in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, when I finish that, I’m going to dig into Winter by Marissa Meyer.

Here’s to more books!  Keep an eye out for more On the Shelf posts in the coming weeks.

Crossing Campus in Late March

Minnesotans wait a long time for Spring.  Winter marks its territory in November and stays with us until mid-April.  The month of March is the most difficult to get through–most of the snow is gone, the ground is starting to soften, but most of the world is still a frozen wasteland.

But then there’s that day when you catch it: the slight scent of spring.  I don’t even know how to describe it, really.  It’s just a subtle freshness in the air.  It’s slight, but it seeps down into your soul, giving you fresh energy to make it through a few more weeks of winter.  The thing is, though, if you don’t pay attention, you miss it.

A few years ago, during a particularly long, miserable winter, I was in a poetry class.  I don’t do much creative writing these days, but I’ve resurrected something I wrote on the subject of the first scent of spring.  I re-edited it just now to make it decent enough to post. In light of a Blogging 101 assignment (which I discuss below), I’ve decided to share it with you all.  My theme wasn’t cooperating and formatting some of the words the way I wanted, so I made an image version.

———————————————— CrossingCampus Poem Text ————————————————

This post was created for a Blogging 101 assignment that had to do with writing based on a prompt.  I wrote from the following, found on The Daily Post:

From the yeasty warmth of freshly baked bread to the clean, summery haze of lavender flowers, we all have favorite smells we find particularly comforting. What’s yours?

I’ve always enjoyed prompt-based writing, but I haven’t done any in a long time.  I really enjoyed crafting this post, revisiting old writing, and sharing with you all.  This stretched me in a way I’m not used to, and it feels good to push myself.

You now know about one of my favorite smells.  So now I have to ask: What’s yours?

Kissing Snow

My best friend calls it kissing snow.

You know–the kind with big puffy flakes.  The kind that floats gently as you walk hand in hand with your significant other down the street.  You cross under a street lamp and, pausing, steal a kiss.

Minnesota is known for its winter.  Therefore, the fact that it snowed today is neither significant nor important.

But as I sat in the basement of the Humanities building for hours and hours upon end, I watched the fluffy flakes fall and fell into the happy land of my own imagination.  I’ve never experienced the full delight of kissing snow.  Every time it falls, I look forward to the day I have someone to share it with.

So even though snowfall isn’t something out of the ordinary, in the middle of a busy day, it made my heart a little bit lighter.

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Campus in the snow. Taken from my University’s Facebook page.

 

 

It’s too early for Christmas

As the song says, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.  There’s something magical about looking out at the world covered in snow and drinking warm cups of cocoa before the fire as Nat King Cole croons from the stereo.  When family comes from near and far to share feasts and exchange gifts, my heart just soars.  It’s the best time of the year.

For me, Christmastime is sacred.  Like a little kid waiting and longing so much to open the presents under the Christmas tree, I wait and long for it to come.  It’s the waiting, for me, that makes the season so special.  Delaying my gratification only makes it that much better when it’s finally here.

When I went to the store mere days after Halloween to buy milk to see a full-fledged Christmas section in all its red and green splendor, I was appalled.  When I see Facebook statuses from eager friends listening to Christmas music, I cringe.  When, in the first week of November, I turn on the t.v., flip through the channels, and see Christmas movies playing on Hallmark, I want to scream.

The commercialization of Christmas absolutely disgusts me.  It takes all the splendor and joy out of the season and crushes it with greed.  The money-grubbing stores that are opening Thanksgiving afternoon make me sick.  Apparently waiting ’till Black Friday just isn’t enough.  Let’s gloss over the holiday themed around being grateful for the things we have and go straight for buying all the things we don’t.

Dear society, where is your self-control?

If we celebrate Christmas all the time, it decreases in value.  It’s a time that you need to wait for.  Waiting, hoping, and longing make it that much sweeter.

I know there’s nothing I can do to make people stop destroying the magic of Christmas by starting celebrations too early.  My words can’t stop stores from selling as much as they can, nor will they be able to stop the hoards of raging Christmas fans from over-indulging before Thanksgiving is even around the corner.  But whoever you are reading this, do you really want the most wonderful time of the year tarnished and spoiled because of capitalism and lack of self-control?

I certainly don’t.

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Twenty Two

I might as well come right out and say it… today is my birthday.

Slogging through six inches of snow was not how I imagined spending my first day of being twenty-two.  But this is Minnesota, and Minnesota does what it wants.

On this day last year, I was in Oxford, England.  How many people can say they spent their twenty-first birthday in Oxford?  (British people aside, that is.)  It was one of the best days I’ve ever had.  I splurged on shopping, toured some of the colleges, and had my first drink at the Eagle and Child pub.  It was quite the adventure, and you can hear all about it (and see pictures!) on my old study abroad blog.

My twenty-second birthday is definitely not as epic, but still has been incredibly special.  My mom came to visit yesterday.  We drove up the road to Alexandria and went antique shopping, wandered around town, and had a special dinner at an expensive restaurant.  We sat eating for several hours, enjoying each other’s company and opening cards and gifts.  The day ended relaxing in her hotel, where we did some online shopping.

I spent the night in the hotel and had the joy of commuting to campus in five inches of snow.  The local school district cancelled everything today, but the University never closes.  I keep telling myself that God just wanted to drop LOTS of natural confetti to celebrate my special day… it’s a nice thought, but not super effective.

Outside of the normal Monday routine, do I have anything special birthday plans?  Not really.  All my normal Monday night events were cancelled due to the ghastly weather.  So it looks like I’ll be staying in and watching movies with the roommates.  It’ll be nice.  I’ll wear comfy clothes, eating goodies, and avoiding homework because…

I’ll also be rocking out to the following song in my head, even though I absolutely loathe it.  But it’s my birthday.  I’m twenty-two.  I’m going to break all my rules.  (Then go back to loathing it tomorrow.)