Limited Internet access. More later.
A peek out our mid-winter Thunder Bay hotel window. Minus 28 degrees. Snow in the spruce. Bottle of wine and box of pizza on the coffee table. First leg of the trip to Cuba.
Tomorrow at this time, full moon rising from the Caribbean, naked toes writhing in the sand, Mojito and Monte Cristo in hand, warm breezes through the palms.
Four steps to a pretty good cookout:
1) Get a fire started in early afternoon.
2) Carve out a refrigerated drink holder within arm's reach of your fireside chair. Sit there for a few hours and keep an eye on the fire. Top up beverage as necessary. Repeat.
3) Sometime before dusk insert cooking grate and top with wrapped packets of potatoes, onions, and garlic butter over modest heat.
4) After an hour or so lower the grate so it just grazes the coals and lay on a couple juicy ribeyes.
Add a couple logs to the coals after plating the grand dinner and swinging the cooking grate to the side. After the meal the fire will provide the perfect ambience for a cigar and after dinner glass of wine as you sit in the silence of a snowy January night.
I glanced over to the table beside me a few minutes ago and noticed my spring garden catalog, partially hidden behind the computer monitor where I had tossed it a few days ago.
From where I sat, my vision of next summer's planting took on a whole new perspective.
As I giggled at the silliness, my mind wandered to the years I attended sports shows a couple decades ago in Minneapolis. At one particular intersection on Stinson Blvd. that I drove daily a sign advertised a business, apparently a small home-based enterprise operated by Violet who sold curtains and such.
With amazing regularity I was the first vehicle stopped at the red light there where a utility pole obscured a small piece of the sign that now read, "Violet's raperies".
And I always wondered if Violet had ever been stopped in her car at that intersection when the traffic light turned red.
Last weekend Mary and I stayed home. It's the first time I can remember, ever, that we've missed time at camp because of cold. I feel like a first-class wimp.
Tonight, as you've likely guessed, we're at camp. This morning's temperature was minus 39, so we waited until noon to make the breakaway. By then the outdoor heat was registering minus 29 so we hightailed it out while the going was good. Twelve layers of insulated underwear and sweaters kept us toasty on the trail - except for a few patches of exposed cheek and chin sticking out from our mad trapper hats and snowmobile helmets.
Now, four roaring-fire hours after arrival, the cabin has warmed up enough to sit around comfortably with only two layers of clothes and one pair of wool socks in the moccasins. Unfortunately my box of wine is still frozen, but the scotch stayed liquid so I have something to accompany a nice cigar. Pretty sure the wine will be thawed in time for breakfast.
Attached is a picture of a framed watercolor painting I bought at a craft market here last month. Great story behind this painting, created by a talented local lady, and friend. I have it hanging at camp now.
I am sitting in my big bird watching chair at the moment. Sun has set and it's pitch black outside the window. And I'm typing on my little phone screen (you can imagine how much that thrills me) so won't carry on much more here for the moment.
Cheers, my friends.
P.S. About five years ago I carved this coffee scoop from a diamond willow tree. It was a nice late winter day so I sat on the deck at camp after finishing the carving, set the little spoon on the rail where I was feeding sunflower seeds to the birds, and proceeded to daydream.
The afternoon was bright and thoroughly pleasant, with the heat of the sun streaming down on me, and the chickadees flying so close that they occasionally grazed my face on their way to feed.
During my drowsy delight, this cheeky chicky landed on the spoon, and chirped, "So, you made this little perch just for me? Thanks, man!"
I enjoy some simple carving, and get a kick out of taking pictures. I'm an amateur of both, at best.
For some reason I loved this picture. Maybe because the day was so marvelous, maybe because I had created the scoop, possibly because the picture turned out so cute. Who knows? I guess several factors converged.
In the years since, I have given the coffee scoop to one of my best friends (who still uses it nearly every day) and have used the picture on my web site (dickshideaway.com), on calendars I print every year for a handful of friends, and on my business card. It's an indulgence I've basked in, just because...
Last month I was working a craft market booth, selling our Rotary ice candles for the upcoming Christmas memorial service.
I didn't see her coming, but realized suddenly at one moment that my friend Norah Laverty was standing beside me, holding up her framed water color for me to see.
It was love at first sight (the painting, not Norah). I bought it immediately and began imagining right where I would hang it at camp.
And it's hanging there now, and I'm flattered as all heck that Norah saw the picture somewhere and believed it was nice enough to create such a beautiful work of art.
The sun is up on this eve of Christmas, 2017. 8:15 a.m. It's a cozy 20 degrees (70F) as I sit in my housecoat sipping camp coffee, admiring the view out my window.
On the other side of the glass, an arm's reach from my perch, the chickadees are feeding merrily. Temperature minus 30 (-21F).
I must be on ol' Santa's good boy list to be so blessed.
View at dusk, from the front window at camp. Our first night out for seven weeks, and a wonderful, peaceful evening it is.
The waxing crescent moon, leading to the New Year's day full monty, shines beautifully on the landscape and a Canadian National train passing on the far shore, enroute to the east coast.
Birch and pine, blazing in the fireplace, warm us on this gorgeous evening in the forest.
Woo hoo. First look at camp since open water in early November.
Got a fire going inside right away so will have good heat in a couple hours.
If anybody is out and around I would welcome a hand extricating my snow machine from deep snow on my trail about 300 yards from camp.
Yesterday afternoon a small group of friends came to sit around the fire pit on my deck and enjoy each other's companionship, as well as cigars and "hot chocolate".
Among the finest moments was when I brought out a small plate of my home smoked, maple syrup glazed whitefish to pass around. It was a real hit! Matter of fact, when the afternoon was over one of the guys took home a few left-over pieces, still raving about the wonder of smoked whitefish.
This morning I post the following message:
Good morning, guys.
Nice afternoon by the fire yesterday. Glad everybody was here.
This morning I'm feeling a bit sheepish. As I reached into the refrigerator for some bacon, I noticed my little baggie of smoked whitefish (here's what it looks like) snuggled right up against the slab of pig in the meat drawer.
Curiously, my little baggie of smoked chicken breast jerky is missing.
We are sure enjoying our new fire pit/grill. It'll go to camp (when ice conditions allow us to get there in two or three weeks) and be a cherished addition to the Palace. For now, we're testing it out on the deck at home.
Today I ground equal amounts of blade steaks and chicken thighs (including skin) for barbequed burgers. They grilled up beautifully, and the texture was exquisite, but taste was pretty bland. Next time I think I'll try sirloin and add the old standbys parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (and a bit of finely chopped onion).
Any suggestions for spices in this concoction? It's a new experience for me. Lots of promise, but needs a boost.