Halloween, Halloween . . . Trick or Treat


Oh, the weather outside is frightful, and this is just the way my hub, Michael Myers, and I like it when it comes to Halloween.  Our teen neighbor joins in as we attempt to scare the local kiddos on their hunt for candy.  This year the hub constructed a black screen on our porch to block the trick or treaters’ view of the bucket of candy.  They had to pass through a gate, walk past a moving witch, and then peer behind the blackness.  Hey, we like to make squirts work for their treats.

IMG_1279Today fellow parent volunteers and I are scaring the first-grade students in my daughter’s class with an Ooky Station complete with dried ears (pig ears), tongues (dried apricots), fingers (turkey jerky), bloody intestines (spaghetti with sauce), warts (raisins), bloody skin (lasagna noodles with sauce), eyeballs (garlic-stuffed olives), and bones (thick pretzel sticks).  Needless to say, Halloween is by far my favorite.

Tonight we will Tent or Treat at Troy United Methodist Church, and tomorrow once kiddo activities are complete, we will shop the bargain racks at spooky stores in search of ideas for next year’s celebration.

How do you celebrate Halloween?

The Paleo Slow Cooker

paleoslowcookerPerusing the aisles of the local Whole Foods, I spotted the cookbook section where Arsy Vartanian’s The Paleo Slow Cooker caught my eye with its vibrant picture of Ground Lamb with Pine Nuts and Mint.  After a quick flip, I added this cookbook to my cart.

Having a slow cooker at home, I thought this would be an ideal way to introduce the “Paleo Template” (Vartanian 8) to my family.  Up late into the night reading The Paleo Slow Cooker, I was inspired by the simple recipes and rarely used (by me) ingredients.  In addition, the organization of the book seemed ideal for the Paleo beginner like myself such as an Introduction with a Guide to Using Fats and Oils.  Color-coded chapters represent recipes for different proteins as well as appetizers and desserts.  Who knew one could make a Paleo-friendly finish to a meal in the slow cooker?

Anxious to attempt a recipe, I was drawn to the Chicken with Mushrooms and Artichokes.  Easy!  The recipe called for ingredients I typically cook with and have on hand such as boneless/skinless chicken breasts, onions, and mushrooms.  Thrilled the recipe also called for paprika, I think I have only ever used this spice as a finishing touch to deviled eggs.

Browning the paprika-coated chicken breasts.
Chopped onions ready to brown and then toss into the slow cooker.
Artichokes, mushrooms, and onions being browned in a heavy-bottomed pan.

With aromas filling the air as cooking time increased, my girls asked to sample the dish immediately upon completion.  My eldest daughter responded, “This chicken is tender!” a definite thumbs up coming from an eight-year-old.

My critique of this work first comes due to a split infinitive, “If you choose to not include . . .”  (32), and then followed by a spelling error, ” . . . conatins” (39).  The English teacher within is hyperventilating!  In an ideal world, too, I would definitely appreciate additional stunning pictures of the dishes.  For me, I like to know if what I cooked is close to being on the right track because I am, without a doubt, a novice when it comes to Paleo preparation.

Joy Santee

Why do you write? Right now, I'm mostly writing for work, which means I'm writing to demonstrate that I know stuff and am actively participating in my scholarly discipline (rhetoric and composition). I'm interested in what I write, but not many others will be. I feel like I'll be ready to write more enjoyable things down the road--more about my travels and such--but all those ideas are still just rolling around in my head at the moment.

Describe where you write. I have a home office and use my desk almost exclusively for writing. I just hung up a new map of the US between the IKEA lamps on either corner of the desk, but I don't think that will help me with my wanderlust problem...I do keep the desk clean when I'm being a productive writer so I have one less excuse to sit down and get to work. I do my more creative writing on the couch.

Who or what is your muse? Hmm. I'm tempted to say myself, but that's probably not the right answer. Maps are probably my best muse since they can show so many partial perspectives of a single place. Look at them a little differently and they'll show you something new!

Three wishes . . . If I tell you, they might not come true!

Favorite childhood book, and why? Voyage of the Dawn Treader--I didn't know travel writing was a genre then, but this was as close as I got!

Explain when is your ideal time to write. My best time to do academic writing is first thing in the morning so I'm sitting at my desk before I'm fully awake. It's less painful that way.

Name a book you would reread again and again, and why. I re-read a lot of books, particularly the easy reads that let me just relax. My most recent re-read was the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce.  I read the first book during elementary school and finally picked up ebook versions so I could read them all again.

E-book or print? Why? Depends on the book. Fluff reading = ebook (read on my phone). More serious books = print so I can take some notes and fold over some corners.

Favorite magazine, and why? I don't subscribe to any, but I'll sometimes pick up a design or woodworking magazine. Dwell was my most recent purchase, I think.

What would you like readers to take away from your writing? Academic writing: Maps are cool, complex documents that can change how we see and act in the world. Travel writing: Go outside and play!


On Frozen Socks: Backpacking Reflections on Wild and A Walk in the Woods

On May 17 of this year, I woke up to frozen socks. I was prepared for a lot of things on the trail–mosquitos, hunger, a broken shoelace–but I hadn’t anticipated frozen socks. A winter of heavy snow and frigid temperatures coupled with a late spring where I was hiking in Minnesota meant for a very wet trail, so my socks were going to be wet no matter what. I needed to keep my second pair of socks dry in case of hypothermia, so I warmed up a little water on my camp stove, poured it into a Ziploc with my frozen socks, and waited for them to thaw out. Putting them on that morning and getting my feet into mostly frozen shoes was a most uncomfortable sensation, but cold, wet socks became part of my daily routine over the next weeks as I thru-hiked the 300-mile Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota.

A Wild Walk in the Woods

Every backpacker has heard the questions. “Have you read A Walk in the Woods? What about that Wild book?” Maybe you’ve read them, too, and have been thinking about heading into the woods yourself, but those books won’t give you a great idea of the day-to-day life of a backpacker or prepare you to go into the woods, especially alone. A quick look at those books will show you that most pages are about something other than backpacking. Like any good book, those books are about people–their dramas, their emotions–but there’s relatively little actual backpacking in either book. They do, however, speak to the power of words to motivate action. With both Wild and A Walk in the Woods coming out as movies in 2014 and 2015, respectively, backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail are anticipating even more people on the trails after their release.

Know Before You Go

If you’re thinking about becoming one of those backpackers or even just a day hiker, here are a few more practical bits of advice that you won’t find in those books.

  1. Communicate your plans. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you have to cut off your own arm because you didn’t tell anyone where you’d be or when you were expected to return (See Between a Rock and a Hard Place or the film version 127 Hours).
  2. Stay within your physical capacity. If that means starting off with a 2-mile hike, then do that. You’re probably capable of more, but being conservative and staying well within your physical capacity means that you’ll have some energy left if you do get into a bad situation or end up having to go farther than you’d planned. This is especially true if, like me, you hike alone.
  3. Carry what you need. The Ten Essentials is a good list of basics that will help keep you safe. I carry these things even on short day hikes because you never know when a sprained ankle will keep you in the woods far longer than you’d planned.
  4. But don’t carry too much. If you’re planning an overnight trip, your pack weight will have a lot to do with your happiness on the trail. That doesn’t mean that you should go out and buy the latest and greatest ultralight gear (although shopping for that gear can be fun!). The lightest things you carry are the things you leave at home. You don’t need a different outfit for each day or a full set of pans or an extra pair of shoes or a whole bar of soap or an 800-page novel. Leave those things home to lighten your load.
  5. Train. If you’re planning a longer trip, your body will thank you if you train. Get some miles on your legs and some callouses on your feet before you head out for a long trip. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you aren’t fighting blisters or sore muscles every mile.
  6. Finally, moderate your expectations. Most people who head out on trails do so as a way to escape everyday life. The trail can definitely help you get away (I told more than one person that my trip was an escape from my email), but no matter where you go, there you are. If you’re dealing with personal issues, those aren’t going to magically go away just because you are outside. Some people find mental clarity on the trail, but in my experience, you’ll spend most of your time thinking about the location of your next water source, how much food you have left before your next resupply, how to keep mosquitos and ticks away, and how much daylight you have to get to the next campsite.

Reading and Writing in the Woods

Walking, eating, and sleeping will take up most of each day, so if you want to spend time reading or writing, you may have to schedule them in just like you do in your regular life. However, there are a few additional logistical complications. For reading, I decided not to carry a book because of weight, but I did carry an extra battery for my phone so I could read using the Kindle app. I ended up reading about one book per week on the trail this way. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks had been on my reading list for a while, so I worked my way through it during the first few days on the trail, but I soon moved on to three books by Minnesota author Ken Nerburn based on a quick flip through the pages of Neither Wolf Nor Dog. I liked the idea of reading an author whose work had been written near where I was walking, and the themes of nature that thread through his books on Native Americans were an appropriate accompaniment to my Minnesota hike.

For writing…well, I didn’t really write while I was on the trail. I took a pencil and small notebook and took a (very) few notes here and there, but I didn’t do any concentrated writing. After so many years of writing on a computer, I find it difficult to write long-hand. While I did think I’d want a written record of the trip and have compiled such records in the past (most extensively for a cross-country bicycle trip in 2006), I recognized that this particular trip was about me experiencing the trail without significant reporting or reflection in the moment. In some ways, backpacking is simply less interesting than bicycle touring in terms of immediate storytelling potential because I met very few people. Also, since I wasn’t dealing with any intense personal drama like Cheryl Strayed, I just had little to write about in the moment.

If you do plan to write on the trail, I know some backpackers get an external keyboard to use with their phone, but I didn’t think I’d use it enough to make it worth the extra weight and thought it would use up too much battery anyway. If you want to write a lot, a keyboard may be worth it, but remember that you’ll mostly be typing in your tent, so try out any set-up sans table before you commit to carrying it on the trail.

While I didn’t write a lot, I did take a lot of pictures. You can see the best here!


By Joy Santee/@Circumtrektion

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (13)

My English 111 students are currently reading what I believe to be two thought-provoking essays:  Nicholas Carr’s “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” and Sherry Turkle’s “Connectivity and Its Discontents.”  The former argues the Internet “. . . with its constant distractions and interruptions, is also turning us into scattered and superficial [emphasis is mine] thinkers” (Kirszner and Mandell 217).  A further essay written by Alice Mathias entitled “The Fakebook Generation”  characterizes Facebook as an “. . . online community theater”  (229).  So, with this being said and, of course, being biased on the issue, I choose to portray my life in all honesty today with all its struggles, tears, and setbacks.  To me, honesty is what matters and what truly connects us all.

My day started with a “bang” to say the least.  With my youngest on Daisy Pee Pee Duty this morning, she opened the back door to let our newest family member out to do her business.  Before my six-year-old had a chance to open the screen door too, Daisy Duke chose to create an opening of her own.  Now we truly are in need of Hillary Farr from Love It or List It.

screenYes, tears were shed at this reality, but not for the mourning of a screen.  Instead, my laughter resulted in a waterfall of sorts down my cheek.  The expression on my daughter’s face was truly priceless, a snapshot of which will be permanently stored in my memory bank.

So, today share your truth.  I double dare you.

Daisy Meets the Dog Park

WP_20141021_001While on our morning walk, Daisy and I decided to explore the Bark Park at Miner Park.  Located behind the Glen Carbon Centennial Library among mature trees, a baseball diamond, and two playgrounds, we wound our way on the paved path to the entrance.  Relieved no other dogs were present as we are on a strict no-sniff policy, an aspect of dog training learned at Cindy’s Critters.

Inside the chain link fence, we discovered grass void of any “boom booms” as my girls label number two deposits.  Refreshing!  Rules are clearly stated on the entrance gate, and the Bark Park supplies bags for clean-up as well as a conveniently located trash receptacle.

WP_20141021_010Immediately Daisy “got her sniff on.”

WP_20141021_005 WP_20141021_006 WP_20141021_008 WP_20141021_009After a time, I put her back on the leash so that we could complete our fifteen minute daily training homework assigned by Master Dog Trainer/Behaviorist John Dahman of Animal Specialties.  We have almost mastered the sit and stay with only two classes under our belt.  Oh yeah!

WP_20141021_002So, if you are a dog lover looking to explore a dog-friendly park with your four-legged best friend, be sure and visit Bark Park at Miner Park, a definite two-paws-up park.

Five Minute Friday: Long

Long.  “The days are long, but the years are short,” was a saying I heard often while at home with my two squirts both under the age of three.  Looking back, there was so much truth to this saying.  Juggling two kiddos’ sleep schedules with one having feedings every three hours and the other with three hour naps in the afternoon, I now realize I was awake far more hours than I was asleep;  the days were definitely long.  Now, though, with both girls above the age of five, those long days seemed to have passed in a flash.  Having a wall of pictures in our house, I relive those long days daily through my memory, but often wish those days were still here.


During one of those long days, I met a woman who changed the meaning of those long, sometimes lonely days.  With her two children being the same age as mine, we filled these long days with a lot of laughter and continue to do so to this day.  I am grateful for her in my life, and on this day, her birthday, I wish her a long life filled with much love.

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (12)

Last year a dear friend introduced me to The World Needs More Love Letters, and I absolutely fell in love with the purpose of this site as well as the backstory of this site.  Since then I have incorporated interaction with MoreLoveLetters.com into my English 111 Syllabus as a means of reinforcing the impact of the written word.  So, for today’s Writing Workshop Wednesdays, use this rainy day (if you are in the Midwest) to create and send a letter to a special someone (or two or three . . .) in need of encouragement or praise, but do not sign your name.  The point is to use your words in a positive manner for someone else, not for the purpose of being acknowledged.  Peruse those in need of letters here if you cannot think of a recipient on your own.  If you know of someone in need of a letter, please post in the comments section below.  You truly will be glad you did.


Sunday Thanks: Gpa O.

Ninety-one years young is the age my hub’s grandpa is turning today, and I am so grateful to have him in my life.  I first met him twelve years ago at my then boyfriend’s (now hub) doctoral defense.  I had not met any family members to this point, and this is the day I met not only his parents and brother, but also his grandparents.  I was definitely sweating bullets.

A couple of weeks later, the then boyfriend (now hub) and I drove to his grandparents’ house for the day.  They live on some land complete with two fishing ponds, horses, dogs, and at the time, two llamas.  After lunch, Grandpa decided to take us out on his boat so that we could water-ski (my first and only time to date).


The then boyfriend (now hub) used his slalom ski and danced on the water with ease before it was my turn.  Talk about pressure.  With patience, Grandpa navigated the water with my repeated attempts until I finally was able to stand on my skis for close to thirty seconds, and it was glorious.  Yet, riding the inner tube connected to the back of the boat proved to be more my speed.

Enjoying our time on the water, we all initially missed the acrid stench coming from the engine which eventually turned into billowing smoke.  Stranded on the lake without a working engine, Grandpa reached for his oar and began paddling.  Shocked, to say the least, to witness such a feat from a grandpa, I remember nudging the then boyfriend (now hub) and whispering, “Don’t you think you should do the paddling?”  After all the then boyfriend (now hub) did competitively lift weights.  The then boyfriend (now hub) responded, “No, he likes to do this.”  Shaking my head in disbelief, Grandpa continued to paddle with barely a hint of perspiration on his forehead.

Twelve years later, I now thoroughly understand what a pillar of a human being this man is, possessing strength not only in his physicality, but also his character.  So, without a doubt I am thankful for Gpa O. and wish him the best of birthdays on this day.

For what are you thankful?