Lost and Found in the Woods

L.L. Bean Camel Coat, Pea Coat, Minnesota Woods

Lands’ End pea coat, H&M sweater, Gap Really Skinny pants, Cole Haan boots

Yesterday, an impromptu detour led me to the vacant lot next to the house I grew up in back in rural Minnesota. My parents moved away a decade ago, but I’ll never forget the rambling, single-story home tucked back in the marsh that always smelled like woodsmoke. Back in 1997, the owner of the lot next door shipped in dozens of rocks over the course of three summers. Rumor was, the owner ran out of money before actually building the house and abandoned it. It still stands empty, a rock graveyard amidst farmland.

I used to walk these woods during my embarrassingly emo high school days, sighing about unrequited crushes and wishing I had sleek hair and clear skin like the cool girls. I’d give myself pep talks and reassure myself that things would get better and one day I’d have the big city life I dreamed of. Ten years later, the silent woods still provoked that same feeling of anticipation, of being at the beginning of my life and hoping that the best was yet to come.

That very night, a girl approached me at my family’s church. She had the same glasses, gangly legs, and frizzy hair that marked me during high school, and she excitedly told me about how she played clarinet in the marching band (I played flute) and was president of the debate team (I was mock trial). Her eyes widened when she learned that I lived all the way in San Francisco with my husband, and she wanted to know everything about the city. I asked her how she liked high school, and her face clouded before saying, “It’s… ok.”

She didn’t have to say it, because I lived it. I wanted to tell her that she was special and that her life would take off as soon as she escaped high school and its cruel inhabitants. I wanted to tell her that she’d finally get her first kiss and that she would blossom and find her passion and amazing people to share the ride. Her intelligence and kindness would become assets instead of liabilities.

I held back from speaking aloud, which I regret now, even though I probably would’ve sent her running for the hills. But talking to her and being here touched something in me, and those long-ago walks in the woods suddenly seemed very near.

L.L. Bean Camel Coat, Pea Coat, Minnesota Woods

L.L. Bean Camel Coat, Pea Coat, Minnesota Woods

Minnesota woods, twilight woods, winter

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Perfect Spiced Apple Cider + Spiked Variation

Perfect Spiced Cider Recipe
I know I’m guilty of blurring the edges between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but spiced apple cider is the perfect fall/winter beverage that spans the two holidays. This slow-steeped version is guaranteed to fill your living space with the smell of the season, and I can’t undergo a holiday task (defrosting the Tofurky, baking a pie, wrapping presents, etc.) without a comforting mug.

Make sure you’re using whole spices, not powdered, or you’ll end up with a tasty but oddly-textured sludge. This also works beautifully in a crockpot for a party, but you’ll miss out on some of the spicy scent in the air. I usually just let the pot cool and leave it out on the stove until I want to hear it up again, which makes cleanup minimal (always a nice thing, right?). The last cup of cider in the pot is quite sweet & spiced, so I’ll often mix it with unsweetened chai tea to balance it out.

If you want to spike the cider, I’ve found that adding the brown sugar balances out the taste of the rum nicely.Cider Spices, Cinnamon Sticks, Nutmeg, Cloves

Serves 10


1.5 gallons apple juice or cider (I prefer Indian Summer)
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp. whole cloves (15-20)
2 pieces star anise
meat from one nutmeg pod (they’re usually sold whole & you’ll need to crack it open like a shelled walnut)
Optional (boozy version): 1/3 c. dark brown sugar and 3/4 c. spiced rum


1. Combine all ingredients (except sugar and rum, if applicable) in a large soup pot.
2. Heat on medium until simmering. Reduce heat to low and heat 1-1.5 hours or until volume has reduced by a fourth. Remove from heat.
3. Optional: After removing from heat, stir in brown sugar until completely dissolved. Stir in rum and serve.

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Minnesota Layers & Leaves

Minnesota Layers & Leaves 1

cAbi leather vest, Banana Republic sweater, cAbi skirt (similar here), H&M scarf (see it again here and here), Nine West boots, Laura Mercier Creme in “Bing Cherry” on lips

When I first moved to San Francisco, Jim and I got a kick out of seeing its citizens flailing and crying whenever the thermometer dropped below 50 degrees. We’d snicker and point whenever we saw someone bundled up in an ankle-length puffy coat that would be reserved for sub-zero temperatures back in our Minneapolis and Chicago hometowns. Wussies! we’d think. If only the spent a winter in Minnesota, they’d know what cold is and prepare for it.

Now, I’m one of them.

I’m visiting my family in Minnesota as I write this, and I simply didn’t pack enough warm stuff to wear. There’s a fresh carpet of snow on the ground, and the weather forecasts a high of 25º today. Yep, it’s cold.

One of the benefits of visiting my parents is that I can leave most of my belongings at home, since my mom uses most of the same products I do. She and I wear the same clothing size, so I wouldn’t pack PJ’s and winter coats. This time around, I wanted to explore her closet and see if I could create a full outfit.

I chose this fall-colored ensemble because it feels like me, but with some key differences. The sweater and scarf are my own, and everything else is my mom’s. I clearly have a miniskirt problem, and I don’t actually own any skirts that fall below the knee (or even at the knee). I was surprised at how “me” this skirt fell, and I was able to reap the same leg-lengthening benefits of a higher hemline by matching the skirt to the boots. Same color = illusion of longer length.

This coming Friday, I’ll feature a special outfit post with y mom in which I style both of us using a combination of items from her closet and the staples I brought with me. I’m excited to add a multi-generational spin to this week, and I look forward to hearing what you think about it!

Minnesota Layers & Leaves 2

Minnesota Layers & Leaves 3

Minnesota Layers & Leaves 4

Minnesota Layers & Leaves Skirt w/ Nine West Boots

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