Tag Archives: Childhood Stories

Why I’ve Decided to Start Walking to Mordor

When I was a preteen, one of my uncles gave me copies of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I read and enjoyed The Hobbit immediately.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy took longer to get into. The vocabulary in it kept making me pause to look up words I’d never heard of before, and the pacing was slower than I was used to in the other stories I discovered at that age.

Still, reading about the roughly 3109 kilometres (1932 miles) that Frodo and Sam walked during the course of this adventure did grab my attention. I was the sort of kid who liked the outdoors in small doses before I ventured inside again to cool off and have a snack.

The thought of walking – and occasionally running –  as far as they did while being hunted down by all sorts of malevolent creatures and skipping second breakfast made me shudder.

As an adult, I wonder what it would be like to walk that distance for the sheer fun of it. There have been various points in the past when I’ve run across accounts of people who made spreadsheets that tally how far the characters walked to get to each each milestone in the plot  and when they as a fan can pretend like they’ve reached the next one based on how far they’ve walked in real life.

It was only recently that I discovered a site that keeps track of this information for you. Walk to Mordor offers free cellphone apps and also has a space on their website for people who prefer to log their miles that way instead.

The best part about this game is that it gives you notifications about what is happening in the story as the distance you’ve travelled reach specific plot points. It starts in Bag End, Frodo’s home and the opening scene for this tale, and it goes all the way through what happened in the Grey Wood after the battles had all ended. I like the thought of that.

The man who created it developed it out of his love of these books, and I’m talking about it today simply because I think it’s an incredibly cool idea that I thought some of my bookish followers who also enjoy exercising might want to check out.

As always, this blog does not feature sponsored content and I am not being compensated for this post in any way.

Why Mordor, Though?

Because it’s a challenge.

Over the past five years, I’ve been keeping track of some of my fitness-related statistics. I’ve walked an average of 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) a day since I first began recording this stuff. This includes days when I didn’t move much due to illness or injury, so that number is higher when I’m feeling well.

Weight training is my other main source of exercise. I still find it challenging, and there’s nothing I’d change about my lifting routine at the moment.

As much as I enjoy walking, it doesn’t give me that same sense of accomplishment that moving up to a heavier set of weights or noticing how my body changes when I lift weights and eat a good diet.

By no means am I bored with walking…but I do like the idea of seeing all of the distance I put in on the average day add up to something tangible.

There’s also the fact that Walking to Mordor has a definite end date. If I continue at my current pace, it will wrap up at the end of winter or beginning of spring in 2020. I like the idea of starting something new while knowing that it won’t and can’t last forever.

(Relatively) Calm Entertainment

Photo Credit: Dawn Endico

This style of storytelling appealed to me, too. I’ve been looking for a fitness app that was somehow tied to science fiction, fantasy, or speculative fiction for a while now, but I was selective about what sort of adventure I was going to be signing up for.

First of all, It needed to be something that wasn’t going to track my location in the real world or sell my personal information to other companies. There is far enough of that happening in the world as is!

I also wasn’t interested in an app that tried to get me to move faster or for longer distances because of a storyline that involved anyone being chased by zombies or other dangerous creatures.

While I can see how that would be very motivating for some players, it’s not the sort of thing that I personally find appealing. Tell me a good story, but do let me move at my own pace while everything is unfolding.

Knowing how it ends for Frodo and his many companions was yet another reason why I decided to sign up for this game. I was definitely not feeling calm the first time I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there is something to be said for returning to a world you’ve visited many times before even if it’s plot isn’t exactly what most people think of as a soothing one at first glance.

I was willing to pay for what I was looking for, by the way. The fact that I found a free app that fit my criteria was icing on the cake.

Join Me

If anyone reading this wishes to friend me on Walk to Mordor, do a search for Lydia Schoch. I kept my username there simple on purpose, and I’m happy to share my journey there if we’ve talked before and you’d like to link up.

Either way, I may be blogging about this game and others like it again in the future as I move through the various scenes. The thought of turning exercise into a non-competitive game appeals to me very much!

The Evolution of My Reading Habits

My reading habits have evolved a lot over the years. In today’s post, I’m going to start with my earliest memories and share some stories about how my interests and habits have changed over time.

Most of these genres are still things I like to read at least occasionally. With that being said, I do not read the older ones as often as I once did.

Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

“A Fairy Tale” by J. H. F. Bacon

The first genres I ever fell in love with were nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

My uncle had a book of fairy tales that he left behind when he went off to college. I read that collection every time I visited my grandmother’s house, and it made me yearn for more stories about dragons, royalty, and people who were rewarded for the good things they did when they thought no one was paying attention.

The tales in my uncle’s collection were the sorts of things you’d see in a Disney movie. They were missing the dark endings that they’d often originally had.

A few years later, I began stumbling across fairy tales that didn’t always end happily ever after. For example, the original version of “The Little Mermaid” ended with the main character’s death instead of her wedding.

I did go back to preferring the more cheerful spins on these stories after a while, but I appreciated having those glimpses into what had happened to them before they were cleaned up for modern audiences.

30 Books in a Month

As I’ve mentioned here before, I was homeschooled for the first several years of my education. One of the best parts of that experience was being able to read after my lessons were finished. There were times when Wyoming was far too snowy and cold of a place for a child to be wandering around outside in, so I read the entire afternoon and evening away on some of those wintry days.

All of this reading time had an interesting effect on me once I started public school and people who weren’t my parents or siblings began noticing my habits.

My fourth grade teacher once gave us an assignment to read three books a month. We were supposed to turn in little slips of paper with the title and author of what we read to her so she could keep track of them for us.

Reader, I didn’t finish three books that month. I read thirty of them.

Those three slips of paper we’d been given were almost immediately replaced by notes from my mother listing everything else I’d read after I fulfilled the original requirements.

When our teacher announced the number of books each student had read that month a few weeks later, most of my classmates were in the single digits. It was pretty funny to see how they gasped when they realized I’d quietly blown everyone out of the water.

A Passion for Poetry

I no longer remember which genres I read during that thirty-book month, but I do remember the genre I became obsessed with shortly after that: poetry.

My fifth grade teacher did a unit on the many different types of poems out there, and I took to this topic  immediately. A lot of the stuff she had us read reminded me of the nursery rhymes I’d loved a few years earlier.

Shel Silverstein was the first poet I loved, but I quickly moved on to poets who wrote for adult audiences like Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes.

The thought of compressing what could be an entire story into a few short lines impressed me. I was always excited to find poets who could create strong imagery of what they were describing to the audience while using as few words as possible.

There was about a decade there when poetry was regularly part of what I read for fun. For a long period of time after that, I still returned to it regularly when I needed a break from other genres.

I’m slowly losing interest in this genre, and that makes me a little sad. I wish I could find the same thrill in it I did twenty years ago.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

“Martians vs. Thunder Child” by Henrique Alvim Corrêa.

My interest in the science fiction and fantasy genres has always been intertwined with the other things I’ve read. Long before I entered high school they became genres I returned to over and over again.

While I do take breaks from science fiction and fantasy to recharge sometimes, those feelings have remained constant to this day. No other genre has managed to keep me coming back for more for as long or as consistently as these two have.

There is something so interesting about taking a modern trend and extrapolating it to some distant future where robots really do run the world or when climate change has altered our planet so much that future generations can no longer imagine what life was like in a cooler, more stable climate.

I’ve come to prefer hopeful speculative fiction over the darker, apocalyptic stuff, but I think I’ll continue reading some sort of sci-fi or fantasy for many years to come.

Leaning Towards Nonfiction

Over the last decade or so, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more interested in nonfiction than I ever was before. My favourite high school English teacher used to talk about how much she enjoyed reading about things that really happened.

I didn’t understand why she’d say that at the time, but now I relish the opportunity to read books about history, astronomy, archeology, ecology, medicine, the biographies or autobiographies of people who have accomplished all sorts of things, and many other topics.

We live in a world that is filled with more information than any one person can digest in a lifetime. I accept the fact that I can’t learn everything, but I also want to be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in this lifetime.

How have your reading habits evolved over time? If anyone decides to borrow this topic and blog about it, I’ll edit this post to include a link to your response if you’re interested in that.

Edited on May 5 to add Bjørn Larssen’s response.

Top Ten Tuesday: Outrageous Things I’ve Done for the Love of Books

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

You’re all about to hear some funny stories about the outrageous, silly, and memorable things I’ve done for the love of books.

For anyone who didn’t already know, I was a preacher’s kid growing up, so the church’s building was basically my family’s second home.  We were there two or three times a week on average, and sometimes way more than that if there were weddings, funerals, potluck dinners, vacation bible school programs, or other events going on.

This fact only makes the first two items on my list even more amusing than they might have been for the average kid. The rest of my list is about non-church-related stuff. I will (probably) not use gifs for the next Top Ten Tuesday, but I couldn’t help but to use them again this week.

1. Snuck Out of Church to Read in a Closet

I believe this happened on one of those weeks when we’d spent way more time at church than usual. At any rate, I quietly walked out of the service, hid in a closet, and read a book about missionaries for a while. It was a good story, I enjoyed the break, and I did not tell this story to my parents until many years later. (They were amused by it).

2. Snuck a Book Into Church and Read It

This happened at a religious conference I attended when I was about twelve. I was a dancer then and loved the dance portion of that conference that showcased all sorts of new moves and styles for worship service dances.  After a few days of spending hours listening to sermons on unrelated topics, though, I decided to sneak a book in and read it when no one was looking. What makes it even funnier is that I was reading a sometimes-steamy series of romance novels that weekend!

3. Worn Out My Flashlight Battery

My family was on a camping trip when this happened, and I’d brought along a short story collection with me because who wants to go on vacation without a book?!  (This theme will repeat again later on because I am a creature of habit). I wanted to read just one more tale  before bed, but I ended up falling asleep with my flashlight on. When I woke up again, the battery was completely worn out.

4. Hid Books Under My Pillow

Not only was I a preacher’s kid, I was homeschooled as well for several years. One of the first things I did once I started attending public school was borrow books from the school library and hide them underneath my pillow. For some reason, I thought I wasn’t allowed to read them. It was a relief when my mom discovered them and didn’t make a big deal out of it at all.

5. Picked My Colleges (Partially) Based on Their Libraries

There were obviously other factors I considered as well, but the libraries were the very first spots I visited on my unguided tours of these facilities. The fact that I liked those libraries so much made it easier to pick the institutions of higher learning that I did.

6. Researched Where the Local Libraries Were Before Moving to New Neighbourhoods

Yes, being situated close to a nice library has been a factor when I decided where to move to in the past! I’ve found that any neighbourhood that has a well-tended, busy library tends to have a lot of other perks, too, like having more free community groups/events and the neighbourhood cultivating a friendly, welcoming attitude towards newcomers.

7. Chosen Video Games Based on Their Storytelling Skills

The gif above is from an amazing puzzle game called Monument Valley that also asked its audience to solve a mystery about  a civilization that had disappeared. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Monument Valley set a high standard for me as a gamer. These days I’m only interested in games that have tight, engaging storytelling woven into whatever else they happen to be about.

8. Matched People with Their Literary Doppelgangers

I like figuring out which literary character is most like the various people I know. You’ll never hear who I’ve pegged you as unless you ask, but there’s something satisfying – if also occasionally a little unusual – about deciding that someone reminds me most of Hermoine, Bilbo Baggins, Jo March, or any other number of characters.

9. Touched Hospital/Medical Office Waiting Room Books

Sometimes it has taken so long to wait for a medical appointment or visit a loved one who has been admitted that I must overcome my aversion to germy waiting room books and see what a hospital/doctor’s office waiting room has to read.

Then I imagine all of those bacteria multiplying on my skin and wash my hands with lots of soap and hot water because the thought of getting sick from touching the wrong types of germs makes me nervous. Ha!

10. Left the Perfect Beach to Visit a Bookstore

One year when my family was on a beautiful beach vacation, teenage Lydia convinced my parents to drive to a local mall so I could pick up a few new books when I unexpectedly finished reading everything I’d brought with me. I was thrilled when they agreed to do this and portioned out my reading time better for the rest of that trip.

How many of these things have all of you done? I can’t wait to read your responses to this prompt. It sure was a fun one.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Comfort Foods and Recipes and Whys, Oh My!

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

This week’s topic is “Favourite Comfort Foods & Why (& Recipes),” so of course I just had to play around with the wording of it a little in the title of this post in order to sneak in a reference to The Wizard of Oz. I will now proceed to answer the prompt (mostly) seriously.

Both of my parents grew up in the Mennonite community and have the same general ethnic origins: German and French.

In fact, all of the ancestors we’ve traced so far came from the Alsace-Lorraine area that was sometimes part of Germany and sometimes part of France depending on which century you’re looking at.

If your ancestors ever so much as glanced at that corner of the globe, we are probably third cousins or something.  Ha!

All of the recipes I’m about to share were either printed in the Mennonite Community Cookbook that I’ve attached a photo of to this post or written on the blank pages of that cookbook.

To the best of my knowledge, they are all traditional German-Mennonite dishes for people from that group who live in Midwest portions of the United States.

 

This is what ground cherries look like. Photo credit: Pen Waggener.

Ground Cherry Pie 

If you happen to live in North America, your best best for finding ground cherries would be at your local farmer’s market during the summer or autumn. They’re a tomato-like fruit that’s less sweet than most other fruits. I sure think they taste good in a pie.

My grandmother makes this pie often. I think happy thoughts about her every time I eat it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup of ground cherries (rinsed off and with their husks removed)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mini tapioca
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • Yellow food colouring (as much as desired)
  • A pie shell

Directions

Begin by boiling the water. Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, and allow the water to go back up to a boil before adding the next ingredient.

After you’ve added as much food colouring as desired, pour the mixture into a pie shell. Add the top crust (if desired), and then bake your pie at 400 F for 15 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 350 F and bake for another thirty minutes. It should have a consistency similar to other fruit pies when it’s finished. Serves 6-8.

Kartoffle Kloesse (Potato Dumplings)

I don’t have a picture of this recipe, but it’s something one of my grandmothers used to make. It’s delicious.

Ingredients

  • 6 boiled potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • a little salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Croutons

Directions

Grate 6 boiled potatoes . Add eggs, salt, and flour. Beat this mixture until fluffy. Roll it into balls with 2-3 croutons in the centre of each ball. Dump the balls into gently boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well and serve. A little sour cream on the side of your plate would do wonders with this dish if you’re so inclined.

Photo credit: Windell Oskay.

Soft Pretzels

I strangely couldn’t find any of the photos I’ve taken of my own soft pretzels over the years, so I grabbed one off the Internet. You could even make them in fancy ampersand shapes if you wanted to!

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping

Directions

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients except the flour.

Add in the flour one cup at a time. You might need as few as three cups of it.

Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Grease 2 baking sheets.

In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water; set aside. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 8 minutes. Serves 12.

 

 

Bonus Recipe – Dandelion Salad

 I found this recipe in the cookbook mentioned above, and I know have ancestors who ate whatever they could find when food/money was scarce based on certain family legends. To be fair, that hasn’t happened in a few generations so this doesn’t quite count as a comfort meal.  I’d like to try it someday, though! Have any of you ever eaten dandelions or other wild greens?

Salad Ingredients

  • 4 cups chopped dandelion
  • 3 hard-cooked eggs
  • 3 slices bacon

Dressing

  • 1.5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 2 cups milk or water

Directions

Wash and chop dandelions

Cut bacon into pieces and fry until crisp

Remove bacon from drippings

To make dressing, stir together the dry ingredients, add egg, vinegar, and water. Stir until well blended.

Cook dandelions in bacon drippings until thickened and cool slightly.

Pour dressing over dandelions and mix lightly. Garnish with sliced or chopped eggs and the crips bacon. Serves 6.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question. The image below is the list of upcoming prompts for this blog hop.

How Winter Has Changed Over My Lifetime

Lately, I’ve been thinking about climate change and how the expectations of what winter, or any other season, will be like in the average year are changing.

The official graphs and charts that show how rapidly the average temperatures are climbing from one decade to the next are obviously quite important, but I think there’s something to be said for listening to and writing down anecdotes about the climate as well. Future generations might like to know what things were like when we were young and the Earth was colder.

My first clear memories of winter happened in the early 1990s. My family lived in Wyoming then, and our town was nestled so close to the Rocky Mountains that we regularly saw heavy snowstorms between the months of October and May.

I think my family was snowed in at least once during these storms. There is only so much plowing that can be done before the blizzard wins and everyone needs to stay off those slippery roads for safety reasons.

Before I tell this next story, keep in mind that I was always petite for my age growing up. Not every child would have been light enough to pull this off, but I do have memories of walking on top of frozen snowbanks when I was about seven or eight years old. The snow had melted a little, and when it refroze it created a sort of crust on top of it that I could just barely walk on top of. I felt like a superhero and was a little disappointed the next winter when I realized that I was too heavy to do that trick again. (The funny thing was, I remained one of smallest kids in my class all the way through to high school graduation!)

In the mid-1990s, my family moved back to Ohio. Every year we’d generally have at least a few days cancelled due to snow or ice storms. Ohio was a less snowy place than Wyoming, so I don’t remember quite as many times when the roads were closed due to storms as they did when we lived out west.

I do remember feeling a little surprised by the lessening amounts of snow as the years rolled on. Part of it was almost certainly due to the fact that I was growing into my full adult height and viewing snowdrifts from that perspective instead of the point of view of a young child, but I also wonder if I wasn’t noticing the effects of climate change.

The winter of 1998-1999 was an exception to that trend. We had a huge snowstorm at the tail end of Christmas break that delayed the reopening of school by about two weeks. My family just so happened to be moving into a new house then, so my first recollections of 1999 were of perpetually-damp boots, gloves, and hats drying by the radiator while we unpacked our belongings one minivan full of them at a time.

I moved to Toronto in 2005. The climate was fairly similar to Ohio, but I’ve noticed winters seem to be morphing into drier and more erratic versions of themselves here over time. We still have some snowstorms, but we’ve also had weird weeks in the dead of January or February where the temperatures climb into early spring numbers (10-15C, or roughly 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans) for a day or even a week before growing cold again.

This is truly bizarre, and I wonder if it will become the new normal for future generations. Will they no longer need heavy winter jackets, gloves, hats, and scarves? How will they react to the thought of a winter that doesn’t thaw out again until March? I suspect they won’t understand that concept at all, except as an academic exercise when they read about what life was like before climate change.

I’m interested in hearing your stories about how winter has changed and is changing where you live. If you live in a climate that doesn’t have winter, feel free to talk about how the weather is changing in whatever ways you might have noticed since you were a kid.

3 Embarrassing Things I’ve Learned From Books

Today I have three embarrassing stories to share with you. Before I dive into them, let me explain a few things about my childhood to the new readers of my blog. I grew up in a series of small towns and rural communities in the United States. I was also homeschooled for the first several… Read More