We just returned from a glorious holiday weekend to Winthrop, Washington (pop. 349) where we visited my sister-in-law, her husband and my adored nieces at their homestead. There are many things I look forward to about our annual visit: the slow pace of small town life; not opening my computer or having need for money; staying at their beautiful cabin in the woods (you can too!); gathering around the wood stove in the evening; Sarah's delicious homemade meals; hearing about adventures from the smokejumper base; art projects and snuggling and story time and puzzles and monkey bars with the girls, who are growing up in an environment best captured by Laura Ingalls Wilder; walks by the river; the veritable Noah's ark of animals (chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, deer, cows, fish and herons have all made appearances at one time or another); rainbow sunsets; the standard daily outfit that includes both muck boots and a tutu; jumping on the trampoline; the hand painted mural of local mountains on the side of the general store.

One of my favorite parts about our trips out there is learning a heap of new skills and information. This time: thinning out (is that the most delicate way of putting it?) their flock of chickens and ducks for the winter; felling a tree and using a chainsaw for the first time; employing the hydraulic splitter; lessons in stacking firewood; new recipes for apple sauce and oatmeal.

When we were cutting down trees, Daren told me about the disappearing practice of using horses to drag logs out of the forest, instead of diesel trucks that destroy the environment (see the above video). "We've gotten too efficient," says Daren. It many ways, I agree.