Thursday, September 21, 2017

September Smorgasbord

Precipitation and cooler temperatures have returned to Montana, and somehow it fires my desire to blog.  It's like curling up in front of the fire with a good read, but in reverse - my keyboard is here, waiting for me to create a captivating post.  So, if it's chilly where you are, grab a blanket and settle in your comfy chair.  For those of you in warmer climes, go out on the porch with an iced beverage.  Are we ready?  Then let's begin:

Chair One Artists: Ruth Lane, Louise Barker, Paula Rindal 
& Sally Glutting
ONE: Would you like to own a chair from a ski lift?  Ten chairlifts from Whitefish Mountain Resort were recently donated to the Big Mountain Commercial Association. The chairs were given to local artists to decorate and the resulting works of art have been set up in front of ten local businesses around Whitefish to show off before they are auctioned this month. The proceeds will benefit the local snow bus that shuttles people from downtown to Whitefish Mountain Resort and the new Glacier Park Express that transports people in and out of the park.  Here are nine of the ten chairs with some detail for each.  Which one is your favorite?

Chair Two Artist: Lorinda Smith











Chair Three Artists: Deb Stika & Susan Miller





















Chair Four Artists: Students of Summit Prep School












Chair Five Artist: Dee Dee Cooper












Chair Six Artist: Shelby Powell
















Chair Seven Artist: Steven Miller


























Chair Eight Artists: Paula Greenstein &
Chris Marie Campbell











Chair Nine Artists: Michelle Saurey, Mark Baumbach
& Terence Gill











(Chair Ten was not available for a picture.)

TWO: Autumn gets me in a baking mood, but I've had in mind a Watermelon Cake I saw on Pinterest - never mind it is probably better suited to summer!  I felt like a kid again, painting by the numbers and trying to get the pink and green just the right shade.  Of course, it never looks as beautiful as the original ... which certainly did not keep me and Spousal Unit from eating it ALL!

THREE: Speaking of Spousal Unit, I can't tell you how grateful I am for his culinary skills.  He says "Would you like some breakfast?" and the next thing I know I have this marvelous meal catching my eye and dancing across my taste buds.

He'll take anything that's at hand, throw it in a pot and produce a gourmet dish - behold his latest creation - Meatballs with mushrooms, Napa cabbage and carrots.  Ummmmm ....
FOUR: If you been following my blog for a bit, you know that we are building a log home.  Many days, we are bopping around various stores to make selections for the house.  Most recently, we have invested untold hours choosing a railing system (you can be sure there will be a post on this in the future!!!)  Occasionally, all this decision-making causes our tummies to growl, and we simply MUST stop at an interesting-looking café along the way.
The Somers Bay Café is located in the old Somers State Building, built in 1905.  In its heyday, Somers was a major port, milltown and tie yard.  The café is a mini-museum of old Somers, displaying historical photos and artifacts on the walls - donated by local residents who lived those early days and frequent the café today.
FIVE: The sun is now down, and yet it seems appropriate to re-wind to the start of my post: puddles!
I am not a duck, but I might as well be with the delight I feel over these small collections of water outside our house.  This is the first real precipitation we have had for over three months.  Already the sky is clearing and the fires are getting under control.  I captured the following series Tuesday morning (without ANY coffee) because I was SO excited by the snow and the sky.  Another serving of blessings for the September Smorgasbord.


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Saturday, September 16, 2017

If you are going to San Francisco ...

If you have children, you know the trials and joys of the family vacation - the constant search for affordable activities to keep them entertained and the lasting memories when you do.  Recently, it was 100% role reversal when we visited #1 Daughter (#1D) in San Francisco - she took complete control of the 4-day itinerary - and it was a treat in every sense.  Here are the highlights from Day 1.

San Fran is famous the world over for its vintage rail transit vehicles - cable cars and street cars.  We were just darn proud that #1D had mastered the public transit system back in April when she arrived at the San Fran airport on her lonesome to start her summer internship with California Shakespeare Theater.  During our visit, she navigated nimbly between the subway, bus system and street cars.  

On our way to Pier 33 to catch the ferry for Alcatraz, our streetcar driver provided free entertainment in the form of running commentary.  People were a little slow to get on and he said: "You all might be on vacation, but I have a schedule to keep!"  When his car was full, someone asked when the next car would come along, and he said: "When it gets here, you let me know! " 

Alcatraz evoked a plethora of reactions - some unexpected.   By its very nature, the audio tour in the cell house puts you in the sounds of a jail - doors clanging closed, jeering voices from other prisoners, barking commands from the keepers.  So well done.  You can easily imagine the solitude and depression.
The unexpected?  The flowers and especially the birds.  The Island is a bird sanctuary, and there is no attempt to keep the park clean.  In some areas, the odor was so ripe I found myself covering my nose just to keep walking.  I don't often complain about these sorts of things, but I am confident there is a way that the Park Service can maintain the sanctuary while still making it palatable to paying customers.
Next!  Pier 39 is a glorious tourist mecca with something for everyone.  Crepes made to order - even if you're not buying, you can watch (for free!) the jaw-dropping expertise of the crepe-maker - just enough batter spread perfectly evenly using a special swivel tool.  And the toppings!  Chocolate, strawberries, bananas, you name it!  Not sure how I got out of there without one!  Two-tiered carousel.  Gift shops.  Restaurants. Ice cream.  And did I mention the seals?  Laugh out loud free entertainment -  we must have braved the cool breezes for at least 30 minutes, while the seals flopped on and off the platforms.  Clearly, landing on your fellow seal is not an issue since we saw seal after seal gracefully leave the water only to plop onto another seal and then wriggle to an open spot, with nothing more than a lift of the head for a reaction.

No port is complete without ships, and San Fran is no exception.  Pier 45 is home to the USS Pampanito, a Balao-class submarine.  She completed six war patrols from 1944 to 1945 and served as a Naval Reserve Training ship from 1960 to 1971. She is now a National Historic Landmark, preserved as a memorial and museum ship.  Right next door is the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a Liberty ship built during World War II.  She is a rare survivor of the 6,939-ship armada that stormed Normandy on D-Day, 1944.  On the wall near the ships is this mural, which is a tribute to the women who supported the war effort.  You go, ladies! 

On a slightly smaller scale, Fisherman's Wharf still bustles with fishing vessels that support the local, family-owned restaurants and an active deep-sea fishing tour trade (but you have to be willing to be at the wharf at 5.30 a.m!).  I will stick with just taking pictures!

So, as you have probably figured out by now, #1D had mostly focused on free entertainment, and I continued to be amazed at what is available if you look.  Our next stop was nothing short of amazing (and amusing).  The Musée Mécanique is one of the world's largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines (over 200) in their original working condition. (You can play them!)  My favorite was the Wurlitzer Style B Orchestration, circa 1912.  Only 50 to 75 of these were made in 1912!  The 13 songs on the playlist included Stars and Stripes Forever, which of course I chose to play.

A day in San Fran is not complete without sampling the restaurants - #1D had chosen Coqueta on Pier 5 for its menu and proximity to the Bay Bridge.  

As the sun left the sky, the Bay Bridge glittered.  (The Bay Lights , an iconic light sculpture on the west span of the bridge, was designed by world-renowned artist Leo Villareal with 25,000 LED white lights that stretch 500 feet high for 1.8 miles. Inspired by the Bay Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, the artist created a never repeating, dazzling display for the original period March 5, 2013 through March 2015.  Beloved by city residents, the installation came back permanently on January 30, 2016.)                

And the curtain came down on day one, with a standing ovation.
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Sunday, September 10, 2017

Helping Dreams Come True

We recently had a hand in fulfilling some dreams for my Mother and my eldest sister, and boy, was it fun!  It started a long time ago, when my Mom mentioned her dream to sleep on a train that would also go through the mountains.
And so, with our planned move to Montana, it seemed the perfect time for her to climb aboard the Amtrak Empire Builder in Chicago and clickety-clack her way west to Whitefish.  It's a 31-hour journey (sleeping? check!) and the final part of the journey scoots around the southern edge of Glacier National Park (mountains? check!)  My Mom was accompanied by my eldest sister, who had dreamed of visiting the Banff/Lake Louise region of Alberta.  Isn't it wonderful that you can drive 5 hours from Whitefish to get to Banff/Lake Louise?  Check!

In the days leading up to our Canada road trip, I was monitoring fires in British Columbia and Alberta, since one of them had once already closed the highway we would take to Banff.  I can't tell you how happy I was when it began to rain close to site of the fire.  As we drove past the fire, clearly the rain was having a dampening effect.  It had been so long since we felt rain, or breathed in the earthy smell of rain - I rolled down my window!!!  The wonder of spray on the road, and puddles - I felt like a kid again.
Upper Left and Middle: Smoke rising
from fire along Highway 93
Bottom: Skies clear as we near Banff













Alberta and British Columbia provide frequent rest areas with facilities (can I make a crack about how important this is for a man with a small bladder?), and at one such stop we were also rewarded with Numa Falls.
Lower right: grooves from years of swirling water
Immediately before the Banff exit, there is an overlook that is a must.  As you can see in the picture below, you can't take a bad picture with Vermilion Lakes in the foreground and Sanson's Peak looming beyond.  That day, it didn't hurt that the clouds were clinging to the razor edge of the Peak!
As we entered Banff, my excitement kept building, because I had a secret.  My sister has always wanted to visit the Fairmont Banff Springs - we had taken it a step further and booked ourselves for afternoon tea.  I announced this as we pulled up to the "castle", and the delight on her face was ... priceless!
The Fairmont Banff Springs has been serving Afternoon Tea for over 125 years.  Guests from around the world have experienced Afternoon Tea precisely how Anna, Duchess of Bedford intended it to be when she first invited her guests for tea and scones.  Over the years, the pastry chefs have perfected scones, shortbread and other delicacies to delight the senses.
When we could tear our eyes away from the never-ending delicacies, we enjoyed this view of Stoney Squaw Mountain from the dining room.  (Don't you wonder where THAT name came from?)

After tea, we explored the hotel and I have limited myself to just a few pictures here.  Opened in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, this hotel was the inspiration of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, 19th century railway pioneer and hotel visionary, who famously quipped "If we can't export the scenery, we'll import the tourists."

So, it seemed appropriate that we should end our day in Banff with a walking tour of the town, including the scenery along the Bow River.
 That night, it was sweet dreams for us all - and this was just the FIRST day of our road trip!

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