Friday, December 29, 2017

Holiday Hodgepodge

Fulfilled.  Peaceful.  Energetic.  Joyful.  Eager.  My holiday hodgepodge of emotions - has it only been a week since I posted last?  So much goodness packed into 7 days!

Fulfilled.  Some people warn you that entering the Christmas season with expectations can only to disappointment.  On the contrary, I find that keeping an expectation generic usually avoids any disillusionment.  For example, I hoped for one-on-one time with #1 Daughter, but that's as far as I let my imagination ramble.  So, our ladies-only shopping trip, including a stop in the local diner, was fabulous.

Mural on the back wall
Norm's News (the diner) resides in John McIntosh's Opera House Square built in 1896.  The upper floor served Flathead Valley residents as an opera house (seating capacity 1,000), lodge meeting hall, ball room, theater, roller skating rink, and high school graduation auditorium.  Today the first floor is home to Western Outdoor, Montana's largest western retailer with more than 1,000 hats and 2,000 pairs of boots.  While the auditorium space upstairs remains empty, the sleeping rooms have been renovated into 5 classic and stylish downtown loft apartments.

Bonus?  I picked up a couple of items for next year's Halloween costume, including this spiffy hat!

Peaceful.  Lately, snow and near-zero temperatures have transformed our neighborhood into a different space.  I cherish these moments of near-silence for my strolls.

The Whitefish River sports frozen edges along the banks and in slow-moving eddies; the ducks don't seem to mind.

Along the path, a scraggly bush draws my attention.  Although it's adorned with plentiful ornaments commemorating lost four-footed friends, it's not quite enough to overcome the waywardness of its branches.  My mind imagines it as a modern-day Charlie Brown Christmas ... bush.  It doesn't take long for my stream of consciousness to transport me to my favorite line from A Charlie Brown Christmas: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace and goodwill towards men.'  That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

#1 Son, Spousal Unit and
#1 Daughter
Energetic.  You have to be if you are going to ski or ride Big Mountain in temperatures below 10 degrees F (as it was on December 24).  You won't stay warm otherwise.  Which reminds me of a joke: What do you get if you cross a snowman and a vampire?  Frostbite!

Cold temps yield rewards!  Cast your peepers on these views!
Moisture in the air is vaporized into fairy dust by the frigid temperatures; mini-glitter is everywhere!
Heading downhill to the Village; Flathead Valley spreads out before you, running up to Swan Mountains on left
Whitefish Lake peeking out - can you see it's frozen on the left side?
Joyful.  When Christmas Day starts with Christmas cake and coffee, you know it's going to be good!

We take our time opening presents, aided by breaks to Skype with family in the UK and Ohio.  And to get more coffee.  And to work on the turkey.  And to have some snacks, 'cause Tom the Turkey won't be ready 'til 5.

Clockwise: tasty morsels for Spousal Unit; LED chopsticks for #1 Son (they look a lot like light
sabers!); Hedgehog journal, bookmark and pictures of Delilah, a hedgie belonging to a
friend of #1 Daughter; "Significant Otter" for #1 Son from his girlfriend; Sperry Chalet
blanket for me (Sperry Chalet burned to the ground during summer fires);
goodies for #1 Daughter
Invariably, we witness some presents that evoke tears (of joy) or outbursts of giggles.  This breed of gift-giving calls for enough knowledge of the person to select a meaningful gift, and a level of creativity that introduces an element of surprise.  What joy it brings to the receiver, and even more so to the giver!
Clockwise:  Moose napkin holder for me; Bruce Springsteen's The River
vinyl for #1 Daughter; Slate coasters for me; Mini Lego for
#1 Son; "Beautiful" Holiday sweater worn by #1 Son

We all have Montana gear now!  Plus hand-knitted headbands
(by #1 Daughter), ski socks and leggings for me 
All the excitement is too much for Josie.  Which reminds me of another joke:  Why did the man sleep under the car?  So he could wake up oily in the morning.

Eager.  I joined the blogging community just 10 months ago, and I quickly discovered some bloggers who publish photos from trail cameras.  Wow!  Impressive!  Bears, bobcats, deer, raccoons, cougars ... I immediately placed 'trail camera' on my Christmas list.  And Spousal Unit came through with a Moultrie A-30i, which features 12 mega-pixel resolution, .7 second trigger speed and a 60-foot flash range for night-time pictures. 

Yesterday we installed the camera within the acreage of our log-home-in-progress, near an obvious animal trail (snow helps!)  I am practically jigging with anticipation - what secrets will the little SD card reveal next week when we retrieve it?  Watch this space and you will be one of the first to know!  It's like Christmas morning all over again!  

Praying for your contentment, peace, energy, joy and anticipation as we enter 2018.  Happy New Year!

I had a request for recipes from my Treasured Traditions post.  Please check out the following links:

Linking to:
All Seasons

Nature Notes

Outdoor Wednesday

Saturday Critters

Skywatch Friday

Willy Nilly Friday

Friday, December 22, 2017

Treasured Traditions

The (gas) fire is flickering, Josh Groban is crooning The Christmas Song and 12 inches of snow blankets the world outside my window.  What better time to recap December's delights?

ONE: Christmas baking.  In the US, fruitcake is the butt of many holiday jokes.  But I can tell you that Spousal Unit's fruitcake (we call it Christmas cake) is no joke.  Currants, sultanas, raisins, glace cherries, dried apricots, candied peel, almonds, treacle, lemon rind and orange rind join the normal flour, margarine, eggs and spices in a Mary Berry recipe that has tantalized dozens of our friends and family who had sworn off fruitcake forever!  Maybe it's the brandy that is brushed onto the cake every week from Thanksgiving to Christmas that 'takes the cake'. 

Monty the Moose is in charge of
quality control - small cake
is for my Mom
The cake is first served on Christmas morning - accompanied by a healthy slice of cheddar cheese.  And coffee, of course!  Only three days until we get to dive into this beauty!

With our retirement this year, time is a ready resource.  This December, some of that time was plowed into cookie-making for neighbors - the launch of a new tradition!  #1 Daughter pitched in with her culinary talents - clearly inherited from Spousal Unit.  What a joy it has been to deliver these bright packages!

TWO: Christmas cards.  Traditionally, Spousal Unit pens the Christmas missive, summarizing our year, and a personalized card jumps in the envelope as well.  This year, our log-home-in-construction was a no-brainer for the card.

Josie as lap cat is a new

Miss Josie insisted on helping Spousal Unit with his cards.

THREE: Christmas shopping.  For the last decade, Spousal Unit and I dedicated a day in early December for shopping.  (Of course, I was working then and this meant a vacation day for me!)  Santa's elves made the rounds of the stores and then capped off the day with a late lunch, complete with an adult beverage or two.  Call it a Christmas date!
Clockwise from top right: Early morning sky; festive
store decorations; a snack at Starbucks 

Shopping has changed dramatically since the kids were small - the advent of on-line sources combined with their interest in fewer but bigger-ticket items diminishes the need to invest a whole day playing elves.  But it's still exciting to come across those one-of-a-kind surprise presents.  And nothing gets in the way of our Christmas date!
Pizza and peanuts at Moose's, a Kalispell institution.
Drop those shells on the floor with the sawdust,
carve your name in the table,
and you'll fit right in

Whitefish Mountain Resort as viewed from our bedroom window
FOUR: Winter sports.  A family that plays together stays together!  We have been blessed with many winter skiing vacations, and now that we reside in Montana, we have several ski resorts within driving distance. 

Whitefish Mountain Resort is known for "inversion" days.  Inversions occur when the cooler air gets trapped in the valley, bringing fog or even rain to the valley, while up above on the mountain, things are sunny and clear.

Distant mountains are peeking out above the inversion

There is a lot of humidity in the air here, in spite of our cold temperatures.  That is due to the influence of Flathead Lake.  So, on days where the air is super cold, the humidity causes vapor to freeze immediately onto whatever it comes in contact with (also known as rime).  Most of the time that is our trees, our lifts, and sometimes...our goggles.
#1 Son bundled up!

So, if you think this is really deep snow on our trees ... it is actually many layers of rime - locally, we call these trees snow ghosts.  

FIVE: Christmas decorating. Always a family occasion for us, including the furbabies!

Come on in!
(The deer have since nibbled the evergreens on the left
post - at least as high as they can reach ...)
This year involved some compromise - #1 Daughter flew home on December 3 but #1 Son would not follow until 2 weeks later - we just couldn't wait that long for ALL the decorations.  So, with #1 Son's concurrence, we decorated everything except the tree prior to his arrival.

When the kids were toddling around, I created cross-stitch stockings for them. The masterpieces for the parents came much later!  Can you guess which is which?
Upper left - mine; upper right - #1 Son; Lower right: #1 Daughter; Lower left: Spousal Unit
And now for the tree!  In Montana, pine trees can be harvested from public lands for a whopping $5.  You just have to go out and find it!

Looking ....

Over the river ...
OK - maybe it's a creek ....
Onto Scarlet (my car) for the trip home
#1 S adds the angel for the finishing touch!
So, here we are.  Three days until Christmas.  I trust you have enjoyed a few of YOUR treasured traditions this season.  Join me in praying for the peace, joy and hope that only Christ can bring.  Merry Christmas!

Linking to:
All Seasons

Outdoor Wednesday

Skywatch Friday

Willy Nilly Friday

Friday, December 15, 2017

Report: Week 41 of Retirement (or Don't Forget To:)

On the day I retired, my team surprised me with a luncheon.  Retirement decorations festooned the conference room, and some people had written out cards that began with "Don't Forget To".  Week 41 of retirement - time to verify if I'm following a few of their directives.

ONE: Start a new hobby.  Well, I am in partial compliance - I took one of my favorite hobbies - cross-stitch - and jumped into a new top secret project with a firm deadline - the birth of a grand nephew in early October!
Progress in early July
End of July
The secret nature of the piece meant I couldn't post pictures, until now!

End of August
Of course, with a birth announcement cross-stitch, there is the inevitable conundrum that you want to bestow the gift as soon as the baby arrives, but you can't thread the last needle until you have the date and the weight!

October 11 - finished and framed

Note from my niece: "It is SOOO beautiful, and it matches his nursery motif perfectly!  You are incredibly thoughtful (and sneaky)!"

TWO: Stay active.  This one has not been an issue.  I love walking into town to run errands, which inevitably translates into a coffee and pastry somewhere.  One must support the local businesses, right?

Sights along Whitefish River

THREE: Eat, drink and be merry.  Check this one off!  Spousal Unit is indeed a blessing with his tasty concoctions.

Yummy breakfast!

FOUR: Enjoy reading a book.  Browsing the stacks at the library, I spotted a "New Arrival" that automatically caught my attention.  Conservation.  Heroes.  Heartland.  Long ago, I caught the gardening bug from my Dad.  Mix in my love affair with the outdoors and nature.  Add a generous measure of time that I now have available for conservation matters.  What do you have?  A book that was meant for me.

From the internet

This book tells the stories of Montana cattle rancher Dusty Crary and Kansas farmer Justin Knopf, as well as Merritt Lane, Sandy Nguyen and Wayne Werner (water-related professionals in Louisiana), each working conservation in their part of the American heartland.
I learned that farmers and ranchers make up 1% of the US population but manage 2/3 of the nation's land.  Agriculture has a greater impact on water, land and terrestrial biodiversity than any other human activity.  Fisherman have a similar impact on the oceans - they draw the equivalent of the human weight of China out the sea every year.  So, the land and the ocean as productive resources are critical, but they are shaky - overgrazed, overtilled, overfished and threatened by development and invasive species.

The author, Miriam Horn, also makes the point that diversity is paramount for survival, not only in the sense of ecosystems but also in the people who must engage in conservation.  She shows, through her "heroes", that meeting human needs does not always equate to sacrificing nature, and vice versa.  No solution will be perfect; people can and should weigh each choice for its broad impact.

This book has reinforced my desire to engage in conservation efforts.  If you're wondering how you can help, consider the following:

1. Get involved in land development in your area.  Can we adapt existing buildings rather than construct new housing and commercial spaces?  If building new, ensure that at least an equal amount of green space is planned near the development.  Can we limit new roads, which tend to interrupt animal travel patterns?  If you own large tracts of land, consider conservation easements, the sale of development rights to a land trust that holds the land in perpetuity.  Protecting large swaths of private lands is as crucial, if not more so, to the entire ecosystem than even designated wilderness. 

2. Listen to diverse points of view and seek win-win solutions.  Start small with people still willing to give talking and listening a try.  Focus on the 80% that unites rather than the 20% that divides.  Respect the contribution that each partner brings (ranchers and environmentalists CAN work together).  Consider that any path forward has to support local human culture and economy, which ensures that private lands provide enormous public value.
From the internet
From the internet
3. Promote soil conservation.  Keep something growing on as much soil as possible.  I was shocked to learn that it takes 500 years to build up a single inch of soil.  Annual erosion of agricultural soil now exceeds the rate of soil production to the point that, unchecked, all agricultural soil will be gone in 100 years.  Plants have the additional benefit of reducing carbon in the atmosphere; if applied globally, restorative agriculture on cropland and pasture soils could achieve up to 15% of the total carbon reduction need to stabilize the climate. 

From the internet
4. Utilize "land food" wisely to avoid artificially increasing production demand.  By most estimates, farmers will have to double production by 2050.  This will likely mean the clearing of even more land, which is counterproductive from a climate change perspective.

5. Eat fish and shellfish.  Doing so could satisfy a much larger portion of human protein needs with a fraction of the impacts that "land food" create for greenhouse emissions, water use and displaced ecosystems.

From the internet
6. Support the restoration of the Mississippi Delta.  Dams, levees and canals have resulted in 2,000 square miles of land lost in Louisiana.  Unless the Mississippi can be freed to resume its natural function building the Delta, Louisiana will lose another 1,750 square miles by 2099.  At risk are fossil fuel resources, food production, shipping channels, pipelines and a commercial fishery that provides nearly a third of all US seafood.

Now back to my Don't Forget To list ...

FIVE: Laugh every day (especially if you found reading the section above a bit heavy)!  With two cats in the house, this is an easy one.  If you have cats, you will be familiar with the occasional feline surprise.  Such as the day I went into the half bathroom to find this:
Miss Josie

Linking to:
Mosaic Monday

Nature Notes

Outdoor Wednesday
Outdoor Wednesday: Click on the picture below to learn more...

Willy Nilly Friday

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