Friday, January 26, 2018

January Joys

Snow Ghost pointing the way
downhill on Big Mountain
How's your January treating you?  Are you glad it's almost over, or do you gaze at the calendar in regret for how quickly the first month of 2018 has passed?  For many in northern climes, January can be a 'gray' time - frigid temperatures, short days with sparse sun, a hole left when the holidays are past ... for my part, January joy has been abundant.  In case you need cheering up (northern clime or not), I am sharing my modest chronicles in the hope you'll find something joyful here.

ONE: Curious sights around town

Kids and their gloves are soon parted ... reminding me of that age-old nursery rhyme: "The three little kittens, they lost their mittens, and they began to cry."

For the hardy Montanan, it's never too cold to get out your kayak ... as long as you have a crazy friend to paddle with you.

Penguins frequent our burg in celebration of the Whitefish Winter Carnival, mid-January to early February.  Curiouser and curiouser (cried Alice), this flightless bird hangs out with someone trapped in 1975!

TWO: Culinary delights

Salmon Quiche
My 2018 New Year's resolutions include cooking once a week (shocking to some of you - me cooking? - and to others of you - only once a week?)  But hey, progress is made one tiptoe at a time!  My sous chef has to agree to the menu, and has to assist without taking over (shocking to those of you who know the caliber of my sous chef!)  Two of our creations, Lemon Butter Salmon and Balsamic Potatoes, are not worthy of a repeat performance or even a link (much less a picture).  On the other hand, the Salmon Quiche is a keeper, with some modifications.  We made our own pastry and we increased all the ingredients by 50% except for the salt, dill and green onion.

The Beef Cabbage Roll Casserole is your grandma's cabbage rolls without the hassle of rolling uncooperative cabbage leaves!  The leftovers disappeared quickly; it was our go-to dish after a day on the slopes or a work-out at the gym.  A solid addition to the family cookbook!

In between my forays into the kitchen, Spousal Unit (AKA Head Chef; AKA Man with Hat) does his daily magic.  And always waits patiently for me to document it!

THREE: Cruising on the white stuff

If I could have $1 for every time I have been asked "So, why Montana?", I could retire all over again!
Swift Creek run at Whitefish Mountain Resort

It's the outdoors, of course!

Or, as Spousal Unit is wont to ask, rhetorically: "Have I told you lately I like snow-capped mountains?"
View from summit of Whitefish Mountain Resort - mountains as far as the eye can see
We are (hardly) working to amortize the hefty price tag on our season passes to Whitefish Mountain Resort with regular jaunts on the slopes.  If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you may someday tire of these pictures, but I can't resist flashing these stunners to the whole world!

Whitefish Lake

Rime on window of 
Summit House
Moe-mentum Run
Clouds hovering above the valley floor

Yesterday, we viewed the ski resort from a different angle - snow-shoeing on its southern flank.  Four miles of tranquility, shared with a handful of cross-country skiers and their adorable dogs.

So, if you relish the outdoors, there is no such thing as too many winter sports.  Our most recent (albeit temporary) addition to the portfolio is skate skiing.  Unlike classic cross-country skiing, in which the skis move in parallel, skate skiing is a more intense and faster technique that mimics the movements of ice skates.  We took a couple of lessons, which helped us decide we are better off focusing on the classic style.  Skate skiing requires a groomed surface, whereas classic style can be utilized in any location with relatively flat terrain, which is plentiful where we are building our new home!

FOUR: Charming embroidery

I owe Joann of Scene Through My Eyes  a debt of gratitude.  In November 2017, her blog featured an extensive collection of hand-embroidered tea towels.  I nearly fell out of my dining room chair; I immediately recognized the style as one my Mother possessed, once upon a time. The 'rest of the story', as they say, is that my dear Mother gave them to me, and somewhere among our 10 house moves, they were lost!  You can imagine my delight, and hers, when I discovered that Colonial still carried the exact Aunt Martha pattern in question. 

So, this month, the 'towel project' is underway; to do the best I can to re-create the long-lost tea towels.

FIVE: Caring gestures

You can't focus on yourself when you are focused on someone else.  So if you find yourself in a grump (never happens to me!), look for someone who needs you, and your attitude will automatically take flight.

Recently, a friend of mine who lives quite far away has had a tough time.  I felt I was not doing enough to support her, and then I was inspired to send her a knitted prayer shawl and a journal with 31 days of hand-selected inspirational quotes - my attempt to 'be there' for her every day with a small pep talk.  Tears were shed as I put it together, and more were shed when she received it.  But I think, overall, they were healing tears, part of the essential journey forward.

#1 Daughter is in the final weeks of rehearsal for her last University of Cincinnati production, Love and Information.  As Stage Manager for the show, she is juggling many plates.  Unlike many other College-Conservatory of Music productions, this show cast all 30 CCM Acting students to perform as more than 100 characters - complexity times 10!  It is not lost on us that there is added emotion with the last production before she enters the 'adult' world of jobs and bills and, well, everything.  In our tradition, we sent her a care package as the tiniest attempt to bridge these final days and remind her she is loved.  
A "love" package
And you never know when that caring gesture might come back around, full circle . . . such as Spousal Unit surprising me with these vibrant blooms ...

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Days of Wine and Roses (Showing Off a "Small Island" - Part 5)

Welcome to my ongoing series celebrating the joyful days spent with my sister and her husband in the UK in June 2017.  (link to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) As I perused the photos of our fifth day together, my skin tingled with the recollection of the sun.  I longed to dip my toes in the tannin-infused waters of Aysgarth Falls, and to return to the patio of the Friar's Head, aromatic with the scent of white roses.  Just a few reminders of why I adore my adopted country.

This day, we left the village of Oughtershaw, but not before I gazed with rapture once more at this view from the cottage window.  

My in-laws headed home; our itinerary included a return to Hawes for a mooch (read: to walk around observing things).  For Spousal Unit and I, "mooching about" is one of our favorite past-times: no matter how many times you have been somewhere, you can still observe un-noticed details, or learn something new.

St. Margaret's Church was built in 1850 to replace a smaller church.  

Points of interest include the Millennium stained glass window, the War Memorial paneling and the Robert "Mouseman" Thompson pews and screens.

Robert "Mouseman" Thompson was a British furniture maker.  He lived in Kilburn, North Yorkshire, where he set a business manufacturing oak furniture, which featured a mouse on almost every piece.   
It is claimed the mouse motif came about accidentally in 1919 following a conversation about "being as poor as a church mouse", which took place between Thompson and one of his colleagues during the carving of a cornice for a screen.  This chance remark led to him carving a mouse and this remained part of his work from this point onwards.

For some time, I have been intrigued by the hand-stitched kneelers that are present in most Anglican churches in the UK.  As someone who relishes cross-stitch and community service, I could envision myself producing a kneeler, but I didn't really know what's involved.  Carpe diem!

Kneelers can take 3 months or longer to complete; an average kneeler involves over 9,000 stitches just for the top
I learned that there are thousands of church kneelers made by congregations across England and Wales.  Some congregations choose a particular theme, such as nature or geometric designs.  Others give the volunteers free rein.  As a result, church kneelers that are local, original, and unique represent the most widely practiced form of folk art in the country.  Check out this site if you would like more information.  And watch for future posts - you might just see more of this artistry!

The one on the left has clearly been well-loved!
Although Hawes might be distant from Montana, our log-house-in-construction is never far from our minds.  One shop featured heavy, metal furniture that would fit well with our rustic industrial motif - I took a picture for inspiration only - this would cost a small fortune to ship!

Along the lanes of Hawes
We made our way back to the car park (read: parking lot) along a public footpath, and found ourselves on the hill above St. Margaret's.  It's then I realized the commanding location it has in town.  Even now, I am gob-smacked (read: amazed) at the compelling beauty of the landscape that this church enjoys every single day.

Our next stop, Aysgarth Falls, is a familiar friend to our family, as a site of swimming excursions and overnight walks.  One year, Spousal Unit was the beneficiary of a coffee mug embellished with a repeating mosaic of this beloved photo.  If someone asked me to characterize our family when the kids were young, especially the relationship of the 'three kids', I would pull out this snap!

Today, it looks much the same as it did 9 years ago.  Located in a stunning wooded gorge in Wensleydale, the Falls are comprised of an Upper, Middle and Lower Falls.  Well-marked trails through the woodland allow easy access to the River Ure, with many pools and pock-marked rocks.

Yes, those are grapes!
For our family, a trip to Yorkshire is not complete without visiting the Friars Head, a beautiful bar/restaurant in a truly stunning location.  The following is a quote from its website, which I'll use because I believe it captures the essence of the venue so perfectly: "The Friars Head is a confident and striking blend of traditional and modern design, that celebrates great quality food.  What makes The Friars Head so special is the different and distinct interior themes and creative menus, developed to provide guests with their choice of a relaxed or formal experience".  (I am not being paid for this; the pictures left/below illustrate why we love the place.)
A meal without wine is called breakfast ... we enjoyed our adult beverages on the patio
Fig tree in the courtyard
Pausing to smell the roses - a gratifying conclusion to another exceptional day.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

A Lodge, a Cabin or a Shed?

During our log home construction, we have been amused by the names ascribed to the structure by friends and family - everything from a 'lodge' to a 'shed'!  We made the most of the Christmas holiday to discuss this with #1 Daughter and #1 Son: should we give the house an official name?  In a fashion true to our family, we dutifully brainstormed names, many names!  In the end, we decided, as a family, that the best name for the house is 'home'.  So, here is an update on our 'home' in progress!

December 19 - finished flooring
and fireplace
Since November 9 (last post about house), we have witnessed transformations big and small.  At times, the house has been clean and quiet, and we can begin to imagine a snowy day when the only sounds are the crackling fire and the rustle of pages in a book.

And other days, when F250s are parked the length of the driveway, and the house is a hive of activity with workmen, materials and Red Hot Chili Peppers surging through the speakers of the portable radio, it is almost more chaos than I can take.

Cabinets stacked in kitchen

Kitchen island in great room

Kitchen cabinets in
great room
Outside the house, the crew has stained the front door, installed gutters, built steps and enclosed the deck with railings.  As I write that simple sentence, I am struck once again by the depth of thought invested in each item.  For example, would you believe me if I told you that we put at least 40 hours (times 2) into the selection of our railings?  On the day the railings were installed, we looked at each other and smiled - it was the right choice.  Most importantly, we can see straight through the railings to the view beyond.  Secondly, the cable and metal design fits perfectly with our 'rustic industrial' motif. Third, they won't require much maintenance.  Win-win all around!

Front door with stain
Gutters match green trim on windows

Placed downspouts to align
with log structure

Chains on either side of front
porch coordinate with
rustic industrial motif;
note ice that has formed!

A clear view!

You hardly notice the cables are there!

View from covered back porch

Rabbit tracks

As we trek through snow to capture exterior photos, the white stuff inevitably yields clues to the presence of other critters.

My Christmas trail camera has also provided a window onto life in our 'back forty' when we are not around.

Soon, I might be able to watch these beauties using my spotting scope from inside the house, where the metamorphosis includes the fireplaces, wood flooring, tile, chinking, window trim and cabinet installation.

Our general contractor, who started his career as a carpenter, personally hand planed the mantles for our fireplaces.  Each mantle has just enough 'character' to bring out the unique burls and knots of the wood, and yet fits in with our overall clean look. 

I can't wait to hang our cross-stitch stockings on this mantle!

Great room fireplace
The masons who placed each individual stone in the fireplaces are artists in their own right.  We watched them at work, and it is an art to select the stone for its size, shape and color to ensure the 'natural' look.  (Followers of my blog know that we searched high and low for 20 square feet of red/purple stone to augment the fireplaces - it was worth the effort!) (link to previous post)

Great room fireplace viewed
from loft
Completed great room fireplace with detail of
some stones
Completed Master fireplace

In a previous post, I described our methodical approach to selecting paint colors.  It sounds simplistic, but in reality we had multiple factors in the decision-making mix - not only paint color, but the tones of tile, carpet, and wood flooring, plus cabinet grain and marble countertops to match.  As you visually try to imagine these combinations, it's enough to make your head spin!  In recent weeks, these elements have physically come together for the first time, and in every instance, we are ecstatic with the results.
Wood flooring in progress; right side also shows entry tile

Wood flooring complete;
view from great room to kitchen

Completed window trim
Kitchen island and cabinets

Guest bathroom

Basement half bath

Basement bar

Entry half bath

Master bathroom

Every day, the project that started with a hole in the ground on April 24 feels more and more like 'home'.  How appropriate that our general contractor recently gave us our very own front door key and garage door opener.  By his current estimate, he will turn over ALL the keys at the end of February!

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