Saturday, September 29, 2018

Savoring September

It's a brisk 47 degrees, and only the incandescent orange and yellow of the aspens brightens the steely, dull sky.  It's the sort of day to light an extra candle, pull the blanket a bit tighter around my legs, and slurp deeply from my hazelnut coffee.  And to wax lyrical with my end-of-September summary.  Here goes:

ONE: Getting crafty

Cooler temps and shorter days launch me into crafty mode.  With great enthusiasm, I have leapt into a new project, 30 cross-stitch ornaments for this year's Christmas tree.  I am really enjoying this kit because the designs are simple and it only requires a few hours to complete each one.  For me, this means a rapid sense of gratification, compared to many complex pieces that mean months or even years of work.  And the designs are SO cute!

Autumn's arrival also means football, and I often marry game time with crafts; I just feel better being productive while supporting the Cleveland Browns (and yes, they finally snapped the 19-game losing streak.  Go Browns and Baker Mayfield!)  It is a special joy to watch the games in our new screening room; so comfy, and the sound/projection system can't be beat!

(I created the arrangements below before my family's visit in September, but the topic just didn't seem to fit any of my previous posts, so I am wedging it here with my other creative endeavors.)

TWO: Getting lost 

As most of you know, Spousal Unit and I are avid hikers.  Responsible hikers inform family members of upcoming trips, and we are in that camp.  We have a 'system' with our kids that involves sending an email with details on starting and ending points, trail names, etc., along with the appropriate emergency number to call if a designated time passes and we have not been in touch.  WELL.  This month, I misjudged the duration of a hike, and we had no cell service to contact the kids until 30 minutes after the deadline had passed.  So, #1 Daughter had started calling out the cavalry, as she should.  To say the least, they were relieved but not entirely happy when we finally got service and checked in.  So, we are now the proud owners of a personal locator beacon - a Garmin Inreach, which is very slick.  It utilizes satellites, so at any point in time, the kids can log on to a website and determine our location.  The Garmin also sends simple texts ("Safe at car") even when we don't have cell service.  And it has many other features as well.  I think we all feel a bit safer with this (not cheap) valuable tool.

THREE: Getting fed

Delicious meals in our house are never an issue with Spousal Unit at the helm.  In the last couple of weeks, we've had a couple of stand-out dishes worth special mention.  As you may recall from my Horses, Homes and Huckleberries post, my Mother harvested the first of our Goodland apples earlier this month, and we have since plucked the remainder from the tree to protect them from bears (good thing we did but more on that later).  Utilizing the apples, Spousal Unit concocted an apple/blackberry pie, which we shared with former neighbors visiting from Cleveland.  Just scrumptious!

I'm still endeavoring to achieve my 'cook once a week' 2018 goal, and one of the best dishes we've discovered lately is this Chicken, Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna.  Mouthwatering flavors, a pleasant change from a tomato-based lasagna, and pretty healthy to boot with chicken broth and low-fat milk as the base.  Perfect for these cuddle-up cool fall evenings!

This time of year, I occasionally treat myself to a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, with a scone.  Heaven, just heaven.

FOUR: Getting visitors

Consider this Chapter Three of our summer visitor series.  (See links for Chapter One and Two.)  We (re) welcomed two former neighbors from Cleveland, who had been to the house last September, when it had no door or flooring and barely had shingles!  To say the least, it was a joy to tour them 'round the finished dream, inside and out!  After a scrummy dinner that featured "brisket beyond compare" (per one of our guests), we gathered around the fire pit and caught up on each other's lives.  Nothing could have capped the evening with more flair than the pie I already mentioned above.  Food coma, anyone?

The next day, we cruised over to Glacier National Park and absorbed the adjectives that rapidly tumbled from our visitors.  Until the car became silent, with only strains from Billy Joel's Greatest Hits in the background … I suppose you can run out of ways to describe the soaring, rich grandeur of mountains in autumn.

An overnight light snowfall above 6,000 feet added another dimension to the vistas throughout our drive on Going to the Sun road.  At Logan Pass (6,646 feet), the snow and rime coating every flower, blade of grass and tree brought these natural structures into sharp relief against the dark mountains.  The 1.5 mile hike (one-way) to Hidden Lake Overlook reminded one of our visitors of scenes from Skyfall.  We all marveled in our own ways at the wonderland created by a little H2O.

On our way out of the Park, we stopped at Lake McDonald Lodge, which provided a close-up view of the outcome of the Howe Ridge Fire (see this link for my report on this fire back in August).  From ridge to shoreline, the mountain is scorched, with little black matchsticks that used to be towering pines.  Without the billowing smoke and leaping flames, it now seems somewhat benign.  But we know it consumed 14,522 acres and 13 residences, some of which had been used by the same families for over 70 years.  Sobering, and lingering smoke lets us know the fire still smolders, waiting for snow as the final extinguisher.  We moved on to Whitefish for a bit of touristy shopping and then wrapped the day with a delightful dinner at Tupelo Grill.  (Get the chicken and dumplings - to die for!)
If you look closely, you can see a ribbon of smoke at the base of the mountain
Today, we had a casual breakfast (for Spousal Unit, that's blueberry pancakes, bacon and fruit) before our friends left for the airport.  We're pretty sure we can count on a return visit next September!!
Candle gift from our guests; their note in our guest book

FIVE: Getting outdoors

Lest you think everything is perfect in paradise here, I have to report a run-in with elk this week.  We've seen them near the lake, and our neighbors have sighted herds of up to 30 in the neighborhood.  So, on Monday, when I went on the deck to photograph the moon (nothing worth sharing, by the way), I was thrilled to hear an elk bugling.  It sounded close, and I could also hear munching.  "Must be a lot of them, and nearby," I mused.  I went inside without a second thought.  The next morning, this was the view outside the kitchen window - those elk had 'groomed' this maple tree like it was a poodle's tail, leaving only a little pom-pom of leaves at the top.  Grrr … I was not happy.  As I explored more later that day, I found that they had 'pruned' my Mom's Goodland apple tree (good thing we had harvested the apples, or they would have been elk food!), and had a nibble at Dad's Honeycrisp as well as the other maple.  This called for action, so Spousal Unit and I have now added chicken wire above the normal caging for all 4 of these trees.  So far, so good this week, and I hope it stays that way!

Wildlife seems to be hiding out - my trail cam photos are mostly deer and elk.  The other day, while cleaning the patio, I met this little fellow …  I am not entirely sure, but I think it's a garter snake.

In the meantime, I was amazed to find this small violet growing near the house, and a harebell plant that sprung up in the middle of a stretch of compacted dirt - nothing else is growing for yards around it.  Asters are holding out against the cold mornings and the frost we've had; they almost seem to thrive in it.  

And of course, the aspens are gussied up like young ladies heading to prom.  I don't know why some are orange or red while the majority are yellow … but then, I don't need to know; it's enough to simply bask in the radiant beauty.

Linking to:
All Seasons

Our World Tuesday Graphic
Saturday's Critters
Sharon's Souvenir Photos
Wednesday Around the World
Willy Nilly Friday

Monday, September 24, 2018

Post #100 - Looking Back at the Spectacle

Heddal Stavkirke, Norway
This is hard.  I figured, with a major milestone such as 100 posts, I should do a "Best Of" post.  Best 10 posts?  Best 10 pictures?  Top 5 Most Popular posts (as defined by some Blogger algorithm?)  It wasn't clear.  So I went back to Post 1 and started reading.  Maybe inspiration would strike like the proverbial bolt of lightning.  Well, no such luck.  Instead, my list of favorite posts AND pictures ballooned like a warren of rabbits left to do what they do best … While reading Post 73 (3/9/18), I realized that it described a thorough analysis that I had ALREADY done of my first 12 months of posts - duh!  And it's probably no coincidence that Post 73 is one of my 5 most popular posts.
Maple leaves, Raby Castle gardens

OK, let's simplify, baby, and focus only on posts since 3/9/18.  Well, I got close, but some of my favorites were just too hard to jettison no matter when they were published - and who writes this blog, anyway?  So, here are MY top 10 posts (and to take the easy way out, they are in date order.  This post needs to get published SOME DAY in my lifetime!)

ONE: Down the Riviera, July 8, 2017

A Young Samurai
Reading this post still makes me break out in giggles, especially when I get to the photo of "A Young Samurai".  Not to mention Quiffy and The Hen.  This post, about my in-laws' allotment (read: garden) in the UK, was a breeze to write because "The Riviera" holds so many memories for all of us.  It is a beautiful haven that I eagerly anticipate each time we visit.

TWO:  Man with Hat, July 14, 2017

Of course, I had to include this one … maybe it will be visited more and put Spousal Unit back in the Top 5 Popular posts - you know, he asks about it all the time!  OK, serious now.  It meant the world to me to incorporate one of our love songs, If I Should Fall Behind, by Bruce Springsteen, into this Happy Birthday post for my better half.  And, importantly, my spouse became forever known in the blogging world as Man with Hat.

THREE: Helping Dreams Come True, September 10, 2017

I love making dreams come true, be they big or small.  It has been done for us, and now we are in the position to do the same.  In this post, I wrote about an epic trip with my Mother and my oldest sister, fulfilling some of their life-long desires.  Yep, it was epic - it took four separate posts to cover it all!
Fairmont Banff Springs

FOUR: Meadows of Muker, September 26, 2017

"An idyllic slice of the world - truly the epitome of the English countryside".  Can you tell I like walking the footpaths of the UK?  This post combined so many of my favorites - sharing the world's beauty as tour guide for others, walking/hiking, the UK, and captivating photos (in my opinion).
Near Muker, UK

FIVE:  Graduate with Hat, May 3, 2018

Pride.  Heart-popping, buttons-on-the-vest-busting pride.  Not that we had any doubt, but we were still pretty puffed up when #1 Daughter graduated from the University of Cincinnati on April 28.  And, of course, as a recent graduate she had the right to inform me that the title of the post, more accurately, should have been Graduate with Cap.  "But I get it, Mom; I get the nod to Man with Hat."  Thanks, sweetie.  I also loved the family time documented in this post, including a birthday meal with #1 Son (20!), and the nostalgic return to Cleveland.  We will always adore our Camelot Drive and Geauga family!!!
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

SIX: Awesome April, May 10, 2018

OK, I think you know by now that I like the outdoors and wildlife.  So this post caught my eye - how much the environment around us was changing in just six short weeks.  And the coyote snapped by my trail cam.  And the antics of an adorable black bear (from a distance) captured by a cam in Glacier National Pak - the whole world was waking up, just like that bear!

SEVEN:  May at Warp Speed, May 31, 2018

Our side deck
OK, I think you know by now that I like to check tasks off my list (even though I am supposed to be letting go of perfection).  Well, May was a banner month for "get 'er done"!  Landscaping, interior decorating, tea towels, the piano move, the list goes on!  At least I could say that putting together the patio furniture was just so I had somewhere to sit to drink my wine!
Lower level guestroom with headboard hand-made by Spousal Unit

EIGHT: Another Day in the Neighborhood, June 14, 2018

OK, I think you know by now that I like the outdoors and wildlife.  (Yes, I know I already wrote that … but I REALLY LIKE WILDLIFE.)  Check out this post for deer, beaver, ground squirrels, turkeys, turtles and our very own black bear!

NINE: Jumpin' June, July 5, 2018

Warning - slight risk of repetition … more "get 'er done" accomplishments and more outdoors photos!  At least this offers ME cooking (for a change) and a badger video.  And mushrooms, if you are weary of flower shots!
Father's Day breakfast in bed; galvanized steel bar tray was also a Father's Day gift

TEN: Hiking Journal Entry 14 - Highline Trail, July 19, 2018

We made it!  Aren't you glad?  Hopefully you read this far, because I do think this journal entry is the best in many ways.  Who wouldn't enjoy hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park with 100 of your closest friends?  Seriously, some trails stand out for me (and we have hiked A LOT); this is definitely in my top 5, ever.  Mountain views.  Abundant flora.  Waterfalls.  Unique fauna (marmots and mountain goats).  And, of course, a day out with Man with Hat.

Linking to:

All Seasons

I Like Thursday

Sharon's Photo Souvenirs

Skywatch Friday

Wandering Camera

Wednesday Around the World

Willy Nilly Friday

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Horses, Homes and Huckleberries

Yesterday morning, frost coated every outdoor surface like a fine layer of diamond dust.  It glinted in the sun, and then slowly melted into wispy mist that floated eerily through the trees.  I could imagine Summer in the vapor, inexorably disappearing as Fall gains the upper hand.  It was a fitting metaphor, as yesterday we said farewell to the last of our latest round of summer visitors.

Hence, I offer you Chapter Two of the "summer visitor series" (link to Chapter One).

On September 7, just as the dinner bell rang, six of my family arrived on our doorstep - my mother, my oldest sister, my oldest brother and his wife, and my youngest brother and his wife.  For all but the latter, this would be the first time they would step foot into our completed dream home.  Talk about excitement and anticipation!
Left: Book about successful baking at high altitude - for Spousal Unit!
Middle: Cross-stitch for my gallery wall
Right: Utah wines - yum!
Note that the Boddington's beer and Kendall Jackson wine are MIA
because they were already imbibed!
Our guests honored us with thoughtful housewarming and 'hostess' gifts.  Thanks, guys!

Captain Doug's boat moored at the beach
The next day, we wasted no time and jumped directly into tour guide mode, with a boat trip on Flathead Lake, destination Wild Horse Island.  At 2,160 acres, Wild Horse Island is the largest island in a freshwater lake west of Minnesota.  The island has been a landmark since the Salish-Kootenai Indians were reported to have used it to pasture horses to keep them from being stolen by other tribes.  The park is noted for its wildlife including bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, bald eagles, and falcons, as well as five wild horses.  Rare and endangered species have also been found on its Palouse Prairie grasslands.  The island's scenic shoreline is a favorite of hikers, boaters, swimmers and sailboat enthusiasts.
Pictographs documenting bison kills by the Salish-Kootenai Indians
You could have this house and its island for $15 million … it's for sale!
(and this is a steal - it was built for $98 million)

Captain Doug motored his boat (a perfect fit for the 8 of us) while sharing interesting history (and probably a few tall tales).  There is no dock on the island, but Captain Doug had perfected off-loading passengers with a portable ladder.  After a brief orientation to the layout of the island, we headed out on the trail while Captain Doug went off on his own.  We had seen very limited wildlife (squirrels don't count) when we encountered Captain Doug.  Part of our group decided to work their way back to the beach, while my oldest brother and I went with Doug in search of the horses.  I am pleased to report that we found the band of 5 mares, and the other group came across the bighorn sheep and some turkeys.  A win-win for all!
Upper right: horses are hidden in this grove of trees …

Sunday brought Mass at our local church followed by breakfast/lunch at Sykes Diner.  Fortunately, our next stop - Conrad Mansion - provided an opportunity to stroll the grounds and stave off food-induced napping!  The Mansion, sited in Kalispell, is a beautifully preserved  example of luxurious living and period architecture in the Northwest.

In 1868, at the age of 18, Charles E. Conrad left his boyhood home in Virginia and traveled to Fort Benton, Montana Territory.  There he built a trading and freighting empire on the Missouri River that lasted more than 20 years.  In his lifetime, Mr. Conrad lived through the Civil War and the settling of the West, and he left an indelible mark on the history of Montana.

The building itself remains unchanged since Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter designed and built the 23-room-home in 1895 for Mr. Conrad, founder of Kalispell.  Ahead of their time, the owner and architect built in electricity, steam heat, running water and a hand-driven elevator.  Although you can't take interior pictures, the 90-minute tour of the house gives you a thorough look at the furnishings, most of which are original to the home.  Ownership and occupation of this stunning Norman style mansion remained in the Conrad family until 1975, when it was given to the City of Kalispell, which ultimately turned over the active management of the site to the non-profit Conrad Mansion Museum organization.

And what could be a better way to wrap the weekend but an inaugural fire in the fire pit, accompanied by s'mores?  (The night sky was pitch black, and my brothers helped us spot satellites tracking across the heavens, low enough to reflect the last of the sun's rays.)

The little village of Bigfork, nestled in an elbow of the Swan River, is a perfect spot for a walk along the Wild Mile.  A picturesque section of the river with rapid upon rapid, it is host to the Bigfork Whitewater Festival each spring.  Monday meant few people on the trail, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch before exploring the quaint shops.  The best part was the huckleberry ice cream, with whole berries exploding in my mouth.  When we arrived home, my Mom harvested the first of our Goodland apples; this tree was planted in her honor earlier this year (see post).  We all tried a piece or two, and the consensus on the flavor is the tartness of a Granny Smith, softened by tones of Golden Delicious.  Fleshy without being mushy.  We also agreed that the rest of the apples would benefit from a little more time on the tree, and a hard frost.  So watch this space for more apples!

And all too soon, departure day arrived for everyone except my oldest brother and his wife.  We shared the breakfast table and then it was hugs all 'round before we headed to the day's hike while the others went on their way.  Glacier Lake had been recommended by a friend, and she was on the money!  Radiant fall colors.  Pools formed by Glacier Creek.  Only 1.6 miles to the lake, with minimal elevation gain.  A lake cradled by mountains, unique on the west side with massive rock slabs slanting down to the water's edge.  What more could you ask?

(And we had to stop at Moose's in Kalispell for pizza and beverages!)

My sister-in-law is a superb quilter, and so our trip to Whitefish the next day had to include a stop in Whitefish Quilts and Gifts.  She was delighted to find some fat quarters with a huckleberry motif.  And the huckleberry theme continued that evening as Spousal Unit and my SIL crafted a White Chocolate Huckleberry Cheesecake.  Supreme willpower was required to wait for a taste until the following morning, but boy, was it worth it and perfectly paired with coffee!!!  By far the best cheesecake ever -- smooth, out-of-this-world flavor!

On our final day together, we shared two of our favorites with our guests - Kootenai Falls/Swinging Bridge and Ross Creek Cedars (see previous post).  In between, searching for a quiet picnic spot, we stumbled across the Dorr Skeels Campground.  

Only a bald eagle, flying along the western shore before perching in a pine, disturbed the absolute peace of the beach we chose for lunch.

And now the house is quiet. The sunrise will be here tomorrow, and so will the aspens, quickly transforming with each day of frost.  But now we are the only witnesses - at least until our next guests arrive - in 12 days!

Linking to:

All Seasons

Our World Tuesday Graphic

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