Wednesday, March 28, 2012

End of the Road

Well, it's finally here! My last week on the road. Well, for awhile anyways. I, mean, really who are we kidding here? I think I was born with a passport in one hand and a fully packed suitcase in the other.  But I'm getting ready to hang up my gypsy shoes and head on home to Missoula and settle in to being a full-time student and house-dweller once again. The thought of rooms, and a real kitchen with a real oven and space to spread my kitchen tools out on, to roll out pastry, and a yard with grass for Daisy and Chloe to lay in, and my garden....oh, my garden! it all sounds like heaven to this road-weary soul.

I have been in a daze for the last month, dreaming and planning, plotting out new beds and mentally scanning the yard and thinking of new designs, new flowers and plants I want to try. I want to take that sunny corner in the back yard and move in that raised bed, expand it to maximize vegetable production. I need to get my mason bees from the gentleman on Fifth St so I can make sure my flowers are happy, that my apple and cherry trees can bear an abundance of fruit. I hear that my roses have taken a beating since I've been gone so I'm just itching, itching, to get my hands on them and bring them back to life. I wonder how my bulbs have fared. Will they be up, bobbing in the breeze, happy to see us? I had to laugh when I read Nici's recent blog about her garden day-dreaming. I could so relate.

So the girls and I are prepping and packing, handling those last minute details that need to be handled before we head off on our long road-trip north. I'm excited, jittery, ready to get going. I can not wait to leave this....

Clovis, NM otherwise known as Motorhome-Livin' Hell
for this....

Home Sweet Home

but I am really, really sad, anxious and distraught about leaving this....

The fam at San Simeon Pier
 My sweet husband is going to be staying behind with the behemoth (aka motorhome) to finish off the contract he is working and then, fingers crossed, he'll be taking an assignment closer to home. The plan is for him to come home on weekends, or for me and the girls to head to him on my school breaks so we can continue on with the Grand Adventure....with one foot mired in reality.

And the ultimate goal? Well, the ultimate goal is for me to bust my ass, complete my degree in Speech Therapy so I can then work alongside Erik while traveling the country...and, dare I say, maybe the world? I have a dream of working in Europe or Australia for awhile and if I can manage to get my act together and buckle down to the task at hand, this degree might give us the opportunity to live and work abroad for awhile. Ooh, now there's some motivation for ya!

But until then, I'm simply looking forward to the adventure before us. Tonight I'm making magic one last time (get your minds out of the gutter, people, I'm talking pizza!) in my tiny little oven. And I'll sit and drink a lovely Barbera wine with my husband, one that we picked up on our weekend excursion to the California wine country, and I'll soak in this moment, breathe it in deep, knowing I'll not be living this life for awhile to come.

And then Friday, I hit the road, loaded to the gills with Kitchen Aids and Cuisinarts, dog toys and strappy sandals. Missoula, here I come! A bit stressed, a bit weary but a whole lot of optimistic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wow! What a ride!

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!" ~ Hunter S. Thompson

Bonfire at Hotel Albert

Those immortal words of Mr. Thompson have never rang so clearly in my mind as they do this December afternoon. I'm staring down at the end of 2011 and standing on tiptoes to try to get a clearer view of 2012 fast approaching. I can not believe my last post was in May. So much, SO MUCH, has happened since then!

Life these past seven months (7 months!) was full-throttle, sparkling and full of possibilities. Full of love and friends and reconnection. We worked hard, we played hard, we laughed....a lot. And, yet, it was also cloudy with confusion, struggle, sadness and loss. 

Since my last post, I have been from here
The Pioneers
To here
 
Beach babies
 
From here
 
Kayaking in Glacier or, as we like to call it, heaven

To here

Charleston churchyard

We've enjoyed bonfires, a wedding of a childhood friend, a celebration of 40 years (my brother), and get-togethers with dear ones from close and far away.

Getting my caulk on at Hotel Albert
We've hiked, argued, learned how to install a metal roof on an old hotel (thus the arguing!), kayaked, rode moonlight bike rides through Yellowstone, explored historic southern cities and old, western ghost towns. We've traveled and explored Montana, South Carolina, California, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. And, I started back to school with the vision of a bachelor's degree in my sights.

Ghostly Bannack

And, we've cried. We lost one of our four-legged family members this fall. Riley. His spirit was willing but his body gave out so...we learned a serious lesson in saying goodbye. And...of carrying someone in your heart. 


Our Riley. We miss him.

And now we find ourselves at the end of 2011. I'm sitting here in the sunshine of California, soaking it up as our next move is looming ever closer. Nina Simone is singing Sinnerman. She sings of prayers, "Don't you see me down here praying?" I'm not a much of a pray-er, not even sure if my prayers will be heard but.... today I pray. I pray that 2012 is as chock full of adventure, love, family and friends as 2011 ever was. I pray I make it through my degree quest and I can come out the other side proud of what I've accomplished. I pray that Riley, my honeybun boy, finally catches that rabbit he was chasing all his life and I pray he's sitting in a little patch of sunshine of his own. I pray that the world can find a respite from the weariness and embrace a bit of peace. And I pray for you, for all of us. I pray that this New Year is full of many wonderful things....with maybe just a bit of magic sprinkled in. 

May you have a good ride in 2012 and a very blessed and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Making Pastry


For the past four weeks, every Wednesday I kiss the dogs goodbye, throw my overnight bag in the car and make the gorgeous two and a half hour drive from Dillon to Missoula. I love having that time to myself. I listen to our local NPR station, I daydream, I watch the drop-dead scenery roll by. Sometimes I turn off the radio, roll down the windows and just breathe in that cold, clear mountain air. Heaven. And it's about this time of day I've been rolling into Missoula heading for the fun, camaraderie and carb-loading of my new favorite past-time...the Posh Chocolat Pastry Class.

Sadly, this Wednesday's class was canceled so I figured I'd better get my behind in gear, go through the pictures and get that long over-due pastry class post done. Let's face it, I'd much rather be basking in the glory of rising pastry and whirling buttercream but, hey, looking at the pictures just reminds me of how much fun we're having and, oh!, the things we're learning.


We've gone through yeast breads, enriched breads, biscuits, muffins and cakes. I've learned how to make a Swiss Meringue Buttercream (something I've always been intimidated by) and how to fill a cream puff (always a good skill to have). My favorite lesson so far was making croissants and, especially, making Pain au Chocolat. Time consuming, yes, but so much fun. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.


Another aspect I'm thoroughly enjoying? Working in a warm, well-organized kitchen and baking with other women who don't think it's crazy to wax poetic over rising bread dough. We swap tips, share stories and laugh together over awkward attempts at new techniques. I look forward to their smiling faces as much as I look forward to the goody bags we get to take home at the end of a successful evening of baking. Who knew baking with friends could be so satisfying? Instead of book clubs, why aren't baking clubs taking off? Hmm, maybe I'll be the first to get the trend going.


So, Natalie, Jo, Marietta, Maggie and Chef Ana, since I can't be with you all tonight, I've put up a web album of our Wednesday fun for you to peruse and I will happily drink a toast in your honor. Here's to new friends and unrestrained baking! Cheers!






Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 1 of Unrealistic Optimism


I started my "garden" yesterday. Nevermind that we got inches of snow two days earlier or that there was a Winter Storm Warning in effect for my region or that I live in a motorhome. Nope, it didn't deter me. That brilliant spring sunshine was glittering down, warming up my hair and hands and I looked over at the sad, listless cilantro that I'd been carting around and it was like a little bell sounded. DING! Time to garden!

I still find it surprising that even though I do live in a motorhome, that desire to get my hands in the dirt is as strong as ever. I'm like a baby sea turtle that will not be stopped from getting his flippers in the salty sea. I must garden even if it means I garden contained. Not my favorite but, hey, what's a travelin' gardener to do?

Not sure if I told you about this but, to add to my garden fever and in true optimistic gardening fashion, this year I took up dig this chick's challenge of the Virgin Harvest and decided to commit to attempt my vegetable garden in containers. Have you signed up? It's not too late!

So, my first challenge? (Well, besides the weather and the cramped, movable living quarters with lack of garden space). What should I use as containers? Hmmm, this was a tough one. Being mobile presents issues all on its own like limited storage space and the need for recyclable gardening containers. When the harvest is over, I just can't take them all with me and I wanted to find something I could use that would recycle easily at the end of the growing season, was portable enough to move around, was cheap (I really didn't want to sink a ton of money into pots or materials only to leave it all behind) and yet would give the mature plants enough depth of root to flourish. So, I racked my brain and came up with...milk cartons. What do you think? I know they won't work so well for lettuce and spinach but for the squash, tomatoes and herbs, I'm going to give them a try. By the way, any and all suggestions for alternative gardening containers from my fellow green gardeners out there would be greatly appreciated!



So, with the spring sunshine warming our skin, the dogs and I (well, they just laid there and supervised but, hey, I appreciated the moral support) hauled out the supplies and the lackluster herb plants and...ahem...dug right in.




A shell I picked up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Beautiful and functional. I love it!
The day before, on my trip to Missoula for my pastry class (the post is coming, I promise!), I stopped at our lovely version of a Whole Foods market and came across some seed packets that I just could not say no to. Again, unrealistic optimism at its finest. Even in our home, growing seedlings was a shitload of work and why I think I can be successful in a drafty, always cold motorhome is beyond my comprehension.  Be that as it may, for better or for worse, the seeds made the trip from the Good Food Store to the Dillon KOA and were promptly, and with great ceremony, cooing and encouragement, deposited in tin cans originally meant for the recycle bin but which have now, instead, been drafted into duty as seed starting containers. We'll see. If they even sprout, it will be a small miracle but...I have hope.



I am happy to report that the herbs looked immediately happier and more content in fresh soil with room to grow but I am sad to report that in a blatant attempt to quash my gardening optimism, no sooner did I have everyone planted, labeled and watered, Mother Nature let loose with an almighty thunderstorm and my freshly contained, baby-stage garden, the lazy dogs and I had to run for cover. Then we all watched dejectedly through the window as cold rain fell and the temperatures dropped. ....sigh...


But, that's ok. I'm still clinging to my unrealistic optimism.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's For Dinner? Vegetarian Chili


As a vegetarian, I get asked a lot, "Well, what do you eat?" No joke, people really do ask me that question. It's always amused me a bit but now I'm also being asked for recipes as more and more people have started looking at healthier meal options. 

Look, I'm warning you right now that I am in no way a great cook. Baker, sure, I can hold my own but cooking? It's just not something I do for fun. You're going to find that most of my meal ideas are quick, don't have a ton of ingredients, and aren't too involved. With that being said, I thought I'd occasionally post a recipe or two for those who have asked (you know who you are) and tonight, it's one of my go-to meals, Vegetarian Chili. Simple, easy, hot and filling. Plus, it is one of those recipes that I love to call my One-Pot Wonders. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 or 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced (optional and depending on how hot you want your chili. I usually go for the whole)
  • 1/2 pasilla chile, seeds removed, diced (optional)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cans (19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained or 1 can of black beans and 1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28 ounces) organic diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of water
  • Avocado, sliced (optional)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Directions

  1. In a 5-quart heavy soup pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno and pasilla chile; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 4 minutes.

  2. Add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes and water. Simmer for 20 minutes until chili has thickened and ingredients have melded.

3.  Ladle into bowls and top with sliced avocado and/or shredded cheddar cheese and serve with warm corn tortillas if you're not afraid of carbs (Erik does, I don't...sigh...)

Delish!




Friday, April 15, 2011

Cruising Home and Settling In


We made it! Ahh, our feet are firmly and happily planted on Montana soil once again and we haven't stopped moving since we arrived. We've reconnected with friends and family, I've started my pastry class (more on that soon!), we went and checked out the old motel we bought (that's a whole post on its own) and Erik even raced in the Rocky Mountain Roubaix. 

I'm still trying to unpack and settle us in our new location, Dillon, MT but here are a few photos of our roadtrip home and our first week back.

We went from this....

...to this. Well, hello, Dillon.

Our movable sporting good store

Downtown Durango. Finally, mountains and microbrews!







We went treasure hunting in Gallup, NM. I just couldn't resist these beauties.
 
What?! Green grass and no stickers? Riley thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

The new project, Hotel Albert.




Racing the Rocky Mountain Roubaix



Life is sweet thanks to my new friends at Posh Chocolat.



Everybody Challah! Loving my pastry class. Yes, mine's the round one in the middle.

Oh, those Pioneers! Looking forward to getting to know you better.



A view out my window



Sneaking off for a little fishing. This is our new backyard.



Evening fly-fishing. At least I'll know where to find him.

Friday, April 1, 2011

See you later, Clovis

So, yea, it's been..um...fun to get to know you but I've really gotta go now. Oh, sure, yea, maybe someday we can do lunch....NOT!

My time in Clovis, NM. This about sums it up.

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