Saturday, March 5, 2016

Conservatory Skulking

I know, I know. I promised updates and posts about Montana and where we are living now. They are coming, definitely, but my other half had to go to Spokane for a seminar so, of course, I tagged along. Who could pass up the chance of some "city" comforts (i.e. Thai food, Indian food and Anthropologie) when you spend most of your days rattling around the mountains? Um, not me! So, tag along, I did.

Spokane is our nearest city and most Western Montanans make a pilgrimage to the urban oasis at least a couple of times a year. We've been making the trek for the last 20+ years so one does develop a certain knowledge-set based on the individual interests of the pilgrim. While we can both give pretty good recommendations for lodging and the aforementioned Thai and Indian food, we do diverge a bit from there. Erik? He can tell you the best routes to run and cycle, the location of each and every microbrewery within the city limits and what they are currently serving. Me? I can tell you the best coffee houses and bakeries, which restaurants are serving fresh, organic food and good wines, where Nordstrom and the aforementioned Anthropologie are located (and the nearest best parking places so you don't lose your mind before reaching them) and parks. I've got parks covered.

I love parks. I spend alot of time in parks since we usually travel with canine companions. But even without the requisite dog walks, I still love discovering a new park and will seek them out wherever we wander. I guess this really comes as no surprise since I've freely admitted to my gardening addiction and to my time as a volunteer at the botanical garden in North Carolina. Well, I'm here to tell you that Spokane has one of the most glorious parks I've ever had the pleasure to wander. Manito Park.

Every pilgrimage I make to Spokane, if I can squeeze a visit in, I head straight for Manito. It doesn't matter what season it is, it's worth it every single time. It's 90 acres of garden nirvana. There is a hilltop rose garden, a Japanese garden, a lilac garden, a formal garden, a perennial garden and a mirror pond. In the summer, there is an outdoor cafe and there are miles of trails winding throughout it all, taking you from formal garden to wooded park, up and over rock arches and down to the Japanese garden.

And if that's not enough, the neighborhoods surrounding the park are filled with architectural gems, from mansions to tiny craftsman bungalows. Really, you could spend the whole day and still not see it all. Around every corner is a hidden bench or sunny table and chairs begging you to sit down and take it all in. I just can't resist.

And you know what I really can't resist? Yep, a glass house. What is it about stepping in from out of a drab colored, winter cold world into a tropical, vibrantly colored world that is so magical? It honestly makes me gasp each and every time I push open that door and take my first breath of warm, humid air. I have spent my life seeking out conservatories and glass houses. And there are a couple that immediately pop to mind as being some of my favorites (Christchurch Botanic Garden in New Zealand and the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Georgia). But, Manito's Gaiser Conservatory? It might be small but it holds a special place in my heart.

So, no surprise, after dropping Erik off for a day of learning, I made a beeline to Manito and since it was cold and frosty, I went straight for the glass house. Now, I'm sure you know what's coming so, for all of you flower lovers and gardeners out there, prepare to be wowed. For all others, thank you so much for visiting and I will try to make my next post less flower focused (um, but no promises).

Without further ado, let's see what's waiting for you at Manito's Gaiser Conservatory!

 Oh, I could go on and on but I'll save a little mystery for those who might want to make their own pilgrimage. If you do decide to go, just FYI, the Mariana Stoltz BndB is quite a lovely spot to lay your head. So close to downtown yet in a walkable neighborhood close to Gonzaga University. And in the words of a friend who recommended it to me, "Phyllis puts on a mean breakfast." That and a wild turkey who has made the grounds her home, who could ask for anything more?

So the next time you find yourself in gritty, frenetic Spokane and decide you need a break, grab a coffee at Rockwood Bakery (a block from the park. How convenient!) and go discover Manito Park. You won't regret it and you just might pick up some brilliant garden ideas or a new plant if you time it right and hit the plant sale. Hmm, see you there and happy wandering!

PS: If you happen to be in Spokane during the Christmas season, I've heard they decorate the conservatory with lights and turn it into a winter wonderland. I've yet to catch it but it's on my bucket list, for sure!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Back in the Saddle Again

Hello, it's been awhile, hasn't it? A few years since I've stepped into this space to pour my heart out and share my stories. And so much has happened! A return to scholastic life, a tumble on a trail run leading to a broken kneecap and surgery, a terrifying dance with cancer leading to more surgeries, the dreaded chemo and, finally, a decision to settle down for a moment and catch our breath, regroup and get our feet back under us. Maybe one of these days I'll have the courage to rehash some of the awful stuff that I slogged through but, right now, all I want to do is take a deep breath and begin moving forward again.

So, let's just start from here, with here being a little Montana town tucked in between snowy mountains on the banks of a big river. My other half has accepted a job which will keep us in one place for awhile. We've been doing the traveling road show for so long now that we both are wondering how we'll do with our feet planted in one place for more than one season but, fingers crossed! And since we are more than ready for a bit less excitement (read: stress) in our lives, we're making the decision to leap back into our old "normal" (read: baking in a full-size oven. Yippee!). First, sell the RV, then find a place to call home and, last, settle in. Not a bad place to settle, that's for sure.

I'm feeling a bit rusty at the ol' blogging thang so please bear with me while I work out the kinks and get back into my rhythm. I hope to reconnect with old friends and maybe make some new friends along the way. And, oh, I have lots to share; from exploring this corner of Montana to my trials and tribulations of mastering artisan bread with a sourdough starter (help!). Is anybody out there willing to ride along with me? If so and if you're ready, let's saddle up! We're off to new adventures!

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!


  • 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)


  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...)



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