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...)


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.... 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 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.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can I Get a "Hell, Yea!"?

Chocolate Truffles of love
 I know, I know, baking and chocolate, you know I love it, I obsess over it, I lay in bed at night dreaming up chocolate fantasy concoctions. Yada, yada, yada. You've heard it all before and I know I've gone on and on about the baking ban. But, folks, I'm about to take it to a whole new level...

I received an innocent email from our local artisan chocolate and pastry chef in Missoula (Posh Chocolat, check 'em out) announcing that she will be conducting a six week class in the art of all things chocolate-making AND french pastry AND yeast breads AND...wait for it, tortes and cakes. I passed out. I came to. I passed out. I came to. I passed out. I woke to find the dog licking my face and I jumped up, hit reply and screamed (in written form of course...well, to be honest, I might have screamed it out loud as well), "SIGN ME UP!!!" (Please, the ban had no chance. None, whatsoever. Don't judge me.)

 And not knowing the level of crazy obsession that she's dealing with, she did. She signed me up. So starting April 6th not only will I be home (HALLELUJUAH!), I will be sashaying my way around and around a commercial kitchen with the loves of my life (sorry, Erik, but you should know this by now): butter, sugar, flour and, of course, chocolate. 

Oh, sweet god, please tell me I'm not dreaming!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beauty Shines Through

"The clouds collect above, drift by like marching armies on their way to war,
bringing storms and salvation.
Which, is yours to discover.

The tension builds, the winds begin their frantic dance,
increasing the pressure, the strength, the intensity until you want to escape.
But you're on an open plain, nowhere to run, no place to run to,
so the armies catch you,
open their ranks and swallow you in chaos, confusion, panic, 
despair and desperation until they spit you out the back.

They leave you standing on an open plain in a newly quiet world.
Just you, alone, breathing hard
as a light breeze dances around you."

I've thought alot about beauty this week. In our dry and desolate location, I came upon a blooming cherry tree. Its absolute incongruity in a desert landscape stopped me in my tracks. I actually gasped at the beauty of it. That this little tree could, first of all, survive but then have the flat-out audacity to bloom took my breath away. In a world of brown, of harshness, of rusted-out junkers and blowing trash, beauty in its simplicity shines through. And after a soul-shaking, what the hell just happened time when you are swallowed by the despair of ever seeing the sun again, that little glimmer through the darkness shines bright and brings with it...hope.

I've watched the news of Japan along with the rest of the world and in the absolute devastation, one thing I've noticed is the beauty shining through. The beauty of a gracious people pulling together, the beauty of a life spared, of a reunion of loved ones thought lost and I know, like this little desert cherry tree, beauty survived.

I hope that in these dark days, in the chaos and confusion, when the world chews us up and spits us out, a little glimpse of green in a brown world will stand as a reminder that we can survive the winter, that this too shall pass and if we look to the beauty instead of the tragedy, we will find hope again.

May beauty shine through, bright and unwavering, for the people of Japan. 

 Want to help? So simple: Socks for Japan

Thursday, March 10, 2011

3 Weeks and 2 Days Until Liberation

Sometimes you just want to go home. Now, don't get me wrong, I love this traveling lifestyle. I still enjoy the waking up in new places and that moment of, "Where the heck are we?" and soaking in the scents and smells and sights and, well, different-ness of a new location, the peculiarities that make it so NOT home. It's fun, exciting, always an adventure. But, so far, no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, after a few months, it always hits. That longing for familiar. The longing for those sights, sounds and smells that set your heart to singing. And then you's time to go home.

I haven't made it a secret that this assignment has been a challenge for me which makes the desire to get the hell out of Dodge (or Clovis, as the case may be) that much more intense. In one of my melancholy moods, I happened to pick up an old journal and I read something I wrote that really just sums it up.

 I remember the day so clearly. It was May of last year and we were on our assignment in Billings, MT. It was a Saturday and we had headed off into the mountains to soak up a gorgeous spring day. I was sitting in the sun on the bank of the Stillwater River while Erik chased fish and the dogs flopped on the grass beside me.

Erik and Riley flyfishing on the Stillwater River

May 8, 2010 - The leaves on the trees are bursting out, the birds are so active, the Swiftwater rushing by makes such a beautiful melody. What a gorgeous day! Mid-40's, sun is shining, snow on the ground around me but patches of spring grass warmed by the sun offers an inviting space for the dogs to stretch out on.

Oh, Montana, how I love you! Fickle though you may be, your beauty, your generosity makes the temper tantrums worthwhile. I am already feeling the loss of leaving you and moving on to our next stop even though I know adventure awaits. The gypsy life is a strange one. The thrill of waking up and wondering, "Where am I today?", the discovering of new places, new people never gets old.

Yet, I can't help looking back over my shoulder as I walk away at what I'm leaving behind. That sense of melancholy knowing you'll go on without me while I'm gone. Your snows will melt, your flowers will bloom and I'll be far away finding different flowers, different spaces but none to compare with those of my beautiful Montana.

Montana Wildflowers
 So, there you have it. And in 3 weeks and 2 days, we're heading back to Montana for the summer. Ahhhhhh......(soul-deep sigh).

Yep, I love traveling, love moving on. But, you know what I love even better?

Going home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When All Else Fails...Make Biscuits

Yesterday was one of those days. I know you know what I'm talking about. The kind of day that just struggles against your best efforts to smooth its ruffled edges. You try, you take deep breaths, you tell yourself this is just a lesson in patience. You go through your routine doing your best to jump the hurdles that come your way. When the dog you spent an hour brushing out so she would look presentable at her doctor's appointment walks over and lays right in the dusty, red dirt the moment you turn your back, what else can you do but mutter a curse word and sigh?

No problem, it's cool. You've got this. And when you climb into your little shower looking forward to washing away the red dirt and dog hair and the owner of the RV park decides to cut the water at the exact moment that you have whipped your hair into a frothy lather and are about to rinse...well, all I can say is those curse words do come in handy, don't they?

You get through it. You move forward. You get to the vet appointment early. And when the 15 minute vet appointment turns into an hour and a half allergy-inducing test of will for all involved, what else can you do but suck it up and smile? Moving on. You're now late and the dogs are on their last nerves. You're barely hanging on to the last thread of your sanity but you're doing it. You're not down yet. You fight the evening traffic to get across town in time to pick up the hubby.

And when you finally...finally... manage to get the hot, traumatized canines and the equally hot and traumatized hubby all home only to realize that somewhere in between the torture of the vet and the retrieval of the spousal unit, you were supposed to hit the market so you have something to cook for dinner...well, I suggest you do what I did. Just throw in the towel and make biscuits.

Buttermilk biscuits. Hot, fluffy goodness that solves all problems. Add a vege scramble and a glass of chilled white wine and all of a sudden those ruffled edges of a rough day are as smooth as one of Martha Stewart's tablecloths. I've been asked to start posting my recipes so here's my favorite buttermilk biscuit recipe (not sure where I picked it up but I've been using it for years). I hope it can ease some ruffled edges on a rough day for all of you too.

Heaven-sent Buttermilk Biscuits

4 c all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
2 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Using a pastry knife, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the buttermilk and stir until mixture just comes together. Don't overmix and don't worry that batter is sticky. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and use floured hands to pat the dough to a 1-inch thickness. No need to roll it out. I use a 2-5/8 biscuit cutter but any 2-1/2" glass or round cookie cutter would work as well.

Place biscuits on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until they're lightly, golden brown. Cool on wire rack and...EAT UP. Delicious.


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