Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More of the Wild West in Montana

Bear Grass, Mountain Goats, and Ground Squirrels

The Wild West

Larry’s son Mike and his wife Anne live in Whitefish Montana, at least for a few more days and then they will be moving to Louisville Kentucky for three years. So Larry and I few into Glacier International in Kalispell Montana to visit for the weekend, flying over the golden wheat fields of eastern Washington and into the green fields of the farms and ranches in the Flathead Valley. Winding roads snaked through the valley with homes sitting close by and barns surrounded by tree breaks next to the rivers, lakes, and streams.

Downtown Whitefish is sort of like Winthrop Washington but on a larger scale. The buildings all have a western, cowboy theme from the facades on the outside and the merchandise for sale inside, including cowboy bread sold in a brown beer bottle, or Moose Drool beer, or grizzly bear chocolate claws. We arrived on a Friday night and the town was hopping with locals and tourist crowding all the local restaurants and bars. After dinner we took a short walking tour through town and then drove to Mike and Anne’s home which sits in a fairly new development with a little pond in back. We talked and visited until everyone decided if we were going to go act like tourists the next day, we should get some sleep.

Saturday morning we drove to the west entrance of Glacier National Park. We took the “Going to the Sun Road” to Logan Pass. There was lots of road repair work going on and parts of the road were completely torn up with long stretches of gravel beds waiting to be repaved. It was bumper to bumper and looking ahead we felt sorry for the motorcycles, not only because of the gravel but the uphill stop and go traffic is really hard on the bike and the rider. We arrived at Logan Pass that marks the continental divide and only had to wait about five minutes to find a parking space. The sign in the women’s bathroom advised you to use the hand sanitizer because the glacier water running through the facets was ice cold from the melting snow. Little ground squirrels scampered around the tourists on the walkways not letting us get in the way of their single-minded objectives to get where they were going.

We saw Sunrift Gorge and St Mary Lake and the most photographed island in Glacier Park--Wild Goose Island--before heading down the eastern side of Glacier Park to have lunch at the Park Café in St. Mary, Montana. We were surprised to find it wasn’t packed and only had to wait a few minutes for table. The food was good and we bought a few cookies to enjoy on the second half of the trip. This is the type of little café that our Harley Owners Group looks for when we are traveling; good food, good service, and good prices.

We headed south to see the magnificent Many Glacier Lodge; built by the Great Northern Railroad. We also found the most enchanting cabin with a painted red door and twig furniture outside just as we entered the lodge drive. We drove on to Goat Lick overview but only found one lone goat under the bridge resting in the middle of the day. We did find some goat hair and I am going to try to find a way to add it to a piece of my art. We made a complete circle of the park and arrived back in time to shower and change before heading out to Anne’s birthday celebration. We had a wonderful dinner at a small gourmet restaurant and I wish I had the recipe to the sauce that was drizzled over my pork tenderloin. We also had a chance to meet some of Mike and Anne’s friends, Jeannie and Gary. We had flaming desserts to celebrate as we sang happy birthday to Anne with the rest of the restaurant patrons joined in the singing.

After dinner we took a drive around Whitefish to see more of the town, Whitefish Lake, and then up to Whitefish mountain and the ski lodge. From the top of the mountain the view of the valley was outstanding. There are lots of new homes being built from the top of the mountain all the way down and across the valley floor. Mike and Anne are hoping to complete their Snowy Owl Lodge when they return to Whitefish in a few years.

Sunday morning we joined Mike and Anne for church services in Columbia Falls then bought the makings for an indoor picnic style lunch. Everyone changed clothes and we headed to the Montana Raft Company for a trip down the middle fork of the Flathead River through Glacier National Park and an afternoon spent in Gods glorious country. We spent about thee and a half hours floating and paddling down a scenic, peaceful, relaxing, restful, sun filled afternoon. The rapids were rated class II and III and yes we got wet. We were attacked by rogue pirates on a raft not flying a flag so as to appear as if they were just another innocent rafting group. They drenched us with water guns as we slowed through a calm spot on the river and we fought back with our paddles splashing the water to try and soak them back. Lots of laughter from both rafts and they finally left us drift on down the river as the prepared to attack the next raft. There were a few sore muscles that evening and a few more the next morning, but the experience was worth every groan. No pictures, though, because my camera is not waterproof.

Mike cooked up his famous marinated steaks for dinner and Anne fixed all the trimmings including little mixed fruit and berry open tarts for the girls and chocolate brownies for the guys and both topped with vanilla ice cream. After dinner Anne helped me label my pictures so I would know where I had been for the last two days.

The long low whistle of the freight train signaled it was past time for bed in the valley. The same long low freight train whistle also wakes you up in the morning and it sounds better than any alarm clock. Amtrak runs through Whitefish coming east from Chicago and west from Seattle bringing the summer tourist crowds.

Monday morning and it was time to pack our bags. We didn’t fly out until later in the afternoon so we drove out to Howling Wolf Ranch which Mike helps to manage. It is two hundred acres about twenty-five miles outside of Whitefish. It really was a beautiful peaceful setting but more isolated and lonely for me to ever think about living in. I guess I’m just too much of a city girl.

We stopped for lunch at the Red Caboose Café for lunch. The paper placemats had a doodled train design, sort of like zentangle art. Famous quotes were cleverly written into the scenes and the one I found inspiring was: “sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction” by anonymous. It’s hard, sometimes, to accept change especially when life becomes more difficult or not the way we are used to living or doing things; but when we can acknowledge, and allow ourselves to say yes to, God’s will, then we find peace to continue in a new direction and fulfillment.

The airplane ride home was uneventful as I slept from Kalispell to Seattle and Larry read his book on his new Kindle electronic book and listening to music stored on it. It was good to be home again and Michael was in Bellingham to pick us up. Deuce the dog has happy to have his dad home and Ally the grandbaby was waiting to be fed as usual.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A garden of friends

My friend Kim and her husband Greg are the leaders of our small group from church. One of the many things all the ladies in our group have in common is our love of gardening. I have to be honest and say my garden is the unruliest and I definitely have the most weeds. But I love my garden.

Kim called me earlier in the week and invited me to go to Seattle on Sunday for a garden tour. How could I pass up an invitation to peek into the gardens that are hidden behind closed gates and winding city streets?

I met Kim at nine o’clock with my Starbucks chi latte in hand, my walking shoes on, and my camera ready to shoot. We drove south to pick up Kim’s mother Sherry who decided to drive and we took the scenic route back to the freeway around Big Lake and McMurray Lake.

I’ve lived in Washington for ten years but have only taken an occasional trip to Seattle with my husband Larry when he has a business trip and I get to sleep in, shop downtown, and enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant. I don’t know my way around Seattle and after a whirlwind tour today, I still don’t know my way around but I had a great time sightseeing and enjoying all the different areas we visited.

The first garden was near Seward Park and it was filled with exotic plants and garden art created by the owners. Visually it was hard to see everything the first, second, or third time looking into the small pocket gardens. The paths all connected back to each other and the lowest garden was a green swath of grass that would be perfect for a dinner party. The textures of the plants and the sheer variety were almost overwhelming. Pictures were posted throughout the garden to show what it looked like before the owners transformed it into a showpiece that obviously brings much joy to the owners. I asked if they had a master plan before they started and they said no. They just started removing the grass and adding plants and it grew.

So from southeast Seattle we headed to the northwest section via downtown. Sherry drove like a pro, and she should because she lived in Seattle for forty years and worked right downtown where she had her own antiques and collectibles stores at Pikes Market. Kim was riding shotgun and acting as navigator. Several wrong turns, up the hill, down the hill--wait didn’t we go up that road once before?--and we arrived at the second garden.

Sherry took one look at the house and said she was ready to move in and she hadn’t even seen the garden. The home was wood shingled with all the trim done in black and it was magnificent sitting on top of a hill over looking Lake Union. The small front yard was enclosed by a black fence and a small formal triangle garden bordered with a boxwood hedge sat just inside the front entrance. Turning to the right was a gravel garden with a round ceramic art piece from Little and Lewis just before we dropped down several steps into the side garden with views of Lake Union and north Seattle. A small candelier hung in corner, wind chimes dangled from trees, and the patio umbrella was dressed with brass hearts that looked like oversized charms on a bracelet. The tiniest fuchsia I have ever seen with flowers about one half inch or less was tucked into a small walkway garden on the backside of the house. Not a large garden, but the plants, the house, and the view made it probably the most spectacular of all the homes we visited today.

We drove down the hill and stopped at Seattle Pacific University and sat on the front lawn to eat lunch. Sherry had thought of everything and had packed turkey and Swiss roll ups, drinks, chips, and not one but two kinds of cookies. What a treat, because I thought we would probably stop and buy a quick lunch somewhere and this was so much fun to sit in the sunshine and really enjoy the beautiful summer weather.

Next we were off to the university district to an older neighborhood filled with surprises. The curbside raised beds were filled and overflowing with lavender. The front of the house was filled with waves of black mondo grass and a lime green mondo grass. An angle trumpet was one of several centerpieces in the side yard and the owners dig it up and move it to a shelter each winter because it is a tender annual here in Washington. A fountain that dropped into a small pond led us to the back yard with a small sitting area across a wooden plank bridge. Around the corner--another pond filled with gold-fish. Lanterns hung overhead and a most unique art piece made from a piece of wood that was completely covered in nails of every size.

Time was running out and if we hurried we might made one more garden before five o’clock. We headed north and the last garden is still in the beginning stages. You can still see where the paths have been carved out and the plants were beautiful but young and not matured to fill in and out to cover the space. They did have some unusual plants in the garden and they were selling potted plants, which none of the other gardens did. Kim and Sherry both bought several selections and then we headed north.

When we first arrived, Kim had shown me around her father’s new garage that my husband and every guy I know would be envious of, and her mother’s studio that is built over the garage. Now, Sherry was giving me a personal tour and showing me some of her art work that will be used to sell pattern packets. She also told us her idea for a book on art and painting that she is working on. Every nook and cranny is filled with books she collects on art, painting, cooking, and vintage children’s books. Her art pieces include bowls, boxes, chests, and just about anything you can paint on. It is the sort of room you could just curl up in and savor everything as the day slipped away.

Friends are like flowers, you tend them and care for them and they grow more beautiful and treasured.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not just another cute cookie

Every since I was about five or six I can remember my mother baking and using the leftover pie dough to make shaped cookies for me, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Some of the cookie cutters were aluminum with little wooden handles and others were all aluminum. One Christmas I received my own little bake set with miniature plastic cookie cutters and I still remember how much fun I had baking with my mom, side by side.

About twenty-five years ago a neighbor brought over Christmas cookies for my children, all decorated in holiday shapes. These cookies tasted just like a cookie from one of my earliest memories when I was about three or four, living on a farm in Missouri and visiting an elderly neighbor down the road with my sister Mary. I asked my neighbor if she would share her recipe and she kindly agreed. My neighbor was about sixty at the time and she had been given the recipe about forty years earlier from an elderly friend she knew.

The next Christmas I bought a few cookie cutters, made my first batch of dough, cut, baked, and let my kids invite a friend to decorate cookies. And so the tradition began. My sister’s eyes lit up when she tasted a cookie and wanted to know where I got the recipe. After all these years, we were both amazed how one cookie could conjure up the same memory in both of us. The cookie wasn’t exact. I am sure the shortening was lard, in the old days, and the flour originally used wasn’t as processed as it is today. Aside from that it was as close as we were probably going to get.

Every year I have increased the number of batches of cookie dough and now I usually bake about sixteen dozen cookies from two inches to eight or ten inches. There are snowmen, trees, snowflakes, reindeer, stars, houses, bells, and more. I make frosting in every color from red and green, to pink, black, and purple, with sprinkles, and candies to decorate the cookies.

Michael was the only one of my children who lived near me last Christmas when I baked cookies so he got to invite four friends to decorate cookies. It doesn’t matter how old you are when decorating cookies, the kids always seems to come out. Not to be left out, I boxed up cookies to take to California for my other two children to decorate at their grandmother’s when they arrived. Somehow Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the cookies.

Every year I find a new cookie cutter to add to my collection and last year it was a frog. I don’t go looking for a new cutter, something just seems to come my way and that is what happened last week. My son Jim and his girlfriend Heather were visiting from California and they came in from shopping one afternoon with a surprise for me. A boxed set of ABC cookies cutters from Fred and Friends. The ABC stands for already been chewed because each of the three gingerbread man cutters has either an arm, leg, or head missing from it. I can’t wait to see how the kids interpret this set of cutters into Christmas designs. Maybe they can put a headless gingerbread man on the reindeer and we will have the Halloween headless horseman. Who knows!

To make all this even more special, I arrived home from a day long Harley ride several weeks ago to find that Ryan had brought me a two-gallon glass canning jar, thinking I might like it. I was thrilled because I had been wondering about what I could use to display the oldest cookie cutters, including my mother’s which she had given me years ago; and all the special cutters which deserved to been seen and not hidden away in a box and pulled out once a year at Christmas.

Last year another one of my “adopted into the family” kids called and asked if I would share my recipe so he could bake cookies for his nieces and nephews. How could I refuse knowing another family is starting a wonderful tradition?

Monday, July 14, 2008

What goes on in Washington Stays in Washington...But nothing ever happens in Washington...Or does it?

Well I am just back from the Mt. Baker Chapter Harley Owners Group ride to Republic, Washington and it was a blast. Start to finish, those that planned the ride, led the ride, and swept up after the group did an amazing job. We went in three groups with a chase vehicle to carry cold water and soda. One group headed to Republic via the Canadian route and the rest of us headed over highway 20 to Twisp for lunch before riding into Republic. We were surprised riding out of town to find Kaye and Rob on an overpass taking our pictures as we rode down the highway

All three groups arrived with an hour of each other and when the kickstands went down the real fun began. We sat outside soaking up the sunshine and warmth, having a cold drink or two and wondering what to do for dinner in a town with only one restaurant open on the 4th of July. We pooled our money and arranged for seventy –five hamburgers to be delivered. Angie assigned Mark, Lois, and me to take the rest of the cash with a shopping list and find the rest of the items for dinner at the grocery store up the street. How much fun can a grocery store be right before closing? Not as much fun as it is to walk back three blocks with the grocery cart to find your whole group hooting and hollering in laughter to see us coming. Money left over so what do? Bob returned the cart and brought back more cold stuff to drink leaving the store dry for the weekend.

The day rides were leaving at eight o’clock the next morning but no one wanted to go to bed. It was too much fun to be able to sit outside at 11:00 o’clock at night and not need a coat or rain jacket.

Everyone split up into two groups the next morning for different destinations and our group encountered over fifteen deer in the morning, ran with the unfenced baby bulls right next to the road, we were dazzled by butterflies, and had our share of wild turkeys. We took a ferry across the lake and had lunch at a quaint little fishing resort at Twin Lakes. We did about one hundred and sixty-five miles that day and it was time well spent with friends. We arrived back in time for some of us to get a nap before dinner.

It was Dave M’s birthday and Lorie secretly arranged a cake for his birthday to have after dinner. We had dinner up the street at the local bar, and yes we did eat at the bar. Some of the group retired to the conference room for a game of poker. The rest of the group retired to parking lot which we had taken over with tables and chairs to watch the evening sunset when someone suggested Karaoke back at the bar.

Part of the group remained around the tables talking and relaxing and the rest of the group headed up the street. We had a secret weapon. We had Mark. Little did we know we also had other talent in our group? Mark wowed the group with his first song and the crowd--that was us-- went wild. Mark did several songs while we were there and each time everyone was just amazed by his voice. The locals sang but they just didn’t know what hit them when our Harley group showed up in town. One of the regulars looked at us and said you aren’t from around here are you? The comment from our group was, ”We just rode in.” The night was beginning to get late when Sheila and Bill brought the house down with “born to be wild”. By this time, part of the poker group had shown up so we really did have a good cheering section. That was it; we left a few hangers on from our group behind and most of us headed home to the motel.

A couple of the group rolled out at six o’clock on Sunday morning to get back in time to catch a plane, and the rest of us were on the road by eight o’clock headed to Coulee Dam, Twisp for lunch, and then home. The last surprise of the ride was finding Kaye and Rob waiting for us at Diablo Dam overlook taking pictures of the group as we pulled in to take a break.

A mini vacation with thirty of your friends might seem overwhelming to some people but to our chapter and friends it is just a regular occurrence and another chance to ride and have fun.

Home is Where the Heart Is

My son Jim and his girlfriend Heather arrived from California last week for a vacation. Heather has never been to Washington and it has been several years since Jim was here to visit. My younger son Michael lives nearby in Bellingham with his partner Ryan. Now I was only missing my daughter to make it complete. She kept telling me she wasn’t coming but somehow I knew she would be here, and she arrived several hours later from Las Vegas to try and surprise me.

I called my mom in California to tell her all the kids were here and she told me to enjoy every minute of my time with them. It made me realize even more how much my mom treasures the times when my siblings and I are all together. We had a family reunion planned in Missouri for August, but with rising fuel cost and airline tickets, we had to cancel the reunion. So this is my mini reunion with my children and their partners.

I’ve spoiled all the kids with favorite foods, time to relax and no chores to do, taking lots of pictures, and giving and getting hugs and snuggles. I fixed one of their favorite casseroles Wednesday and we had family dinner night with everyone talking and telling stories from their childhood. There’s nothing like having babies (even if the babies are all grown up) back in the house to fill our home with energy.

The kids all scattered to see the sights, visit friends, and when they weren’t eating home cooked meals they were sampling the local eating places. So much to do and only so many days to do it in, Seattle, Pikes Market, shopping, Lake Whatcom, Whatcom Falls, the farmers market, cheer stunting with old friends, and church services. Kelly went to White Rock with her friend Haley to visit friends she hasn’t seen in three years and a night of dancing. Jim and Heather took me along with their friend Ian (who we sort of adopted into the family when we moved to Washington and he lived next door with his family) to the movies. Larry stayed home for quiet time with a good book and Michael and Ryan were out friends.

We took family pictures and Jim, Heather, and Kelly, joined Larry and I for the Mt. Baker Chapter HOG picnic in Sumas. A Frisbee game, barbeque hamburgers, hotdogs, and the best potato salad and beans you have ever had. Larry and I watched the softball game between our chapter and our sponsoring H-D Bellingham dealer. Jim played centerfield for our team and Heather pitched and after seven innings our team won. Kelly being the friendly cheerleader meet and greet personality enjoyed talking and visiting with our chapter members.

One more family dinner on Sunday evening to spend with my children before they have to return to their homes and jobs tomorrow. My sister Sharron told me years ago that it is always harder to be the one left behind, than the one leaving when saying good-bye. Sort of. Sometimes. It depends on who you are saying good-bye to. Being separated from my family is never easy for me. Home is where the heart is and little pieces of my heart are in Washington, California, Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Maryland, North Carolina, and Iraq, everywhere my loved ones are.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Last year I made my first inchie, but after it was finished I wondered what to do with it. I was busy with other art projects and most of my time was being devoured trying to design scrapbook layouts (I am not a scrapbook person, but took on the job when a friend could not continue due to illness) for the GRADS teen parent program I teach art to.

Recently I was attending the Wednesday mini lunch demo and they were showing a variety of art techniques and materials to make inchies. But what really caught my attention was how to display them. Someone brought in their collection mounted on matt board and ready to be framed. What I really loved was the instructor framed four of her inchies in a small dollar store frame with four photo windows.

My mind was whirling and as soon as the class was over I was off to the dollar store. I bought 20 black frames that each had four openings resembling a mini version of the larger photo display screens/room dividers.

I pulled out a variety of supplies, paper, beads, embossing powders, stencil paste, pens, and more and set to work to make three more inchies. I didn’t realize until I was finished that all four inchies had a bird theme because I had been to busy playing. I removed the glass from the frames and cut black suede paper for the matt and then mounted the inchies.

Yahoo! The first of my ten art class samples for the next school year was complete. I know they girls are going to have so much fun making their own mini art pieces, framing them, and displaying them at home.

In my journey to learn a little bit more about inchies I found some wonderful websites with information, insight, and trades. I also learned that inchies are one inch by one inch but there are variations on the same theme. There are fat inchies or plus size inchies 1 ½ “x 1 ½”, twinchies 2” x 2”, thrinchies 3” x 3”, and extreme inchies 1” x 2 ½”.

Inch: At first an inch was the width of a man's thumb. In the 14th century, King Edward II of England ruled that 1 inch equaled 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Friendship Card

Friendship Card

Friendship CArd

Stampadoodle in Bellingham WA has a Wednesday noon demo of art supplies and techniques. They are soon moving to a new location and those attending have been making and doanting handmade cards that will be sold by donation and the money given to local charities that use art to help children in crisis.

This is my donation for the week. A folded card with two tags using an orginal poem I wrote and vintage photos and various art supplies including gel medium, texture paste, gold leafing pens, rubber stamps, ribbons, etc.

Friends are gifts
Treasured and cherished
Sharing wisdom and truth
An ear to listen
A shoulder to lean on
We laugh, we cry
The good, the bad
We care, we share
We found each other
Dancing to a different beat
Confidants and co-conspirators
Words cannot describe
What friends really are

My Birthday Art

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