Don’t Bring Fear Along

people inside airplane
Photo by Kelly Lacy on

I’ve traveled the world for many decades now and am happy to report that I’ve lived through the multiple medical scares that come along ever so frequently. SARS, Bird Flu, HIV/Aids, and so forth. There has been worldwide panic for each of these awful, and potentially deadly viruses. People have been wearing cotton masks with false hopes of being protected.

With the Corona Virus pandemic and having recently been on 8 flights in the past two months, I thought it timely to share some common-sense, personal protection guidelines that I’ve always relied on. Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and am not offering medical advice!

The first thing I do on entering a plane, stashing my carry on in the overhead bin, and settling into my seat, is to remove my small travel-sized package of antibacterial wipes. Without hindering other passengers, I am able to sit in my seat and begin my removal of germs. It’s pretty straight forward. Anything I’m likely to touch gets wiped. The window shade pull, the ventilation valve, the light switch. My tray table and latch. My seatbelt latches. The airplane wall where I may lean my head. The pocket edge I need to pull out to access something I’ve placed there. AND the touch screen viewer for my media. Although I travel with my own Ipad, if I had to rent one or a headset, they too would receive my germ-removal attention. Just use your head. Anything you touch that’s public has the germs of all the people who’ve recently handled it!

I also bring a spray anti-bacterial travel size bottle that I am able to discreetly spray on my headrest, armrest, and the netting pocket. BUT I only do this if other passengers are not already seated in the area where my spray might inadvertently affect their respiratory system. It’s a toxic substance in itself, so I don’t use it often nor without consideration to fellow travelers.

This wipe down takes less than 5 minutes. Then I can relax and use my personal space without concern for unnecessary germs.

My germaphobic routine goes beyond the airplane though. The first thing I do when I arrive at my destination is to strip off my travel clothes and shower. Then launder my clothing or put them in a plastic bag to be laundered when I return home. I’m talking about everything fabric that has come into contact with large quantities of people and the disturbing poor hygiene I’ve observed throughout my years of travels. A scarf, a jacket, slacks, shirt, etc. all gets washed!
My neck pillow, if I used one, also gets washed.

When you put your purse or travel bag on the floor under the seat in front of you, you do realize you’re putting them where hundreds if not thousands of people have put their feet and shoes, right? And you do know about the gross and nauseating reports of the bacteria and germs on our shoes, right?  I always use a light spray of Lysol disinfectant or an antibacterial wipe for the bottom of my purse in everyday use. But especially when I travel, I don’t overlook the germs my bag has picked up. And to see so many people put their purses on kitchen counters and tables! Gross!!

If I have to use an airplane lavatory, not only do I wash my hands before exiting there, but when I return to my seat, I use an antibacterial wipe on my hands because I’ve had to touch the occupied lock, and the door latches after I’ve washed my hands!

I do not wear a mask when I travel, though I have been totally grossed out by people with sniffles and coughs that don’t bother wearing them to contain their bodily fluids. If I were sick, I would wear one. Not to protect me, but out of courtesy to the other people around me.  I do keep a small nasal spray of grapefruit seed extract in my travel bag and if I’m feeling vulnerable or even dehydrated from the known dry air conditions on a flight, I will pump a couple of sprays of this into each nostril. Grapefruit seed is a powerful, natural disinfectant.

Fear itself makes our bodies more susceptible to sickness and disease. Do what you need to do to deal with your fears. Educating yourself rather than buying into the media hype scares is a good place to start. Caution is good. Being paranoid is not.

Welcome aboard. Now, sit back and enjoy your flight without a worry.


Love Life!


A shout out to my good friends at The Joy of Living boutique in Billings Montana for filling their shop full of lovely things, and for letting me borrow some great pieces as props in my travel photos!

Nothing like a nurturing book and a snuggle-worthy night shirt for these colder evenings of autumn!

Be sure to stop by soon–perfect place for holiday gift shopping–and let them know you heard about it from me! Thank you Mariah and Linda!

Harvest Spinach and Pecan Salad


Here’s my recently published recipe from Simply Family Magazine, October 2019 issue!

If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden,  you may still have an abundance of healthy green spinach to enjoy.  If not, grab some spinach at your local Farmers Market or produce aisle for this blue-ribbon-winning autumn salad. 

1 c. spiced pecans, chopped

2 c. cooked orzo 

8 c. boiling water

6 c. chopped, fresh spinach leaves (or 12 oz bag)dsc-4150

1 1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp lemon zest

1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tea salt

Add orzo to the boiling water and cook according to package directions for approximately 10 minutes. Drain well (but don’t rinse) and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 

In large salad serving bowl, put the spinach, crumbled cheese and pecans. Add cooled orzo. Mix together the last four ingredients then pour over the salad and toss well. 

This salad easily stands alone as a meat-free meal, but it is also an excellent side dish to accompany grilled salmon.  I often take this to potlucks because its a crowd pleaser! 



Two Girls, Two Days, Too Much Fun – Part 2

I’ve several girlfriends who also have a vintage trailer, and we enjoy camping together during the summer months. But after the weather turns cold, when icy roads may be a towing-risk, and our trailers have been put to sleep for the winter, we find other adventures together.

I called my dear friend, Suzan, who lives about 80 miles away, with a plea for a girls’ trip out-of-town. Fairmont Hot Springs had just invited me to come to experience their resort so it made perfect sense for our get-away trip!

_DSC8718Suzan drove south and I drove north, to meet in Missoula Montana for a late breakfast and to discuss some exploration options as we headed East on I-90 together.

We checked into the lovely Fairmont Hot Springs just a few short hours later! Just in time for a leisurely lunch before exploring the resort! _DSC8698

Soon we were wandering this large building, looking at the many conference rooms, great gift shop, comfy sitting areas, and so forth before heading to our rooms to shower and change into our bathing suits for a wonderful afternoon soaking in the soothing hot-springs! _DSC8787

It was frigid outside, so we made haste in the steamy air to find the steps into the pool, where the hot water melted away all shivers. The warm steam hovered over the expansive pool, giving a dream-effect to the surroundings. Fellow bathers were swallowed up in the cloud as our voices were muffled and absorbed by the steam. So peaceful and surreal!

We enjoyed soaking in the outdoor pool until our hands turned as wrinkled as prunes. We headed indoors to the large expanse of hot spring water in the indoor pool area, where we found adjoining chaise lounges to relax, chat, and enjoy a glass of wine!

Having wiled away the afternoon in the pools, we went to our separate rooms for some down-time and changing back to clothes for dinner.

For our second day, we drove the short distance into the historic town of Anaconda. We enjoyed bright sunshine for our drives on winding backroads as we viewed the relics of the old smelter works.

A fun find was Dominic’s Resturant on Main Street.  A beautifully decorated bar and cafe ran by a former miner with the Anaconda Company Mines. IMG_5428

Each wall and hallway was decorated with historic black and white photographs depicting the mining history. I highly recommend this wonderful restaurant!

We had appointments to keep at the Willows Spa at the Fairmont Resort. Wonderful massages and hot stone treatments, combined with essential oils and soothing music as the experienced hands of our masseuses gently took our bodies to heavenly places!


With a few hours of daylight remaining, we were soon back on the interstate heading home. Laughter, tunes, and great conversation as we drove the beautiful Western Montana roadways. Hugs and goodbyes, until our next road trip having too much fun!

Fire Lookout Tower Memoir


Red Plume Lookout Tower


Back in 1972, jobs fresh out of college were hard to come by. Especially if your major was music. There weren’t a lot of programs as there are now, to help new graduates transition into a job. So when the US Forest Service offered me a position on a lookout tower, I gratefully accepted the job.


My address was Red Plume Lookout, Spotted Bear Ranger Station, Flathead National Forest, Hungry Horse Montana. That continues to be my favorite–and most descriptive-address ever!

1966 map 


Recently I came across my diaries where I kept a daily accounting of my day. Spider kill count, flying-ant kill count, weather, the book I was reading, how I’d slept, and any details such as which chipmunk climbed the wooden stairs to the tower catwalk! Oh, and what radio stations I could pick up! (Please don’t judge me by my handwriting or spelling!)


Government-issued note pads I used as my journals


1972 was an abnormally cold summer in Montana. The past winters’ snowbank managed to remain throughout the summer. The positive side of the cold was that I could shovel snow into a pail, haul up the 36 stairs, place on the barely-warm wood stove and melt the snow for water!

Time passed slowly every day. Thick, cold, damp, dark clouds often enclosed the tower for days at a time. The only light was a single gas lantern that hissed and sputtered (I still love that sound!) after the sunset. Reading at night was difficult so I often just played solitaire by the light of a single candle on the table and saved my books for daylight.

skinny me at the altimeter

I got paid for looking out for forest fire smoke. Although there were several lightning storms during the 90+days I stayed up there (back in the day before there were relief workers to give tower employees a break) I only saw one thin, faint plume of smoke. I called it in. By the time the USFS dispatcher had a plane overhead, with the two smokejumpers out of Missoula, the smoke had disappeared. Sigh. Not much action to keep a girl entertained.

Although it was a very difficult 3 months due to me 1) not being prepared enough 2) not being informed as to what to expect in order to prepare 3) not having enough activities to keep me busy 4) bored because I’d run out of books to read, my cards were worn and thin, etc etc etc.   I’ve never regretted the experience.

I learned to be my own best friend. I learned to notice the details in nature and to appreciate the small changes found in my natural surroundings. I became more grateful for modern creature comforts. I applied myself to find work I loved and was better suited for.

As romantic as it sounds, just reading my journals brings back a lot of the feelings from that time in my life, that clearly was difficult to deal with.  Some times I think it’d be fun to have another summer on a fire lookout tower. I could paint, photograph, read more, and eat better because I’d know and be prepared. But no. In reality I’m just far too grateful for modern creature comforts!

Comfort Food / Beef and Barley Soup

DSC_4222It’s that time of year when I enjoy stopping by my local butcher shop to choose a nice piece of beef for our autumn tradition of beef and barley stew. While I use a pressure cooker to tenderize a beef chuck, you might want to purchase a nice sirloin steak for tender, tasty beef stew cooked traditionally. Either way, this mouth-watering, earthy flavors of hearty barley, beef, and vegetables are delicious.


1 1/2 pound of top sirloin or beef chuck steak

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of bacon grease

1 medium onion, chopped

3 carrots, sliced (I like heirloom colorful carrots!)

2 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed

2 medium potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

2 c. fresh spinach

1/3 cup dry red wine

salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh crushed garlic

1 bay leaf

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup pearled barley

4 cups beef stock

Heat oils and butter in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. (Or if you have a pressure-cooker, prepare according to manufacturers directions)

Season steak with salt and pepper, to taste. Add to pot and start browning, about 8 minutes until evenly browned.  Add all vegetables but spinach along with the garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, under tender for 5 minutes. 

Add beef stock, barley, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and allow to simmer at a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Stir in spinach. Taste and if need be, add more salt and pepper. 

Crisp, Crunch, Salad

Once in a lifetime comes a truly great salad. And this main course salad is the one for me. The crunch of sugared nuts, the juicy bites of crisp pear entering the mouth combined with the savor of seasoned chicken that explodes with freshness when mixed with Gorgonzola cheese. What’s not to love?



I enjoy cooking and have the time to do so, but if you’re not like me, all the ingredients can be bought prepared from your favorite grocer. I’m certain the taste results would be similar. Bon Appetit!

Chicken and Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Caramelized Nuts

3 heads of Romaine Lettuce, rinsed and drained

2 chicken breasts, skinned and boneless cut in quarters

2 pears (any variety), rinsed and cut into bitesize pieces

1 1/2 c. Gorgonzola style Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 c. slivered almonds or pecan pieces, caramelized and lightly sugared

1/2 c. purple onion, diced

Balsamic Olive Oil seasoned dressing*

In heavy bottomed skillet, gently fry the chicken breast. Season with salt, pepper and a shake or two of ground garlic. Cook until well done.  Set aside to cool.

In a large cast iron skillet, slowly melt 1/8 c. of brown sugar over medium heat. Add your choice of slivered almonds or pecans. Coat the nuts with caramelized sugar. Immediately pour onto a piece of aluminum foil and allow to cool. Spread these out so they aren’t clumped together. 



In large salad serving bowl, tear lettuce into bite sized pieces.

_DSC3592Add the pear pieces, the Gorgonzola cheese, onion and nuts. Cut cooled cooked chicken pieces into bite-size pieces and add to the salad. Gently toss with the salad dressing. 


Serve with warmed croissants on the side. _DSC3630

Balsamic Olive Oil Dressing

  • 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 T. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 c. orange juice

Two Girls, Two Days, Too Much Fun!

When I’m needing a break and just wanna have fun, I’ll call one of my girlfriends and off we’ll go! There’s nothing quite as fun as sharing girl talk, laughs, and adventures with a soul-mate.

We’ve found that two days is the perfect amount of time for a short road-trip, some thrift store shopping, dining out, and spending one night away from our comfortable homes. Finding a destination is easy when you live in Montana. There’s always so much history, beauty, and great stops to make no matter which road we choose. I’ve usually got a bucket list going too. Hearing of a great spot from friends, seeing a nice spot in someone’s Instagram feed, reading about a new cafe or resort always make it to my ‘must-see. must-do’ list!


Although I’ve had tons of fun taking trips with several friends at once, I found that I prefer just one-at-a-time. This way we get some excellent quality time in allowing for personal interaction rather than the typical general conversations when we’re in a group. While one is lonely, two is perfect!


With our favorite tunes playing in the background, taking frequent stops for photos,  a basket of amazing snacks, and non-stop conversation, our trips are about the journey more than the destination.  Often times we include a few stops at historical places to read or tour. Sometimes we’ll stop to indulge in a spa treatment or a soak in natural hot springs. Occasionally a trail will call to us and we’ll find ourselves on a short hike to a waterfall or lake. I always enjoy rock-hounding so if my girlfriend doesn’t mind, a short stop near a rocky shore or field will make my day when I find a perfect rock to add to my collection!


Six hours in the car is long enough for us. We like to be at our destination in time for a leisurely cocktail and dinner. And unlike our younger days, we rarely talk long into the night anymore. 9:30 finds us winding down with a book, a show, or a blissful snuggle into our bed pillows.  After all, we still have another day to go before arriving home. Two days. Perfect. Two friends. Perfect. Too much fun. Perfect.

Life gives us many gifts. It’s up to us to unwrap.


Another Earthquake in Haiti …

Another earthquake in Haiti this week brought back memories from 2010 when one of the most devastating natural disasters hit this small country. Within days I was there with my team of grief counselors, responding to the catastrophic death tolls. Over  150 thousand people lost their lives that day and in the following days due to injuries they received.

In honor of those lives and of the survivors whose lives were forever altered, I dedicate this post.


We stayed on the grounds of an orphanage near Port au Prince where survivors had gathered after the earthquake destroyed their homes.

After a week of dawn to dusk meetings with grieving persons, we were invited to attend a mass burial. The Haitian director of the orphanage played the trumpet in a local band and was going to play at the burial.

An experience that was poignant with surreal scenes of cardboard coffins, hand-dug graves by shovel welding Nigerian workers, an Orthodox priest, a voodoo witch doctor, and the little ragtag band comprised of locals with primarily handmade musical instruments.


Portrait of grief.


An introduction to a new blog that I’m excited to be following and learning from!

The Refined Table

Starting about a month ago, my husband, David and I began a new lifestyle of eating.

As lovers of gluten and all-things dairy, the idea of going on a “diet” was unspeakable. We decided to do some research and came across the French non-diet. The French are known for their rich, healthy food without the added weight usually associated with such foods… heavy cream, butter, cheese, wine and desserts (their desserts however are not as sweet as those found in America). They cut down on their portions, but the main difference to their eating habits, compared to ours? No preservatives. No processed food.

Once we decided to change over to the French way of eating, we moved through our pantry, tossing anything with the words “High Fructose Corn Syrup” and “Monosodium Glutamate”. If we didn’t know what the ingredient list said, into the trash it went.

It was slightly disheartening…

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