Memories

I recently was in the area where I spent my honeymoon over 30 years ago. While enjoying the exceptional fall foliage decorating the forests, I decided to explore up an old dirt forest road, which once took me to my summer home on a Forest Service Fire Tower, named Red Plume Lookout.

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Hungry Horse Reservoir with Red Plume Mountain one of those peaks in the background

Although the day was chilly, a bright blue sky reflected in the waters of the reservoir as the sun shone golden on the native grasses and gold-needled Western Larch trees.

As I drove I reflected on that summer so long ago, when as a young woman and newly wed bride, I felt I had life solidly in my hands. Returning home this week, I dug into my photo album from that time, and pulled my ‘childhood’ steamer trunk out to retrieve some of the journals I kept from my time on Red Plume Lookout.

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Photos from the 1970’s photo album.

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My First Food Photography Contest!

DSC_6023A good friend sent me the link to a food photography contest with encouragement for me to enter it, combined with lots of compliments on my food photography. I went to the website, read the rules, and jotted a note in on my calendar to fit this challenge in before the end of the month deadline.

Let me tell you a little about this unusual and oft times stressful September I’ve had.  First of all, my sweet, little community has been bombarded with forest fire, smoke, soot, and ash since mid-July. Twice, I’ve been ordered to evacuate my home–mandatory–within 10 minutes. The first time it was for 12 days. The second time it was just for an afternoon. But I’ve lived with the evacuation warning threat for over a month.

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From my front porch, September 3

I don’t know if you’ve ever been charged with deciding what possessions are the most important to you but its a very hard thing to do. Especially if you’re at all like me–not a hoarder–but a collector of fine things. Until recently I had a wonderful vintage store where I sold the unusual and treasured home and garden collectibles. Naturally I’ve kept the things that I just couldn’t part with. I’m also a watercolor artist so my walls are filled with a lifelong collection of moody sepia toned cowboys, horses, and cattle drives.

And as a mom, I’ve got three kids worth of treasures, and a grandchild’s treasures–gifts to me that their little hands have fashioned and created. Of course, the usual can’t leave behind items, like photograph albums, grandma’s cookbook, grandpa’s pocket watch and hundreds of other family heirlooms.

Did I mention my antique classics book collection? Leather bound, many first editions?

And I’m trying to make time to enter this great food photography contest!

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As I first realized the threat, back when the forest fire was just thick smoke looming up from behind the mountains near our home, I made a rational and reasonable list of the treasures I would take. But each hour of each day found me adding to the ‘can’t live without this’ growing pile of boxes. I debated on just packing up my whole house except for the easy-to-replace things like the printer, table lamps, and canning jars. Reason won as I gave myself the mature-toned voice of “everything’s replaceable” speech.

All’s well that ends well–my house didn’t burn, though the beautiful forest in the mountains around me are ruined for many generations to come. And I’ve spent the past week trying to move four pickup loads of valuables back in. Did I mention I had a huge yard sale at a friends house last weekend? There’s a few boxes of remnants from that fiasco–things she had that I decided I needed. (I’m really just a collector, not a hoarder!)

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My beautiful Rocky Mountains with layers of burn from the forest fire

Then my son fell from a ladder, broke his wrist bones in multiple places, requiring surgery. So I volunteered to be his nurse and driver for a few days.

I work managing two vacation rental homes–both of which are closing down for the season last week and next. Packing, moving, cleaning. Two. Houses. Maybe I kept a few collectible things, but not as much as I could have!

During this month I’ve also gone camping for 3 nights, attended one funeral, had two crowns replaced on my teeth, had 6 girlfriends for a sleep over party, made it to my masseuse once, physical therapy twice, and oh yes, my lawn mower and pickup truck both broke. We had our first snow already–I won’t even get started on what preparations   are needed for this weather phenomenon. (It put out the fires! Yay!)

And I’m entering a photo contest!

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Today the sun came up over a bright blue sky. Through my soot covered windows, as I appreciated the warm, bright beams of light, I decided that the time was right for me to do the set up for my photo entry.  Did I think about going back to review the rules? No. Never even entered my foggy brain. I’d already made the #cutthecheese2017 sign and laid out my favorite trendy cutting board. But now I removed the grapes I’d laid on it a week or so ago, because they were too shriveled to merit tasty food quality photography.

Grabbing my salami and a few cheeses left-over from my camping trip, a few plums scored at Farmers Market this morning, and some my sweet vintage silver, I quickly fashioned a lovely cutting board vignette. Moving it around from counter, to coffee table, to dining table to capture the best sunlight and shadows, I took about 30 photos from various angles, heights, and settings.

The phone rang–my mom wanting to chat. As I transitioned to daughter talking to her mom, I remember making the semi-conscious decision that I was finished with the photo contest shoot, and could now proceed to eat my beautiful arrangement. It was, after all, past noon.

Slipping my camera’s memory card into my Mac, I opened the website for the John Boos Cutting Board Food Photography Contest to upload my best photo. Opps. Now I remember! I was supposed to take a documenting photo of me shooting the food photos! And I was encouraged to take a few shots of my set up to help other would-be-food-photographers learn. Well I certainly messed this one up! No more food, no more wonderful light, and no more time to do it again.

So the lesson I’d like my readers and food-photographer students is this; Review the directions before disassembling your model. And stay focused on the job rather than talk to your mother. It might also help if you eat before the shoot so the temptation from your stomach doesn’t over-power your brain.

I’ll submit my photo because I really need to tell my friend that I did what I said, and entered the contest.

Thanks cuttingboard.com and John Boos cutting boards for putting on this fun contest. I’d be thrilled (and floored) if I won, but who knows … they did suggest humor and my harried, over-wrot, weary self took them seriously without intending to.

Here’s to a relaxed October with no stress. Cheers!

I shoot RAW with my Nikon D810 camera, using my 50 mm lens, and my Manfrotto tri-pod. I shoot in my home using natural light. I do not own reflectors or bouncers or a light box, though if I win this contest, those will be quickly purchased!

As my blog intro explains, I’ve been passionate about photography since I was a young girl. As my blog attests, I love to cook (and eat) and photograph food as I journey through this fun life.

I hope you’ll consider following my Instagram feed — Montanacarole as I’d love to meet you and see what you’re up to as well! And I encourage you to enter this contest also … but you’ll need to act fast as there’s only 5 days left! Be sure to mention that I sent you!

https://www.cuttingboard.com/cutting-board-boos-contest

New Years Day Comfort Food

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It’s New Year’s Day 2017. Maybe you stayed up a little too late and drank a little too much, celebrating last night. Or maybe its freezing cold out and you just want a stay-at-home family day of relaxing. No matter what, this month I’ve chosen a hearty winter comfort food for you to cook, that is sure to satisfy! (As a plus, this carb and protein packed dish gives your body a boost of healing energy!)

Carbonara is found on restaurant menus around the world and is defined as a pasta sauce denoting a sauce made with bacon, ham, egg, and cheese. My adapted recipe is full of Montana flavor, quick, easy, and makes for a beautiful presentation on your dining table.

This rich, creamy (without cream!) Italian pasta and sausage based one-dish-meal is delicious! Serve with a salad at mid-day (or even brunch!) for a new family favorite. Many cultures consider this a breakfast food, it’s so versatile and good for any meal of the day.  Garlic toast is always a nice side as well, to compliment and complete the Italian holiday menu.Read More »

Indulging

With fresh tomato and basil harvests dwindling down to weeks, I’m indulging my taste buds more frequently with one of my favorite summertime, mouth-watering, flavor satisfying meals!

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Heirloom tomato’s (no, I travel too often to raise a garden!) from Farmers Market, combined with fresh basil leaves, and Mozzarella balls marinated in herbs and spices that I buy from Costco.  {Formaggio brand}

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Add a few lightly buttered and toasted rounds of baguette bread and you’ve got a burst of springtime flavor in each bite! Close your eyes and you can easily imagine you’re on the Isle of Sicily where we used to walk to the neighbors dairy to buy the freshest Mozzarella cheese everyday!

Once the seasonal local crops are finished, I’ll eagerly be waiting for the summer of 2017 to enjoy my wonderfully fresh Caprese Salads again.

 

The Holt Ranch Heritage Museum

DSC_8118Meet Bill and Romana at the Holt Ranch, and you’ll have met friends for life!

 

With a career behind them in the Rodeo circuit as host announcer and contestant, this dynamic couple have an unexpected wonderful collection of Cowboy and Indian memorabilia in Lolo Montana. Bill describes it as “Cowboys and Indians – Rodeos and Powwows”. Rubbing shoulders with many celebrities, Bill and Ramona have been collecting artifacts of the Wild West with the help of their friends, for a lifetime.

The collection tells the story of cowboys, their equipment, and the evolution of different types of saddles and tack. No aspect of life on the frontier has been excluded. Nez Perce, Salish/Kootenai and Crow Indian memorabilia are included. The museum is on the famous Lolo Trail or the Nez Perce (Nee-me-poo) Trail, which was used by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806.

Before you visit the museum, stop by to enjoy their small herd of Longhorn cattle across the road. These world famous animals are all that remains of the once large herd the Holt’s raised on their ranch. 

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With two authentic teepees and a wonderful life size welded sculpture of an Indian mounted on his horse by Montana native artist Harry Koyama greeting you, your visit begins with the Holt’s wagon collection. Restored stage-coach, chuck wagon, buggy, and so forth.

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Step inside to lifesize dioramas of a dentist office, saloon, county registry, and all things rodeo, just to mention a few. Bill and Ramona enjoy the ‘show and tell’ as they walk with you, describing in greater detail with entertaining stories surrounding each item. Their collection is obviously a work of love and respect to Montana history.

If you’re a fan of entertaining greats like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ronald Reagan, and so forth, you’ll be delighted by the fun memorabilia of these icons, in the various displays within the museum.

Here’s Sam Elliott’s boot, doing a little toe-to-toe dancing with me!

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6800 Lewis And Clark Trail Lolo Montana 59847  Open by appointment only.

 

Buffalo Gals are out tonight!

I’m basically a cowgirl at heart. I love the combined experience of nature with a western lifestyle. So camping really makes me happy! It’s like living on a ranch without the ranch house. {or hard work!}DSC_8241

Several years ago, I started a women’s adventure group and named it Buffalo Gals Travelers and Campers. Like minded women meet together for a few days–and nights–of western themed camping. DSC_8249

My little sister gave me this wonderful wool carpet bag and glitzy purse jewelry for my birthday–so appropriate for the leader, right? I love its big size, because there’s even room for my camera!

Buffalo Gals Camp was last week here in Montana.  It involved a lot of work but I enjoy event planning so it was fulfilling to see it come off without a snag or hitch.

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Every detail was attended to for these Western ‘cowgirl caravan’ campers who pulled into camp throughout the day. They found snacks, cool water, a vintage wash IMG_5591station, and some sweet little swag bags waiting for them as they arrived.

Imagine my excitement when I found sterling silver earrings that matched this year’s camp theme “Kick Up Yer Heels and Have a Good Time”, to add to all the local cowgirl boutique coupons in their swag bags!

Thanks to Cowgirl Corner, Crazy Horse, B.E. at Home, and Antiqueology shops for your support of Buffalo Gals Camp!

 

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Don’t my Sam Edleman boots make awesome centerpieces? I’ve stuffed them with a narrow canning jar, water, and fresh roadside wildflowers!

 

Four EZ up canopies gave us plenty of shade! I added some of my cotton bandanas for color, and bug control. (I did not realize I had so many — 27 in all — until I started gathering them from my two trailers, backpack, fishing gear, etc.

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My Buffalo Gals enjoyed a lovely, inviting venue for their four night stay in Western Montana. There were many options to fill our time, but most of us chose to stay in camp, chatting while cooling off in nearby Lolo Creek, reading in the shade, or dozing in one of the hammocks.

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Living life laid back. Oh, and maybe a couple of us danced by the light of the moon as the Pistorius Meteor Shower danced overhead through the night sky.

 

 

 

Ending July with Travel {naturally}

Two down and one to go! Months of summer that is. Here in the Rocky Mountains of Northern USA, those three precious months are all that is allocated to us.

With July ending on a weekend, I’ll start my diary of travel highlights with Friday evening. It was my dear mothers’  (“MaMa”) 90th birthday. So with the car packed full of decor, gifts, birthday dessert, and favors, plus my usual bag of overnight necessities (just in case), I headed into town. With a quick (45 minute) stop by her house to help her with some last minute primping, to look at her garden (unchanged since she’d proudly showed it off to me just 4 days earlier) and a reading of all the birthday cards she’d received, I packed MaMa into my car too.

We arrived at the restaurant of her choice, Finn and Porter at the Hilton. Our family has been celebrating special times for over 35 years at this venue, though none of the revolving staff realizes this fact. I’d reserved a private room for our party — which is ideal for us because it is a glassed in room that still allows us beautiful river views.

A few quick decoration touches of Happy Birthday banner and balloons, and my part was completed. Soon the room was brimming with the happy guests and we enjoyed a lovely time together. MaMa was pleased!

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On Saturday morning, I headed the car south toward my favorite Farmer’s Market in the Bitterroot Valley. Always a delightful mix of local artisans, growers, and vendors. The streets are filled with small town peoples that I simply love. No one is uptight or in a hurry. I search the crowd for familiar faces, and all too often the flow is stopped when a connection is made and the paths are blocked by happy voiced patrons. We gently ease our way around without a fuss.

A drive up one of my favorite canyons for some mountain breeze and rambling creek enjoyment, and I head home again.

Sunday morning dawned with a brilliant sunrise, in thanks partially to some hazy smoke from a forest fire somewhere.

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Traveling in my memory to other famous sunrises while I enjoyed my morning coffee on the back lawn. I could not linger though, as I had to travel north toward Glacier Park for a photo session with a client. A family reunion lakeside in Polson where a new baby was making its debut. Beautiful lighting but a brisk breeze that insisted hair and clothing go its own way was less than ideal. When we’d turn to pacify the wind, the sun’s light was wrong. Phooey. We made the best of it and as I assured the family, the memories are what’s important, not perfect photos. {not sure they bought it}

Taking advantage of the fact that a good friend lived nearby, we’d arranged for a light luncheon together with 2 other friends ~ all of us classmates in high school. One drove in from her lake cabin, another conveniently passing through town enroute to another destination, and of course me, who was there on assignment.

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What a great time we enjoyed sitting on the deck overlooking the Flathead River in Polson. Some reminiscing but mostly just catching up with one another’s lives. Years ago we discussed our babies. Nowadays we discuss our aging parents. And our grown kids. And of course, our grand-babies! Many laughs later, I traveled home to the high school tunes of memory lane ~ Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and other favorites.

What a lovely end to July with my daily road trips, filled with favorite places, scenery, and people!