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!

DSC_7932

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.

DSC_6519

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.

FullSizeRender 12

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fire {cooking} {BBQ} Works

There are 50/50 odds that you will be either in the backyard barbequing or in the woods camping for the Fourth of July celebration. We’ve chosen an easy and satisfying menu for creating your own mouth-watering fireworks on a skewer!

I was camping with friends in Glacier National Park in NW Montana. Such a stunning setting that encourages first-class dining, even over a campfire and picnic table!

DSC_6189

Kabobs are always a tasty and pleasing meal idea. The key is choosing ingredients, which will cook for approximately the same length of time, and that list is virtually endless. Use fresh, in-season and family favorite vegetables and fruits.

DSC_6105

When using meat (steak, chicken, sausage) on my kabobs, I will always use a pre-cooked variety so it will char and heat the same as my vegetables. Marinating your meat for an hour or so before cooking gives you a tastier flavor. Cut the meat into approximate 1” long pieces.

If you’re cooking over a campfire, make sure you’ve got your fire going at least an hour before you need to cook, to utilize those red-hot coals. Grilling over a hot, low-flame fire is a must to keep your kabob from burning.

Start by preparing your vegetables in advance so you’ll have a quick and easy time of skewering your kabobs. Wash and cut into approx 1” size. If you will be using wooden skewers, be sure you soak these in water for at least an hour before placing them on the hot grill.

Skewer your ingredients, but don’t squeeze together too tightly because you want all sides to be exposed to the heat. Some people like to use one ingredient per skewer, which does allow you to cook specific to that food. (I.e. a skewer of peppers, a skewer of meat)

Here I’ve used cooked, spiced polish sausages, green bell peppers, sweet onions, fresh pineapple chunks, and small button mushrooms. Alternating each piece on a skewer, I placed on the grill without any seasoning. I rotate each skewer four times for good equal time grilling.

DSC_6140

During the last minute or so of grilling, I like to drizzle a sauce, such as my mango-jalapeño salsa, down each skewer. (I also place a bowl of the sauce on the table for anyone who wants more)

Using a hot pad, carefully remove each skewer to a baking pan or platter before serving. This allows the hot ends to start cooling down before they come near your guest’s fingers or mouths. It’s always dramatic to serve the kabobs while still skewered, but you can opt to remove the contents into a serving bowl too. Use the tongs of a fork to easily remove the cooked food from the skewer by sliding the fork down the kabob.

DSC_6150

Of course you’ll want some yummy side dishes to round out your menu! Watermelon is always appropriate! I’ve done some camping tradition foil packets of coal-baked potatoes to accompany my kabobs. Using Yukon Gold potatoes, I’ve washed and cut them in fourths. On a heavy 12” square of tin foil, I place the cut potato with some cut onion pieces, then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkled with some salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary sprigs, I wrap the foil tightly and carefully place down in the ash and coals of my fire pit. (Be sure to use long BBQ tongs and a hot pad glove to avoid burning yourself) Make one foil packet of potatoes for each guest.

These need to cook while you’re making your skewers. (Approximately 15 minutes on each side) Remove with great care as not to puncture the foil or have the packet unwrap in the process. Place on a platter and serve immediately.

DSC_6153

Nicely seasoned, beautiful to look at, and ever so satisfying this is true fire cooked, BBQ works at its finest!

DSC_6157

 

It’s Springtime in the Rockies

Winter in Montana can be long and gray. Really gray.

Even though we’re surrounded by “evergreen” trees, with snow-turned-to-ice covering them, they too become just another shade of gray. Don’t get me wrong, there is great beauty in snow and ice. But after 6 months of it, the soul longs for green. Green means life, and life is all about, life.

IMG_5245

Sunrise is often a short glimpse of color on the far horizon, and reflected off water and snow. But the heavy clouds soon swallow up the sun’s rays  and we’re back to gray again.

 

IMG_5213

I love to visit nature in every season, searching for revealing signs of change. In the Springtime, it is particularly gratifying to find those occasional blades of green grass coming up through the matted forest floor. Or the green on the tip of a tree branch, showing new growth in preparation for budding. These are a few finds that put a smile on my face. I know that no matter how cold, or long our winter may linger, the force of spring is operational.

 

IMG_5238

Snow squalls, rain, ice, fog, and frost will all continue into May. But on the days of reprieve, we’ll bask in the warmth of the sun, squeal with delight to find the tulips and daffodils green shoots pushing up through the gray earth, and start making plans to indulge the changing season.

IMG_5258

Creating Beauty

 

I love the gift of imagination! I love it when an inspired thought drifts into my mind, that it’s conception is quickly (usually) created.

What was once a thought, is now a visual beauty to be seen and enjoyed by all. What a gift!

382202772_0901e4459d_o

 

Happy Valentine’s Day dear reader!

Winter Interlude

The other night I drove home through freshly fallen snow with the full moon reflecting and bouncing light shadows off the snow banks along the roadside. My thoughts took me back to college days of moon lit cross-country ski trips into the backcountry of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness here in Montana.

The snow was so cold it crunched with each slide of our feet across the frozen ground. The only other sounds were of our own breathing as we strained arms, legs, and lungs against the nap of nature’s carpeted pathway.

 

IMG_2313
Snow covered fields along the riverbanks as day turns to night across this Montana landscape

Trees cast long shadows across the trail with eerie forms of snow-laden branches requiring a check to our imaginations lest we tense up in fear at the wild things hiding in the woods. We were insignificant in our feeble attempt to gain safety through numbers.

Miles into the wilderness, removing our ski’s we would gather dead limbs from trees, and protected needles scooped out from under large tree roots, to start a campfire. The moonlit landscape so peaceful and still. The soon crackling of the wood burning. The cheerful conversation of friends warming hands and sipping hot toddies as the clocks we left behind pushed on.

I’m so grateful for memories and the easy path, when allowed, to re-capture the sights, sounds, and feelings of past experiences, of youthful adventures.

 

Out on the Town – Zootown

It’s birthday night out with my favorite (and only) son!

DSC_1901
James Bar, Downtown Missoula, Montana

Wonderful service, best-steak-ever!, excellent company, and a dessert birthday gift from the management!

DSC_1897

Culinary arts satisfied, we head over to the Top Hat Lounge where there’s usually a great band on a Friday night, hoping to work off a few of the newly added calories.

IMG_2198
Mellow Cello at the Top Hat was too solemn for a happy time so we dashed across the street to Montgomery Distillery.

Great atmosphere, great service, and the healthiest cocktails in town! I started off with the one at the top of the list and wasn’t disappointed! Springtime explosion in my mouth! So refreshingly cool and crisp!

I love having my birthday in January because they’re always an amazing time! Nothing like starting the year off with a great celebration to lead the way for the remaining 11 months.