My Love Affair With Montana, Continues

DSC_6564“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“I’m in love with Montana.” C.D.D. 

My Subaru is loaded with the essentials … tripod, cameras, lens, notebook, map, and GPS. Oh, and a backpack with a few clothes and other essentials. So off I go, heading east over the Continental Divide to my road trip hub for a few days and nights–the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks.

The Sac was built in 1910 to service tourists traveling through on the railroad. Now on the Register of Historic Hotels, this white clapboard beauty is pure bliss. So when I got a call to come stay and review it, naturally I said “yes!”.

The lovely covered front porch is lined with white rocking chairs, scattered wool throws for guest use, and season appropriate floral arrangements. Greeted with a smile and a glass of chilled champagne, I am escorted to my room on the third floor. Up the original wooden stairway, past hall windows and the rustic wood doors of other guest rooms.

 

 

Barely taking the time to drop my things off, I hustle out to capture the late afternoon golden hour for some photos.

 

My first stop is Willow Creek. I’ve been wanting to stop by the Willow Creek Cafe and Saloon. One of my favorite reads is BLIND YOUR PONIES by a wonderful Montana author, Stanley Gordon, who features the town of Willow Creek in this courageous story.

Although the cafe is not yet open for business, I love driving the main street with passages from the book playing out in my imagination. But I don’t have time to dawdle for I’ve stopped dozens of times to enjoy the scenery along the Old Yellowstone Trail and am due back for dinner reservations at The Sac’s famous Pompey Grill.

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I can’t wait to return another time to splurge on Chef Matt’s famous 3-course dinners!

I finally get to snuggle into my beds luxurious crisp linens, after the sun has disappeared past the Tobacco Root Mountains to the West, deeply satisfied by wanderlust.

I slept my normal 4 hours, awake for 2, sleep for 4 more, odd schedule. Impressed by the absolute lack of noise by guests or street, I opened my window to enjoy some brisk autumn air as I stood gazing out over the sleeping town of Three Forks before returning to bed and meditating on sleep in the middle of the night.

One of the highlights of my stay at the Sacajawea Hotel is the complimentary breakfast-in-bed option. Especially for a lone-traveler, its just so relaxing to eat in suite, as I putz around preparing for my day.

Today I’m off to Pony, Montana! Settled in 1916, Pony was a prosperous gold-mining town. Today there are a number of historic buildings remaining in this town located on the edge of the Tobacco Root Mountains. Since leaving my beautiful Bitterroot Valley, I’ve been suffering with October fever in needing some rich fall foliage to satisfy. And satisfy it does!

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Off the beaten path, the highway to Pony diminishes down to a dirt road once you’re through the town.

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I spent several hours wandering each street of this charming little town, photographing and listening to some of its historic tales. Faint wood smoke from a nearby chimney, the crowing of a rooster and the clucking of hens all added to the ambiance of my visit.

 

I took over 200 photos here–so I’m being very selective about the ones I’ve chosen to show you! Many more shots are found on my Instagram feed–Montana Carole / Divineview Photography.

It’s hard for me to backtrack–leaving the way I arrived–so I found the most-used dirt road and started following it south. Before long I was able to wave down a passing farm truck–a local who surely could give me some good directional advice!

Local ranchers, the Brownson’s, were friendly and helpful as they explained a route to me, taking me up and over the mountains on a dirt road, eventually coming out on the South Boulder Creek highway just 11 miles to the west. (He quizzed me about my all-wheel drive as he carefully checked out the condition of my tires). “It’s a steep road” he said. “I’m a Montana girl and am used to it” I assured him. “It looks like snow” he said. “Yes, and I’m cautious about not wanting to get into any trouble.” “Well. We’ll be heading back this way a bit later. I’ll take a run up there just to make sure you aren’t in any trouble.” Like a protective grandpa, he wished me luck as we drove apart.

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VbarR Ranch

Yes, the weather did spit some snow, but not too much.  I passed cattle, sagebrush, aspen groves, rocky crags, stunning vista’s, rutted mud, a few old homesteads, a surprising University of Indiana research station and lots of mule deer during my wonderful cross-country trek.

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As I pulled out onto the South Boulder Creek road, a snow-squall hit with a furry, blowing the golden Cottonwood leaves off the trees and across my path. Again I stopped so many times to simply enjoy the grand October nature minutes. To enjoy the wild beauty of this wonderful state of mine. To bask in the sweet satisfaction of my hearts love cup, now filled-to-the-brim with October and Montana.

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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

Round ’em up for Cowboy Caviar

Montana has a rich western past, with endless trails and tales of cattle, cowboys, and camping. This yummy choice gives tribute to our past with a recipe that does double time as a salad or appetizer. Some call it “Cowboy Caviar”, while I like to call it a ‘must serve’ at every summer get together. It’s just that good!

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Cowboy Caviar

Mix the dressing together in a pint canning jar:

1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1 TBL fresh minced garlic

Put a lid on it, shake well, and set aside for a few days to let the flavors work their magic.

This is not a make-ahead dish, as the avocado’s will brown and the cilantro will wilt. So, 15 minutes or so before eating, prepare the salad part of this caviar.

In a glass, medium sized bowl, add 1 can (drained) of sweet corn and 1 can (drained) of your favorite bean. I’ve used white beans for this meal. DSC_4089Chop and add to the corn and beans, 2 large ripe tomatoes, 2 large ripe avocados, 1 bunch of fresh cilantro with stems removed, and 3 green onions.DSC_4090DSC_4093DSC_4081

Lightly mix the ingredients while slowly adding the dressing. Serve immediately over a few crisp lettuce leaves for a salad course, or with chips, as an appetizer salsa. The rich flavors and delightful crunch of corn make cowboys (and girls) coming back for more!

Serves 4 as a salad and 8 as an appetizer. It tastes amazing whether you’re sitting in the saddle, a deck chair, next to a campfire, or floating around the pool!

Oh! Let the Sunshine In!

I love being a Montanan like a flower loves the sun! But like a flower, if I don’t get sunshine for weeks or months on end, I start to wither and fade away. Vitamin D is as essential to those of us living in these northern, low-sunlight, always so covered and bundled up against the cold, states almost as much as we need oxygen to breathe. But even with all the supplements and strategies for winter survival, sometimes a girls’ just gotta do what a girls’ gotta do. For me, shortly after ringing in the new year, this meant going on a road trip to sunshine California for a few months!

Yes, this is not unusual. Montana breeds a whole lot of snowbirds who fly the coop every winter in their RV’s, heading to warmer climates. But this was the first year that I got to participate in this migration south.

 

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Simple Pleasures

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I’ve always been a good Girl Scout. “Be prepared”. (Or is that the Boy Scouts motto?) Either way, I’m always (usually) prepared.  Like today for example. A friend stopped over on her way home from some holiday shopping.   I offered her a cocktail and a snack while she relaxed and showed me some of her awesome last minute Christmas gift finds.

One of my favorite holiday cocktails–always festive, refreshing, and yummy–is a cape cod with a couple of smashed frozen cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Sugared rim is an option.

Recipe

1 shot Montana Silver Vodka

2 shots Ocean Spray Cranberry juice

1 shot Sprite (or other fizzy sweet drink)

6 smashed frozen cranberries

Put all ingredients in a shaker with about 1/2 cup of crushed ice. Pour into your favorite festive cocktail glass and garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig

 

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Add some Boursin soft cheese flavored with shallot and chive on some freshly warmed baguette bread and we had ourselves an impromptu holiday gathering!

 

I’m Excited!

Recently I walked into my favorite Spokane restaurant, Chaps, for brunch. As I was at the counter contemplating how to par down my desired selections to a reasonable, manageable order, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Celeste Shaw, the owner. Our conversation was sparked by a small, sterling silver Montana state necklace around my neck. Turns out Celeste is also a Montana girl. Within minutes we were sharing our love for our State, vintage everything, food, and each other!

I mentioned I was a photo-journalist and she mentioned she was preparing to release the Flea Market Style magazine. Our connection went from spark to all-systems-go!

Waiting for the premier issue to hit the newsstands took a lot of patience but it did, I devoured the issue with glee, and once I had the feel for where she wanted to go with this new baby of hers, ideas to complement started flowing from my creative brain!

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Congratulations Celeste and co-editor Ki Nassauer on your delightful publication! I look forward to pitching some ideas for future issues as I hop on board this vintage styling train!

 

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