Monday, December 17, 2018

I Quit (Thank Heavens)

I quit smoking in 2007.  Prior to that it was impossible to imagine a reality in which cigarettes weren't an essential part of my being.  ...and today I cannot imagine a reality in which they are.  Crazy.  A person can change so much over a lifetime if they so choose.
Earlier this year I spent a long weekend in which 1/3 of my traveling companions were active smokers.  Boy.  Talk about driving home the point!   I was beyond grateful for breaking free from this aspect of my life/behavior.  Only one other time (while Ryan was in the hospital) have I been more relieved to be liberated from my addiction to cigarettes, my compulsive smoking habit.

Thanks heavens that monkey is off my back, that I am out of the mouth of the beast, as I like to say.  Thanks heavens I quit.  Thank heavens, thank heavens, thank heavens.
Thank havens my schedule and plans are not dictated by when and where I can indulge this habit.

Thank heavens my clothes and hair no longer carry that lingering disagreeable scent.

Thank heavens I found more positive ways to relax, calm, or treat myself.

Thank heavens I have more disposable income to play with.

Thank heavens my tastebuds and sense of smell have come alive again.

Thank heavens I no longer have that nagging little smokers hack.

Thanks heavens I can hike mountain peaks and cycle hard for miles with ease.

Thank heavens I've reduced the related negative health risks.

Thank heavens I am able to do things I never thought possible.
Thank heavens.  For that and more.
Addictions are tough.  I am tougher though.
Photos from various cemeteries in Helena, MT.  11/10/2018 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Palo Santo for the Potty

Johnny is drawn to the smell of Palo Santo like a moth to a flame.   It cracks me up.  When we light it, releasing its deep, resinous scent, Johnny just comes a-runnin'.  She'll stand on the bath mat and look around, sniffing deeply and begging to be petted.  I assume she likes it, since she runs toward the source of the smell, but maybe she is just perplexed by it.  The aroma is pretty unique and powerful after all.  I've no way of knowing for sure, of course.

We keep a stick of Palo Santo on top of the toilet tank the way that some people do with scented candles.  See, we don't have a fan to dissipate any, well, let's say, negative bathroom odors.  That's where the Palo Santo comes in.

Palo Santo (or Holy Stick) is such a resinous and aromatic wood.  Just a quick touch of flame will bring the pungent oils oozing to the surface.  We don't burn our Palo Santo like incense--it doesn't catch and keep burning down to ashes.  We just run a flame over it and--boom--instantly the room smells magnificent.
It is a pretty solid little no-bathroom-fan trick.  Safer than a candle, more earthy than air freshener, cheap, long-lasting.
Plus, Johnny likes it.  😉

Friday, December 7, 2018

Old Wallet, New Wallet

Everything wears out in its own time.  So, on the heels of my Eulogy to Outdoor Gear, I have another story.  Though this time without the lament.

I finally discarded my crusty ol' homemade wallet and transitioned to a different homemade wallet.  It is decidedly less bright and feminine, but hopefully it won't show the dirt and tea stains quite so badly.  (It is almost embarrassing how often tea gets spilled inside my bag....)

Seriously.  I put the old wallet through the ringer.
Old Wallet circa 2015
It had started to breakdown on all the fold-points (being a tri-fold wallet) last year.  I dabbed a little Fray Check (thanks, Mom!) at each of these folds and that did extend its life, I've no doubt about that.  But then the fabric itself just started to break down--not on the seams, not just on the corners.  Parts of the fabric were basically becoming invisible with each passing day, worn so thin.

And THEN, I was confronted with a stark reality.  I'd spilled so much tea inside my bag (oops!) and clutched it so much in my (apparently) grimy hands that the fabric motif was almost unrecognizable when compared with a fresh piece.  The blue had turned grey.  The brightly colored flowers and leaves had turned oh so drab.  It was pretty shocking to me, actually.  I mean...I knew my wallet was worn and dirty....but I clearly underestimated things.
The Dark Star Orchestra wallet was originally crafted for Matt.  He wanted something extra durable so I made it out of a pair of beyond-repair Carhartt  work pants.  ...and then, after a test drive, it turned out too thick for Matt's liking.  Durable, sure, but too chunky for his back pocket.  It has been sitting on a shelf in our library/guest room ever since, saved specifically with the intention that I'd adopt it when mine wore out.  As I said back in 2016, since I almost always carry my wallet in a bag its bulk isn't an issue for me.
My new wallet. 
DSO = Dark Star Orchestra, a fantastic Grateful Dead cover band we've seen several times.  We picked up this patch at one of those shows.
So, now it is has been put to use as intended.  And Hannah, lacking any sort of homemade wallet, adopted the old strained one.  This really just means I should make her a nice wallet of her own since she deserves better than that, which I'd intended for the trash.  Hey, hey, hey...I love a useful sewing project!  And the wallets are a fun and manageable little quilting endeavor.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

I Keep Telling Myself...

...they're just things.  They're inanimate objects which are easily enough replaced.  Even still, I'm a touch bummed.

See, it's the End-of-an-Era for me.  Last week we ordered replacements for both our beloved tent and my cherished hiking boots in preparation for our journey to Death Valley later this winter.  And the new ones have arrived, driving home the sense of well-that's-a-shame.  Perhaps I should be excited to get new gear, but I'm not.  Not really.  I really liked my old gear.
Scenic Point in Glacier National Park
But, my trusty boots had been glued, stitched, and re-waterproofed to no avail.  The tent screen had been patched in a few different places and both zippers on the rainfly were shot.  We'd already been limited to just one of the two tent doors this year since the first bit the big one last year.  (I suspect the blasting sandstorm on the dunefield was probably a factor in the zipper decline.)  We contacted REI to see about getting a replacement for just the rainfly, but no luck.  Then we looked into having the zippers replaced--it was a task I was not up for personally--but, in the baffling logic of the global economy, buying a whole new tent was cheaper than having the old tent repaired.  So, no more putting off the inevitable.
Backpacking at Wind Cave National Park
Sigh.  I mean, nothing lasts forever.  Not me.  Not high quality outdoor gear.  Not even the mountains.
Storm Point in Yellowstone National Park
Yet I feel a loss as if they were old friends moving away, no longer a component of my future exploits, dreams, and plans.  It strikes me as unreasonable to be so attached to these material goods, but that is the truth of the matter.
Playing on the rocks in Bryce Canyon National Park
For, oh, the things we've done together, the places we've seen!  They've been my adventure companions!  We've been through so much!  (And I don't care how melodramatic that sounds.)
Dusty, dusty boots after a day on the trail in the Grand Canyon
These boots are steeped in healing waters and imbued with the majesty of the earth.  I've rubbed it into the leather purposefully, wanting to carry that essence with me.  I dunked my toes into the dazzling melt water of Grinnell Glacier, baptizing them in the pearlescent pool.  In these boots I've scaled Angel's Landing and descended into the Grand Canyon. I hiked up to my first mountain peak in these boots.  They've been a subtle foundation for so, so, so many memories.  I even wrote a poem about them that remains one of my favorites to this day.

I can't say for certain how long these boots have been traversing the trails with me.  I know I wore them on the Glacier Megavacation--the inaugural Megavacation, I might add--but I'm not sure if I bought them in advance of that trip or what exactly.   All I can remember is that Matt had read solid reviews in Backpaker magazine about them and I think they lived up to it in the 5+ years I've tramped about in them.  I replaced them with the Montara III, the new version of the same boot.  I mean, why would I want something else, as I've loved these so?!  I did immediately note that the toe area has been redesigned.  That was the blow-out point on the previous pair  so hopefully that is an improvement.
Dangling a foot off the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park
The tent we've had even longer than the boots though, again, I am not sure how long.  Our previous tent got decimated by a windstorm--the poles were splintered into a thousand shards--at Fort Peck for a family reunion.  This would have been 2009 or 2010.  So, we've been calling it our home-away-from-home for eight or nine years.
Camping on our friend Hannah's property near Three Forks, Montana.
I could probably put that tent up in my sleep.  I've done is a bajillion times.  Even in the dark.  I can be remarkably quick about it with a rainstorm brewing.
Backpacking at Wind Cave National Park
From music festivals in mountain meadows to oceanside cliffs--in every season of the year--car camping and backpacking--this little abode has kept us safe and cozy.  It held up against blistering sun, every imaginable form of precipitation, wind, sand, and more.  It was our hideout from the worst mosquitoes of recent memory at Nelson Reservoir this summer.  It was our sanctuary in the storms that inevitably come.  We learned that hail and pelting rain make a fairly delightful music as they ping across the taut surface of a tent.   Even in relatively extreme conditions we were never disappointed.

I couldn't begin to recount all the times I got lost in the stars as I drifted off to sleep with the rainfly folded back.  Nor can I adequately describe the palpable silence when waking in the black stillness of the night without even a breeze to shake the trees.  It is something which borders on magical.
Backpacking at Wind Cave National Park
As with the boots we simply bought the new version of our old tent, which also has been slightly redesigned.  The door revamp seems especially promising.
Camping at The Gorge for a three-day Phish run, tent in the background
I didn't throw either the boots or the tent away though, even after all this eulogizing.  Those that know me best probably won't be surprised.  After all, the tent has some very usable outdoor fabric that I intend to upcycle.  Off the cuff I envision stuff sacks, but I will ponder our needs for a while before busting out the scissors.

The boots, well, I know they should be tossed, but I just can't quite let go yet.  They've been downgraded to wear-around-town-on-fair-weather-days status.  I think of it as putting a horse out to pasture, in a podiatric sort of way.  They've been retired.
Old boots, New boots
So, here is to a new era.  New boots.  New tent.  And, as always, new adventures!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Linguistic Tidbits: Stocks vs. Pillory (+ Stock and Bull Market Origins)

I'm reading The Scarlet Letter and I discovered that the thing I've been calling "The Stocks" is not actually stocks at all.  It is actually a Pillory.  They're similar but distinct punitive practices both of which center upon confinement in the eye of public scorn and social shame.

It has come to my attention that, technically, the stocks are for confining people by the legs...
Photo from Wikipedia.
...whereas the pillory is for confining people by the head and arms.
Photo from Wikipedia.
While we're at it:
I thought this was possibly the cutest cow I've ever seen, the way his ears and muzzle were dipped in black.
I attended an author lecture earlier this month about the book Up the Trail by Tim Lehman.  There I was informed that the terms "stock" and "bull market" originate with the old cattle operations of the wild west.

Basically, in the days of the open (unfenced) short grass prairie, cattle were just turned loose in places like Montana and Wyoming to graze and make babies.  The cows just did their thing without much management from their owners--and returned a rather nice profit none the less.  ...Until the year they all starved to death because a hard crust of snow made the prairie grass unreachable and the majority of stockmen lost everything.   But, yeah, on a bull market the old cowboys could just make money on their stock without really trying!  And boom, financial terms are born!

I suppose it doesn't really matter, but I love these sort of linguistic tidbits.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Thankful Cook

Matt taught me to cook--specifically he taught me to cook from scratch.  I've mentioned this before, I know.
It never fails:  I always snap a photo of my plate before I actually serve up everything.
At our Thanksgiving meal, by historical default, Matt kept catching all the praise for the dishes we brought, specifically the dinner rolls and the pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes.  A handful of times Matt had to redirect the enthusiasm my way.  "Well, actually, Beth made the..."
It was tremendously satisfying. 
These ceramic Pilgrim-and-Indian figurines were painted by my mom and have probably been a fixture at every Thanksgiving my entire life.  I don't know how I ended up with them, but they warm my nostalgic heart none the less.
Not only was it superbly pleasurable to actually contribute to the meal myself--instead of banking on all of Sharon and Matt's culinary talent--but people thought it was yummy enough that Matt probably made it.  And that's high praise in my book.
Ryan wins at Catan every time.  I swear.  Every time.
So, hooray!  I am a reasonably good cook these days.  That's something to be very thankful for.  Food is good.  Especially when shared with others.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Tuesday Night Bowling Tradition

Traditions all have a genesis. I've eaten lefse at Christmas every year for my entire life.  For the last several years Matt and I have even played a part in ensuring that tradition carries by helping make the lefse with Matt's mom.  BUT, somewhere down in the roots of my family tree (and Matt's) someone started this whole lefse-is-a-holiday-treat thing.  I think that is so cool.  A simple idea can become a family bond and legacy, just like that.
This week marks the one year anniversary of a relatively new family traditions--Bowling Tuesdays.
We didn't set out to bowl once a week--or I certainly didn't anyway.  I think Ryan and Bek were looking for a fun, affordable date night--and invited Matt and me along to double.  ...and we enjoyed it so thoroughly that we after that first time we were all hooked.  It is such an enjoyable way to spend the evening together.  There is the friendly competition, lots of laughing and catching up, pitchers of beer and free Diet Pepsis, tunes on the jukebox, a growing camaraderie with the bowling alley staff (we're "regulars" now!), and even a little bit more physical activity in our lives.  That is winning on so many levels it is just unreal.
The game is only a fraction of the story though.  I would say that the bulk of  my satisfaction comes from sharing quality time with people I care about.  Matt and I would see Ryan (and usually Bek) every week during football season, but it was much more sporadic the rest of the year.  Bowling has changed that!  Now we have a standing weekly date and I just love it.  I look forward to Tuesdays so much.  Sometimes other folks join us, too--April and Bryant, Memo and Jess, Stephanie and Casey, Lacie and Matt, Sharon and Roger.  So, the tradition has a sort of ripple effect, too.  According to my records we've had 33 (!) different bowlers over the past year.
Ryan and I even both threw our birthday parties at the bowling alley.
I wrote this poem in the bowling alley back in February (between sips of light beer and Olympic figure skating performances) while waiting for the rest of my crew to join me for our highly anticipated weekly bout.
Tuesdays We Roll
Harold acts the gatekeeper
To my ugliest shoes
The ones with no traction,
But non-marking soles, too.
I know his name
--not CJs, apparently--
and wonder if he knows mine.
I do post it along side my score
Every week.
I know my average
Harold knows my shoe size
9 not 9 1/2
Happy Hour from 8-10.
I'm pleased to report that my average has gone up since then, too.  And down.  And then up again!  Ha!  And I bought some really schnazzy bowling shoes.  No more ugly ones for me!
My bowling shoes are so cool they look like regular shoes.
Nothing lasts forever, but like the lefse thing I hope this new tradition has some sticking power.

Friday, November 2, 2018

This Time To Remember

Placing my ofrenda this year was quite a soothing experience.  As the wind rattled in the leaves outside the house was quiet and calm and I was alone.  I held each object in hand and couldn't help but note how each evoked so many memories, thoughts, and emotions--the good and bad, the highs and lows, the laughter and the tears.  I found myself reflecting on those no longer with me in body and how much their legacy lives on, how they influenced me, how they helped me grow.  I tried to forgive myself for wrongs or shortcomings long past and to make peace in my soul.  I was filled with love.  I was overcome with gratitude. 

I am thankful for this time to remember.  I am thankful for the people in my life--past and present.  I am thankful for this day.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Custom Lazy-Susan for Beth

Matt impresses me a lot.  He is always willing to put in the work required to achieve his goals.  He is a creative thinker and a very thoughtful person.

I mention this because he recently built me a pair of custom lazy-susans for our corner cupboard, thus making some of my kitchen-dreams come true.
He looked at pre-fab lazy-susans, but found them:
A) expensive, given their quality
B) lackluster in weigh capacity
C) very limited in dimensions

So, though he swears he is not much of a carpenter, he measured, drafted, cut, screwed, and crafted two lazy-susans juuuuuuuust right for our cupboard.  It involved making a "jig" first and then using that and a jig saw to cut the wood into appropriately sized round pieces.  (After explaining to Beth what the heck a jig was, I might add.)
This is the sort of project that I'd never have undertaken myself...mostly because of math, but also power tools.  😉
For the past five years this very, very deep cupboard was a sort of dumping ground where things not-used-often got pushed to the back never to be seen again.  (Okay, okay...I exaggerate, but you get my gist.)  We're terrible about taking Before and After photos so you'll just have to take my word for it.   
This picture is the closest I have to a Before photo.  At this point Matt had already placed the laminate tiles (leftovers from our bathroom) and secured the smaller lazy-susan to the top shelf.
We have a pretty small kitchen.  I remember when we bought our house people suggesting it was crazy-small for two folks who love to cook, bake, and can as much as we do.  I'm of the mind that more cupboards just encourage more gadgets and a large kitchen just requires more cleaning and maintenance.  Our kitchen--as is our whole house--is perfectly Matt-and-Beth sized in my assessment.

Never the less, I am astonished at the humongous difference just making this one cupboard more user-friendly has made in the kitchen flow.  We were able to juggle the pots and pans, etc. around so that all of our other cupboards are now uncluttered and easier to use as well.  It is amazing.  Every time I open the corner cupboard (well, all the cupboards, really) it makes me happy.  I imagine this will wear off in time, but seriously, the effect is dramatic.
He even bent metal trim to secure the edge and make it look polished and professional, too.  Plus, it serves the practical function of keeping things from flinging off if I spin the lazy-susan with excessive vigor!
The smaller lazy-susan on the shelf is 21.5 inches in diameter.  A little shelf-space is left at the front of the cupboard for our bread basket.  The bottom lazy-susan is 31.5 inches across--with a pie cut at the front.  It fills the entire space making the back corner just as usable as the front.  The pre-fab lazy-susans he was looking at came in intervals like 18 inches and 24 inches which would have resulted in a lot of still-underutilized space.  His custom-sized lazy-susan was the perfect solution to maximize the cupboard space.

Seriously.  There is nothing this man can't do when he sets his mind to it.  This is just one of the ways he continues to amaze and impress me year after year.  Also, he bought me flowers again yesterday.  For no reason.  AND made tater tot hotdish!
Seriously.  Whattaguy!

Monday, October 22, 2018


One of the reason I adore cycling so much is that I find it tremendously empowering.

I am my own motor.  I am the reason I reach the top of the hill.  I am wild and free with the wind in my hair, pressing my feet to the pedal as I fly around town.
I am also my own mechanic, at least for the basics.  Computers and automobiles are a critical components of my life, but when something breaks down I cannot readily take them apart and fix it myself.  With my bicycle though it is different.  This is a mechanized tool that I can wrap my brain around.

Today I patched two holes in my bicycle tire made by this screw--the second screw I've run over in four months, I might add.  It had punctured through both sides of the tube.
My hands were black with grease by the end, but the whole thing took less than ten minutes and cost basically nothing.  It made me feel like a boss.  I got this!  And that feels really good.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Yesterday was a day for pearls.  No reason.  Just because.
At present I have quite a bits of pearl jewelry, nearly all imitation pearls (which suits me fine since I'm sorta hard on jewelry).  I paired the variegated strand of (real) pearls that I bought in Mexico on our three-generation-trip with the shorter strand that I got from Grandma Fran's collection when she passed away last year.  Then I topped it off with the pair of little dangly earrings my mom gave me. Sentimentalist that I am this pleases me immensely.