Montana Part 3

Zip lining was on the agenda for day three in Montana. And I have to say I was a little nervous about it. More nervous than I was about jumping out of a plane. This may seem funny but with skydiving I wasn’t really responsible for doing anything except holding my head back and screaming. The latter I did quit well I must say. But I didn’t really know what to expect with zip lining over 400ft drops, at pretty high speeds, down a mountain. But it wasn’t going to stop me.
We got to the Whitefish ski lodge and I was signed in, weighed, given a harness to wrangle into and told to pick out a helmet. Then a safety video was watched (already way more instruction than skydiving) and we headed out to the first zip. The bunny slope if you will. About 100ft long and not high at all. Cassandra, my new friend who also luckily works at The Great Northern Brewery, and I paired up since two zipped at a time and we were off and I was hooked. Ready to go higher and faster and longer. There were 7 lines in all. The highest was 400ft over a valley and the longest was 1900ft. There were poses like the starfish to slow yourself down and the pencil (my favorite) to speed up and go as fast as you could down the line. Also going on that day was production of a promotional video for the mountain. So if I make it into the promo video I will definitely post that too. Thank you Andy and Jesse for such a great day.

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“bunny slope”

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I know I make it look good 🙂

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After the excitement of that it was time to feed this girl. Cassandra mentioned a “western Mexican” restaurant and since she is from San Diego I trusted her judgement on Mexican food above an unseen line that crosses this great country. (I have been told that there is a great Mexican place in Charleston that I need to try as well and someday I will. As I trust all the food I have tried in Chas and the giver of this advise). And I have to say Pascado Blanco did not disappoint. The Elk Chorizo and fish tacos (my weakness) were delicious as was the amazing tangerine, carrot and habanero hot sauce. Trust me…it was delicious!

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And of course I wanted some dessert so it was back to a new favorite place, Loula’s, for some Bread Pudding with whiskey sauce and coffee.

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It was a good day and I am very thankful that I have a dad who loves me and had it all planned out for me before I even got off the plane. And to top off the day we found a local distillery, started by some North Carolina boys, where they make some pretty strong drink in the Montana mountains. And they had recently purchased what every distillery needs…a Yak.

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More soon…

Montana Part Two

Glacier National Park is beautiful. Of course you think of most of our national parks and you think of natural beautiful and some man made (Mt. Rushmore for example) beauty. But I loved Glacier.
We took an open top bus tour through the park to see as much as we could in the day we were there. The sun was shining. The flowers were blooming and the smell of the lodge pole pine and cedar was wonderful. The Flathead river is a beautiful turquoise blue from the glacier run off and the “rock flour” that is picked up along the way. The Black Feet reservations flank the park with rolling sacred hills and prayer cloths blow in the wind through the trees. There are moose, deer and bears to be seen if you are looking. Cascading water cuts down mountainsides. I saw the Continental Divide and drove across it to the rivers flowing in a different direction.
No pictures I took that day can do it justice. It is like trying to capture the Grand Canyon on film. You can never quit convey the breathtaking feeling of seeing and smelling and hearing it all.

A few fun pictures from the Izaak Walton Hotel where we joined our tour.

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When is the last time you used a pay phone?

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Inquiring minds want to know

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My view while waiting for the bus

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A little writing

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The Continental Divide

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A little sun and wind burned but it was a good day.

Montana Part One

My day started with an alarm at 3:30AM. I had a plane to catch at 6. I arrived at the airport, checked bag, security scanners, and then found coffee.
Kalispell, Montana my destination. I’m always excited to go somewhere new. And Big Sky country is new and somewhere I’ve always wanted to see. And being a girl who isn’t a fan of cold weather I seized the chance to go in July when the temps reach a balmy high of 80 and not November when I don’t even want to think of what a normal HIGH may be…but I digress.
It is beautiful here. Naturally beautiful. Untouched in so many ways. It’s good to know that there are still places in this amazing country that seem to be untouched by the busyness of the rest of the world. In the valley where I am mountains surround and still have snow covering their tops. A place where snow was just cleared off of mountain passes in the last few weeks. Where the air smells of pine and honeysuckle and not exhaust fumes from everyone trying to get “somewhere.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love the city. I love having “somewhere” to be. But it is good to remember that you need to slow down. Being busy doesn’t always mean you are getting everything out of life that you could. More likely you are missing out on small things that could strike you deeply and largely. Take a breath and remember what honeysuckle in the air smells like. So far it’s been just what I needed.

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Camera bag, coffee and IPad…I’m set.

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Sunrise over Austin

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Lewis and Clark discovered this river. I doubt it looks much different now than it did to them.

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Snow covered mountain tops. Not clouds!

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Northern Rockies. Almost there.

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I will have some Good Medicine. Thank you. (brewery is just across the street)

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Delicious

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So was my medicine

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Coffee and Huckleberry Raspberry pie = happy girl

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Big Sky

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Happy I had my scarf and sweater

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My view

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My reminder

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Me saying goodnight
More tomorrow

Loquat Jam

When I got a text from a friend last week asking if I wanted Loquats to make jam with I said, “Yes.  I love them. Thank you.”  Then promptly went to Google to find out exactly what a Loquat was.  To a girl who grew up in Kansas it sounded a little exotic.  I had no idea what they looked like, tasted like or if I could use them to make a jam anyone would want to eat.  So after discovering they were a distant relative of the apple, originally from southeastern China and armed with the few recipes I found online I felt prepared for a new culinary adventure.

The tree was full of the small fruit so up the ladder I went.  The air smelled delicious and they were a beautiful orange color.  There was more than enough fruit for me to try several different recipes.  I easily picked 15 lbs of fruit and there was plenty left over for a second trip.

I combined a few recipes that I found and this is my version of Loquat Jam.

Weigh 5 lbs of  Loquats, cut the blossom end off and remove the seeds.
Chop in a blender and add to the pot you want to use to cook your jam.
Add water so that it is just covering the chopped Loquats.
Add Ground Ginger, Ground Cinnamon and Ground Cloves to taste.  (I was heavier with the Ginger and Cinnamon as the Cloves can be very strong)
Bring to a boil.
Once boiling reduce heat to low/simmer.  Cook until fruit is tender.  (It was about an hour for me).
Be sure to stir occasionally.
While the fruit is cooking place one or two small plates in the freezer for testing your jam setting.

After the fruit has cooked and the peel is as tender and soft as you like it add sugar to taste.  The fruit is a little tart so it will depend on if your taste to how much sugar you want to add.
For 5 lbs of fruit I added 1.5 cups of sugar and I thought it was delicious.  Just sweet enough to not lose the natural tartness of the Loquat.

I then cooked the mixture for another hour or so until the setting was reached.
You can test the setting by placing a small spoonful of jam onto a plate you have chilled in the freezer.  If it does not spread it is ready to be preserved in sterilized jars.  Process as you would any jams in a water bath.

One suggestion I saw was to use this jam as a topping over a cheesecake.  I don’t need much of an excuse to eat cheesecake but now that I have discovered this wonderful fruit I will simply have to follow this suggestion.

Enjoy!

Plan B with Erica E

It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.
~Italian Proverb

It was a Sunday and Plan B was initialized.

Plan B is always wine tasting in the Texas Hill Country.  Wine was waiting to be picked up so we hopped in the Jeep and headed down 290 West.

William Chris Vineyard was our first stop.  I love this little place.  It’s cozy and comfortable and if you are lucky Alphonse Dotson will be there to tell you about growing up in Houston, playing football for the Chiefs & Raiders, tease you a little about about a visitor coming from Charleston and give you a taste of the sweet wine he just finished bottling.

Texas Hills Vineyards was the second stop just before they closed.  Wines were tasted, bottles were chosen and we were off to find food in Johnson City.  A brewery was discovery and a decision was made to finish the day with a local brew and some food.

Pecan Street Brewery was just the place.  Catcher in the Wheat was a good choice and so were the Portabello mushrooms.

It was a good day with my best friend and great Plan B accomplished.

Nayane’s Austin Birthday

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To celebrate Nayane this year there was breakfast at a favorite place, pedicures, a scavenger hunt that had us going all over the city, Wine House and ending the night at the Ritz. 
All of it was fun.  And here’s some photographic evidence of our day celebrating our favorite girl from Brazil. 

Panama (thinking of warmer times)

It was rainy and cold in Austin today and that had me thinking of warmer, sunnier days.  Last summer I was in Panama with Jennifer and Nayane.  Looking through pictures and videos today had me dreaming of soft sand between my toes, a Pina Colada in my hand and my best friends at my side.  I had a great time there.  Learned a family recipe for Empanadas.  Indulged in fresh fruit and seafood daily.  Survived rides on the Diablo Rojo of Panama City.  And fell in love with the Pearl Islands.

Erica Miss America

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What do you call a friend who has seen you at your best…your worst…would never let you get lost in a foreign country (or your own for that matter)…Is there when you fall and will pick you up…?

I don’t know about you but I call her Erica.  She my best friend.  And I’m so glad she was finally nice to me before our first trip to Ireland all those years ago 🙂

Happy Birthday!

Houston for the Weekend

My friend Jennifer and I headed to Houston for a weekend conference.  Two and half hours from home is sometimes all you need to feel worlds away and set you in vacation mode.  We had a great time.  When we travel you can be sure there will be lots of laughs and we will look for great food to try.  This weekend was no exception.  We went to an old dessert favorite and found a new breakfast ones.  Made lists of places  around the world we want to go next and discussed potential road trip destinations.  Did a little shopping.  And as always laughed until our sides hurt.

Happy Hour Photo Walk

What better to do on a Saturday afternoon then grab our cameras and walk down south Congress looking for Happy Hour Specials and great photo ops.  It was a fun afternoon and the fun continued well in the night (we did get an extra hour so we had to put it to good use).  Looking forward to another Happy Hour Outing.