Saturday, March 31, 2012

On the Road

Today my family is hitting the road to visit my husband's parents, and take a little trip "up the mountain".  We're going to see how the Big Horn Mountains are doing this spring.  So I leave you with a picture I took in January while we were on a trip to Billings, Montana.  The moon was setting over the Big Horns, just before 9 a.m.

Have a beautiful day, everyone!

Friday, March 30, 2012


We all have talents.  Do you ever wonder where these talents come from, or wish you were talented at something that you're not?  I sure do.  I come from pretty artistic/crafty stock on both sides of my family.  There may be some great singers or dancers mixed in there too, but the arts and crafts are what stand out, I think.

My paternal grandmother is a very gifted painter.  She has done some beautiful, and award winning, pieces. She was also very much into ceramics and had her own kiln, so we got to make quite a few things, and she taught me how to do macrame.  I still have a ceramic cup that I painted when I was 10, but I don't remember many of the macrame knots anymore.  I spent a lot of time with Granny when I was growing up, and she often had a canvas on the easel.  She painted all kinds of things; ocean and wave scenes, forests, old houses and barns, mountains, and they were all beautiful.  When I was 12, I watched her  paint, from start to finish, a country scene that she entered into a local contest.  The weekend of the show, there were many beautiful works of art on display.  It was marvelous to me that people could take a blank canvas, some brushes and paint, and turn them into such beautiful things!  I was at the show with my grandmother for the entire weekend, and watched proudly as her painting was awarded Grand Champion!  Granny is now 94, and doesn't get to do much painting, but she still talks about it often.

My maternal grandmother was a gifted seamstress, made jewelry, and did cross stitch in the winter. When we were at her house for a visit when I was 9, she was crocheting an afghan, so I asked her to teach me to crochet. And she did.  She set me up with my own ball of yarn and a crochet hook, and showed me how to make a chain.  From there, she showed me how to turn around and keep stitching, using the chain loops I'd just made.  Crochet is a craft that I have done ever since, mostly in the winter.  I have made more afghans, scarves, hats, Christmas decorations, and dishcloths than I can count, all because my Grandma Rose spent a few minutes teaching me to crochet.  I'm sure she had no idea at the time the impact that lesson would have on my life!

But, I never mastered cross stitch.  I wish I had this talent, as I see pretty patterns all the time that I'd like to make.  I have tried off an on over the years, but have found out I don't have the patience for it.  To me, it is painstaking and tedious work!  No matter how much I'd like to be good at cross stitch, it just isn't my thing.  But Grandma enjoyed it, and here and there over the years, would give me some of her cross stitch pieces.  A couple of them won ribbons at the county fair, and I'm so proud to have them hanging on my walls! 

I have often wished I had the talent to be a painter, or a seamstress (I can sew, but it's not my favorite thing).  But I am thankful for the talents I do have, and the time I got to spend enjoying arts and crafts with both of my grandmothers.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Celiac Disease, Gluten Free, and a Recipe!

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease almost three years ago.  Such a diagnosis is both a blessing and a curse.  I'd been pretty sick and having problems for over ten years, and I had been given blood tests to check for Celiac many times, always with a negative result.  Finally, my doctor ordered an intestinal biopsy; the only way to get a definitive diagnosis.  Yep, you guessed it, it was positive!  Eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, causes damage to my intestines. Besides feeling sick, it is very painful at times. Going gluten free clears up the symptoms most of the time, so I feel much better now, and have more energy.

But staying gluten free is not easy!  Gluten is everywhere, but it's not always called wheat, barley, or rye.  Nope, that would be too simple.  Textured vegetable protein, modified food starch, malt or malt flavoring, and soy sauce are just a few of the things found in foods that can mean gluten is present, and a very tiny amount can make me really sick.  I once ate a Hershey's Miniature Special Dark Chocolate candy. Those minis are only one bite of chocolate, but I was sick and in a lot of pain for two days!  I found out later that they have malt flavoring in them. Yikes!  Some product labels will say "gluten free" on them, and some will put in the allergen information if they contain wheat. But barley and rye don't rate any special treatment yet.  So I have to read labels and look for all of the sneaky code words for things that contain, or might contain, gluten.

Along the way, I have found some wonderful gluten free products.  One of them is Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix.  This replaces Bisquick, and I've found that I can use it in many recipes as a substitute for wheat flour.   I like Pamela's mix better than any others I've tried, including gluten free Bisquick (nasty stuff, in my opinion).  Since wheat flour is out, rice flour is used.  I find it to be gritty and it just doesn't taste very good.  But Pamela's has an ingredient the others don't: almond meal, and it makes all the difference in flavor and texture!  My family likes the pancakes, waffles and biscuits made with Pamela's better than the versions made from wheat flour.  Just so you know, I am not receiving anything from Pamela's for telling you about it. I just use and love this product and am happy to share how wonderful it is!

So, here is my family's favorite banana bread recipe, made with Pamela's Baking Mix.  I took a recipe and played with it until it reached perfection.  One thing I do is substitute applesauce for butter/margarine/oil/shortening in cake and quick bread recipes.  Moist and delicious, and much more healthful, and if you're wondering, you don't taste the applesauce.  Anyway, here is:

Gluten Free Banana Bread

2 tablespoons water
3-4 ripe bananas
4 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten (or egg substitute)
1 3/4 cups Pamela's Baking Mix
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
If you like nuts in your banana bread, you could add 1/2 cup chopped nuts.  I leave them out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mash bananas with the water, then beat together with applesauce, sugar and eggs.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour into greased loaf pan (I just use non-stick spray) and bake for 1 hour, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Night at the Concert

She's in the back left, playing the glockenspiel.
Last night, we attended the school district's Band Gala.  The bands were divided into 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, and the high school.  My daughter is in the high school band, and she played two different instruments last night; bells and glockenspiel.  We tried to get pictures, but the lighting was not good at this venue, so the shutter was staying open too long.  Alas, almost every picture turned out to be a blur, but there are a couple worth keeping, just for the memory. 
All gussied up and ready to go!

The kids sounded great!  Each band did a very nice job, which is no small task, since several schools are combined and they all have different band teachers.  Having them do so well after bringing them together, and being led by a conductor they're not used to, really speaks well of our band program.

Of course I'm not biased or anything, but I'm sure my daughter was the prettiest girl there!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dusty Hurricane

Yesterday, the weather service kept warning us about high winds.  We were to have gusts as high as 60 mph.  Not quite hurricane strength, but strong enough to blow anything away that's not nailed down.  We had a grungy looking gray day, but the winds were light...until just before 4:30 p.m.  Then mother nature let us know she was the boss!

Not our town, but this is similar to what it looked like.
All of a sudden, there was a very loud boom and the house shuddered.  The roof creaked, snapped and groaned rather loudly.  The noise outside from the wind was pretty amazing!  That sudden onset of rushing air also brought with it a very thick cloud of dirt.  I'm sure it wasn't as dramatic as the dust storms that Phoenix gets, but it was hard to see across the street.  Then a little bit of rain got mixed in, so it seemed we were upgraded to a mud storm!  I wish I'd had my wits about me enough to grab a camera and take a picture, but I was just standing at the window, watching the thrashing we were taking from such bizarre weather.

I turned on the scanner and listened to the very busy police, fire and EMS traffic.  There were runaway dumpsters, trash cans, and large debris like tree limbs blowing around, power lines down, and one neighborhood even had a rogue trampoline!  The police managed to corner it and hold it in custody until the owners could retrieve it, though.  I'm sure there are many things that nobody managed to catch.  I imagine that Canada is probably trying to decide how to clean up the junk we "dontated" to them yesterday!

It was all over in about half an hour.  The weather station for the town registered a peak wind gust of 58 mph.  Then the wind died down, the dust settled, and I gave a sigh of relief that we still had a roof!

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's a Rough Life

Willow, sound asleep and working on his tan yesterday.  Poor kitty!  I do wish there was some way to make his life a bit easier...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fun Run

Yesterday, my husband and daughter participated in the "Cabin Fever Reliever" 5K run/walk, hosted by the public library. The purpose of the run was to raise money for the library endowment fund.  My daughter loves the library and is a volunteer during the summer, so she was pretty excited that she and her dad were doing this together.  It was a chilly morning, and was only 37 degrees F, with a stiff north wind, when the run started.

There were several stations along the way, each with a task to be completed for a ticket. The tickets were then drawn for some really nice prizes at the end of the run.  Even with all of the stops, they managed to finish with a time of about 35 minutes. Neither of my runners won a prize, but they had a fun morning spent together.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Obsessed Much?

I admit it; I’m completely obsessed with Yellowstone National Park.  The first time I was there, I think I was two or three.  I have no memory of that trip at all.  Over the years since then, my family would talk about maybe going back someday, but it never happened.  We didn’t have much money when I was a kid, so trips were nearly always to see family, which I agree, was more important. Other than seeing boulders painted yellow here and there (a form of advertising in Wyoming, I guess), I never thought about Yellowstone National Park much.

After I was married and had a family of my own, we still usually spent vacations with family.  Leisure travel just wasn’t a priority.  My husband is a bit of a homebody.  He thinks he doesn’t like to go on trips, but I’ve found that once we get on the road, he relaxes and has a good time. 

The summer of 2006 found us in the middle of some major life changes. My father had died just a year before, and my mom decided her house and yard were too much for her to handle on her own.  She had kicked some ideas around of what to do, and where to live, if she sold her house.  Chad said she should add herself a house onto ours.  So she did.  Construction started in the spring of 2006, and by July, we felt we needed to get away for a few days.  So on the spur of the moment, we decided to visit Yellowstone.  I cannot remember how the decision to go there came about, and I had no idea I was about to become completely addicted to a place!

That first trip to Yellowstone was magical.  We were in awe of God’s creation!  Megan was almost 8, and fell in love with all the animals we saw.  She kept a journal of each one, and how many we’d seen, but she did give up counting bison after the first day!  She decided that the ravens were her very favorites, and every time she saw one, she’d exclaim, “Raven buddy!” which happened quite a bit! I think there are as many ravens in Yellowstone as bison.  Ravens are extremely smart, and will get into everything.  We saw one opening a motorcyclist’s backpack, and from then on, Megan was hooked.  She even has a t-shirt with a raven on it that says "raven lunatic".

We all loved the scenery, waterfalls, quiet picnic areas along the river, and of course the geysers and hot springs.  But the way I felt about Yellowstone was just a little bit different.  I knew I had to go back. Three days was definitely not enough!

Since then, we have spent a week each year in Yellowstone, and we still have not explored it all.  We have a system all worked out.  We travel to Cody, WY, stay the night there, purchase groceries and supplies, and then drive that last hour or so to the park the next morning.  We spend five days and nights in Yellowstone, which for me, feels like a piece of Heaven on Earth.  It makes my soul sing!

Webcam capturing Old Faithful erupting on 2-26-12, my birthday!
When I’m not in Yellowstone, I can still get my fix by looking at the webcams online.  I love it when I randomly check on Old Faithful and it is erupting!  There are also cameras on top of Mt. Washburn and at Mammoth Hot Springs. It is such fun to watch the changes happening there with the seasons.

This year, we are going to Yellowstone in August.  While I hate to wish that much of the summer away too quickly, August cannot get here fast enough!

Do you have a favorite place you like to visit?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wild Night at the Rodeo

Ok, so I didn't really go to the rodeo last night.  But it sure feels like I went for a wild ride on the back of a bucking bronco!  I am so tired...I wish I could go back to bed, but a busy day is ahead, so no lounging around for me.

The instant I fell asleep, the crazy dreams started.  My poor husband!  I scared him to death when I reared up and yelled at him to "STOP PEDALING!!!"  I woke up when he shouted something in alarm.  Then I calmly explained to him what the problem was.  The more we pedaled, the faster the pages would turn.  If the page turned and we didn't get a stamp, we'd be in BIG trouble.  Makes perfect sense, right?  He says if I ever scare him like that again, I can go sleep in the garage.  Humph.

Next, I dreamed that I was at my daughter's school.  We were walking down the hall and saw a kid head-butt another kid, hard, in the chest, then take off running.  When I yelled for the head-butting kid to stop, I got in trouble with the principal...for yelling.

The final weird dream of the night, that I remember at least, was a huge fight with my mother.  She insisted I owed her money. A lot of money.  We had taken a trip together somewhere a few months prior, and the airline had offered us $65 thousand in traveler's insurance for only $5.  I took the deal, my mom didn't.  All those months later, she was mad and said I now owed her half.  Half of what?  Nothing happened to us or our luggage, so we didn't collect any money.  The airline made $5 off of me.  She still, very angrily, kept insisting I pay her half!  Ok, then.

Was the moon full last night?  Nope, just the opposite. It was the new moon, so no moon at all.  I do notice a theme, however.  There was lots and lots of yelling.  I am hoping that today is a much quieter day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Yesterday, I woke up with a song in my head. I don’t remember if it was in my dreams. It was just there as soon as I woke up, and it wasn’t what was playing on the radio when the alarm went off.  When it’s a song I like, I don’t mind so much having it stuck in my head, but yesterday it was an old song that I don’t know very well, and so the only two lines of lyrics I remember just ran over and over. The music is more familiar. I remember it very well from my days in junior high band, but it was kind of an old song even then.  Because I don’t know very many of the words, it got annoying rather quickly.  At least it wasn't THAT song, the one I really dislike that lodges itself in my brain and would like to stay there for eternity.  THAT song is the bane of my existence!  I’ve been tortured many times by jokers who know what song it is, and what it does to me. They’ll sing just the first few notes, and yep, doggone it, it’s off and running, and soooo hard for me to get rid of.  SHHHHH!! Do not name that tune!  I do not want that playing in my head for the next few days.  If you don’t know what song it is, don’t ask, because I’m not going to tell you!

Anyway, back to the original thought…

After the same two lines had run through my head for a couple of hours, I gave up and played the whole song, hoping to be able to move on.  Thank goodness for modern technology like YouTube and iTunes that make pretty much anything accessible.  In the end, to get rid of the song for once and for all, I had to play other music so my mind would settle on a different soundtrack. I was so relieved that it finally worked!

So, what was the obscure song stuck in my head from the moment I woke up?  Promise you won’t laugh. Do you promise?  Ok, I’ll tell you…Coming straight from 1973 (when I was just 4 years old, by the way), was Barry Manilow’s Could it be Magic.  Hey, at least it wasn't Copacabana! I know even less of those lyrics.

I knew it. You're laughing!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Hunger Games

This Friday, March 23, 2012, is a very important day.  It's the day The Hunger Games hits theaters! Adapted from one of our favorite books, my daughter and I have been waiting for this day for a long time, and we can hardly wait to see the movie!

Last summer, my daughter was given a copy of the book as a reward for her volunteer work at the public library. She is a lover of books, as am I, and kept commenting about how awesome the story was. She didn't tell me what it was about, just said I absolutely HAD to read it when she was done! I think she read it in just a couple of days, then brought it to me.

"Here, Mom, read this!!"

"What's it about?"

"Just READ IT, MOM!!"

"OK, OK..."

So, I started reading, and was instantly HOOKED!

If you have not read this book, I highly recommend it. Actually, The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy. It's followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay. To get the full story, you've got to read all three books. My daughter and I completely inhaled them!

I don't really know for sure what it is about this story that is so appealing. To describe what it's about, admittedly, it sounds horrible. My mother will not read it because she knows the barest basics of the plot. But she is really missing out, in my opinion! While the conditions are very harsh, I think people love this story because it really speaks of our need to survive. To love, and be loved, and be willing to give our own lives to protect those we love. To be driven to find a way to make our world a better place for our families. I think the author, Suzanne Collins, captures through her writing what hardship, oppression, and war does to the human spirit, but there is also HOPE. And that is something we all identify with, and cling to.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I have never been a girly girl. Despite my mother's best efforts when I was young, I've always been a tomboy. Dresses? Blech! Pretty shoes? No way! In fact, shoes were pretty much not least during the summer. Then I spent most of my time up a tree, in the creek or the river, and many times was so grubby by the end of the day, my mom had to hose me down outside in the evenings, before I could go in and take a bath...I was too dirty to go straight to the bathtub. On Sundays and in the winter, when I was forced to have something on my feet, I wore tennies or snow boots. Yeah, you get the picture. I was not a girly girl, and still am not.
playing in the Yellowstone River

So when my daughter was born, I was afraid at times about what I'd do if she turned out to be a princess instead of a tomboy. I had no idea what to do if she was a girly girl. Thankfully, she was a tomboy, too. A girl I could understand! But now that she's a teenager, things are changing. Metamorphosis is taking place. She's not really my mini-me, and lately she's wanting to be a bit more girly. I am feeling out of my element! She voluntarily wears a little bit of makeup. She cares more about how other people think she looks. She wants some feminine clothing (she still draws the line at dresses, though). She has very long, gorgeous hair, and is wanting to get it styled so she can curl it and do more than put it in a ponytail, or just wear it straight. I'm all for getting the hair done, but I will have to pay attention to the stylist and ask questions. Otherwise, I have no idea how to help my girl achieve the looks she wants to try.
friendly garter snake

My daughter is growing up. Smart, artistic, compassionate, outdoorsy, funny, sweet, loyal, stubborn, and beautiful. I miss my little girl sometimes, but it is also fun watching her grow into the adult she will become.

Monday, March 19, 2012


We have been having some lovely warm days for the past week. While we are in no way safe from cold and snow for the season, things have begun to grow. There are signs of new life everywhere! Trees budding, tulips and irises up, perennial flowers are making themselves known, and the robins and geese have made it back. If it can't be spring for good in Wyoming yet, at least we can see the promise of it.

Yesterday, we made a very exciting discovery! There are a few weeds with tiny sprouts in the garden, but there was this one little viola blooming in the middle of mostly barren dirt. Last summer, I had a barrel of violas growing about 10 feet away, so no doubt a seed found its way into my garden. Why this brave little soul decided now was a good time to grow is a bit of a mystery, but I'm glad it did!

Since our overnight temperatures are supposed to be falling to quite a bit below freezing tonight, I decided to dig up the cheery little viola and put it in a pot. It is sitting happily in my bay window with my other houseplants for now, but when it is safe to have flowers growing outdoors, I will replant it in the flowerbed. For now, we'll enjoy this happy bit of spring indoors.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Dad, being...Dad :o)
March 18, 2005. The absolute worst day of my life. Have you ever seen Superman, the movie starring Christopher Reeve? Lois Lane is killed in an earthquake, and Superman uses his abilities to turn back time and saves her life. I wish I had the ability to turn back time so that March 18, 2005, that terrible and very bizarre day, would have a much different outcome.

My dad had been in Fort Collins, Colorado for a ministry training seminar. He was the associate minister of our church. He and the senior minister, Mike, were traveling home together on that Friday afternoon. Dad had called Mom and said he'd be home for dinner. He wasn't.

A little bit south of Chugwater, a car was pulled over to the side of the road. A 12-year-old boy was waving them down, so Mike pulled over to see what was wrong. The boy's grandmother was taking him and his 15-year-old sister to Casper. She'd had a heart attack and was unresponsive. Dad and Mike took turns doing CPR on the woman until the ambulance from Wheatland arrived, but they knew it was too late. She was already gone.

So they got back on the road, planning to stop at the hospital in Wheatland to check on how the kids were doing, and see if there was anything they could do to help. Mike says he and Dad were quiet, both feeling depressed about the situation they'd just been involved in. Dad mentioned he was feeling pressure in his chest, but when Mike asked if they needed to call the ambulance back, Dad figured it was just the stress of what they'd been through. But he did want to stop in Chugwater and get something to drink. So they did. Dad also bought and took aspirin.

A few more miles down the road, Dad said he was feeling better. The pressure in his chest had let up. But then two miles outside of Wheatland, he told Mike, "I'm going to pass out." Then he did. And that was that. Mike got Dad out of the pickup, and he and a trucker who had stopped tried to save him, working on him until the ambulance got there. Again, it was too late. Dad was gone.

The same ambulance crew that had just picked up the woman near Chugwater came for my dad. They later told my mom that it was the most bizarre day they'd ever had. Two people on the same stretch of road, miles and minutes apart, had died. They'd never seen anything like it. To add to the weirdness of that day, the woman traveling with her grandkids, and my dad, were both just 57 years old.

Grandpa & Megan going for a walk
My father, my mentor, my hero. Even though it's been 7 years today since we lost him, not a day goes by that I don't think about him. Today I remember all the things about my dad that I miss, which is everything. I cherish my childhood with him, the years he trained me and we worked together as opticians. He was my spiritual rock, and I miss getting to talk to him about these things. I miss his corny sense of humor and the goofy way he'd crack himself up. I especially miss seeing him with my daughter. They had a special bond, and it breaks my heart that she lost her grandpa at the tender age of 7. They were two peas in a pod and so sweet together.

Watching the geese with Megan
As a life-long Christian, I believe in Heaven. I know Dad is there, and I know I'll see him again. This knowing is really the only way this temporary separation is even a little bit tolerable. The Bible speaks of Heaven, but references are scattered. I had a general idea of what to expect, but now that my dad is there, I needed to know more, but I didn't want to know what someone else's ideas were, or what they hoped was there. I wanted to know about the real place. A book that helped me a lot was Heaven, by Randy Alcorn. He takes all the scattered information from the Bible and puts it together. But the book that helped me the most is 90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper. Don Piper has been to Heaven, and I have read his account over and over, and it is beautiful.

So, today is full of memories. It's sad and bittersweet. My heart is broken all over again, but I also think about the day that I will see my dad again, in Heaven, and there is a little bit of rejoicing, too.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Got Green?

When I got up this morning, I pulled a pink t-shirt out to wear for the day. Then I remembered that today is St. Patrick's Day, and decided I'd better find something green, or my daughter was sure to give me a good pinch.

This afternoon, I made a trip to the hardware store with my hubby, and a little (maybe 5 feet tall if he stretched), older man approached us from across the street. He pointed at Chad and said, "You're supposed to be wearing green!" Then he looked at me and asked, "Did you pinch him?" I laughed and said that I had. So why is this funny? This little man wasn't wearing any green either...he had on a bright red shirt and blue jeans! Maybe he's color blind and confuses the colors red and green, but the encounter gave me a good laugh.

No...I didn't pinch him...