Suddenly August

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The remains of a particularly hot zone from last year’s Rice Ridge Fire… more on this later

July whizzed on by with bug bites, the return of the grasshoppers, golf games, blistering sunshine, realtor reality, insurance claim insanity, the tourist take-over of our community and hazy skies once again.

Throwing myself into a brand-new career has taken over my brain a lot of the time (and its been murder on my plan to play in the LPGA someday!) which has led to a brief absence from the blogosphere. No worries, though- clearly, I’m back!

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Previewing a particularly lovely home

I am really enjoying all of the learning happening even if my brain feels full much of the time. The learning that occurs on sunny days over clear-blue lakes surrounded by pristine forests when previewing and taking pictures of magical listings is some of my favorite.

I have amazed my directionally-challenged self (and Alistair) in my ability to kind of, sort of be able to navigate around the Double Arrow Ranch. I surprised myself when I was able to confidently reach for the correct flyers for our current waterfront listings the other day. And I somehow set up my shiny new wireless printer all by myself and was able to print off MLS listings for “Jim”, from Arizona yesterday when I was on floor duty.

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One of the most adorable (and affordable!) homes on the market right now- I want to sell this house!

I’ve managed to squeeze in some golf, which I prioritize when Alistair is here. I think I’m doing alright in the work-life balance department, which has always been important to me and one reason the real estate world seemed attractive.

We made sure to make the most out of our time together when Alistair was here last. A day-ride in our trusty, dusty Ranger, “Steve” took us up to the famed Morrell outlook that I watched become seemingly consumed by roaring flames last summer. Exactly one year ago I wrote the blog, “The Coach Came Back”, which was mostly about my 2 weeks spent coaching high-level figure skating up in Manitoba but I touched on the then-young Rice Ridge Fire.

The next blog is “The Rice Ridge Fire” and going over it right now really took me back. It really slammed home the devastation of that out-of-control monster which we soberly got a first-hand look at last week.

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Looking through the hazy burn site towards our meadow.

We have the doors off of Steve right now and we could actually still smell the smoke in the charred forest surrounding us. It was humbling being within the blackened beast that raged towards our home and surrounded our community for weeks last year.

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Up at Morrell Outlook last week, looking back towards Rice Ridge, where the fire began last year.

At least it was fun getting out and spending time together on back-country gravel roads again. We used to do that a lot more before we became addicted to golf.

We also made time to get out on the canoe last week and have a truly Montana-type of day. After local June-berry pancakes (we had picked the berries the week prior) and Kona coffee for breakfast we loaded up our canoe for the first time this season and headed out to close-by Upsata Lake.

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Peaceful Upsata lake.

No fishing rods this time, just the sound of our paddles and the gentle waves rippling up against the canoe. A loon gave us quite a performance after a dog started barking on another small boat. I’ll try to load the video at the end if you have never heard a loon’s cry. Its a bit alarming, almost haunting-sounding and pretty unique.

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Our lounging spot.

We wedged ourselves up into some tall grasses and I leaned back and sipped wine while listening to Alistair read from his Rocky Mountain of Natural History book. Its a great book- you learn about one thing and then you just have to read more about something you just learned. Loons, elk, deer populations- you name it, they’re in there.

The skies started to cloud over and since being on a large body of open water during an electrical storm is a bad idea, we headed for shore.

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Views as we headed for shore.

We even managed to squeeze in 9 holes together after our canoeing adventure and it wrapped up a lovely Montana day.

I would be heading in to play golf myself now because the tourists generally get off of our course at this time of day on a Sunday but I’m attending a local function tonight.

Its the annual Seeley Lake Community Foundation banquet and seeing as how I’m a more prominent member of the community once again, its important to go. I’ve also donated a set of Chloe & Isabel jewelry as well as some fun Canadian-inspired goodies for an auction item involving a trip up to Fernie, BC. My good friend, Merielle, who has featured in this blog several times, happily shopped for kitschy-type things featuring the mighty maple leaf and shipped them down here to us last week.

Usually I over-dress for these types of functions because I love the opportunity to glam up a bit but this year’s theme is “Fire and Ice” (think: Rice Ridge fire and the Snowmageddon of this past winter) so I’ll actually be wearing this:

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vet school hockey jersey!

I’m whipping out my hockey jersey from vet school. Thankfully it doesn’t say that our team was called the Bitches In Heat but I giggled when I got it out today and remembered our team name.

I’ve been told by organizers that this is the perfect thing to wear (with a skirt, sparkly heels and over the top bling, of course!) because of some big announcement coming tonight. I’m pretty sure I know what it is and I think its a great thing. I worry, though, because I barely have time to be Me as it is- this big announcement might require me to get speaking my first language again while there are golf balls to hit, homes to preview, mortgage companies to call, lakes to canoe upon, bling to be sold, cooking courses to take, books to write, wine to sip, books to market, conferences to attend and a hubby, 3 cats and a dog to cuddle-up to.

I’m not going to worry about it right now, though.

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Jockey, chillaxin’ under a tree out back.

I know I’ll be able to find time to fit everything in. As long as I’m having fun I’m motivated to do these things and make it all work. It helps that Alistair and all of my friends are so supportive of all my endeavors right now.

I tell you, though, if someone would pay me to just write my stories or play golf, that’s about all I would be doing.

Here’s to August.

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Hazy Morrell Outlook that survived the fire last summer.

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Steve and I, up at the outlook

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“Someone” being funny when I’m all, “Hey, hon, lean for a cute couple shot!”

 

 

What’s in Store

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The title of this blog is as much a statement as a question in regards to our house insurance claim thanks to the incredible amount of snow & ice we fought against this past winter.

 

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One of many photos of one of many adventures on the driveway with Big Red last winter

For a quick recap, we got buried a couple of times after days and days of heavy snowfall. It rained hard for almost 24 hours each time and then it froze. Our roof eaves took a beating and I chronicled it all with photos, social media posts and this blog.

I sent our insurance agent some pictures in early February, which was when I realized water was leaking down inside our walls and beneath the wood stove in our living room. (For the record, I’m not going to mention people’s or company names. Not yet, anyhow. I’m trying my best to protect them but if they don’t do the right thing I am willing to use my voice & platforms to drag them through the mud. Its not my style but it may end up being all that I can do.)

 

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One of the pics sent in early Feb of the water coming down our living room wall

Our agent is a friend who lives a couple of hours north of us. They didn’t get the amount of snow that we did but he could appreciate our situation, knowing that our community is fairly well-known for high snow volume. He initiated a claim the next day and the adjuster showed up a day or two later.

Since then I’ve shared the sheer joys of having heavy duty fans and enormous dehumidifiers running around the clock in our large house. I’ve shared my excitement at having strangers rumble through our world removing walls, ceilings and privacy. We laughed as we moved part-way into the guest bedroom and I’ve even started an entry in our guest journal.

 

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Some of the mitigation happening on that very same wall.

I wrote to our insurance agent and the adjuster expressing concern that the snow removal that was occurring as I typed was likely destroying some of our professional landscaping and plant life around the house and was told that we’d address it when the snow melted.

That made sense.

Which is why I okayed the offer of a second snow-removal effort with heavy machinery and large, beeping pieces of equipment after another dump of snow.

 

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Cleo inspecting the remains of our front lawn & plant life after the melt. Damage is from heavy equipment used to move snow/ice off of the roof and away from the house.

Since then the drama has evolved over payments and one of our two mortgage companies. Our primary mortgage holder has required form after form after form to be submitted by ourselves, our adjuster, and/or the restoration/construction company our adjuster chose out of Missoula.

The snow removal and mitigation that was done back in February totaled over 21 thousand dollars and the insurance check to cover that is stuck somewhere in limbo thanks to said mortgage holder. The main delay with it all has been the fact the mortgage company has never let us know, after each submission, when something else is required. (If I could bill for my time spent on the phone during all of this I would have the 21 K right now!)

With every call to the mortgage holder I then emailed or called the adjuster as well as the restoration company to let them know I was doing everything I could to get them their money. With all that I went through as a business owner I can certainly appreciate when you aren’t getting paid for work that was done!

 

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The lawn beneath the mountain ranges of snow has actually collapsed!

While leaping into a brand new job with a sparkling new career I’m trying to learn, and with Alistair back in Bismarck, the mortgage holder required even more paperwork and signatures and formal letters on actual insurance company letterhead 3 weeks ago. They also needed paperwork from the county stating why our ‘street’ name changed in 2007.) Each and every step, form or signature takes a minimum of 3 days as I  have to email or call whoever is involved and then they have to find or sign or complete whatever it is that’s been requested and then they send it to me and I figure out which department of the mortgage company to send it to. Throw in a mid-week national holiday to complicate the movement of things.

 

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Me, helping out at Clearwater Montana Property’s 4th of July celebration as our trailer passed by in the local parade!

After 2 weeks of the latest round of craziness our restoration company threatened to slap a lien on our house, which didn’t sit particularly well with me.

Alistair and I dealt with this in our long-distance style and without going into detail we got a personal check sent the next day to the restoration company and the lien will never be mentioned again.

Our funds are still held hostage but I’m really hoping that this week the mortgage company will have everything they could possibly want and they will release our funds.

This is what I mean by the title of this blog being a statement and a question. I’m sharing what’s in store and I’m also wondering about it at the same time.

The money isn’t the main issue right now, though, because I know its there and I know, eventually, they will run out of things to require (if they ask for my first born I’m hooped!) and the money willarrive.

 

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I could seriously use some of this right now!

Last week, my Knight in Shining Armor got home and I greeted him with one of those “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news” statements. After 10+ hours on the road he chose the good news.

I cheerfully shared with him the fact I had learned, 30 minutes prior, that our adjuster had finally approved a full new roof. This is significant for every reason we can all come up with and has been in discussion for months. Every quote came in really high because of the size and scope of the project and our adjuster seemed to struggle with an answer.

They also approved the deck, which wasn’t really in question because, lets face it, the deck is a wreck!

 

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Top part of the deck is lower than the bottom… 

The bad news?

Apparently there is an exclusion clause in our insurance that states there will be no coverage for lawns, landscaping, and trees.

The quote our adjuster got for that (20 grand) is included with everything but then its crossed out because, obviously, our adjuster had thought it would all be covered until he found that clause.

I’ve since emailed our adjuster and shared our concerns. I get it that insurance companies have the right to mitigate further damage but they don’t have the right to destroy our landscaping. And I never, ever would have approved the second round of snow removal months ago (because as you all know, I can handle a bit of snow!) if I knew nobody was going to take responsibility for wrecking our lawn and shrubs.

 

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Water dripping through the T&G this winter

Nevermind that nobody seems to know what we’re going to do with the ceiling tongue & groove damage or the beams in the kitchen sunroom.

Now that I’m in the realty world (notice I didn’t write, ‘reality’ because, in all honestly, life has felt pretty surreal for 12 months now), I know that if we ever go to sell this home we will have to disclose this large insurance claim. That makes it harder for a buyer to secure great rates on insurance which effectively lowers our home’s overall value.

Add to that the fact that our lawn and landscaping looks like ass unless we fork out 20 grand to fix the stuff that was destroyed by people we didn’t choose who were hired by a restoration company chosen by our adjuster thanks to a claim we never requested.

 

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What our gorgeous landscaping looked like in June of 2017.

I’m hoping our friend, the insurance agent north of us, can help us make sense of what’s in store. He was out of the office all this past week so hasn’t had a chance to respond to any of this. He would only be finding out about the lawn & landscape issue and our subsequent displeasure now. He’s a heck of a good guy and we talk Labrador retrievers often and I hope he can go to bat for us on this.

And I’m not complaining. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. I’m just putting some stuff out there and sharing Fyfe Life for the insanity that it is at times. I’m enjoying my new office and colleagues and I’ve got a lot of support from everyone on this real estate adventure.

 

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Practicing for when my new desk would arrive.  It eventually did & I’m typing at it right now.

I’m on “floor” duty today because summer tourists could actually walk in and want to learn about or even see properties and local homes. Tomorrow we will talk with our agent and hopefully move forward into what’s ahead. And hopefully I’ll never have to disclose company names and slag them to my readers and my homeowners who ask for my advice because that just isn’t my style.

An ambulance just went roaring past our office with its sirens blaring.

It reminds me that someone and their family are having a way worse time today than I could even imagine.

The sun is out and summer has arrived. Alistair is already on the golf course and I’m hoping I can meet him there again after work to play a few holes.

And our guest room is really quite nice so with the distractions of a new career, the optimism that our friend will help guide us in a way we can all agree on over the next few days, the beautiful properties I hopefully get to show people, a cuddly dog and 3 cats who provide comfort and peace just by letting us pet them and our shared wacky sense of humor, we are going to be just fine.

 

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One of our agency’s incredible view properties I get to share!

To paraphrase the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, though, we, as Canadians, are very polite. That doesn’t mean we will allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. We will stand up for ourselves when it is appropriate to do so.

So, again, grab the railings and hang on.

You never know what’s in store in Fyfe Life!

 

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“The Look.” Cleo’s thoughts on the whole insurance claim. (Photo by Merielle Kazakoff, one of our evacuation party attendees of last summer when she visited 2 weeks ago!)

 

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How we’ll get through all of this!

 

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Alistair’s favorite ‘float’ during the parade. 

 

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Another stunning, private property I got to preview last week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Update to my Resume

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My resume has evolved over my 45 years on this planet.

Initially it read that I had been a babysitter and church janitor. I added convenience store clerk (with a ticket in propane!), certified amateur figure skating coach and high school graduate within a couple of years.

It changed to professional figure skater, coach and choreographer, with the term, waitress, thrown in for good measure and it stayed that way for a few years until I could add my Bachelors of Science under the Education heading in 2001.

 

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Figure skating coach last summer in Manitoba!

My resume diversified with the title of Veterinarian in 2005 and I eventually added published, and now award-winning author just this year. In between those additions I branched out into the world of Direct Sales with the Chloe & Isabel brand of jewelry in 2015.

I love being all of these things and I enjoy developing many aspects of each role.

Under Interests or Hobbies on my resume I have added golf and even watercolor painting, which I started playing with again this weekend. Its relaxing and peaceful, particularly with the Hawaiian music channel playing in the background and cold, wet  skies outside preventing a round of golf.

 

 

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Inspiration and creation!

 

And now I’m ready to share my latest addition to my Job Titles that I eluded to in my last blog. I had hoped, when I wrote Seasons of Change a month ago, that I would be able to share the news sooner but I only just received a particular piece of paper making the whole endeavor legit on Friday.

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Ta-da! My Montana real estate salesperson license!

You see, this winter was a lot more than just shoving or shoveling snow. And other than my supportive husband and one or two friends I kept my studies to myself because I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not. (Well, our Siamese cat, Sport draped himself across my lap as I took my online course, just as he’s doing right now and Cleopatra, our spaniel would snooze on the floor next to me… just like she’s doing now.)

 

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Happening now.

Thinking about and then choosing to become a realtor isn’t quite as random as it might seem for this figure skating, sparkle-loving, bling slinging, cat spaying, dog vaccinating author.

Somewhere along the way I was taught that little girls could grow up and be anything. The choices weren’t quite so broad when my Mom graduated from high school. Back then there was nursing, teaching or flight attendant school. Or marriage and a family, which are noble options themselves.

When I graduated high school in 1989 I may not have pictured myself in scrubs with cute matching caps, elbow-deep inside a Saint Bernard’s abdomen or getting excited to head to one of our local real estate offices to begin moving forward as a realtor. I couldn’t possibly have envisioned being able to swing a golf club and actually hit the ball to where I intended it to go back then.

 

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Making par at Old Works last week, one of America’s Top 100 courses!

But I knew myself and I knew that I could complete and be fairly decent at anything I believed in and anything I set my mind to.

Which is partly why I struggled, a few years ago, to finally admit that my cute little veterinary clinic  wasn’t thriving in our tiny community anymore. My husband and our accountant told me for 2 years that was the case and eventually I had to agree. It took some time to wrap my brain around the fact that it didn’t mean I wasn’t a successful veterinarian- it was the clinic and the economics of the time that didn’t pan out.

Which leads me to my real estate career!

 

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Cute scrub tops and caps for Cleopatra and I a few years ago!

You see, I didn’t want to abandon my community and leave them vet-less. I actually tried selling my practice.

There are national realty groups who are made up of veterinarians with real estate licenses who market practices and clinics throughout the country. Unfortunately, none of them wanted to list Seeley Swan Veterinary. Nobody even wanted to have a discussion about what potential there was for a part-time clinic run by a woman veterinarian who wanted to spend more time with her family. Or how perfect it could be for a semi-retired veterinarian wanting to work mornings only as they transitioned to their next stage in life.

I tried a couple of these veterinary realty groups and it seemed that, other than not wanting to take my practice on, they all had one other thing in common.

 

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They’re generally a bunch of older, white guys.

It got me thinking that theirs is a world I could shake up a little bit!

Granted, it took me 4 years to start the process of learning to become a realtor but the seed was planted. Last fall I got online and signed up with Real Estate Express and when I wasn’t moving snow from here to there last winter I completed my required 60-hour course with my cat on my lap and then passed my state licensing exam this spring.

I’ll fully admit that I really learned a lot! Just like every profession there is a whole new language to learn and I need to be immersed into that world to learn to speak it fluently.

 

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My real estate career thus far

I learned about types of leases and ownership, real estate brokerage, marketing properties, closing disclosure forms, primary & secondary mortgage markets, and that one acre equals 43,560 square feet.

I studied, I took tests, I read and re-read and then read some more and I’ve found some continuing education webinars that are enthusiastic and encouraging.

And I’m excited! I’ve joined the Clearwater  Montana Properties team and I start training tomorrow. I’ve made my first announcements on Facebook and Instagram and will share on Twitter as well.

 

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Cleo helping me write today’s blog… the same as she helped me study my online course this winter and how she helps me write my books.

Clearwater Montana Properties is a participant with Sports Afield Trophy Properties which offers worldwide listing exposure and is the only brokerage in Montana able to offer this partnership so its a terrific group to join and learn from. They are enthusiastic about me coming on board and I plan to give them the best I have to offer.

I know many of the people I’ll be working for because of my time spent in my veterinary clinic. I hope I can instill trust and confidence in my real estate abilities as much as I was able to as Dr.Fyfe.

And I still am Dr.Fyfe. Who writes books and slings bling when she’s  not playing golf. Book 4 is planned for this winter but that’s the only thing that’s planned. And the veterinary derm conference in Hawaii this fall.

I look forward to sharing this crazy ride with you all just as I’ve shared our loves & losses with our pets, my foray into self-publishing as well as marketing my book and our zany appreciation for the game of golf.

 

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Dr.Brock from Indiana, who is part of our Hawaiian derm conference golf foursome joined us out on the golf course here in Montana a couple of weeks ago!

I’m looking forward to meeting new people and broadening my relationships that already exist with friends from the skating, veterinary, bling, books and golf worlds. I’ve always said that my life changes with every phone call. I mean it!

I may never join one of those big groups that sell veterinary practices but they were the inspiration for me to take this path at this time. My resume, like my character continues to evolve and I’m so happy to add Realtor under the heading Job Titles.

Its fun being me. Choose happy every chance you get and remember that anything is possible if you believe in it and you put your mind to it.

 

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Still Dr.Fyfe (after a recent vaccine clinic in a nearby community)

 

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Chillaxin’ with some watercolors yesterday.

 

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My number 1 supporter in every crazy thing I do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons of Change

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playing golf in North Dakota earlier this month

Its hard to believe, but the snow is actually almost all gone.

There is still a few feet remaining up high in the mountains surrounding us in Montana but the incredible piles that were stacked around our home to make their own makeshift mountain range have melted.

 

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stacked snow in March

We left Montana with 3 feet of snow for a reprieve and time together in Bismarck. Alistair and the 3 cats took off early one morning and I followed with Cleo that afternoon after giving a fun interview with Indie Review (search Tanya Fyfe on YouTube) to promote my book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

I chose to promote last year’s publication instead of writing this past winter because I wanted to learn the process and see what some marketing could do. I’m glad I didn’t try writing because the amount of plowing and snow removal didn’t allow for much creativity and I think my writing would have been frustrating.

 

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This wouldn’t have made for a very relaxing writer’s corner.

With huge fans and dehumidifiers whizzing 24/7 and strangers and their machines traipsing through the house and us living in the guest room since February, I haven’t felt much like creating this spring. So it was a good call to choose to market.

And through the marketing I have learned a lot and I got my book out to a lot of different people and I’m getting close to wrapping up my first Book Blog tour! Blog sites like Rockin’ Book Reviews, Community bookstop, Ashley’s Bookshelf, My Reading Journeys and Bound 2 Escape signed on to “host” a stop on the tour.

Its a lot like a band going on tour, making stops in a variety of cities and performing. Only on this tour the cities are virtual and the bloggers review my book. Some also provided excerpts and its been great fun seeing what people think about my book and my writing style!

 

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Wendy & I in Watford City

While in North Dakota, I spent a day with my good friend, Wendy Ruud and we had a book event in Watford City, where we had first met in 1994. Book sales were decent, especially since I sold to some people who had no idea who either of us were.

And then I got notice that my book actually won an award! My first book award! Secrets Abound won Distinguished Favorite for teen fiction in the Independent Press Awards! It didn’t come with prize money but it did come with stickers for my books, which is the next-best thing.

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North Dakota didn’t have any snow at all when I arrived towards the end of April. Our horses got to enjoy the first bits of grass peeking through and they had mostly shed their winter coats.

As always, they remembered their ‘Mum’ and came right up to greet me whenever I would be out with them. Especially the few who have spent most of the past 10 years in Montana full time with me, like Zeus and Frankie.

 

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Zeus & Frankie! My boys!

The herd dynamics had changed, though, which Alistair had warned me about over the winter. Our oldest Arabian broodmare, Susie (RJA Misty Bey), who had been Boss Mare for over a decade had begun to lose weight along with her position at the top.

Horses are herd animals and they have unique dynamics within each herd. Our group has been together for all of their lives, save for Katie and Jake, and their established rankings never changed.

Until Susie started to lag behind and be “told off” by the younger horses who are allowed to the  best grass or the best hay whenever they choose.

 

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More of the herd: Penner, Fumie and Cassie up front.

I watched Shilo and Zeus both toss their heads at thin Susie and knew she had become the lowest horse on the Fyfe totem pole. When older horses begin to lose weight it can pick up speed like a freight train and that was also happening with our 28 year-old matriarch.

It was, sadly, Time.

And just like that, we are down to 10 horses.

Along with 3 cats.

And 1 dog.

 

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Back in the day. (Susie’s daughter, Cocoa & her foal, Spyder are on the far left!)

Its a far cry from our heyday as Pair O’Docs Paints when this time of year had us up through the night waiting for foals to be born.

Its a far cry from hikes in the forest with 4 rambunctious canine companions and one hilarious blind little train wreck with a hare lip and a heart murmur waiting for us at home.

 

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Our own little dog pack.

And its an unrecognizably far cry from having a pride of cats line up for soft food in the kitchen every night.

 

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Back in Bismarck a long, long time ago. Sport and Cooper aren’t even shown here!

We’ve been so lucky to have met and shared the journey with so many interesting spirits of so many species and its helped shape us even if the changes that occur when these spirits leave us are sad.

But that’s life, right?

While the seasons are changing before our eyes right now it makes me think about the seasons within our own lives. And how they change, whether we’re in charge of it or not.

 

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Hoo boy.

After 3 weeks in North Dakota we returned to a snow-less yard around our Montana home. We could finally see the extent of the damage to the deck out back. Our insurance adjuster and the head guy from the restoration company joined us on a walk-about as we chatted about the roof, the lawn, the deck and the interior walls that need to get rebuilt.

More changes ahead, apparently.

Thankfully our creek behaved itself during the incredible melt but the community of Seeley Lake had some flooding thanks to high, fast-moving waters.

 

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Our creek next to our house a couple of weeks ago.

My home town of Grand Forks, BC, where I’ve taken you through this blog in the past, has not fared so well with the melt this year.

Sadly, heart-wrenchingly, the town has flooded like never before and dozens of homes will have to be destroyed. I’ve watched posts and news clips over the past couple of weeks as people wade, thigh-deep, in brown, murky waters to recover items from their homes.

People float along the streets in kayaks and row boats.

People have spent hours filling and distributing sandbags in a very Canadian effort to try to protect homes and businesses from the force of the swollen rivers that converge there.

The Canadian military got there yesterday to help with the disaster.

 

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My old high school in Grand Forks… closed last week because of the community’s disaster.

Things are going to change in Grand Forks, and it will take a long time for things to be considered normal again. My family is high and dry where they live but I have friends who are living in makeshift accommodations and my heart goes out to them.

I’ll share only a couple of photos that aren’t mine… I find they tell the story just as well without words.

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Spring is here, complete with her massive snow melt, her green grass, her hundreds of calves along lonely highway 200, her golf courses opening up and her friend, Winter’s insurance claim on our house.

I’m approaching a new season in my own life as well and, just like every change, it can be frightening. Change does build character (I must have it in droves!) and as nervous as I am I’m also excited. I’m not sure if this will be a full seasonal change for me or not. I’m really not sure how we’ll make this particular change work but I’m eager to try.

I didn’t just plow and shovel snow and market my book this winter. I made a point to do some personal growth and I took a course and learned a lot. I have a job to begin but the details are fuzzy so I’ll leave them blank.

For now.

 

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Along highway 200 2 weeks ago.

I’m not quite like the seasons, though. Winter shed its snowy coat and becomes something new altogether.

I’m not changing that much. I’m still me.

The Alistair-loving, figure skating, veterinarian, author (award winning!), golf-loving, bling-slinging, blogging, wine-drinking, crazy cat lady who is as Canadian as she is American.

Stay tuned, though, to find out just what else I can be!

 

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hubby-loving golfer

 

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I doubt this will change much

 

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Play it as it lies! (ND earlier this month)

 

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Someone got rid of her own winter coat this week and wanted me to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the Waves

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I somehow managed to skip a few blog posts but I’m happy to report that I’m back!

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Me. Back!

I don’t usually write my blogs when Alistair is here, which is a 2 week stretch every 2 weeks. But I also didn’t write when he was back in Bismarck and I don’t really have any excuses.

Well, other than the fact our house was full of huge, noisy dehumidifiers and whirling fans that necessitated the TV volume being cranked and forced us to take up residence in the guest room. We couldn’t hear the phone and we had to shout at each other in just about every room in the house. Even the non-stop running dialogue inside my head raised its voice.

And there has been the emotional roller coaster of the Olympics and just now the World Figure Skating Championships. (I will share more about World’s another time…) And I’m working on a fairly large online project but that, too, is for another time. Not to mention my book marketing which will be ramping up in April…

And then there was the skunk.

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Hi, Boris. (Not my critter cam)

I had noticed a skunky smell in our barn one morning but it wasn’t overly intense. I had noticed it a few times in the fall as well but Jockey never indicated that any winter roomies had moved in.

Until that same afternoon, when Alistair and I were packing and preparing for a much-needed return to Aloha and we heard some rustling next to Jockey’s big litter bin. Alistair bent down and was trying to move the dog crate over and suddenly a large black & white fluffy tail appeared.

Ah, yes, life in the forest.

 

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More of Jessi’s Critter Cam footage

Jockey said his name was Boris and that he’d hibernated in our barn all winter. When he did get out to eat the little fart was noshing on our very expensive, top quality Royal Canin cat food.

Which was all well and good until Boris decided to spray the barn one morning while we were gone. We aren’t sure if Jockey had said, “That’s IT” about his yummy food or what but our wonderful house/pet sitter, Jessi is a capable Montana gal and she set up the Critter Cam in the barn and arranged for a local friend to set up a trap.

As it turned out, Boris buggered off on his own and the barn is smelling better and Jockey has the place (and his food) all to himself again.

Or at least until Boris brings any new girlfriends back.

Or Boris is a Natasha….

 

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Last week. Grey skies don’t matter when you’re on an island.

But I won’t bother thinking about that now because I still have my glow from a week spent on Kauai. Its been a rainy winter over there, which we were expecting, but that didn’t matter thanks to 70-plus-degree weather, a near-empty golf course, sandals and mai tais. We had 2 sunny days with mild trade winds and our laughter and smiles shone through the camera lens from Poipu Bay Golf course once again.

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Right before we teed it up for the first time in months!

The head pro, Chad and some of the workers like Kerry and Mike remembered us from 3 years ago (hard not to remember Alistair’s Driver head soaring through the air) and we felt like Ohana each of the 3 days we played there.

 

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Alistair on the 15th tee.

Alistair hadn’t been back to the islands in well over a year and my trip to the Big Island was shrouded in heartbreak last fall so this trip back to Kauai, our favorite of the Hawaiian islands was uplifting for our spirits and our souls.

We even tried something new in a catamaran-type of dinner cruise around to the Na Pali coastline, which is only accessible by air or water. All of the tour books and even the crew of the Blue Dolphin II were open & honest about likely high winds and seas during the winter months and they weren’t kidding.

 

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Just before shoving off from Port Allen!

The poor gal from Spokane seated next to me didn’t make it very far before she got to see breakfast and lunch again. Another gal was slumped next to her boyfriend most of the trip after doing some “reverse eating” of her own. The 2 of them were downstairs, where the food was served after we’d made it to the stunning cliffs and as the boat surged, lurched, rolled and dove, I swear Spokane looked worse than a corpse

 

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The Na Pali coastline from the water!

For a couple of kids who grew up riding BC Ferries to Vancouver Island & back, the waves and wind were actually kind of fun. Captain Roy and his crew seemed calm and capable and they were able to get us all the way around to see the famous cliffs.

 

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Cue the Jurassic Park music….

It was another way for us to discover Hawaii and all her magnificent beauty. Another way to appreciate how ancient Hawaiians existed in valleys with their taro fields and fishing villages. And another way for us to understand why so much of the state needs to be protected from massive developments and forays into commerce.

It was another way to put goofy smiles on our faces as we breathed in the humid air and all of the surrounding Aloha.

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Looking back from where we came along the coast.

We also did the “cabana-thing” for the first time in all of our trips to the islands. It was part of our Sheraton package and Alistair was in conference all morning so we figured, “why not?” Adding to the incentive of lounging by the pool all day was the fact 2 friends from Seeley Lake happened to be escaping Snowmageddon at the same time. Michelle and Missy happily joined me that morning and then Alistair stayed for most of the afternoon in our bright red, private cabana.

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Michelle and I (Missy’s photo)

It was neat sharing island time with friends who had endured the same trials and tribulations with the fire last summer and then the never-ending snow this winter.

And, as per usual, we made a couple of friends with Jeff on the golf course, the funny Alaskan couple on the Na Pali cruise (the wife was attending the same medical conference as Alistair… go figure!) and Crystal, our social media angel.

You see, our last day there was supposed to be spent on the tees, fairways and greens of Poipu Bay Golf course but the weather had other ideas. We had a night flight out of Lihue but had to check out of the Sheraton so we kicked around the island exploring a few places.

 

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Our last day, the Menehune fish ponds

What’s a trip to Kauai without a quick peek at the Menehune fishponds? Or a spin up to the very wet and rainy Wailua Falls where we joined the other tourists in snapping a quick picture?

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Wailua Falls… where Tattoo did his “Da Plane, Boss” thing… come to think of it, he might have been of Menehune descent…

And what’s a day of kicking around Kauai if you don’t whip up the Coconut coast to the kind-of deserted Coconut Marketplace? (That place used to have an awesome breakfast restaurant and several kitschy stores and local artists but its woefully quiet now).

It also had my wallet, which I had left there but didn’t realize until we made it all the way back down south through traffic to explore the Kiohana plantation.

Talk about a sinking feeling, knowing we had to get back up there, with the possibility that someone may have borrowed my wallet and its contents. With us leaving the island that night.

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the ocean in front of the Sheraton, churning like my stomach was when I realized my wallet wasn’t with me!

 

Being the modern woman that I am, I got onto Facebook, where Crystal, from Texas, had been trying to reach me. She and her new husband were also at the marketplace and a worker from one of the stores had found my wallet. They discussed options and my wallet made it to the Island Market food store.

I had already contacted the marketplace’s office and got another woman involved in the search. Meanwhile, Crystal reached out privately to a few of my Facebook friends and asked if they had a phone number for me.

My wallet made it to the office, then back to Island Market, all while Crystal, her husband, Alistair and I talked and texted on our phones. Alistair drove in the traffic and I eventually met Justin, the Island Market manager and one of their cashiers who said, “That wallet has been here twice today!”

 

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the photo I immediately sent to Crystal.

And Crystal Friended me and she will soon be receiving some lovely Chloe & Isabel bling that both Alistair and I picked out for her.

Do we know how to vacation or what?

And now we’re back to the mainland and Alistair is back in Bismarck and he’s back to work and I’m back in the guest room. Thankfully, the dehumidifiers and fans are gone and I can hear my thoughts once again.

And I feel lighter after our little holiday- emotionally and physically. The proverbial weight of winter has lifted, even though I’m still surrounded by reminders. Aloha hot tubs and my Hawaiian music in Big Red helped me keep a smile on my face this winter. It helped knowing we had Kauai to look forward to, too.

 

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Our front yard today.

The chickadees are chirping, the sun has some Montana warmth to it and the snow is melting. Granted, its revealing the damage to our beautiful home and yard but at the same time it is disappearing which will allow for the next phases of our insurance claim to occur.

 

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The deck off of our master bedroom. Or, what’s left of it.

Much is being revealed on the outside of the home while drywall will be coming down this week to reveal the extent of damage to the inside. Some of our pretty white and lavender lilacs will spring back while I know others will not have survived.

 

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Cleo helping me investigate the front yard today

Our own spirits are refreshed and recharged and I’m choosing to look at our Montana ranch the same way- it will get its own rebirth this spring.

I’m no fool to believe that there won’t be challenges ahead or that I won’t fight back an occasional tear or two, or that its going to be sunny, smooth sailing from here on in.

Challenges and change build character. I know we’re up for it. We’ll handle the waves with smiles and laughter, holding on with both hands just like we did up Kauai’s northern coastline last week.

And you know I’ll take pictures the whole way!

 

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Golfing “island style”

 

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Supper one night at Tidepool’s

 

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Ready for some waves!

 

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Happy explorer, riding the waves off Kauai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epic Winter… or, More Stories for the Christmas Letter

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Fun on the horse trailer yesterday! (Note: non of the figure skating photos that follow are mine.)

Lots of zany things happen on the Fyfe farm and I’ve happily shared a lot of them with you all. When one goofy moment or accident has occurred during our more than 20 years together Alistair and I often said, “that’s a story for the Christmas letter.” This epic winter is one more story.

The tremendous snow load coupled with two heavy rain episodes over the past 2 months has made for extremely difficult and damaging conditions. Old time locals are quick to point out that they had snow amounts like this 20 and 30 years ago but what is drastically different is that back then it got cold, everything froze and remained frozen until late February or March. You can handle snow situations like that.

But when we got the first and then second rain events after dumps of snow this winter it created a horrid layer of soft slush that made plowing a real challenge.

And then more snow!

 

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Some of “the Crew” hard at it.

Sadly the rain also caused buildup in the troughs where sections of our enormous roof meet at 90 degrees and snow wasn’t able to slide off like other areas of the roof and for the first time in 11 years, we have ceiling, wall and possible floor damage.

As the snow melted it had nowhere else to go but inside our ceiling and then down the insides of the walls. This was discovered when I kneeled in front of the wood stove one night and my knee was sopping wet.

Enter the insurance company (I sent pictures more for record, not expecting them to leap into things so quickly.) Our adjuster was out the next day and within 2 days we had a restoration company as well as a snow removal company descend upon us.

 

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Living room- you can see the drywall damage on the back wall.

And now we have a few of these bad boys scattered throughout the house with large fans surrounding them. It sounds like we’re living in an airplane hangar in most areas of the house.

 

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Master bathroom

Thankfully our house is large enough that we can escape quite comfortably to the main guest room which has no damage and no big, blue DriEaz unit and fans whirling away. The cats were put off the first 24 hours but they’re both curled up by the woodstove right now, which has its own DriEaz and fan-friend right there.

Unfortunately our landscaping took a hit with all of the heavy equipment that was up here to move snow from here to there. Part of the problem is the size of the house & yard but after 2 full days of rumbling, back-up beeping and hauling snow, most of the house was cleared  out.

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Mountain of moved snow with Alistair for perspective. Back-yard “view”.

Until this morning when another foot lay on the ground to welcome another wintery day.

And more snow is falling and Big Red’s engine block heater is dead and today it decided to get cold & windy and a part on the huge red snowblower broke and Alistair has had to widen the driveway back & forth with the tractor bucket and twice he’s got trusty Big Red stuck and twice Big Silver was able to winch him out and our back deck is completely busted under the weight of the snow from above as well as the snow from our roof and we don’t know what insurance will cover and Restoration Dude actually said, “those walls are going to have to go.”

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The 1st time Big Red got stuck last week (thank-you, Big Silver, for the pull!)

 

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Today’s shenanigans. Note the new snow on top of the vet box today!

My sister was checking in on me and asked how I was coping. She was giving me permission to lose my shit but I told her the truth.

I’m good.

That might not be the case if Alistair weren’t here, or if we had lost power for any significant amount of time, or if the pet food and my wine supply were getting low but, really, things could be so much worse.

And the Olympics are happening which is a huge part of my inner peace and happiness right now even if tears are streaming down my face every night I watch figure skating.

 

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Team Canada for the gold in the team event!

There have been awesome highs and incredible lows. The medalists themselves have not been surprising although there definitely have been some skating surprises!

The pairs event saw medal hopefuls, Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot from Germany in 4th place after their individual short program. She looked like she was going to rip his throat out with her bare hands during their interview and he was pale, obviously shaken and absolutely silent. Aliona has competed in 5 Olympics. She got 3rd at the last one and her partner wanted to move on to real life afterwards. She basically hand-picked Bruno and trained, no, groomed him to be an Olympian of her caliber.

 

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Pairs finalists- no surprises here but a nerve-wracking way to get to this.

And they won the long program with a touching, stunning, emotional performance and tears flowed and nobody was upset with them standing atop the podium. Sui & Han, the youngsters from China with their own tale of injuries, highs and lows were 2nd with a mistake in the long and Canada’s Duhamel & Radford finally stood on an Olympic podium by themselves.

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This picture says it all at the outdoor awards ceremony.

While I never wanted to see that glaring yellow and black polka dot dress from the skaters representing Russia, it was heartbreaking to see Evgenia Tarasova fall to pieces as their marks came up after their long program. It was uncharacteristic to see them falter during their skate, particularly when they had been in second place after the short.

Skating is like that. Ice is slippery.

 

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Nobody wants to see exceptional athletes falter at the Games

The world joined me in watching Nathan Chen struggle mightily in his second short program of these Olympics. Slips, shakes and wipe-outs, the quad king faltered so horribly that he was in 17th place after his individual short program and in obvious shock in his interviews.

He had had to wait to skate following Yuzuru Hanyu’s fabulous, perfect short program, the cheers and screams of his fans, the tossing of every Pooh-bear South Korea could sell onto the ice, the gathering of said Pooh-bears, the announcement of Hanyu’s 111-point score (!!) and once again, the shouts and applause from his pronounced fan base. Normally when you skate 2nd, you hang right around the ice surface, you keep your skates on and you don’t cool down. I think he started to cool down and it was too long, too loud and too amazing of a break when he heard that score.

 

He laid low and his coach, Rafael Artuniun let him work things through with gentle encouragement and the next night we watched him make history with a routine packed with 6 quads (5 were outstanding!), style, charm and finesse. He won the long program after being such a mess the night before.

 

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Nathan and Coach Rafael after his brilliant, record-breaking long program.

Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan, the reigning Olympic champ after Sochi 4 years ago, stood on the top step on the podium again even though Chen’s freeskate outscored his. Hanyu has a quirky quality about him and his confidence, training and sheer talent got him through an injured ankle (kind of an important part of a figure skater’s body) and the media circus that followed him.

His teammate, Shoma Uno skated well enough but also made just enough of a mistake to win the silver medal, a first for him on Olympic ice. He still looked petulant on the podium at times; I’m not sure if he envies Hanyu’s following or his gold medal but Uno often appears annoyed at his placement unless he’s standing up top. I don’t know him, though, so maybe he’s just shy. Regardless, he’s a beautiful skater and deserved the scores he received.

 

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Spain’s first bronze medal in Olympic figure skating! 

Rounding out the top 3 is the talented, charming Spaniard, Javier Fernandez. This one got me crying again because of all that he has done to promote figure skating in Spain. He didn’t know how to train or even glide across the ice let alone project emotions to an audience when he signed on with Tracy Wilson & Brian Orser in Toronto but he worked hard and he never gave up. He’s won World titles so its no shock to see him here but its touching and its tender and he was just so. freaking. happy. to win bronze.

 

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Men’s Olympic medalists!

Tonight the Beautiful People will take to the ice in Ice Dance. Everyone skates to the same beat and one pattern of their routine will be the short-pattern Rhumba but the routines will all vary significantly. The men will all likely have low cut tops and the moves will be sexy and flirty and we’ll all hold our breath as the twizzle sections begin. I can’t wait.

Alistair continues to move snow from here to there as I type and hopefully we’ll get Big Red into town for his new engine block heater to be installed this week.

We will wait & see what our restoration crew says tomorrow after these dehumidifiers and fans ran all weekend and then we’ll wait & see what the insurance company says and where we go from there.

 

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We did it! 

Through it all we’ll continue to share on social media (@tanyafyfe on Instagram) with grins and smiles and Aloha music playing in the background. There’s no point getting upset with the weather- there’s not a damned thing I can do about it so might as well have some fun and just be patient in moving snow from here to there.

Maybe if they made snow removal an Olympic sport, Alistair and I would be favored gold medalists. Would we represent Canada or the US, though? Now THAT would be a story for the Christmas letter!

 

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Training for Olympic snow shoveling!

Think positive thoughts for Tessa & Scott, the ShibSibs, Cizeron & Papadakis, Hubbel & Donohue and all the great skaters who will Choctaw, twizzle and sizzle their way through their short dances tonight. I’m sure I’ll be crying.

 

Enjoy the heck out of the ice dancers and then the ladies afterwards later in the week. Congrats to all the athletes in every sport for making it to the pinnacle of sport in PyeongChang. The Olympics are ON!

 

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Alistair can compete in the combined event: snow-removal and ice sculpting!

 

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Yesterday, outside our front door after “the Crew” finished. There’s over a foot of new snow back there now, though. 

 

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Waiting to be winched out of the pile of snow today!

 

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We managed to find some Aloha yesterday once all the work was done. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cook’s Winter

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My first-ever attempt at Risotto the other night!

It has already been one of “those” winters and its not even February yet.

I’m certainly not complaining, though. Alistair was here for his 2 weeks and he widened our long driveway and opened up the back so we can easily bring wood to the back deck for the wood stove. And he cleared the top of the driveway so Cleo, Jockey and I don’t have to walk in carved-out paths to get anywhere.

 

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Opening up the path to the garage!

The chain on the big snowblower broke so his efforts to move snow from here to there slowed for a couple of days but he was back in business once it was repaired.

We got the vent for the dryer dug out from under a small iceberg and I don’t have to air-dry everything anymore! Within the iceberg was the shovel he forgot he’d placed there to remind us exactly where the vent was in case we got “a bit of snow.”

 

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He found the vent! And the shovel we forgot about!

And even though I’ve had to plow with Big Red twice since he left just days ago (including this morning, thank you, Mother Nature), I really don’t mind because its not coming down like it did a month ago and I have my Hawaiian tunes to enjoy while I shove snow off to the side of the road.

I’m not minding being somewhat home-bound this winter because I have an online course I’m playing with, there has been a lot of figure skating and PGA golf on TV, I’m pretending to hit the treadmill again and there is that awesome cooking course that has lessons and classes available at all times!

 

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Right outside our front door…

Just last night I did a short lesson on how to store and cook with herbs. I’ve used herbs all my cooking life and we have had great success in our ND garden with them but I still learned a few things last night and I’m inspired to try a few recipes.

Just like I was inspired to finally try my hand at risotto a few nights ago. I had done 2 lessons on risotto but I wasn’t able to get the right rice in our little, local grocery store. After our monthly trek to Missoula, however, I came home with Arborio rice and was ready to go for it.

I never like to make brand-new dishes when Alistair is here, though, because our time together is limited and we make so many great dishes that we love- no point trying something on the off chance it doesn’t turn out.

 

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My first risotto!

And you know, it was good but it wasn’t great. I was patient and got the creamy texture that is desired but there were still a few grains that had too much bite to them. And the dried mushrooms were shiitake, not cremini like the recipe called for and I think they were a bit overpowering. It wasn’t bad, though, and it made for an alright meal.

Its not just me getting on the Rouxbe bandwagon. When Alistair was delayed in getting here thanks to the weather, he watched the lesson on making your own Hollandaise. With nice-looking salmon brought home from Missoula last week he turned on his cooking skills (with the lesson pulled up on the laptop, of course.)

He clarified his butter, I made a shallot-white-wine-vinegar-white-wine-tarragon reduction and he created the creamiest, most yummy Béarnaise I’ve ever had!

 

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Alistair… clarifying the butter. Reduction in the bottom right dish.

Sure, it takes a lot longer than opening up a packet of Béarnaise mix and adding milk and butter and you’re glued to the stove while making it but, wow, what a difference!

And we “had” to buy the double boiler in the photo in order to clarify the butter. I’ve upgraded both of our kitchens with stainless steel pans, a new steamer, soup pots, and gobs of utensils. Not unlike when we took up golf and I  need a new wardrobe only in the case of cooking, our kitchens got the new duds. It has been worth it.

My cream of mushroom soup made from scratch was delightful and maybe even better than the cream of asparagus soup I’ve made a couple of times. The stir fry sauce with velvetted chicken had just the perfect salty kick and crunch to the veggies (oyster sauce- who knew?) The steamed salmon with lemon & dill was simple and yet something I had never tried. And the Mexican Red Rice, which I made using a real rice pilaf method (rice is cooked in a blended mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onion and broth) has been a repeat a few times already!

 

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Mexican Red Rice

Not everything has been a success. The short ribs were just ‘meh’. I’ve smoked myself out with olive oil when I ran out of grapeseed. I’ve had a couple of pan sauces that went down the drain vs down the hatch. And there was one seriously undercooked chicken breast that just didn’t pan out.

But more than not, things work out and I’ve gained confidence to actually create things myself.

Like the amazing “Chicken Tanya” I created just before Alistair got back.

 

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Chicken Tanya on its maiden voyage to my tummy!

I pan seared the chicken breasts and created lovely sucs. I sautéed shallots and then deglazed with white wine. I added a bit of garlic with sun-dried tomatoes & fresh thyme and reduced it all (patience is key with reductions, I have learned.) Then I added chicken broth and reduced it all before adding a touch of cream. Served over a good quality pasta, this dish was incredible. And it was all from my own head which is probably why it tasted as good as it did.

 

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Driveway work a couple of weeks ago.

So while our house is buried in snow I’m not wallowing in lonliness out here in the middle of nowhere. I’m keeping my brain busy as well as my body even though my heart aches because we’re closing in on the one-year anniversary of losing Loki and I still can’t believe that UB is gone and 14-year old Cleo has been stumbling a bit lately and I’ve noticed more grey hairs beneath her eyes and 17 year-old Sport is thin but ever the lover.

And the Olympics are on the horizon but I’ll save my pre-Olympic skating buzz for next time.

I have chicken out for supper tonight that I’ll steam with lemon and thyme. I’ve made that one before and its quite tasty.

I’m not giving up on the risotto, either. I think I need to go to a more basic one, though, and skip the mushrooms & onions. Just work on the rice to create the creaminess all the great risottos have. Maybe with shrimp and peas.

 

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A fun scallop & tomato concoction I created before Christmas. 

There is much to look forward to in the world of Rouxbe. Home made pasta is up there. I’m holding out but almost ready for the long course on living a plant-based lifestyle. I think I need the Olympics out of the way before I begin that because it, like the course I won last year that got this whole thing going, will take me a few months to get through.

I’m keen and interested, though, so it will be great. Here’s to old dogs learning new tricks and being open to a lifetime of learning! And a never ending winter that is tailor made to cooks and chefs!

 

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When life hands you lemons….

 

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A neighborhood and historical tragedy. An old school house buckled under the weight of the snow this winter and finally gave way.

 

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Plowing in a blizzardy white out a couple of days ago. Huzzah!

 

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The risotto might not have been perfect but my mise en place was top notch!