Tall Tails in Fyfe Life

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the Fyfe Bee Gees, (aka the trio of trouble!)

I’ve been working on that whole ‘few versions of myself’ lately although the one I miss the most is the golfer.

Our local course closed in October and today’s little snow squall is just another reminder of what season it is. While it hasn’t been as cold as it could be for December we have had some cold snaps where it takes way longer to get dressed to go outside than it does in August. Heck, in the summer we just slide our feet into our sandals and away we go. This time of year you have to choose which jacket or coat to wear, and layer on a scarf with a toque and don’t forget the gloves!

And then its a question of which gloves to wear based on the activity you’re heading outside to do. Are we stacking or splitting wood? Are we driving into town? Are we getting more cat food out for the barn kitties? When you live on a ranch like we do you have to consider all of these things!

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Professor Higgins, asking Maurice and Andy to open the door.

I’ve been the pet Mummy- a role I absolutely cherish. Of course this time of year the outside cats submit their resumes for indoor status. Professor Higgins leaps up to the kitchen door (there are no stairs there yet) and sits there, pathetically meowing for us to let him in.

He has never been loose in the house with the ferrets but he has such a kind, sweet soul- I think they would all be fine.

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Higgy-in-the-house today

Higgins is no dummy. He worked me over easily enough and right now he is enjoying his second day of walk-about inside the house. So far so good. Babs and him made some noise the first time he was in and Sport had to pull the Siamese noise-making thing but hopefully his very large self will be a very large presence within the house at some point.

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Christmastown, 2019!

I’ve been a whimsical home owner lately- Alistair and I got Christmastown set up around Thanksgiving and it brings a huge smile to my face when I get it all going at night. Its the perfect little fantasy town for me- we have several ice rinks, an animal shelter, a pet portrait studio, grooming and boarding facilities, a brew pub and fun shopping places.

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All things animal-related in Christmastown!

Dogs and cats are all over the place as this is a very pet-friendly little community. The doggy daycare and portrait studio are brand new this year, along with a charming clock tower and barn house. The barn is next to the cozy little log cabin where I like to think Fyfe Life, Fantasy-version takes place.

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Fyfe Life in Christmastown?

The Me in this community gets to be a vet at the barn just like the Me in real life got to be a veterinarian again today, too. Well, veterinary surgeon to be more specific.

My good friend, Jessie, who was my veterinary assistant when I still had the clinic, stopped by this morning and Operation NutsBeGone commenced with the new stray cat, D’embe (formerly known as Lava), starring in the lead role.

(We are huge fans of The Blacklist and the character, D’embe on the show…. the name just seemed to better suit our little kitty who has hung around for a few weeks now.)

I had the drugs to knock him out although, admittedly, expiration dates were long past for one of them. I figured if he didn’t sedate appropriately then we’d just try again another day with new drugs. But he sedated beautifully and D’embe is neutered and vaccinated and currently in a crate in our heated garage as the drugs wear off. Special thanks to Dr.Kelly in Nevada for the excellent drug dosages for our cute little guy.

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Immediately post-op. He’s sitting up now.

I’m hopeful D’embe and Jockey can come to terms where they don’t whack at each other. Jockey was neutered as a kitten but he has always had a bit of toughness to him. While he can be sweet and adoring purring away in my arms I have heard him and D’embe get into it. D’embe started at least one of the altercations that I witnessed but I think Jockey came out on top of that one. Neither kitty has needed Clavamox yet but its here if we do.

I’m hoping the neutering will calm the little fella down. He isn’t aggressive towards Jockey or Higgins most of the time and they all eat and sleep together in the barn where I lock them up each night.

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“Look, Sport, just go tell Mum to open the door, okay?”

I have also been a writer again lately, which is where the ‘tall tales’ of the title comes from. (Well, I wrote ‘tail’, didn’t I? See what I did just there?)

My main goal for this winter is to complete the 4th book in my Missing Lake series. I am 42,000 words and 8 1/2 chapters in. I worry that I might have too much I want to include but then sometimes the characters take the book on a different journey than what I have planned in my head.

So many readers what the character, Josh to come back. But Josh can’t come back. He was never supposed to come back. His mom is in witness protection and they take that stuff seriously. When they left Missing Lake in book 2 that was supposed to be it and Luke had to learn that life sucks sometimes.

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Maurice helped me celebrate hitting 41,000 words the other day! Bonjour!

I have been thoroughly enjoying the writing again. Last winter I was learning all about life as a realtor and I had 3 transactions that kept me on my toes from September through January and then some more after that. I didn’t get into a writing rhythm, and, in the end, I’m glad I stopped the process. When I took the book up again this fall I re-wrote a few things and I’m really happy about the direction I’m going this time around.

It wasn’t that what I had written was wrong or that it wasn’t good. Its that the version of life in Missing Lake right now is that much better.

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My lap right now as I’m writing and also how I write my novels.

I’m certainly less distracted this time around and I feel more confidant not being at the real estate office from 9-5 almost every day. Those were my very first transactions last year, though, and I’m so glad I gave everything I could to get things to closing.

I don’t have any specific transactions on the go right now so that allows more time to socialize pets, set up sparkly, musical little fantasy holiday towns and invite my friends over to help me neuter a new cat on our freezer during a snow storm.

I’m also watching a friend at the NFR get bucked around on a bronc in Vegas and the figure skating Grand Prix Final. All these parts of being Me are fun but my reporting on the skating world will have to wait for another time. Professor Higgins wants to go back outside and D’embe won’t be too far behind. Now that he’s donated his reproductive organs at the door I will live up to my promise to keep him warm, loved and well-fed.

Now, which gloves and jacket are required for carrying a kitty down to the barn?

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Post-op. He’s up and chatting now.

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“Do you think I’m a bit cross-eyed, Mummy?”

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In honor of our old black lab companion, Casey. Always makes us smile!

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The ice rink where it all began and a gift shop (with its own Christmastown in the window) and the brew pub, complete with Santa flying around a Christmas tree. What’s not to love?

 

The Time and In Between

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I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out, holding in….

These are song lyrics by another Canadian, Sarah McLachlan.

I’m not entirely sure why they came to mind as I laid in bed a few mornings ago but it struck me that it was, really, the perfect time of day for me.

In between sleep and in between my day unfolding. I gave it some thought.

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This has absolutely nothing to do with the blog but I like the memory from almost a year ago

With Cleo and Sport curled up in bed with me its the time I don’t think about their ages. I don’t see Cleo’s right hind leg slipping out from beneath her on the tile floor. I don’t watch her miss a stair or two more frequently than ever and I’m not thinking about the fact she is at least 14 years old.

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Cleopatra Cassiopeia Carrie Bradshaw Houdini Diamond Fyfe

I watch her sleep soundly in her completely-deaf world up high on her Daddy’s pillow and her breaths are comfortable, peaceful and even. I don’t have to think about her heart murmur, her arthritis, her cognitive dysfunction…

I am not reminded of the fact my beloved Siamese companion who is likely spooned up next to me with my arm draped around him is aging. He will be 19 years old in a few months but I don’t see his fragile frame because he is tight up against my body and his aging blue eyes are closed.

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HRH Sporto Fyfe

It is the time of day I haven’t been to the kitchen yet, where enormous, loud dehumidifiers hum and suck water from the walls that poured snow melt down their beams a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t walked through the wind tunnel created by equally obnoxious fans whirring away to dry out the walls that are wet from the cracked glass that is part of a one-year-plus insurance claim that continues to haunt us.

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my kitchen right now

I haven’t once again faced living with torn-apart walls and debris on my floors because I am lying in our bedroom on the other end of the house- a bedroom we were out of for almost a full year thanks to this claim.

It is a bedroom without a phone (by design) and its far enough away from the phones that when they do ring, we can’t hear them. So it is at this time of day that I don’t suck in my breath every time I hear it ring knowing Alistair is on his hours-long journey from Bismarck to Montana.

He calls at specific intervals, where he has cellular service, knowing I am worrying that day like I do every day, every 2 weeks, as I have done for the past 12 years.

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This guy!

He travels across the frozen plains and through a mountain pass on snowy, windy, often lonely roads and both of us know the length of time it takes to get from Circle to Jordan… from Great Falls to Lincoln… from phone call to phone call.

In that quiet time of day I have not yet caught of glimpse of myself in any mirror.

I haven’t had to look at the woman who is inching closer to 50 and pulling further and further from 40. I haven’t thought about belly fat or the bum knees that don’t allow me to run anymore. I haven’t washed or combed through my thinning, grey hair or wondered when my upper arms became so unattractive. I haven’t tried to squeeze into jeans that I swear fit fine just last year nor have I had to put on my reading glasses yet.

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Yeah. These.

I haven’t had the chance to look out any windows at that time of day to see just how wrong accuweather was the night before. I am blissfully unaware of the inches of snow that fell, or the ones that are still falling and I haven’t had to think about firing Big Red up for a few passes down the driveway.

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Big Red and I last winter

It is the time of day where I definitely haven’t checked my emails or read the texts alerting me to the fact individuals in Hawaii and in Vancouver have been trying to reach me to let me know my stepdaughter was in the ICU after having had an emergency the night prior that led to her requiring 10 units of blood and that things had been harrowing for the surgical team as they struggled to keep her tiny body alive.

I haven’t yet given any thought to the fact we could have lost Whitney and none of us was with her.

I haven’t yet thought about the emotional nightmare she would be going through along with the healing that would have to occur after the arduous ordeal she had survived.

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Just a few months ago on Kauai

I haven’t spent hours on the phone trying to get flights for her father to join her- flights that would take 2 full days and re-route him, if he wasn’t bumped, through San Francisco and Chicago.

I haven’t yet realized, in the time and in between, that I do have those motherly fears and worries and gut-wrenching anguish despite not having had given birth to my step kids.

And then I get up.

And I help Cleo off the bed and I watch Sport use the ottoman to assist himself.

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Miss Cleo, last spring

And I get Cleo her meds (wrapped in cheese) and I change the water dish (always adding ice cubes) and I get Bebe her Greenies because she is meowing at me to do so and I turn the fans off so I can at least think and I look at the calendar to see all of the obligations, responsibilities, meetings and planned events ahead.

I then I start to see the opportunities.

The adventures.

The next date Alistair will be coming home.

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Me

And I do see myself in the mirror and despite the odd wonky tooth and the increasingly- Eastern European-bloc eyebrows that I need to trim I’m actually okay with hurtling towards my 50s because I’m having fun being me.

I know the teeth aren’t perfect because I chose summer school skating over braces when I was younger.

I know the laugh lines and wrinkles are there from countless hours spent laughing with Alistair and our friends and our animal companions.

I know the grey hairs are earned after working hard at a few different careers and that I’m not going through puberty in spandex anymore so maybe its okay to buy a pair of jeans a size up.

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Working hard at my latest career on a beautiful summer day!

And I am so thankful that both Gareth and Whitney have pursued healthful lifestyles into their own 30s because Whitney’s physical strength helped her survive what easily could have taken her life. With 10 units of other peoples’ blood running through her to keep her alive her healthy organs kept doing what they needed to do to get her through that first night.

And the next night.

And the night after that.

Her mom was able to join her on Kauai (amazingly she was going there and was able to bump her flight up a few days) and her husband and in-laws surrounded her with love and support and we were able to talk via FaceTime and before we all knew it she was sent home from the hospital one week ago.

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Looking forward to this!

And I’m so thankful to have an amazing, talented, good man who loves me enough to keep driving 10 or 11 hours every 2 weeks to spend time with me. The same man who knows exactly how to make me laugh and who brought me 3 ferrets for Christmas, knowing they are the best present I could ever ask for! He shares my world view and he gets the jokes. We crack each other up quoting lines from Frasier or bringing Spirt of Loki into the conversation.

We cherish cocktails in the snow-surrounded hot tub with the tiki torches blazing and Hawaiian music serenading us from inside the house.

He has let me love him for 25 years this month and I don’t know what I would do without him.

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Best Christmas presents ever!!!

And even though the insurance claim woes continue, I still have a stunningly lovely house in an absolutely incredible part of the world with vaulted ceilings, the coolest bar in town and room for me to be me.

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Early winter in Paradise

I will have to face a world without beloved spirits at some point and as Dr. Mummy I may even have to have a talk with myself somewhere down the road.

But that time isn’t here yet.

And Alistair is back with me in Montana. Plowing snow in Big Red right now!

And we are hoping to FaceTime with Whitney later today and talk about our lives and how she is feeling and how she isn’t going to put taking surfing lessons off anymore because she has learned the truest, most pure value of every given day.

Including the time and in between.

How lucky we all are.

PS- donate blood!

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Earning those laugh lines with great friends

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More great friends

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Last winter with Cleo

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Blue-eyed beauty

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This guy!

 

 

 


 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow, Ice and Sun

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Front door views a few days ago

With the snow storm we had last week I still haven’t made much of a dent in the snow removal even though my shoulders and back beg to differ.

I did manage to shovel out one of the rigs and also made it into town one day after a week of being snow-bound up here at the farm. The shoveling took place over 3 days and provided a profound sense of relief that I could get a reliable vehicle out if I needed to.

It also gave me a little “I am woman, hear me roar” shot in the arm, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

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Things are even wider now after I got the truck out of there.

We are still dealing with continual power failures throughout the county as snow-laden trees eventually give out under the heavy weight and topple onto electrical lines. Yesterday was particularly bad as we’d had a tiny bit of drizzle and wind and I had no juice for over 4 hours.

I was just starting to get the candles out when the house surged back to life and I could turn the propane fireplaces off and the computer back on.

The drizzle also got the snow on our roof moving…

 

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Right outside the garage door this morning. Surprise!!!

And once again I’m faced with the dilemma of having nowhere left to put the snow!

 

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the path to the garage…

I managed to shovel out an area to access the pathway and Cleo and I did just fine. My shoulders and back aren’t talking to me like they did when I first picked up the shovel last week so I’m feeling pretty Mighty Mouse right about now.

And the sun has been out today which makes this ridiculous amount of snow actually appear pretty. I love seeing sparkles where I walk with the blue sky reflecting on the brilliant white snow that crunches beneath my feet.

 

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Look- blue sky!!!

My reward for moving snow from here to there or for coming up with heating and cooking options when I was without power for hours is the television viewing on-hand this weekend.

First up is the PGA Tournament of Champions held annually in Kapalua, Maui. Not only do I get to see palm trees, leaping whales, a brilliant ocean and some great golfers, I get to re-live the actual course on the phone at night with Alistair as its a course we have played a few times and both really enjoy.

 

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Our first time playing the Plantation Course in 2015.

Its cool knowing the way a hole slopes or how huge that ravine on the 8th is when watching some of the top players on Tour battle it out. Dustin Johnson has a great lead right now and I’m DVR-ing today’s final round so I can buzz through commercials later on while I’m eating my supper.

 

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The Plantation Course at Kapalua. (not my picture)

I can almost feel the trade winds flutter my skort and the warm, humid air that coats my skin when we’re on the islands and I can smell sunblock and the ocean and I can almost taste a mai tai and hear the cubes of ice jingle against the glass and I feel the Aloha that exists around and within me and the golf station plays our much-loved Hawaiian tunes as they fade in and out of the tournament.

Its a lovely break from the grey, white and blue world I’ve been buried in for over a week.

 

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Ahhhh… golf at Kapalua (2016)

 

During my visual return to paradise I’ll pause the ukulele music and swaying palms while I watch my other DVR-ed weekend highlight: the US figure skating national championships happening in San Jose right now!

While there haven’t been any dislocated shoulders the American skating world has still provided its share of drama.

Sadly, Ashley Wagner once again wore her poopy-pants face as her troubled season continued. To put it simply, she just didn’t land the jumps. 5th after the short, 3rd in the long and 4th overall, the US former national champion and one-time World silver medalist came up short when it was time to choose the Olympic team.

 

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Ashley, Ashley, Ashley. (not my picture).

Ashley likes to call herself “assertive” and “outspoken” but I have found her to be just a tad annoying. She has claimed that the judges gave her low scores to intentionally hold her down, which is likely untrue but maybe they have found her to be annoying as well.

She’s a good skater but she’s had a rough season. I don’t know what or who is to blame but she doesn’t light up the rink like she has in the past. She has a top coach, lots of sponsorship this year, gorgeous dresses… but you still have to rotate and land the jumps.

And don’t get pissy when the 3 women who earned medals get named to the Olympics. Ashley was 4th four years ago at Nationals and they gave her an Olympic berth instead of Mirai Nagasu, who that year won bronze. Ashley was “outspoken” then about her right to be named to the team so shut up this time.

 

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Mirai, Bradie and Karen (not my picture).

Who’s going to South Korea in 33 days, then? Boom, Mirai Nagasu earned her way with her silver medal-winning, triple-axel attempting, confidant, mature program. I’m so happy she redeemed herself after a couple of low years after they selected Ashley to go to Sochi over her.

And fresh, charming, Cinderella-esque Bradie Tennel gets to go after she won our hearts and the national title! She skated with tremendous consistency, flow and style and her huge jumps are something to watch.

Rounding out the group is last year’s national champ, Karen Chen. She hasn’t had a stellar season but the fact she placed 4th at the world championships last year is why we get to send 3 women to the Olympics and her bronze-medal performance this weekend is worthy of the 5 rings.

 

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Adam Rippon earlier this season (not my photo).

Not to be outdone by the women, the men’s Olympic selection had some drama only this time it came from the selection committee.

No surprise that quad-tastic Nathan Chen swept the competition. He finally had a great look thanks to Vera Wang costumes and deserved top spot on the podium and a ticket to South Korea.

And while I’m not surprised Adam Rippon is going despite a poor long program and 4th place finish last night- he did have a super Grand Prix season and is one of our top men in all aspects of skating- I’m shocked that the committee left Ross Miner off the team.

 

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Ross, 2nd, Nathan, 1st, Vincent, 3rd and Adam, 4th (pewter medal) (not my picture).

 

Ross has been a steady men’s competitor for years, seems like a super nice guy and was Olympic-inspired enough to bring the house down last night with his Queen-medly-quest and he won the silver medal. Why on Earth is he not going to the Olympics?

Isn’t the whole thing about having that one amazing moment in time? I agree that the national podium shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all for Olympic and World team members but why did they jump over 3rd place Vincent Zhou, who is young but has an arsenal of quads, and give Miner the boot?

Maybe I just answered my own question there. Quads. Medal tallies.

 

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Hubby-wife duo, the Knierems are the lone pairs reps for the US heading to the Olympics. (not my picture.)

Figure skating has tried changing their judging system around after the scandal in Salt Lake City to prove that its a legitimate sport and that nothing political happens in the background but not sending Ross Miner to the Olympics just put a political rubber stamp on the whole thing.

And yet, I continue to love the sport.

Next weekend will be similar but different.

I’m sure I’ll have buckets of snow to look at and move from one place to another.

Golf will still be played with Aloha as the tour moves to Oahu.

And my friends in Canada will be working their sequined butts off at their own national championship in Vancouver.

 

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Go, Tessa & Scott! (not my picture)

The best part about next weekend, though, is the fact that Alistair will be here to share it all with me.

We have never been to Oahu so we won’t have the same feelings watching the golf but the palms, the water, the whales and the Aloha will still be there. And maybe Rickie Fowler will debut another decidedly non-uptight, untucked Hawaiian shirt on the golf course!

And Alistair can use the big manly-man tractor and snow blower to make more sense out of our landscape.

 

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Our “patio” area this afternoon

Because I’m not making much sense out of what’s out there right now by myself! Now… its time to watch the Free Dance. Go, Shibutanis!

 

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Ah, Kapalua… the famed par 3 8th and that pesky ravine!

 

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I’m so happy for Mirai! (Clearly not my photo)

 

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The 2-tiered deck behind our bedroom today after “the slide.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Ya, 2017

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Outside our front door today. More on Snowmageddon later…

There were times this past year when it seemed that 2018 would never arrive. Moments or days or situations that will forever be associated with 2017 could have weighed so heavily at times but, thankfully, Alistair likes to laugh at life as much as I do.

Not that we laughed all of the time.

The spirit world grew rich this year in January and November when Loki and then UB crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I have cried rivers of tears over both of those losses and our entire way of living changed each time.

 

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UB and Loki a few years ago

March had a lot of snow and I developed a pesky little pneumonia but it forced me to stay home, plow snow and finish my third novel. A silver lining to everything, right?

Of course 2017 will always be the summer of the Rice Ridge Fire that threatened our entire community on both sides of the mountains. It was a day-to-day experience for so many people and families and the business district took a huge hit from the loss of tourism, which is what Seeley Lake relies on to stay alive during our long winters.

 

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The pilots were our tourists this summer!

Bitterness and anger remain for a lot of folks for a fire that just wasn’t managed correctly from the beginning.

We were lucky in that we have a farm and acreage and big trucks and great friends and we were able to take our pets with us to Bismarck for a full month during the fire.

While a lot of things were bad about the fire, I think, perhaps, the worst part was the fact we all put our trust in our hired forest officials to do their job and save our town. Why did such a little fire have to turn into a public health and economic behemoth of a monster that raged over 160,000 acres and lasted over 3 months?

 

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the night we decided to get out… MMK’s photo

Thankfully no homes or businesses burned but that doesn’t mean businesses weren’t lost. I hope beyond hope that each restaurant, salon, and service can stay open this winter and thrive into 2018’s tourist season. Our little Chamber is re-focusing with new members and if everyone sticks together and supports one another we will see hundreds of out-of-state license plates clogging up our highway by Rovero’s and the Ice Cream Place yet again!

 

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Normal summer shenanigans in western Montana

My bling thing continued to provide a sparkly distraction to my world. I actually hit $60,000 in personal sales and I’m just 2 months shy of my 3-year anniversary with the company.

The company is going through some growing pains and major changes right now, though, and I’m not sure where I will fit in the new plan. I still love the jewelry but the company is focused on growing the number of merchandisers and recruiting and that’s just not my thing.

 

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Some of the bling (not my photo)

Doing direct sales for the first time ever has taught me some business skills and things I never learned on the ice or in the vet clinic and I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and make women feel absolutely beautiful when they wear the jewelry. (There are one or two men out there rocking our men’s leather wraps, too… I’m just saying…)

 

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I earned these this month! Super cute, not even on sale yet!

 

2018 will begin the blogger and media outreach we are planning with the Jenkins group we have hired for my 3rd book, Secrets Abound in Missing Lake.

If you’ve read any of my Missing Lake series, you know that the teens are tasked with making sense out of songs that their hippie English teacher assigns them. Its a sub-plot in the book but its a fun one as I explore songs and artists that I like and try to think how my various characters would analyze things.

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My books (Photo from Dr.Alison, who got the books for her daughter!)

For the 3rd book I went out on a limb and chose a lesser-known artist with an even lesser-known song to challenge both myself and my characters. The artist is Matisyahu and the song is Hard Way.

The really cool thing about this is that Matisyahu and his peeps are coming to a small theatre in Missoula, which is an hour from here, at the end of February.

He’s coming to Missoula!!!!!!

Tickets are already purchased for the small show (the only one in the state) and I’ve reached out hoping to meet him. Maybe he can sign my book!

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Just about into 2018….

And just when I thought we would skip through the last few days of 2017 without any drama, Mother Nature happened. And she happened, like she often does in the middle of nowhere, Big Time.

We have learned living in both Montana and North Dakota to take warnings about thunder storms and snowfall very, very seriously. The people in charge of those things usually are on top of it, knowing that either situation could mean life or death out here. (Tornado warnings are pretty spot-on in North Dakota, too.)

So when we looked ahead at weather reports, Alistair decided to head back to North Dakota a day early, leaving me to fend for myself during what was supposed to be quite the epic storm.

And it was.

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this was after the 1st day. My walk path the UPS guy must have used the night before!

I’ve never minded being up here alone because Alistair has me well set up with machinery to move snow from here to there, particularly Big Red, our ’96 one ton Dodge Ram. And we stocked up on wine and food in Missoula a day before he left and pet food supplies are full and we had brought 2 tractor buckets full of wood over to the house as well.

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Yesterday  morning… after I had “cleaned off” Big Red…

As predicted, the snow started to fall.

And it kept falling.

And sometimes it picked up in intensity and other times it just fell.

Most of our community has been without power for some length of time. There is a young couple in Seeley Lake who have been without for 3 days now and a friend north of town with an electrical line down on her driveway so not only can she not plow, she can’t leave her house.

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The snow piled up along our kitchen windows. This isn’t the ground floor.

Our power has been on and off but, for the most part, I have been extremely lucky.

There has been 1 avalanche already along the highway that Alistair travels through Lincoln, MT on his way back to ND. Nobody was injured but it closed the highway for half of a day as crews worked in the falling snow to clear it up.

And while this is life in the mountains of Montana, I have never seen such a snow event in my life. I’ve seen it accumulate but not in one 3-day event.

I plowed twice daily with my newest Hawaiian singer, Keali’i Reichel singing and chanting about sunshine, love, and Aloha in the warmth of Big Red’s rumbling cab. I got good and stuck at one point and contemplated melting down but I managed to channel that energy into getting myself unstuck.

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My first run up the driveway yesterday morning

I was able to create a path out to the main road yesterday, at least, which was my main goal despite all the plowing I had done the days prior. We are the last house on a long driveway and if I want to connect with the outside world I have to be on top of things. I don’t like the idea that I can’t get out if there’s an emergency or an ambulance can’t get in.

So I pushed the road open and then it snowed through the night and this morning I cleaned it up as best I could.

Its not my finest plow work but there is a road.

The problem is that I’ve run out of room to put the snow so it feels a bit like a narrow tunnel in places but, hey, its a road.

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Tidying it up as much as I could today.

I’ve also been shoveling to get the other trucks out and that has re-awoken some muscles in my arms and back that I had forgotten about. Either that or I had just kept them in check by playing golf all summer & fall. Regardless, they are talking to me and I’m glad to have Ibuprofen around.

But I’m done shoveling for 2017.

I think I’m done with 2017 in general.

As much laughter and silliness and as many wonderful friends & family we got to see this year, I’m totally cool with moving forward and letting any issues with 2017 disappear along with the calendars.

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Today’s handiwork. Not going to be using “Big Silver” anytime soon….

For now I’m going to bundle up in my warm, purple ski suit and take Cleopatra down the flat driveway for a walk and later I’ll make a yummy shrimp pasta and curl up on the couch with my ancient bestie, Sport purring away in my lap and maybe we’ll make it to see the ball drop and maybe I’ll even try making myself a Caesar before I switch to wine and maybe my family will call or I’ll call them. Alistair will call but he has to work all day tomorrow after working a very long day today, so we won’t talk late.

I shall sip wine and whole-heartedly welcome a new year with new dreams, new goals, new friends, new challenges, and a surprise or two up my sleeve.

Its Fyfe Life.

May you close 2017 with joy and embrace the New Year with a welcoming heart.

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Cleo helping me shovel today

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Sport, 17 1/2 years young… my new Couch Time partner at nights.

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I was fine with the amount of snow we had before this storm!