Portrait of a Lady

Every now and then, I like to post portraits I’ve taken (here’s another), because each person has a story to tell and I think you can learn a lot from portraits. The woman in this photo is the local quilting guild’s featured quilter at their annual show. Rita learned to sew from her mother and to quilt from her daughter. She’s made so many quilts, she said, that she “never stopped to count” just how many. She’s pictured at her mother’s sewing cabinet and the quilt on her lap with the flowers she hand-appliqued and hand-quilted. Lovely!

To cut-a da hair, require a grace, require da flare

Ten brownie points if you can name the musical that lyric comes from!

So, after growing my hair out for THREE years, with only the very occasional trim, I decided to chop it all off. But it occurred to me about a year ago that I should donate my hair to Locks of Love instead of just watching three years of hard work (my hair grows soooo slowly — it’s hard work, dang it!) get swept up and thrown in the trash.

Chris, the photographer at my office (check out his work here), took the “before” photo. Using a slave flash, a random orange wall in the back room of the building and a carefully hidden (and crouching) employee to backlight my nasty, skinny pony tail (can you tell my hair is super thin?). Chris took this photo:

Then I went and had my hair cut. At a salon. For the first time in three years. Suddenly I remember why people go to salons to get their hair cut instead of having family members do it: It’s a fun, relaxing way to spend a couple hours. And it was one of the best hair cuts I’ve ever had, perhaps excepting my hair cut in Egypt.* Not only did the owner of the salon cut my hair, she showed me how to get the most volume out of my thin little strands, which is just what I needed and have never gotten from another hair stylist. Did I mention they also gave me a mocha while I was there? Now that’s service! (Since I’m not in the advertising business I feel weird plugging the experience, but truly, it was wonderful and if you live in the Flathead Valley and need a full-service salon suggestion, go!).

There was a tense moment right before she cut my hair after measuring my pony tail (she actually took off 11 inches), but I got through it and I love my new look. It’s nice not to wear my hair in a bun like I have every day for the past year.

I hope some cute little kid enjoys my hair!

*I had my hair cut and colored in Egypt because I wanted to blend in more with short hair (read: stop attracting so much attention for being American and female). Anyway, I found this barber who let me look through books of hair styles, then vetoed — literally said no, that won’t look good — most of my choices. Turns out he was right and my hair cut was very cute if I do say so myself. Anyway, he also had his assistant give me a shampoo and head massage that I kid you not lasted at least 30 minutes. Ah, sweet bliss. Salons here should do that more.

Gonna be some changes, changes made

Well, I’ve got big news to announce! I’ve resigned from my position as the editor of the Hungry Horse News. I’m planning to go back to school this fall at Montana State University in Bozeman, enrolled in their sustainable food systems program. I’m just so excited! But it’s bittersweet, too, because I’m really going to miss the people and places that I’ve gotten to know in the past year. I think my newspaper column for the week sums it up:

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly news travels in a small town.

Got a phone call last night from a friend who said she heard from someone while picking up her mail at the post office that I’ve turned in my resignation.

Received a few e-mails this morning to that effect, too, even though I’ve told few people of my decision.

So it’s true and I’ll come out with it to the public: My last day as editor of the Hungry Horse News is April 19. So including this newspaper that you hold in your hands, just four more newspapers.

For the past year, I’ve measured my life in newspaper deadlines, interviews and hikes in Glacier National Park. It’s been a wonderful, crazy, chaotic, stressful, fabulous year.

When I started this job, a number of people commented to me that this newspaper goes through editors like people change their underwear (well, I certainly hope you change your underwear more often than once a year!). Call it the nature of the business, this nutty thing called journalism. Journalists are, by their nature, always hungering after the next scoop, the next story, the next adventure.

But it’s not to another journalism job that I go. After some months of soul searching, I’ve decided to return to school in an entirely different field. It’s been a personal evolution that I’m proud to say was not lightly nor easily reached.

During my college years, I became increasingly interested in organic food and eating and living a sustainable, earth-friendly life. Call me a hippie, but it’s a personal conviction not unlike what Montanans feel for their countryside. Shouldn’t we preserve this place for the generations to follow? Shouldn’t we grow food and feed our bodies in healthy ways that ensure our children and our grandchildren can enjoy this beautiful area?

After battling a month-long illness two years ago, I made the switch to an almost completely organic way of eating. And though the prescription drugs hadn’t worked, nor had the 12 hours of sleep every night, changing the way I ate did.

Living in Flathead Valley for nearly two years, I’ve had the opportunity to write stories about and volunteer on local farms and CSAs like Terrapin Farm in Whitefish and Raven Ridge Farm in Kalispell. And you know that feeling of being so utterly, unapologetically alive that you get when standing on the summit of Huckleberry Mountain or while listening to the fresh powder swish beneath your skis on Big Mountain? That’s how I feel getting dirt under my fingernails while depositing garlic into the earth for its long winter sleep or when I’m bottle-feeding a calf at my husband’s parents’ ranch in Nebraska.

So I’m going to stop reading about the organic, back-to-the-earth life and start really living it. I’ve enrolled in the Sustainable Food Systems program at Montana State University in Bozeman, which has the major fringe benefit of being three hours closer to my husband (who lives and studies in Butte) than I am now (what a concept to actually live with or near one’s husband!). I’m headed to Butte for the summer, excited to cultivate the garden in the backyard of our apartment there.

Let me say, however, that this was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. This town has embraced me in a way that I will never forget. I’ve never felt like an outsider here; I’ve been included from day one. I’ve made friendships that I know will last, even separated by distance and destiny. I’ve learned so much about this area, about Glacier National Park and about myself in the past year. I feel like a completely different person from when I started this job on March 15, 2010.

I’ve made mistakes at this job, but I’ve also written stories and taken photographs that I’m very proud of. I’ve poured myself into this job for the past year and (I hope) added a good chapter to the life of the Hungry Horse News as its first female editor.

But this isn’t the last time you’ll see me. I’ll be just five hours away in Bozeman and I plan to stop back in Columbia Falls and the Canyon often. There’s a lot more exploring I have left to do in Glacier Park, too. I hope you’ll want to keep in touch.

Thanks for the ride, for the memories and the friendships. They’ll be cherished ‘til the end.

Makes your blood boil

OK, so I’ve largely tried to refrain from getting into politics on this blog because I don’t want to alienate readers. However, after reading two different newspaper articles this morning that sum up things perfectly, I can’t just sit by and not say anything. In eighth grade, my social studies teacher told us “the job of the citizen is to open his mouth.” American citizens have had their mouths open alright, but mostly just swallowing the you-know-what of politicians who would rather further their own personal agendas than the will of the people. It’s time to open our mouths and shout for reform. For closing the income gap. For extending the same benefits legislators receive to the population.

So here’s the first article, a column from The New York Times. The column says it perfectly in this sentence: “When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.”

Our politicians are stripping away school funding, shutting down valuable public services like health clinics and NPR, and yet no one bats an eyelash when we plunge into yet another war. Think of how many trillions the U.S. could be funneling into its own economy without the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. The U.S. needs to drop this position of global police and work on helping its own citizenry out, a citizenry with 14 million people unemployed (don’t forget that unemployment statistics are usually far under the actual amount — unemployment counts don’t include the underemployed and those who have been unemployed longer than several years).

The column also notes that “the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.”

How is anybody OK with this? It’s time to tax the rich, people. It’s only fair. If Congress hadn’t voted to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy a few months ago, the amount taxed from those people would have paid for the heath care reform act. What I don’t understand is why Americans who are suffering from unemployment and unliveable wages keep voting for the people who take their money and deny them “the American Dream.”

The other article was an Associated Press story I read this morning in the Montana Standard (Butte’s newspaper). To sum it up, all but seven of Montana’s legislators are receiving state-subsidized health insurance (read: your tax dollars). And yet these same legislators voted to overturn the federal health care reform act, denying folks like you and me subsidized health care. So it’s OK for them to receive that health care, but not everybody else? It comes down to this: they want tax-payer funded health care, but don’t want to be those paying tax payers.

Here’s the best quote from that article:

“The same members of this body who introduced and voted for bills to overturn the federal health-reform act are the same members who want to hide the fact that they get subsidized government health care from the very people who pay for it,” Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, said. “I think the hypocrisy of this is thick.”

And furthering the hypocrisy is the fact that the Republicans want to hide from their constituents the fact that they’re receiving this health care. Now isn’t that nice. Those people can think that it’s a political stunt all they want, but they should be deeply embarrassed by this fact and consider offering their constituents the same benefits they so enjoy.

If you’re not angry, you should be. Call your representatives and senators today. Not that they’ll do anything about it.

Spring!

Or at least lovely tulips in the sunshine. Today is a gorgeous day here in northwestern Montana. Blue skies and it’s warm enough to walk around outside without a coat. Thanks to Victoria for the tulips that brightened my living room for a week!

To the good life and back again

The Hubs and I went to Nebraska to visit family this past week and had a great time, though it sped by and I’m certainly not ready to be back at work! We stopped and spent time with my grandparents, then went on to his parents. The highlight of the trip for me was bottle feeding a calf I affectionately called “Burger” (a little morbid, I know). Burger’s mom had twins and rejected the poor little guy, so he’s getting raised on a bottle. He’s a greedy little pig and sucks down the bottle twice a day as fast as he can. Don’t think he even tastes it. Then he tries to suck off your fingers.

We’re buds. Can you tell?

We also visited Shawn’s sister and family about an hour away from where Shawn’s folks live. Had a great time bouncing around on a trampoline with my niece and nephew.

But it was a short trip and we didn’t even think to shoot many photos, so the vast majority are from the drive back.

Sunrise in western Nebraska, framed by a pivot.

Traffic jam in Lander, Wyoming.

I-80 was closed just outside Rawlins because of a nasty wreck, we think (saw lots of emergency vehicles and smoke, didn’t see the actual cause of the closure), so we had to take the long way home through Lander, Jackson and down into Idaho. But the upshot was getting to see some pretty country neither the Hubs nor I had ever seen.

The strange part for us was that around Lander it seemed like summer time and vaguely Arizona-like. By the time we reached Jackson, though, we were back to winter (even though it was the first day of spring yesterday!).

We wished there hadn’t been such a low cloud ceiling so we could see more of the Tetons as we drove past, but the view was still beautiful.

Oh, and we hit a major milestone yesterday in Darth Truffle, the mighty Honda Civic.

I’ve put 127,000 miles on my little car in the past 8 years. Yikes.

Also, I would like to note that as I was writing this post, four deer went tearing past the window. I’m in a building at the busiest intersection in town. Oh, Montana.

Cupcake heaven

This past weekend some friends came over just to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. We had a swell time playing Pit, which is basically the greatest card game ever. It’s based on the stock market (hey, stay with me here, it’s actually super fun) and involves lots of yelling and sneaky card trading. Also, the lovely Tiff of Ordinary Moonlight (a fun, thoughtful blog I highly recommend everyone check out!) made her famous cupcakes.

Now let me tell you, Tiffany is the Cupcake Queen. She makes the best cupcakes ever. No, really. She makes nutella cupcakes, Thin Mint cupcakes, pumpkin cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, margarita cupcakes and the caramel apple cupcakes below (to name a few)! Such cupcake creativity!

Are you salivating yet?

We love, love, love Tiff’s cupcakes.

Remember that post I promised? Here it is.

OK, OK, I know I’ve been a delinquent blogger for the last week or so. I blame it on boys basketball. I spent the weekend covering the state championship in Bozeman (my town’s team won — Yay! Go Wildcats!). When not covering the game (which, dare I admit, has increased my interest in basketball from zero to that of mild entertainment — what can I say, we’re a football family!), the Hubs and I had a fabulous time hitting up Bozeman’s darling Main Street. We did window shopping since we’re hanging on to our two pennies to rub them together, but had a great time nonetheless.

But moving on… a few weeks ago now I had the opportunity to go on a snowshoe hike on the Apgar Lookout trail in Glacier National Park with Ryan Alford, publisher of Snowshoe Magazine.

Here are some gals we met on the trail. They came over from Browning (though they have scads of snow in East Glacier) for a day hike. We also saw another couple. And, sssshhh, don’t tell, but we didn’t make it to the top. Neither did anybody else we saw that day. I’ll blame it on the “considerable avalanche danger” and just plain wussing out (hey! the snow was like waist deep even with snowshoes!). But enough about me, let’s talk about some snowshoes.

I was handed a pair of snowshoes by the lovely Hilary at Outside Media (She said “test drive?”.  I said “yes, please!”). Easton Artica Hike snowshoes to be exact, a pair that won’t hit the market until 2012.

First of all, I’ve noticed a trend. Women’s snowshoes are pink. Metallic magenta to be exact. Not that I have a problem with that, nope not at all. But I guess pink is the new… pink? Anyway, I traded my Atlas Elektra 11 Series snowshoes (you guessed it… also pink) for a date with the Artica pair.

The first thing I noticed (besides the color) was the articulating frame. Is it just me, or are you wondering why no one else thought of this sooner? Pretty dang bright whoever thought that up. The frame of each snowshoe is actually two pieces held together in the front and back, which allows the snowshoe a little more “give” and “twist,” easing up the pressure on knees and ankles.

I also noticed (especially when we were descending a 45-degree ridge) the crampon under the heel for that “aggressive rear traction” Easton Mountain Products touts. Worked like a dream on some slippery snow (soft powdery snow on top of a slick layer… hence the “considerable avalanche danger” warning) and got me down the hill way faster than I would have otherwise been comfortable (yes, I’m poky). The flotation on the Artica shoes was great.

I had no trouble with the decking, but Ryan did. He wore a pair of men’s Artica Hike snowshoes and his decking actually tore on the test run. Not a terrible tear, but something I’d be hopping mad about if it happened to me and I’d paid for the ‘shoes.

I loved the binding. My feet didn’t move at all, letting the snowshoes do the work for me and saving me energy. That’s my big gripe with my Elektras — my feet are always coming loose. I think the fact that the cinch is made from fabric and not plastic really helps. It doesn’t slide on itself so easily.

A bell/whistle of the snowshoes were the front crampons. Instead of just one single crampon, each ‘shoe has a split crampon that pivots, allowing more traction on one side of the ‘shoe than the other. Nifty, but I didn’t notice a difference from my regular M1-A1 crampons. Perhaps if we’d had more sloped terrain to walk along instead of up and down I would have noticed.

Did I mention that the snowshoes are 80 percent recyclable? As a person who considers herself very eco-conscious and “green,” it’s important to me that what waste I produce doesn’t sit in a dump for half-life of uranium (which is like 4 billion years if you’re wondering). Although I don’t know why exactly you’d want to recycle your snowshoes — in my experience they last a long time. Or if they wear out, you toss ’em in the garage for 50 years, then take ’em to an antique store and make more money on ’em than you paid in the first place!

Really, I had just three problems with the Artica snowshoes.

1.) Didn’t solve my “snowshoe hip” problem. By about five miles into the nine-mile hike my hips were definitely starting to smart. My Elektra snowshoes don’t solve this problem either. I’d be tempted to say it’s just me, but I know lots of women with “snowshoe hip” issues. Easton attempts to solve this problem with snowshoes that curve in, becoming thinner, in the back. This keeps the shoes from knocking together and helps prevent a person from walking like they just got off a 10-mile trail ride on a fat horse. However, my “snowshoe hip” issues persist.

2.) Weight. The 7075 aluminum frame was a bit on the heavy side. Definitely felt heavier than my Elektras and that made a lot of difference when we were going up a 45-degree hill.

3.) My biggest problem? Giving them back. Wish I could’ve kept ’em forever! I tried to tell Hilary they were going to a good home, but no, Backpacker Magazine or some such rooks had to take ’em next.

Alright, this post is getting near epically long, so I’ll keep it brief. Just one more shout-out to this baby:

(This photo either screams “product placement!” or it’s nifty and artsy… you choose.)

I took my brand new Hydro Flask water bottle with me on the snowshoe hike. I’ve always been a Nalgene fan, but I’ve got to hand it to my bright orange buddy here, Hydro Flask has got me converted. While Nalgene holds more water (and it went on the hike too, holding water), the orange water bottle above got filled with steaming hot chocolate at 8 a.m. And was still mostly warm at noon. Did I mention it was -7 degrees outside? So cold my Nalgene’s lid froze shut. And started forming ice cubes. The Hydro Flask kept the hot chocolate not hot, but at least warm until lunch time when I appreciated the sugar rush and the warmth. And I like that it’s orange. For someone as clumsy as me, it’s good to know that if I dropped it in a snowdrift, I’d be able to find it!

Oh, and MAJOR props to Hydro Flask for its fivepercentback.org initiative. Hydro Flask donates 5 percent of every sale to the non-profit of your choice when you enter the code on the sticker on the bottom of the water bottle. My choice? Well, I vacillated between NPR (since Congress seems hell-bent on getting rid of it and everything else good in life) and the American Hiking Society. But since I recently donated to NPR, I chose the Hiking Society. Got to support the good things in life!

All-in-all, a day well spent. The snow was luscious and powdery, the skies brilliantly blue, the company good.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perk’d for testing the snowshoes or water bottle and writing this blog post. Just my honest-to-goodness opinions in the name of awesome snowshoeing!

100 daily hits

Today this blog hit 100 daily hits. Highest ever in a single day! So it’s not a ton, but it means a lot to me! Thanks for helping this happen, faithful readers. My daily totals have really increased over the past month or so to averaging between 70-90 hits a day. I’m closing in on 5,000 hits total in a hurry, too, so I’ll make sure everyone hears about that when the time comes! Here’s a random pretty picture for you from a recent work assignment: