Monday, March 31, 2014

The Weather Welcomes Us Home

We woke up this morning to the ground covered in snow
I'm missing the palm trees, but this is undeniably beautiful too.

Spring Break 2014, California

                                                                   March 21-29, 2014

Since our kids had exactly the same days off for spring break this year, we planned a family trip.  My husband, son, and I met up with our daughter (coming from college) at the airport in California.  We spent part of a day on the California coast, and then drove to the vacation home we had rented for a week in Palm Springs.  None of us had ever been to Palm Springs, but it exceeded all of our expectations.  We had a wonderful week enjoying sunshine, warm temperatures, family time and the desert.

California landscaping looked especially
beautiful after the snow we left behind!
I got some help with free advertising for this blog :)
We are standing in front of a Joshua tree.  These
Dr. Seuss trees are not really trees, but Yucca, and
they can grow up to 40 feet tall!

This 26-foot statue of Marilyn Monroe will soon be moved from Palm Springs to New Jersey.  Many people were downtown
for a send-off party for "Forever Marilyn" while we were there.


  Meals by the pool!

A grapefruit tree was growing right
outside our sliding glass door
Who doesn't love palm trees?

Our vacation rental home was absolutely perfect!
We loved the color scheme and 1950's decor.
And the heated pool was pretty amazing too.

This chair sort of reminded me of the one in the
children's t.v. show, "Blue's Clues"

We drove by some of the biggest windmill farms I have ever seen.


Sand Storm in the Desert!
Almost like driving in snow.

We drove right out of the sand storm,
as we ascended over 2000 feet to Joshua Tree National Park. 
 It was cooler than we expected at that elevation - but well worth the visit!

Cholla Cactus

I couldn't decide if 
the mountains, 
the vegetation 
or the rock formations 
were the most spectacular 
features of the park.  
It was all impressive.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Vacation - Wishing It Could Have Been Longer

I'm always disappointed when a vacation comes to an end. Today, this feeling escalated to a whole new level.

 It was a stroke of luck that our son and daughter had the same spring break from high school and college this year.  It was so nice for our family to be all together this past week, but the time went by so quickly.

Children grow up too fast. From the day they are born, a parent's job is to raise them to be independent.   Knowing this didn't make it any easier to say goodbye to my daughter though, as the rest of us headed to a different gate than hers, for our connecting flights.

I can see the plane that is taking her back to college, parked across the tarmac from ours.  I am being told to power down my electronics.  Her cell phone is already off.  I miss her already.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Words to Live By

Love more. Fight less.
Enjoy more. Complain less.
Believe more. Doubt less.
Relax more. Worry less.
Play more. Work less. 

I don't know who wrote these lines, but I bought a notepad with them written on the cover.  Not because I needed another notepad, but because I wanted to remember these recommendations. 

This notepad is from the Eccolo World Traveler "Lofty Thinking" collection  

The more I consider this advice, the more profound it seems. Any attempt at these goals is likely to lead to an increase in happiness.

I was surprised to realize that I balked a little at the last line. Work less?  Surely that is a good thing.  But suddenly I pictured a neighborhood of half constructed houses, uncollected garbage piled high on city streets and mothers of sick children unable to find a working physician.

The key word is "less."  I think there is always a better solution to any problem other than fighting; but complaints, doubt, worry and work are all necessary tools at certain times. Constructive complaints can bring about necessary change.  Doubt can lead to questioning and a greater understanding of a concept.  Worry can prompt caution in dangerous situations. Work is both satisfying and productive. It is easy to do too much of any of this though - complaints can just become annoying; doubt crippling; worry inhibiting and work all-consuming. Life is about balance. 

I have been thinking about what else I would add to these words to live by:

Praise more. Criticize less.
Read more.  Waste time less.  
Promote equality more. Oppress less.

Exercise more. Eat less.  
Conserve more. Pollute less. 

What would you add?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Sharpie Marker, An Indispensable Modern Convenience!

My grandparents told tales of life without indoor plumbing or streets filled with cars.  My parents speak of a time before plastics and televisions. I frequently remind my own kids of my past existence without a computer or a cell phone. We take so many things in our daily lives for granted. Just try to imagine life without the Sharpie marker!

I started thinking about Sharpies this week, when I came across a post, "20 Fun Sharpie Projects" on another blog (  After trying unsuccessfully to remember when I first held a sharpie, I decided to do a little research about them.

According to Pilot Pen website, the first felt tip marker was patented about 100 years ago.  The "magic marker", a brand of marker developed in the early 1950's was so popular its name was often used when referring to any type of marker. According to the website, the Sanford Ink Company introduced the Sharpie Fine Point Black Marker in 1964.  It wrote on almost any surface, and was apparently the first pen-style permanent marker.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Sharpie marker.  There is now a wide array of types and colors of Sharpie marker.  "Sharpie" has replaced "magic marker"  as a word sometimes used when referring to any type of marker. We use them for all sorts of projects and tasks, and it is hard to imagine what we would do without them.

Ten ways I have found Sharpies to be useful:
  1. Provide a Sharpie marker at parties, so guests will write their name on their plastic cups and create less waste.
  2. During swim meets or track meets, writing race information (event, heat, lane and stroke) on kid's arms or legs provides portable information about their turn to race.
  3. Reduce loss or theft of items by labeling clothes, luggage, electronics, etc. etc.  
  4. Identify garden plants  by writing information about them on metal tags, stones or Popsicle sticks.
  5. Create ceramic gifts by decorating oven-safe mugs, bowls, or platters and baking them at 350 degrees F. to set the ink (hand wash only).
  6. Write the date and contents on freezer bags
  7. Create posters or signs for any occasion.
  8. Create a design on a t-shirt or tote bag.
  9. Use a Sharpie highlighter to mark favorite sections in a book.
  10. Create a wall hanging, such as the one I made below:
"Life takes us to unexpected places...Love brings us home."
The author of this quote is unknown, but it is a very fitting saying for my family.

What is your most creative use of a Sharpie?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Mimosa - a Vacation or Special Brunch Beverage

On a regular morning, thoughts of a mimosa never cross my mind.  It is a beverage I associate with special-occasion brunches and vacations.

Mimosa. Even the name sounds lovely and is fun to say. "Mee-mow-saa." I used to wonder how this cocktail got its name. Apparently, because of the color and texture of the beverage, it was named after the puffy yellow or orange flowers of the tropical mimosa tree (acacia dealbata), which grows in Australia and the southern hemisphere.

When we lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, I was told a tree in our backyard was a mimosa tree - but the silky, spiky, billowy flowers it produced were pink. This was confusing to me, until I learned that my tree was apparently a mimosa or silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) - different from the species the mimosa cocktail is named after.  The albizia julibrissin was introduced in the southern United States from China in the late 1770's. It is so prolific there it is now considered an invasive species.  

The mimosa cocktail is thought to have first been made in the 1920's, at the Paris Ritz. A very similar cocktail, but with the addition of grenadine, originated about the same time in England however and was named Buck's Fizz.  There is some speculation as to who came up with the original idea first.

A mimosa is typically made with equal amounts of sparkling wine and orange juice, or two parts sparkling wine and one part orange juice. Champagne, Cava or Prosecca are all good choices, and it is best to use fresh squeezed orange juice if you can get it. A non- alcoholic version can be prepared using sparking cider or sparkling water such as Pellegrino. Mimosas should be served chilled and without ice, in a tall, fluted champagne glass (or whatever glassware available that most closely resembles this!) The fizzy liquid should be added to the glass before the juice. It is easy to consume a Mimosa as quickly as drinking plain orange juice, but the alcoholic content can be potent, so one should drink with caution!

Apparently, if you substitute cranberry juice for orange juice, the "mimosa" becomes a "poinsettia". Perhaps I will try this next Christmas morning.  My preference, though, would be a mimosa cocktail under a warm and sunny sky, with mimosa flowers (pink or yellow), and a palm tree or two nearby!

My latest mimosa was on a recent vacation. When I walked into the garden of our rented vacation home and saw a mimosa tree, I knew I had to have one, whether or not the kitchen was stocked with a fluted champagne glass!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seven Ways to Make the Most of A Moment

Getting the most out of all of your moments starts with how you use each one.  Here are some suggestions:

1. Make a big bowl of cut fruit (I love watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwi and mango) and put it in your fridge for your family to eat for breakfast and snack on through the day.

2. Give your kids a hug. Repeat often.

3. Give your spouse a kiss. Repeat often.

4. Put on sunscreen.

5. Find a blog you like (preferably this one!) and follow it.

6. Take a minute every night before bed to jot down the cute things your small children said or did that day.

7. Plan a vacation - or even a mini weekend stay-cation.

How are you getting the most out of all your moments?  
Add a comment and share your ideas!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Tragic Answer

The world has been impatient for the mystery of the missing aircraft, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, to be solved - but the answers we have found are not the ones we want to hear.

According to a BBC News report, the Malaysian Prime Minister announced it has been determined that MH370 crashed into the south Indian Ocean, and there are no survivors.  Up until reading this, I didn't realize just how very much I wanted, against all odds, a different outcome.

I really had hoped for a scenario such as one where planes disappeared from radar in Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged.  My heart goes out to the family and friends of the passengers and crew.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

More Thoughts on the Recent Bomb Scares in Helena

A 14-year old boy is thought to be responsible for all three bomb threats in Helena this past week.  The Helena Independent Record reported today that he has been arrested, and is being held on $25,000 bail.

He is fourteen.  Just a boy - who caused a remarkable amount of disruption in our community, from many miles away.  What was his motive?  Did he think he was participating in a humorous prank, or was he fully aware of the severity of his crime - and the potential charges he would face if caught?

His crime surely must be dealt with seriously, to set an example to act as a deterrent for others with similar plots. Law enforcement and school officials did well to track the calls back to him, before he could further interrupt the educational efforts of our schools.  Children need to understand that it is wrong to make any type of a prank call, and illegal to make this type of threat.

But, all I can think about is that he is only fourteen.

This event was an example of modern technology at its worst and its best.  A phone call from someone in another state caused all of our local schools to be evacuated yesterday yet cell phones played a crucial role in notifying parents and helping them locate their children after the event.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bomb Threat: Schools Evacuated

This was what I heard when I answered our phone at 9:30 AM this morning:

"This message is from the Helena Public Schools.  We were just informed that the Helena Police Department has received another bomb threat indicating an unnamed school has been targeted.  We are presently evacuating all schools K-12 at this time to their alternative sites.  School is being dismissed for the remainder of the day.  Parents are asked to go to their school's evacuation site and check out their child for the day."
Bus transportation home will begin as soon as all parents are notified.  Buses will be running their regular routes and will be picking children up from the evacuation sites NOT the school.
Please be sure to check the Helena Public Schools web site for evacuation sites and further updates.

The same message was left on my cell phone and email. I had intended to do some errands later in the morning, so gathered what I needed for those, and drove to town.

Traffic was backed up for several blocks before the evacuation site. Realizing it would be tough to backtrack, I stopped for a quick errand along the way. When I finally got to where the students had gathered, I found a remote parking spot and went looking for my son.

Despite my tendency to worry, and because I knew my son was safe, I was not anxious, but mildly annoyed. I was glad the threat had not been dismissed as a hoax, and the safety of the students had been taken seriously. But I was frustrated at the interruption of my plans and of the school schedule, and angry at the person who had made the threat. I was even embarrassed because I hadn't planned on seeing people I knew, and I was looking far from my best!  Perhaps the two (apparently unfounded) bomb threats to area schools this week had made me cynical.

I don't know how many schools were directed to gather at this site, but there were huge numbers of students clustered in groups around teachers holding clipboards. Some teachers were talking and laughing with students, others looked harried.  Parents were milling around, and an impressive array of cell phones could be seen.  It would have been hard to find my son without his text messages.

As my son and I wove through the crowd back to my car, I was suddenly so grateful nothing bad had happened. I imagined hysteria, confusion, fear and desperation, in the event of an actual shooting or bombing..  The moments spent trying to locate a child would be filled with panic.  Feelings of relief once you spot him or her -- or searching the crowds repeatedly if you don't.  Actually, it is beyond anything I could even imagine. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Day of Spring

The 20th of March, according to the calendar, is the first day of spring.  The state of Montana's response: "So what?"  Today we progressed through freezing sleet, snow, wind and finally some sun.  Temperatures early evening were again below freezing.  And the wind was biting.

Montanans begin to hope, when March 20th arrives, that we have just another month of winter.  We can expect nice days here and there - but some winter storms are undoubtedly still to come. 

I know better than to be fooled by a calendar date or a stretch of nice weather. I just have to think of the time we purchased a car in April, too late to bother putting snow tires on it that year.  One week later, on April 29th, we woke up to 22 inches of heavy wet snow.  I drove my kids to school without incident, but by the time I returned home, my tracks were covered. Any recognizable outline of our steep, curving driveway had completely disappeared.  Sure enough, part-way up it my car started to slip. I was unable to see well enough to navigate the skid, and my car rolled backwards right into the ditch at the bottom of the driveway. The memory of having to call a tow truck the very end of April remains vivid in my mind.

Spring will come, but we will have both nice days and snow storms before it does. Having seen snow in Montana every month of the year, I'll continue to consult my calendar for scheduled appointments, but not the weather.  

The snow in this photo (taken 3 days ago) melted yesterday, but the view was the same out my window this morning.
The snow on my driveway was much deeper than this, the day my car rolled into the ditch!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flight MA 370: Hidden in Plain Sight?

Losing something - a grocery list, a ten dollar bill, an earring, or a computer document, for example  -  is disconcerting.  It is unpleasant to no longer be able to locate something. Whenever I misplace an item (more often than I care to admit), feelings of desperation and frustration surface. I am distracted until I locate it.  Even if the missing object doesn't surface in a reasonable amount of time, thoughts of it linger indefinitely in my subconscious.  When something is lost, by definition there is no proof that it is gone, so we continue to hope it will turn up.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, with 12 crew members and 227 passengers disappeared on March 8th, 2014.  Just disappeared. Nearly everyone worldwide is aware of this event.  With no evidence of a crash, the search for it continues, and theories of what happened to it abound.  The feelings associated with losing something escalate to a whole new realm, when what is missing are people.  I have no personal connections to anyone on the flight, yet I am unsettled by this loss; I cannot fathom the angst of friends and family of the passengers on that flight.

When I was in high school my dad gave me a necklace, and it had a lot of sentimental value for me.  One day, I suddenly realized the pendant was no longer on the chain around my neck.  I remembered catching it on the dishwasher earlier, as I was unloading the dishes.  The chain had remained intact, and I wondered if possibly the pendant had been pulled off without me noticing.  The last place I remembered definitely having it was in our kitchen.  I searched everywhere, including inside our dishwasher, but couldn't find it.

Years later, we were moving to a different state.  Cleaning the kitchen for the last time, I had a moment of inspiration.  Call it a hunch.  I was thinking about how I had always hoped my necklace would show up, and now I was leaving any chance of that behind.  I looked at the door of the dishwasher again, and noticed a small opening near the latch.  We took the front panel off the door and sure enough, there was my necklace - in perfect condition.  It seemed impossible, but it must have somehow slipped inside that hole.  Hidden in plain sight, so to speak, all this time.

The loss of Flight MA 370 and my missing necklace are dramatically different circumstances, of course. My necklace taught me though, that sometimes we just aren't looking in the right place.  Lost items sometimes do turn up later than expected.  

Could it be possible, that the lost plane is also "hidden in plain sight"?  It seems inconceivable that in 2014 a large plane can just completely disappear.  I hope someone has a moment of inspiration, acts on a hunch and figures out how to find it.  Until there is proof that it is gone, I'm trying to remain optimistic that the plane will be found and that all of the crew and passengers are safe.
Still hopeful,