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You can see what I've been up to, photos I've taken, and my thoughts on things. If you're interested in that sort of thing. Have a stupendous day!
DISCLAIMER: The photos in this post are not great. Also they are not edited in any way, save for cropping. Mostly they’re not great because I was taking them on the Messenger app to send to my sister, as a way to document my evening but also so I could send photos of meat and desserts to my sister, both of which my sister is not too keen on so I’m glad to annoy her in that way. 🙂
I made dinner tonight. Ribs. On the grill. Something I’ve never done. I’ve never made ribs before, at least not on my own, and I’ve never really grilled anything before. So. I did my best. I prepped the ribs the night before in some brown sugar and spices, then let them hang out in the refrigerator. Today Brittney and I moved the grill from its place in the shed to the top of the long ramp attached to our house where it could be easily accessed from the back door. After we moved the grill, I fired it up.
The ribs were in an aluminum pan with some liquid (chicken broth and apple cider vinegar, I think), and so I left them on the grill for a good long time while Brittney and I were busy doing other things, like chopping up vegetables to be sauteed to go with the ribs (mushrooms, onions and bell peppers), washing, peeling and shredding potatoes to become potato pancakes, something else I’ve never made before, dicing up dill and chives for the potato pancakes, actual making and frying of the potato pancakes, and working on looking up a recipe for a no-bake cheesecake because our plan to make brownies fell through earlier in the day due to an issue with the gas stove, in that the pilot light might be out but I am not entirely sure how to fix it. But that’s a story for a different day. Instead of brownies, no-bake cheesecake it is! With Oreos, because why not.
So, yeah, then finally getting back to the ribs, who by this point, have spent a good long time on the grill. I brought the ribs in, and as I removed the tin foil, the liquid I had mentioned earlier, had become more black than liquid. Oops.
So I removed the ribs, which had become more-than-slightly charcoaled onto the bottom of the pan, and placed them on the cutting board to cool. Brittney was going to shred the ribs, essentially, by removing the edible parts from the non-edible parts. She’ll read this and think, oh it really wasn’t that bad, and I know this because she told me so but still. I think we should get a “Grilling for Dummies” book or some shit like that, because like I said, I’ve never grilled before and I’d like to not charcoal everything. Anyway, after I got the ribs out of the charcoal mess of an aluminum pan, Brittney shredded and tossed them with BBQ sauce. I finished frying the potato pancakes and by then the veggies had been sauteed to a satisfactory level.
An Oreo crust to the cheesecake had even been made, and popped in the freezer. We got our $0.25 plastic plates from Walmart, pink or blue tonight (I got blue), and we had a pretty delectable supper. Brittney agreed.
After we ate our food, Brittney and I had a wonderful video chat with our dear friend Misa from Jamestown, and then I finished making the cheesecake. So many Oreos.
It sat in the freezer (which, by the way, is a brand new freezer and is therefore very good at its job. Same with refrigeration. Keeps things very crispy – like cold crispy, not hot crispy.) for like 25 minutes so it was fairly solid when I did cut out a piece for Brittney and myself. It was so totally melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Yum!!
All in all, I’d say it was a successful Sunday, and our delightful supper was the perfect cap to the weekend. It was a good weekend. Here’s to many more good weekends!
Oh yeah, we forgot to add the coleslaw. Thought of it every time I opened the refrigerator to get something else, and forgot about it when the time came to take it out and dish it up. But that’s probably just the story of coleslaw’s life.
One year ago I was standing on the edge of a big hole in the ground. This year, I’m awaiting the impending apocalypse. What a better way to pass the time than to relive the days when we could all go shopping and not worry about whether or not there will be toilet paper on the store shelves. If you’re one of the 3 people who will read this post, and you also happen to have a thing for cacti, then you’re in luck – this post is filled with cacti. Also flowers, because duh. Arizona was a really, really neat place and I will go back there someday, no hesitation. That is, if the world is still functional in a few years. Time will tell. The photos below are from the few days I spent in AZ last March. The first day there, we went hiking at a place called Cave Creek. An amusing aside, before the photos: less than 24 hours in AZ territory, I thought it would be fun to pick up a little cactus and bring it, where? Unclear in the moment; what was clear was the fact that as I was carrying the little cactus by one of its spines, I dropped it. Instead of letting it fall to the ground like a normal human being, I instead used my cat-like reflexes to catch the little cactus. Gravity assisted in the usual way, and caused the spines to become deeply embedded into my fingers. Of both hands. It was painful, yes, but I think I was more embarrassed than anything. I ran up to my travel companions, and asked for assistance. They thought I had a handful of rocks – imagine their surprise when they saw a handful of cactus, instead! Using a bottle cap, a rock and some ingenuity, they were able to free my hands of their spiky prison. It resulted in a little blood and a lot of complaining. Overall, a fairly typical experience for me. Also, I can say that I’ve been “cactus-embedded-in-hands” free for one whole year, now, so I’d say that’s something to write home about.
Please enjoy the photos below, as I think they are very nice. But don’t take my word for it.
In September, I met up with my parents and my little sister in Alexandria, MN for a nice, quiet weekend getaway. We did a little shopping, checked in at our AirBnb, and then hit up the Carlos Creek Winery. My sister and I went for the wine tasting, while our parents went for the flights of beer. The wines I tried were pretty tasty, and we got a complementary wine glass after we were finished.
My little sister and I at Carlos Creek Winery. Photo taken by our dad.
This sums up our relationship pretty well, I’m smiling and she’s turned away from the camera!
Carlos Creek Winery was a lovely little place, and it was a gorgeous day for drinking some wine. After we were finished, we headed back to the AirBnb for some grilled salmon supper. Mom brought fresh veggies from her garden to grill with the salmon, and boy was it tasty! We went to bed, several alcoholic beverages and many laughs later.
The next morning, we awoke, packed up and headed 30 miles southwest to Glacial Lakes State Park. Which, by the way, is probably one of my favorite places in Minnesota. We stayed in one of the cabins on the lake, unpacked and had a bit of lunch before going on a nice, leisurely walk. We got back to the cabin, lounged around for a bit, went on a canoe ride around the lake, and had some supper. We had a nice little fire going, as well.
The next morning, we went on another walk before heading home again. It was a beautiful day, and there was sunshine and there were butterflies. And then the drive home, inevitable.
So, this is like, 26 months in the making, but in August of 2018 I went on a lovely camping trip to the Lake of the Woods, a place I’d never been to before. It was a gorgeous campsite, a gorgeous lake, a gorgeous forest, and so on. This blog post will simply be a compilation of photos I took during that camping trip, and since it has indeed been 26 months since that trip I do not vividly remember every little detail. I do know this was the first time we took the dogs camping, so that was an adventure. They did well, only ran off once, and had a nice time swimming in the lake.
And so, as promised, here are a bunch of pictures from Zipple Bay State Park, in very northern Minnesota. Enjoy!
In July I went on a wonderful little weekend trip to Denver to visit my college friend Suzi. She moved out here a few months ago, giving me the perfect excuse to come visit. I left a relatively cool North Dakota to a steamy 100 degree Denver on Thursday afternoon, and after some technical difficulties with the Uber did manage to meet up with Suzi. We made out way out to Red Rocks for a concert. First off, I’m just going to say that Red Rocks is probably the coolest place to have a concert like, ever. Whoever decided that building an amphitheater into the side of a cliff was a good idea wasn’t wrong.
We went to see The Head and the Heart, a beautiful band if there ever was one. Seriously, here’s a link to one of my favorite songs. Go check them out, I’ll wait.
Okay, now you understand? Good. Go back and listen some more if you must, I won’t blame you!
The concert was wonderful, to say the least. The atmosphere was amazing, the band sounded amazing, the view of the city was amazing, just all around pretty darn amazing. It finished around 11 PM, but getting out of the park was a nightmare. It took over an hour for us to get out and back to Suzi’s place, but we managed. We were pretty hungry when we got back so we had a bit of food, then popped off to bed.
Friday we started the day pretty slowly, sitting at the table talking with Suzi and her boyfriend Cody for a good while before heading to a coffee shop (where I had a really luscious piece of quiche) to have beverages and play a card game called Golf. Let’s just say that if we were playing Anti-Golf I 100% would have won. It was an odd game, but somewhat intriguing.
At noon Suzi’s friend Emmy, who was at the concert with us the night before, picked us up and we headed to a place called the Denver Cat Company.
It is by far the most amazing cafe a person could go to, unless of course you have a cat allergy in which case you should probably avoid going there. This cafe was pretty basic when it came to foods and beverages (because of health codes and cats) but it was spot on with the cats. Yes, real cats. They had 14 at the time that they were fostering and all 14 were adoptable through the shelters they came from. What an superb idea! We went to the cat cafe with open minds, as Emmy was really entertaining the idea of adopting a cat, she even had a name picked out – Coconut.
So, we get to the cafe, pay the fee and start searching for Coconut. I happened to find THE most adorable kitten (besides Frankie, my cat, of course) and I was REALLY like almost going to adopt her and take her back on the airplane with me and everything. Oh it was just too much. Obviously I didn’t because North Dakota has cats too that would be much easier to bring home but, oh my heart, she was too much.
Okay but during my whole kitten escapade we did continue the search for Coconut, and low and behold, found the most gorgeous Siamese/Ragdoll mix with happily crossed blue eyes, and some orangey tinge on the face and tail (Toasted Coconut, anyone?) and knew that we’d found the Coconut we were searching for. Coconut, or Phoenix as the cat cafe called her was a pretty sleepy little fella, hiding her face with one little paw. Oh, so cute! Couldn’t handle.
So Emmy was like, yes this is the one, it’s happening, so she filled out the application and we took one last look at Coconut (and my little lovely kitten) and headed out. I had decided I wanted to get another ear piercing, since the last cartilage piercing I got in Missoula, Montana so might as well keep getting piercings in places I visit. Anyway, we just chose a totally random one near the area where we were, and we went in and I talked with the piercer, his name was Sam. I chose the jewel I wanted, a blue color called London Blue that’s sort of a dark blue-green and very lovely. As I was sitting on the table, Sam asked me where I had gotten my shoulder tattoo, and I was like, oh someone in Fargo, North Dakota, not thinking that those words would mean anything to him, but he was like, oh really? Who did it? So I said the name of my tattoo artist and, what do you know, she had done a couple of tattoos on this guy like, 15 years ago. Small world, right? I guess they worked together at a tattoo shop 15-20 years ago, and I did recall my tattoo artist saying she was from Denver so that does check out. Just the weirdest thing! Anyway, got the piercing and it looks hella cool, said my goodbyes to Sam and we went on our way. We decided to go to Target to get some saline solution for my ear, and while we were there Emmy got a call from the shelter basically saying that she’s been approved for Coconut (cue celebration dance in the cat supplies aisle)! Oh we were thrilled. So we proceeded to pick out a litter box, some food and a fish taco toy that has catnip in it because, priorities. As we were leaving we realized that, because this Target had a parking garage below it and was technically on a second story with escalators, there was a specific escalator ramp FOR THE CARTS. Suzi and I had never seen such a sight, and therefore I’d have to say with 100% certainty that the cart escalator ramp was by far the best thing about my trip to Denver. Without a doubt. 100%.
Anyway after we got over our shock of seeing the escalator ramp, Emmy received another call saying that we could go pick up Coconut at the cat cafe. We were a little confused becuase that wasn’t what they had originally said but heck, we were so excited that we zoomed on over to the cat cafe as quick as we safely could. We walked in, explained what we had been told, and then the lady at the counter ended up dashing our dreams of bringing Coconut home that day. She said that someone made a mistake and the pick up time has to be scheduled through the owner of the cafe. So, with heavy hearts we left, but as we walked back to the car we decided that it was probably for the best, this gave everyone a chance to take a breath and a bit of space, as things were just progressing very, very rapidly up until that point. Also Emmy didn’t have a carrier which she would have needed to take Coconut anyway. So, not such a terrible thing that happened, after all.
We drove back toward Suzi’s apartment to find some food, deciding on a Mexican restaurant nearly across the street from where Suzi lives. It was pretty tasty, even though the salsa was more spicy than normal, according to Suzi. We ended the meal with dessert, Emmy and I choosing the cheesecake and Suzi the flan. She wanted to give it another go because she remembered having it when she was young and hated it, so she was going to eat it with an open mind, but sadly her reaction toward the dessert did not change much from the first time she tried it. But, the cheesecake was excellent!
After we finished we headed back to Suzi’s and played Exploding Kittens with Cody, and it was so fun! Super weird card game but I would definitely play it again. We went to bed around midnight, after a very emotionally draining day. Very much a rollercoaster of excitement, disappointment, and the like. It really felt like we did SO MUCH when really all we did was hang out with cats, go to Target and eat some food. A good day, despite all the emotional turmoil it caused.
Saturday, Suzi and I slept in a bit before getting dressed to go for a hike. We wanted to get breakfast at a place called Snooze but they had some kitchen issues and so the wait was suuuuuuper long. We decided to try a different place called Olive and Finch, and oh my was it so very good. The description on Google was that it was an “airy” restaurant, and they weren’t wrong. I’d compare it to a high class Panera Bread, but with much better food and beverages. We had a lavender mocha and was that ever delicious. Probably the best coffee drink I’ve ever had. The breakfast I had there was equally as delicious, a light scrambled egg over roasted potatoes with a small greens salad. Mm mm, tasty! After our meal we headed out toward Morrison, west of Denver, to do some hiking.
After a nice 1.5 mile hike, during which the clouds were rolling in ominously, we got in the car and within a minute of shutting the doors it started to downpour. And continued to downpour, leading to flash flooding on the Interstate, where we happened to be, trying to make our way back to Suzi’s. It was kind of scary, since we were in a little Prius and the water was actually pretty deep. The pick ups handled it with no problem, but we had to err on the side of caution. It took about 20-30 minutes more to get back to Suzi’s than it normally would have.
We finally got back, changed from our hiking clothes and picked up Emmy from her apartment. We were going to get ice cream from Little Man, an iconic Denver sweet shoppe.
As we were in line, again the clouds began to roll in ominously, but this time we weren’t so lucky. We were caught in an absolute downpour, so much rain, and also a lot of lightning. We were huddling in the bathroom area with about 10-15 soccer moms and their daughters from San Diego who were in Denver for a tournament. We all had a nice time eating out ice cream and watching the rain. A kind Little Man employee took pity on us and gave us garbage bags to wear as ponchos. After the ice cream was finished, Suzi, Emmy and I decided to go wait out the rain in a nearby bar. We walk into this place, literally wearing garbage bags, to find that it’s probably one of the fanciest eateries in Denver. Their faces as they looked at us made it clear we “didn’t belong” but they graciously said we could see if there was seating at the bar. We headed up to the bar area, which we decided was meant for commoners and peasants like us, only to be handed a drink menu on a fancy-ass clipboard. We decided that this was not the place for us and ventured back out into the rain. We went to another restaurant, a Mexican place this time, and again, fanciest goddamned Mexican/beach-themed restaurant in town. We did take a seat at the bar and ordered a drink, but the whole time we were discussing just how lowly we really are, and dressing in garbage bags didn’t help! Haha 🙂
But we spent 20 minutes at this restaurant, called Lola, before heading to Suzi’s car and going to the movie theater. We were going to see The Lion King, and my how wonderful it was! So good. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend that you do.
After the movie, we went to Suzi’s place of employment, a British pub called Bull & Bush. We had something to eat before going back to our respective apartments.
Sunday morning, Suzi and I got up and I had all of my things packed, so we went out to have breakfast before my flight. We ate at Sam’s No. 3, and it was incredibly tasty, my goodness. Suzi dropped me off at the airport, I got checked in and through security only to discover that my flight was delayed about 2 hours. So, I spent some time wandering around the airport and drinking Caribou. Finally we were able to board the plane, and thus ended my weekend trip to Denver. When I got back to North Dakota, I spent about 45 minutes tidying up the house before settling down to watch some TV. All in all, an excellent weekend, and I have plans to return to Denver sometime soon! 🙂
So, the second weekend in July I went home to my parent’s house in southern Minnesota. It was a quiet weekend spent by the lake, eating good food and visiting with family.
The uber delicious meal my mom made. All of the food is from the garden, sans the salmon. Cedar Lake doesn’t have salmon, unfortunately.
Omg this cake was SO DELICIOUS. Especially with a little basil on top, mmm!
On Saturday, we got up to watch the Sweden vs. England soccer game for a place in the semi finals but alas, they did not win. We took a photo with our soccer shirts on, nonetheless.
Saturday night we also had one of our annual bonfires. We always have a lot of branches/sticks/bramble that falls down during the winter, and it was always the job of the kids (my brother, sister and I) to pick up sticks every spring during clean up time. It sucked. But it made for a nice show a few weeks into summer! See below.
This fire ended up getting really smokey because there was a wet blanket in there or something. Unsure. There was also a rat that ran out. Ick. And the mosquitos were just AWFUL. I’m not a mosquito fan.
Anyway, on Sunday when I woke up, my dad wanted to spend a couple hours showing me how he makes his wooden spoons. It was fun, watching a block of wood become a neat little spoon. The whole process took about an hour and a half because he just had to find the right wood. He thought the kind he ended up choosing was cherry, but it’s hard to tell when they’re all hanging out in a pile.
After selecting the chosen piece, he had to give it a few chops with his ax, as seen depicted below.
The photos that follow will be the transformation of log into a neat little spatula. Hold onto your hats!
*disclaimer: I don’t actually remember what all the tools are, there’s something called a planar, a big sander and a hand-held sander, a pencil, a cutty-out thing (actually there are probably two cutty-out things), and one pair of talented hands.
The first cutting machine!
Choosing the pattern.
Ah. There’s the pencil.
Making the wood flat, I think.
And the second cutting machine!
Back to the wood-flattener.
Almost done sanding.
Here’s the pre-oiled product. Isn’t she lovely?
Cutting board oil, apparently.
Oil ‘er up and let ‘er dry.
Aaaand finished! So pretty!
I’ve already used it like, 4 times. 🙂 Thanks dad!!!
Alright, well that’s all I have on the subject. My dad makes butter knives as well, those are pretty neat, but perhaps a topic for another post.
Okay. So the six individuals who are currently following my blog (with a passion, I’m sure) might have noticed that I recently went through a name change. The essence of the blog remains, which is flowers, accompanied as always by words. Words & Flowers. Makes sense, right? I thought so.
As a sort of “grand re-opening” to my blog, I should like to share with you a series of photos I took in the last week or so, of my most favorite of flowers, lilacs and crab apple blossoms! They really do capture the essence of spring, embodying it fully. They make me oh so happy. Seriously, just take a look at them! I’m sure that if you are in a bad mood, you will be totally in a much better mood after spending some time on my blog. Unless you hate flowers and find words to be particularly annoying, then perhaps you should go somewhere else. I’ll bid you farewell now.
For the rest of you that love (or in the very least, tolerate) flowers, hold onto your hats! It’s about to get a whole lot more pink, purple and white up in here.
First up, the lilacs. They’re pretty self explanatory, I should think.
Oh aren’t they just lovely? You can almost smell them through the screen. If you’ve not ever taken the time to go out and put your sniffer to a lilac bush, you’ve been missing out on life. Now, if you are deathly allergic to lilac pollen, I am in no way encouraging you to go out and smell one, for your safety. Obviously. Anyway, they’re all but done blooming in this part of the land. A bittersweet time, spring is. The flowers bloom but ever so shortly, before giving way to plain old leaves. How dull. If you must, take a moment and go back to look at the beauty of the lilacs. I’ll wait.
Okay, now that we’ve twice examined the lilac flowers, let’s move on to the crab apple blossoms, in shades of pink and white.
Don’t they just make you happier than heck when you look at them? I know they do for me! Such happy, cheerful little blossoms, just going along doing whatever it is that blossoms do. Obviously making people happier than heck is priority numero uno for them.
Alright, moving onward to the last section of flowers I’ll be showcasing in this blog. I went back to southern Minnesota for Memorial Day weekend, and there was a whole pasture filled with purple Dame’s Rocket flowers. According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, this plant is invasive and must be eradicated. Um, no thanks. I like flowers too much to just kill them for being who they are. It’s why I hate to partake in any dandelion massacres as well. They’re only a weed till you get to know them.
And there you have it! Words and Flowers, as promised. Expect to see more of the same soon. Soonish. Probably.
Quick question: where did the first 1/6th of the year go? I had several intentions of writing a blog post immediately after returning from my three-week hiatus in Sweden with my sister, but time just kind of slipped away. Also I had to go back to work and do adult-life things, like buy groceries and get a promotion and purchase a new bedroom set. All necessary things, I assure you.
Okay so moving on, or perhaps backwards, to the middle of December (way back in 2017), when Sara and I were at home, mentally preparing ourselves for the 9 hours we would be spending on 2 different planes over the course of the next two days. Traveling across time zones is just the weirdest thing ever.
We were packed and ready to go. The parents were kind enough to give us a lift to the cities, and once we made it through security it was time to begin the waiting game. Our flight from Minneapolis was delayed about an hour, and we finally boarded around 7:30 after sitting in the airport for 3 hours. Upon arrival in Iceland, 6:30 am Icelandic time and 1:00 am MN time, we were baffled to discover a strike was in progress. Yes, an actual strike by the maintenance crew for Icelandair. They wanted more money. Same old story. Anyway, our 7:30 am flight was delayed until who knows when, with more information being provided at 9 am. So, the waiting game continued. We did board the plane at 9 am for Stockholm, thank goodness. I did not relish the idea of hanging out in Reykjavik. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to explore the country, I just had places to be and people to meet 1700 miles east of there. We did end up getting to said places and meeting up with said people. Our flight into Sweden took about 3 hours, and we made it to Arlanda around 1:30 pm. Sweden time. A total of 11 hours had passed since adjourning our journey; needless to say, we were a bit sleepy. And in need of a shower.
I shan’t regale you with the minute details of our time in Sweden, but let me tell you that there was definitely sight-seeing, family-visiting, and walking in the rain. Sweden is a damp, dark country in the winter. Nearly everyone we talked to said that we really should come back in the summer, it’s so much nicer in the summer, why did you come in the winter, it’s so dark and there’s nothing to do, and so on. We really just wanted to go on an adventure in a semi-foreign country and see if we could manage it. Well, we didn’t die or get mugged so I’d say we managed it just fine.
On to the photos.
So that was the first week. We figured out how the trains worked, went to Old Town and the Mall of Scandinavia (which is the largest mall in Sweden, but is still way smaller than the Mall of America), and we bought groceries and slept and watched Netflix. Swedish Netflix is just subpar compared to American Netflix, because TV shows are released at different times in different countries. Sad, I know. We learned that the hard way.
The next series of photos are from our time in Skåne County, in southern Sweden. Our cousin and his family live near Malmö, so we traveled by train to spend Christmas with them. Apparently Skåne is just littered with castles, being on the coast it makes sense. We visited a castle which is now a museum/restaurant, although we did not eat at the restaurant due to the fact that it was closed due to the fact that it was Christmas Day. There was a nice forested path around the little lake that the castle sat near. It was fairly chilly and misty, but it was nice to go exploring.
Okay so that was the castle we visited on a rainy Christmas Day. On the 26th, my cousin took Sara, his 5-year-old daughter and I to the southernmost point in Sweden, as seen below. This was the first day of the 4-day-long cold I was plagued with during the trip. Sara was also ill. Riding the 4-hour train ride back to Stockholm the next day was not fun, I tell you what. I think people looked at us like we had the Black Plague or something.
Moving on to a better topic, Smygehuk!
Okay, so good food, laughs, and sharing memories basically sums up our time in Skåne county. Oh, we also went to Copenhagen, Denmark for a few hours, basically to say we did it. The bridge between Sweden and mainland Europe is about 15 kilometers, and because we took a car (there is a train that passes underneath the bridge for regular commuters) we had to pay a $60 fee. Both ways. But hey now I can say I’ve visited Denmark, so that’s a thing!
After we got back to Stockholm and spent two days recovering from our respective colds, we spent our last Saturday in Sweden with our good family friends, who took us to Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna.
But first, we made a pit stop along the way:
Okay so after our pit stop we continued down the road to Sigtuna. Being the oldest town in Sweden means you should probably be home to some pretty bad-ass ruins, and sure enough, there were some bad-ass ruins.
After our stint in Sigtuna, we headed over to Uppsala, a university town through-and-through. Uppsala Univeristy is the oldest university in Sweden and all of the Nordic countries that is still in operation. Fancy, huh?
It was a good day of sight-seeing, to be sure.
The remaining photos are from one of our last outings into the city. I managed to get a few photos in between rain showers.
Well, that’s it, folks! I hope you enjoyed browsing through my photos and reading about my adventure. It’s easier if I don’t set a timeline for these things, so I’ll just say till next time, dear reader!
The words “Montana” and “nature” kind of go hand in hand. Why? Well, Montana is the 4th largest state in the USA and contains the 44th largest population so, you see, there is a lot of room and not a lot of people. Lots of cattle, though. But maybe that’s beside the point.
When I went to Montana a couple of weeks ago for a music festival in Missoula, (see my post Travelers’ Rest Fest for more details on this glorious and wondrous time), we made time to visit two of Montana’s state parks: Travelers’ Rest State Park, in Lolo (a small town 10 miles south of Missoula), and Lost Creek State Park, in Anaconda (a small town 20 miles northwest of Butte). We would’ve liked to have popped up to Glacier National Park for a day or so, but alas our schedules did not allow for this. We made due with visiting the location at which Lewis and Clark made camp during their expedition west, which is now a state park, as well as a super off-the-wall state park that was rather hidden back in the mountain-y hills.
Nothing too thrilling happened at either state park, we just spent our time wandering around, collecting rocks, and taking photos of the beautiful nature surrounding us.
First up, photos from Travelers’ Rest State Park:
We spent a good hour or two at Travelers’ Rest before heading back to Missoula and to the second day of Travelers’ Rest Fest, the music festival put on by The Decemberists. Which was amazing. But I’ve already mentioned how utterly stupendous the festival was in this post, plus I have a whole separate post dedicated to its awesomeness. Check it out, if you’re keen.
On Monday, after we packed our things and headed out of Missoula, we drove through the curves for about 80 miles before exiting I-90 and heading southwest, toward a little state park called Lost Creek State Park. Sara and I speculated that the name came about because some person found the creek, and then was unable to find it for some time, and maybe even had his/her children or grandchildren out searching for it (much like what happens in the movie Holes, when Sigourney Weaver’s grandpa makes her search for the treasure which is why she has the juvenile delinquents digging holes all the time.) before they finally found the “lost creek” and then they thought that would be a good area for a state park so the gave the land to the state. One theory among many, I’m sure.
Anyway. Lost Creek State Park was a lovely little place that had no other people in it while we were there. A good place for a potential quadruple homicide, if one had been in the mind for it. We parked the car and walked around a bit. We decided not to venture off of the main road, for fear of there potentially being an individual lurking in the woods who had quadruple homicide on the brain. It just seemed like the logical thing to do.
The hills here were not obscured by smoke, which was nice, and the flowers were oh-so-pretty. The following photos are those that I took at Lost Creek State Park:
We spent a decent hour or so exploring this little state park. It was a nice break to get out and stretch our legs after driving for two hours and with only ten more to go… Seriously, what a jaunt! Attending the music festival was worth it, though. Totally worth it. And the state parks and flower photos were a nice added bonus. 🙂
During the second weekend in August, I had the opportunity to drive to Missoula, Montana and spend two days listening to some of the most amazing indie folk bands around. It was an outstanding, life-changing experience, one that I can hardly put into words. Tears would make more sense, but those have already been shed over the sheer wonderment that was this weekend, so I shall attempt to sum up what I experienced with a few words instead, even though they will hardly do it justice, as I have mentioned.
Our journey from Jamestown, North Dakota to Missoula, Montana took us in much of the same route as the classic pair Lewis and Clark, on their exploratory trip across the upper western part of the USA. Before it was the USA, obviously. But this is not a history lesson. Well, actually it kind of is, because the name of the music festival, Travelers’ Rest, is named after the location of a camp Lewis and Clark and Company spent some time at. This location is now a State Park, one that my fellow travelers and I had the opportunity to visit. Photos and anecdotes from this visit can be found under the blog post “Montana, Naturally.”
Getting back to the task at hand: describing the magical weekend that was this music festival. I went with my sister Sara, and two of our friends from UND, Suzi and Nicole. We took Suzi’s car Gary (who appropriately has a sticker of Gary from Spongebob located upon its interior), a feisty little green Toyota Prius, which handled very beautifully around the curves between Billings and Missoula. I think I had too much fun driving her car.
We left Jamestown around 8:30 on Friday the 11th, and after a nice detour into Theodore Roosevelt National Park (see my post A Visit to the Desert of North Dakota) we continued on our merry way into Montana. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever driven across Montana, but it sucks. There’s no other way around it. Not to say that North Dakota is any better, but at least it is half the size of Montana so you don’t have to spend nine hours driving across it. Blech. We made it to our hotel around 11:30 pm that night, and we immediately got ourselves situated in our beds and fell asleep.
I’d like to say we awoke to the smell of chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs and waffles with fruit and whipped cream and blueberry muffins and all of the good things that are breakfast, but instead we were treated to the shitty Motel 8 breakfast. At least it was free. And they did have waffles. No fresh fruit, though. Or whipped cream. After filling our bellies with sub-par nourishment, we decided to explore Missoula a bit. We made our way downtown and found a lovely Farmer’s Market and some fun shops to spend time in. Soon, however, it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready for DAY ONE OF TRAVELERS’ REST FEST. We took an Uber there the first time, which ended up being 10 dollars so Sara and I resolved to walk the two miles from the festival to the hotel and vice versa. We made the trek three times over the course of the weekend.
So. We got in the gates, got these fancy little pamphlets that had a nice map of the Big Sky Brewing Company setup, with the stages and the drink/food stands and the merch tent and such. The pamphlet also had the lineup of bands for both days, and a description of each band. Needless to say, I got more and more excited as I looked through this pamphlet. It just made it all so much more real!
We sat for some time in the sweltering 95-degree weather. It would have been so much worse, though, had there not been clouds of smoke from nearby forest fires obscuring the sun. Although it did give the area a bit of a greenhouse effect and did a really good job of preventing us from seeing the lovely mountains surrounding Missoula, which was just too bad. Anyway, we sat on the lawn in front of the main stage, and Sara and I wandered off to purchase two t-shirts and a poster (I bought the shirts – one was for Travelers’ Rest and the other was for The Head and the Heart, and Sara purchased a nice poster for The Decemberists’ summer tour with a tree on it).
Front of my lovely t-shirt, designed by Carson Ellis!
And the back, which make sense, as most t-shirts that have a front also have a back. This has a nice display of the lovely bands which performed at Travelers’ Rest.
After some more time passed and the bands had started banding, we noticed that a lot of people had these fancy paper fans on a wooden stick, and we were jealous. Because, along with the 95-degree weather and smokey greenhouse-effecting sunlight, there was no wind. So, Sara and I went in search of these fans so that we too could feel the artificial breeze produced by these fans.
As we journeyed to the tent that held these breeze-makers, I saw a someone and I thought it was the person that I thought it was and I was right even though Sara tried to tell me it wasn’t the person that I thought it was. She was wrong, obviously, because I was right. It was Carson Ellis, esteemed artist and illustrator for many children’s books, including those written by her husband, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. After we procured the fans, I spotted Carson again and I told Sara I was going to go talk to her and Sara tried her best to dissuade me but I was not to be dissuaded! I went up to her and said hello and that her artwork was amazing and unique and that I really enjoyed it. We chatted for a bit, although Sara said it was more like I word-vomited at her, which seems likely. I was very excited. So excited, in fact, that after we bid our adieus to Carson and sat down by Suzi and Nicole again, that I announced I was going to find Carson again and have her sign my Travelers’ Rest pamphlet. Sara refused to come with but gladly gave me her pamphlet for Carson to sign. So, I set out on my search, and she wasn’t hard to spot because she was wearing an all-white jump suit and she has nice red hair with bangs. So. I found her and asked her for her autograph, and so on mine she wrote “Hi Anna!” and on Sara’s she wrote “For Sara!” and it was a lovely experience. She is such a nice lady. I am not ashamed to say that I hardcore creep on her through Instagram.
After the excitement of seeing Carson was over, we realized that we were all pretty thirsty. Suzi volunteered to stand in line for water, while the rest of us listened to Offa Rex, a band created between the pairing of The Decemberists and English singer Olivia Chaney. They have an album out, called The Queen of Hearts, that focuses on British Folk tunes of the 60s and 70s. They had a lovely sound, and I enjoyed their music. After their set finished I went to find Suzi, and she was in an extremely slow-moving line for the water fountains. Like, extremely extremely. As in she waited for an hour and a half to fill up two cups for water. When we finally made it to the fountain, we each filled up a cup, drank it, and then filled it up again for Sara and Nicole. The people behind us were like, you waited in line to fill up two cups?! and we were like yeah well needs must. And so we finally got to go sit down again, but only for a bit as it was nearly time for Shakey Graves to come on stage. At about 6:00 we all got up and moseyed our way into the standing crowd in front of the stage. We got a good spot just to the right (or left, if you are a band member facing the crowd) of center stage. Shakey Graves came on at 6:30 and played until 7:15 pm. Damn, was he talented! He has such a voice and uses his musical talents very well. His concert was much enjoyed by all, I’m sure.
After Shakey Graves, there was some waiting as the last band on the smaller stage performed, and then The Head and the Heart came on. Oh my god, every song they sang gave me goosebumps. I just could not handle the sheer musical beauty that was this band. If you haven’t heard of them, I would suggest you stop whatever you are doing, including reading this blog, and look them up. Ugh. SO. GOOD. ‘Let’s Be Still’, ‘Rhythm and Blues’, ‘Hallelujah’, and ‘All We Ever Knew’ are some of my favorites. You won’t be disappointed.
UGH IT MADE ME SO HAPPY TO SEE THEM LIVE I JUST WANT TO GO TO ALL OF THEIR CONCERTS AND SING SUPER LOUDLY TO ALL OF THEIR SONGS WHICH I ALREADY DID BUT I WANT TO DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.
After the brilliant performance by The Head and the Heart, we all waited patiently for the main event: The Decemberists, who proceeded to put on a stunning two-hour long show. They like to do this thing where they leave the stage about half an hour before the scheduled ending time for the concert like they are actually done and make the crowd chant and cheer before coming back out onto the stage. Of course, this concert was no exception. They had a wonderful lineup of songs, and Sara and I belted out nearly every tune. We were standing one person behind the gate, so we were directly in front of Chris Funk, the guitarist. I’m not entirely sure how we managed to end up so close to the front, I guess we’re just really good at sneaking in through the crowd.
For the encore, Colin Meloy came out with another man, one whom he introduced as Gibson Hartwell, a member from Colin’s first band, Tariko. This band formed in the late 90s, while Colin was going to school in Missoula, and broke up in 1999 after Colin moved to Portland, and then The Decemberisits were formed, and the rest is history.
I try not to be so creepy but sometimes I can’t help it..
Anyway. Colin and Gibson sang a song from their band Tariko, which was super amazing to hear due to the fact that they’re not technically a band anymore and one would have never imagined to hear them live again. Sara and I have an album by them, so we were one of the few people in the crowd who could sing along to this particular song. Very neat.
The concert ended around 11 pm, so Sara and I meandered our way back to where Suzi had been lounging in a hammock (Nicole had taken an Uber back to the hotel a few hours prior), and we made the two mile trek back. It was a good opportunity to rehash what we had just witnessed and also to move our legs after standing in (basically) one spot for five hours.
We made it back to the hotel and Sara and I were feeling quite dehydrated so we opted to take Suzi’s car and drive to Walmart so we could buy a jar of pickles each. We ate the pickles and drank the juice in the hotel parking lot and it was the most refreshing thing I have had in a long time. Apparently pickle juice after standing out in the hot, 90 degree weather for eight hours (and also not eating food during this time) really hits the spot. After our pickle juice refreshments were finished, we headed inside for bed.
Sunday was, in short, a really really really good day. To start the day, we got up and made our way to Travelers; Rest State Park, about an eleven mile drive from Missoula. We walked around this little area, took a lot of photos, found a creek and snatched some rocks, and chatted with the park rangers. It was a nice time (if you would like to see more on our adventures in Travelers’ Rest State Park, please see my post “Montana, Naturally”), and after we were finished we made our back to Missoula for lunch and to get ready for TRAVELERS’ REST FEST ROUND II. Sara and I walked to the festival, so we arrived there a little after 4:00 pm. Because priorities, we sought out the ice cream booth and each got a small cup of Montana-made ice cream. So good. We then stood at a table and mainly people-watched, until Suzi and Nicole found us. Then we looked at the tents they had set up; there was a tent dedicated to people test-running the new board game The Decemberists developed, called the Illimat, and there was an artist who could do portraits on this material called Tintype, and there was a tent selling vinyl records and CDs of the majority of the bands in attendance.
The main reason why Sunday was such a really really really good day was because we actually got to meet The Decemberists, like face-to-face, and chat with them, and get their autographs. It was purely and utterly magical. Alas, there was a sign up that said they would only be signing vinyls and CDs, so Sara and I were like okay fine, and we each bought one. I got ‘The King Is Dead,’ one of my favorite albums by them. It was also the first album I had heard by them, the one that made me fall in love with Colin’s voice and Jenny’s accordion.
At 6:20 pm we went to go stand in line (after resuming our stance at the table, this time with beer and peanuts – see above photo), and the line was a decent length but we weren’t too far back. We stood there and tried to eat peanut with one hand while holding a beer in the other, all the while holding onto the vinyl records (which are rather large), and it was just an all-around struggle. Eventually, at 6:40 pm or so, the line began moving. People went into the building relatively normal and came out with tears or hyperventilation.
The anticipation grew.
To make the anticipation matters worse, some lady came around and stopped three people in front of Sara and myself and was like, “Okay so The Decemberists have to leave at 7:20 to get ready for the show so there may only be time for 50 people which puts the line right here.” And then this lady goes past Sara and I and the guy behind us and was like, “Anyone past this point, you can stay or leave but I just don’t want you to be too disappointed.” So then I said to the couple in front of us, “Wait, so where does that put us? Do we get to see them or do we have to be bitterly disappointed?” We were in the definition of a gray area, and it sucked. Obviously, we did manage to make it into the building with the illustrious members of the beloved band were lurking, but until that point I was in distress. And then it was basically just heart-pounding word vomit that occurred once I actually came face-to-face with Chris Funk. He asked how I was and I told him about my mini heart-attack when the lady told us that we might not get to see them. And he was like, oh shit I’m sorry and I was like it’s all good, since I did make it in. And then I saw Jenny and didn’t really answer Chris’s question about how the line was, and instead I told her about how much I love her accordion bit (although I was so flustered I first called it a harmonica!) in the song ‘Rox in the Box.’ Here’s a link so you can listen to the song and understand why (her solo starts at 2:00 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Waz7PMZHeg
Jenny told me it was an old Irish (or perhaps Celtic) jig that she had adapted her solo from. Either way, it is amazing and I told her so. I am sorry to say that I was so busy gushing over Jenny’s amazing-ness to Jenny herself that I skipped right over Nate Query, the bassist. I did smile and thank him, though, for his autograph.
And then came Colin. He looked up and me and was like, “Hi.” And I just kind of stared into his eyes and was like, “Hi. It is so amazing to meet you.” He kind of laughed and said that it was nice to meet me too. Honestly, I can’t remember if I said anything else to him. Or if he said anything to me. I was just so awestruck to be in his presence, staring into his fact, with approximately two feet of space between us. And then all of a sudden I was facing John Moen, the drummer, and he was like, “So how’s the festival?” And I said that it was amazing and that we drove 15 hours from Minnesota to come to it (a little white lie, true for Nicole but Jamestown is close enough to MN to count!) and he was like, oh cool I was born in Brained, MN. How neat is that? Anyway, I told him that it was neat, and then I exited the building. Sara was waiting for me and we both began doing this weird hyperventilating/crying run (yeah, we got both) to where Suzi and Nicole were sitting. Oh my god were we ever excited. I could barely contain my sheer joy. And then I was like, wow I should have said so many better things to these people. Not for them, as they would likely not remember a single word I said to them, but for myself, because when I thought back to what I had said it was a bit foolish. Oh well, perhaps next time (if there is a next time), I will say something super profound and wise. Sara told Colin that she loved him, and he was like no, you don’t but Sara was very insistent and told him that yes, she does. I’d say that is rather profound.
After we had calmed down a bit, we left our vinyls with Suzi and a promise from her to defend them with her life. I think she did a pretty good job taking care of them, as she texted me later to tell me that she had already stabbed two people and punched one to guard them. 🙂 Sara and I made our way down to the standing crowd in front of the main stage in time for Belle and Sebastian. They are a super iconic Indie group out of Scotland, and were pretty big in the 90s and early 2000s. I knew a couple songs by them, and it was very cool to see them live, but I wasn’t really all that invested in them, not like the lady behind Sara and myself who asked us to switch spots because she was unable to see and has been waiting 13 years to see them in concert. She told us this and we were like, oh damn, do you want to come in front of us because we don’t mind, and she said she was fine but we should have insisted. And also taken her to the front when Sebastian was telling people to come up on stage with them and dance. She should have danced. Sara and I should have used our crowd-sneaking skills to sneak this lady through the crowd to go dance with the band she has been waiting 13 years to see. Ah well. My one regret.
After Belle and Sebastian, it was once again time to wait for The Decemberists. Sara and I used our sneaking prowess to get to the front as the crowd was readjusting from people leaving the previous concert. We ended up one person behind the gate again, and this time we were directly in front of dear Colin Meloy. Oh, were we excited.
Colin came on stage wearing the Montana state flag and looking majestic as all hell. It was a sight to behold.
This concert began in much the same fashion as the night before. Sara and I stood there and sang the words to nearly all of the songs again, so much so that I very nearly lost my voice. I was cheering and screaming and whooping so much, I just couldn’t help it. There were several times where I would whoop at Colin because he was doing something worth whooping for, and a number of people would take up my cry and echo it. That made me feel important. There was also a couple times where I would cheer when it was pretty quite and I think Colin looked at me, probably because the cheering was annoying and he was trying to do something spectacular. But honestly, he doesn’t even really need to try to do spectacular things because typically whatever he does is spectacular. 🙂
Sunday night’s concert was somehow better than Saturday night’s concert. Unsure how. Everyone was so into it. And The Decemberists really put on a show! At one point, all of the band members were lying on the ground and Colin was standing there shushing us and telling us to crouch down so, of course, we crouch down as well as a group of people packed together like sardines can.
They sang so many good songs, and I had so much fun. During one song, a group of us in the beginning started singing where the song normally starts on the CD and Colin looked at us like, who do you guys think you are? But he let us go for a few words before stepping in and starting the song for real. It was amusing.
The last song that The Decemberists sang, as their encore finale, was The Mariner’s Revenge Song. It is an odd song about a Mariner who is seeking revenge on the man who wronged his mother, and they end up in the belly of a whale together. So, of course, much as we are members of the crowd we are participants in this curious musical number. We are asked by Colin to scream like we are being eaten by a whale when Chris Funk gives us the appropriate signal. This was where I completely lost my voice, when it cracked as if I were a 13 year-old-boy going through puberty. It was embarrassing but I did not care, as I needed to scream as if I were being swallowed by a whale. It was imperative.
They began the song and we all sang the words, and then they brought out the giant whale made of metal and fabric, and one by one, it “ate” the “crew” members.
Once the crew had been chewed alive, the song continued from inside the stomach of the whale, where its ribs were ceiling beams and its guts were carpeting. At this point, Colin was laying on the ground and so he needed a microphone brought to him by one of the stagehands, as you can see depicted in the photo below.
If you ever get the chance to see The Decemberists live, I would highly suggest that you do so. Their music is excellent on CD, but there is just such a different vibe to their concerts, especially the ones where you can stand right up in the front and practically touch them.
In short, this two-day musical festival, Travelers’ Rest, in Missoula, Montana, was probably the two best music-related days of my life. Yes, even better than the day I played the bari sax for the first time, or the day I joined marching band at UND. Hard to top those, I know, but it happened.
Thank you to The Decemberists for putting on such an amazing, Indie music-filled festival and for introducing some new band loves into my life. 🙂 🙂 🙂