Spring weekend

Rain makes my garden bloom.

I know "spring" means something different in other parts of the country. To you, it might mean sunshine and daffodils. I might be short sleeves and bouncy skirts.

But here in Montana, it means cool weather and rain. Gray skies and saturated soil. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the rain. After a winter of light snowfall, rain is the only thing keeping us from being totally ablaze this summer. Fish like water in the rivers, plants like moisture in the soil. I get it.

But, I am over it, as I always am, come May. And this could last until the end of June when our six weeks of summer starts.

We make the best of it. Last weekend we used a gift certificate to spend the night, and take countless rides on the waterslide, at Fairmont Hot Springs.

We couldn't get enough of the slide at Fairmont Hot Springs.

Adios, Fairmont.

This weekend, we attend the kids' art show, which will be hanging in the Lincoln School Gallery for a month. We soaked at Chico Hot Springs, played with polymers, entertained friends, and walked in the rain. Henry taught the boys to play Risk, a game that last even longer than Monopoly.

Drinking water from leaves.

I'm trying to treasure these quiet, gray days. But I really want to be outside playing in the woods, camping, and floating down rivers. Soon enough. Soon enough.

Permalink 05/18/15 07:22:00 am, by Mel Email , 244 words, Categories: Montana, Anders, Family, Finn ,

Cleansing

Creamy Asparagus Soup

So, I am doing a cleanse/detox/elimination diet this week. I feel kind of funny talking about it because, who really cares what someone else is eating? And, yet...

My dear friend Shannon Nickerson is a health and wellness coach. She's someone who really knows her stuff and when she offers something like this at such an amazing price, I had to jump on it.

What I like about this program is that there are no special potions, it's not a fast, and it's not just juice. We've been eating real food, just really healthy foods.

One of the recipes is for a creamy asparagus soup. I brought it to my book club and even the non-cleansers loved it!

Creamy Asparagus Soup

1 large onion, chopped
2TBL extra virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup cauliflower
3 cups vegetable broth or water (I use this broth and it is so good!)
Sea salt
Juice of one lemon (or 2 TBL)

Saute onion in olive oil until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and season with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Add cauliflower and broth and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender-- 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice. Place soup into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.

And let me put in a plug for Shannon--If you, like me, are having issues with sleep, stress, weight gain, hormone junk, lack of motivation, or just not feeling 100%, you should contact her. She works over the phone or email and can get you feeling great again!

Permalink 05/15/15 07:58:00 am, by Mel Email , 258 words, Categories: Eat ,

Mojave National Preserve

We ventured into the desert of Mojave National Preserve in March. I've driven back and forth along Highway 15 many times, peering into the Mojave and being glad I never broke down. I really had no interest in that scrubby, hot, windy land. I wasn't even curious.

My friend Woody, who joined us on the Death Valley leg of our trip, recommended a visit to Mojave National Preserve and he really talked it up. It started to sound interesting.

We had a little mishap with our pop-up trailer and ended up at a hotel in Needles for a night. The next day we found a place to buy a tent and resumed our trip.

Bye-bye pop-up, hello new tent!

The Mojave National Preserve is a tough place to navigate. Not that it's hard to find your way around, but rather there is so much space to get around in. There are all sorts of interesting things to see, but they are really spread out, as are the gas stations. Next time we go, I'll have a better plan.

Desert flowers-- globe mallows

That didn't stop us from having fun in the places we did get to. We stayed at the Hole in the Wall campground, which gave us great access to rocks to climb on, pictographs, the visitor center, and the Rings Trail.

Something I appreciated about this preserve, is that I really felt like I was "out there" in a way I usually don't in National Parks--at least not in the front country. There weren't a lot of other people hanging out in the desert, even in the campground.

Hole in the Wall

We stayed in the most developed area, but it's still a smallish campground (37 sites). It was nice being in walking distance of the visitor center because we attended a pictograph walk, night slide show, and of course, took part in the Junior Ranger program.

Playing on the rocks at Hole in the Wall.

Desert nights are the best for campfires.

Rings Loop Trail

One of the coolest things about Hole in the Wall is the Rings Trail. If you start south of the visitor center, it winds through pictographs, past cactus and other desert plants, and into Banshee Canyon. The kids (and I) couldn't get enough rock scrambling.

The best part of the hike was about to start.

Trailhead: Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center parking area, 20 miles north of I-40 on Essex and Black Canyon roads.
Discover how Hole-in-the-Wall got its name as you ascend narrow Banshee Canyon with the help of metal rings mounted in the rock. The 1.5-mile round-trip hike connects to the Mid Hills to Hole-in-the-Wall Trail.

Kelso Dunes

When we were in Death Valley, it was just too hot to play on the dunes, so we were glad to find even bigger ones here. We didn't make it all the way to the top, but we enjoyed rolling around in the sand, digging for moisture, burying ourselves, following foot (paw) prints, and watching lizards and raptors.

Just a couple inches down and the sand is cool and damp.

We barely saw this guy hiding in the dunes.

Trailhead: 3 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the well-graded, but unpaved Kelso Dunes Road.
Hikers at sunrise and sunset are treated to both cooler temperatures and the rose-colored glow of the dunes. The roughly 3-mile round-trip hike might take several hours as you slog through the sand, then slide down the slopes. Moving sands sometimes create a "booming" sound-run downhill and get the sand moving to hear the sound.

Kelso Depot Visitor Center

The Kelso Depot is an old, restored, train depot. Much like Livingston, Kelso was a place where trains could get "helper" engines to help them over the next pass (or "grade" as we call them in California).

According to the Park Service, "The first depot at Kelso opened in 1905, followed a few months later by a post office, an engine house and an “eating house” to serve both railroad employees and the passengers on trains without dining cars. The town grew over time, as more employees were needed and more of their families moved to the Mojave Desert to join them."

Now it's a visitor center, bookstore, and art gallery. We got out of the sun and wind and watched a Park Service movie. We almost watched it again just to sit in there.

Next Time

Now that I know what exists beyond I-15, I can't wait to get back. We'll go in through Baker (rather than the Cima Road to the east), explore the cinder cones and lave tubes, camp along a dirt road....and of course, I have several hikes picked out.

I found this on the Preserve website:

"Mojave National Preserve is vast. At 1.6 million acres, it is the third largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States. While you won't be able to experience it all in a single visit, taking the time to plan ahead will ensure a safe and rewarding adventure.

And remember: you can always come back..."

I'll remember.

Permalink 04/16/15 07:42:00 am, by Mel Email , 844 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Hikes, Anders, Finn ,

Flowers of Death Valley

This spring is a super bloom spring in the Mojave Desert. Just the words "super bloom" brings great joy to my wildflower-loving heart. When the right amount of rain falls at the right time of year, the desert comes alive with flowers. All those seeds that have been waiting for just the right conditions to sprout, let loose in golds, pinks, and purples.

I wish I had remembered to bring my camera, but I did my best with my phone. Here are a few of the flowers we were lucky enough to stumble upon.

Want to do more than look at flowers (what?!?!)? Here are a handful of other things to do in Death Valley.

Permalink 04/03/15 07:49:00 pm, by Mel Email , 116 words, Categories: Beyond Greater Yellowstone, Flora ,

So your kid wants to be a vegetarian

In the last month, three different friends have asked for recipe advice after their kids decided to go veggie. I’m putting my suggestions here in the blog so that next time someone asks I have a thorough resource to point them to.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 24 years and our kids have been eating green their whole lives. That might change, but for now we a pretty vegetable-centric house.

First, why would a kid want to be vegetarian? A lot of them come to it because they love animals and don’t want to eat them. Simple as that. What they may not know is the animals we eat, for the most part, are treated horribly. I could go into it here, but I won’t. I’ll direct you here or here or you can read Diet for a Small Planet.

Other kids are worried about climate change and they role meat plays in increasing our carbon and methane output. The Guardian reported that eating less meat is essential for curbing global warming and Scientific America wrote how meat contributes to global warming.

Or maybe it’s health benefits. If you are eating meat from a store or restaurant you are almost guaranteed to be filling up on antibiotics. And vegetarians have a lower rate of heart disease and some cancers. Brown University posted about the health benefits of a veggie diet as did Women’s Health.

Whether your kids wants to start Meatless Mondays or go full bore into veggie life, here are a few of our favorite recipes to get you started.

We try to have a bean day, lentil day, a tofu day, and an egg day (from our own chickens) each week.

Soups

Zucchini-basil soup

Tomato soup with quesadillas.

Cream of broccoli (vegan)

• Chili is always a good bet because it’s filling, easy to make and freeze, and gets you a good dose of veggies and protein, especially if there are nuts and beans. We love Cashew Chili.

(Non-Soup) Main Dishes

• Finn’s favorite bean-based dish is black bean salad. There are lots of varieties, but ours usually include black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, corn, feta, and red onion. A little guacamole and chips rounds this meal out.

• My kids also love burritos-- tortillas, beans, tomatoes, and cheese, but I make it in a bowl (sans tortilla and cheese) and add sautéed veggies for me.

• When the eggs start piling up, it’s time for quiche. I try new recipes once in awhile, but everyone demands gruyere quiche with golden onion and red pepper. So now I make only that.

• One thing my kids both like is falafels. We soak and cook the chickpeas, but this recipe is similar to the one we use. I double this because we are big eaters, or quadruple it and freeze half.

Veggie sushi--it takes awhile, so save it for the weekend.

Crispy quinoa cakes (with the added benefit of a complete protein!)

Black bean fiesta burger

Black bean and sweet potato burger

• And when you just can’t cook another thing, grab some garden burgers from the store or pasta with marinara sauce.

Snacks

Mostly the kids eat fruit, string cheese, popcorn, or whatever else they can scrounge from the kitchen, but if I am feeling motivated I might make some of these:
Banana balls
Energy bars

Resources

Everything in the From A Beautiful Bowl of Soup cookbook is so delicious. They recipes are all vegetarian and mostly vegan.

We get a lot of recipes from Super Natural Every Day.

I love Oh She Glows! vegan cookbook, but the kids aren't really into it. It’s a little too “out there” for them.

Now you have a few ideas about what to feed your vegetarian kid!

Permalink 04/02/15 03:06:00 pm, by Mel Email , 618 words, Categories: Eat ,

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