Postcards from the Methow Valley: Taking the Tour

Today we drove around the Methow Valley so JEJ could find spots he recognized from his youth.
 Above is the house he lived in when he was eight. He couldn't get over how big the lilac bush out front had grown. We found one road he remembered as a dirt road that he ran all the way down full speed with a friend when he was a about twenty.Now it is paved. He spotted another road that led to a house he lived in, but we couldn't get through. Mostly he couldn't believe how much the whole area had changed.
The rivers hadn't changed much. Above is the Methow River.
We also drove up the Chewack River and stopped to get a closer look.

The water had a beautiful green color which set off the reflection of the trees.

Postcards from the Methow Valley: Touring North Central Washington State

When we left home yesterday the sun and the snow created a beautiful contrast as we crossed Sherman Pass close to home.

The landscape changed when we reached apple country. Here are some photos at Brewster, Pateros, and heading north toward Twisp.

 The sun was sinking slowly behind this mountain as we ended our first day of vacation...

 and the sun greeting me early this morning as I breathed in the chilly, mountain air.

National Board Certification for Teaching: Portfolio Done

After an extra 200 hours, three ink cartridges, reams of paper, too much coffee, tired songs on the iPod, lots of thinking, recording and burning of DVDs, lots of reading, discouragement, enlightenment, surprises, dinners cooked by JEJ, house cleaned by M and K, lonely dogs, missed family gatherings, and perseverance my Portfolio Box is ready to be mailed to the National Board of Teaching office.
Even though I have spent many hours in this study I still love this room, but may take a break from sitting in here until after spring break.After the first few months of study I had to buy a better chair. Amazing what good support will do!

I loved to read Final on the sheet. This was the Entry 1 Assembly.Yesterday I completed the assembly of four entries. After I take a break this week I begin studying for the exam. I will take it May 25th.
The dogs were happy to see me back relaxing in the gazebo yesterday.

Sibling Assignment #126: "Being inlandempiregirl"

In the book The Happiness Project one of Gretchen Rubin's twelve commandments is to "Be Gretchen". Her goal was to identify what she really liked to do and spend time doing it. Have you ever spent time doing an activity because you thought you should, your friends wanted you to, or it seemed like the thing to do at the time ? Sibling Assignment #126 is "When you are "Being Raymond Pert" or " Being Silver Valley Girl" what are those things you encompass to create happiness in your life? Are there things you have let go of because they weren't you?" I will link their posts as they complete them. 

I have spent too many hours in my life doing things because others were doing it, I thought I should, or I thought I would like it, but then didn't quit when I didn't. Because of others I have gone to gun shows, watched dog racing, gone to a swap meet involving old car parts, gone to movies I wouldn't have paid the money to see, rode on a motorcycle, played a mean prank, and been involved in dangerous stunts. Others made it seem like a good idea to spend way too much money for terrible food at a trendy restaurant, to go shopping and buy things we didn't need, get married too soon, to buy a house before being financially ready, or stop eating the chocolate covered cherries before feeling sick. I thought I should read more classic literature, prepare fancy gourmet dishes, shop at Nordstroms, buy something for the brand name, go on an exotic vacation, have a new car, buy organic, or go on girls' week-ends. I thought I should quilt, drink microbrews, use a tanning booth, and like tofu.

 I didn't quit reading the book that I really didn't like, walk out of the movie that was too weird or violent, leave a conversation when people were gossiping about somebody I knew, leave the table when racist jokes were being told, walk off the golf course when it was the most miserable game ever, or stay home when I needed to rest.

 Slowly in the last fifteen years I have worked at "being inlandempiregirl." When I relocated to the house I live in now I focused on what I wanted to surround myself with that would bring happiness. I planted gardens, cut fresh flowers for bouquets, learned to grow lavender, married my husband, acquired dogs, cats, and rabbits, and slowed down my life. I worked at creating living spaces outside where we could view the lake, sit by the fire, feed the birds, or enjoy the greenhouse when it was time to take a break. I learned to propagate plants, raise roses, grow plants from seeds, and get a hydrangea to bloom.

Writing is a passion in my life so I carve out time to write this blog, poetry, memoir pieces most every day and also read books that inspire me to improve my writing. I also love reading books about the craft of writing, take time to attend writing retreats, hear writers speak, or read about other writers' experiences.

Photography is another passion so I purposefully examine my world through the lens of my camera. I read how to improve my pictures, I take hundreds of pictures a week, I share my pictures through my blog, Facebook, and gifts. This is time well-spent and helps me to "be inlandempiregirl."

I love to cook but strive to prepare simple, homey meals that don't require ingredients I don't keep on hand. I also find joy in preserving food JEJ raises in the garden and love opening pickles, beets, or salsa in the winter and remembering  the flavors of summer.

When I travel I love to find retreats. Camping at Canyon Creek where the only noise heard is the creek, finding a cabin in the woods surrounded by trees, driving to the ocean to sit by the beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset, taking a road trip around the area with a picnic lunch, two dogs, a camera, and my husband. I still want to find the beauty in my own back yard before I explore other parts of the world.

I still want to write a book, not feel guilty about sitting around in my pajamas all day, perfect the Lemon Drop, keep connected with family and friends, form a writing group, learn to knit, spend more time in bookstores, take long Sunday naps, continue to enjoy a cheap, simple lager, figure out how to grow an African violet that blooms, find the best hamburger in the Inland Empire, enjoy all four seasons, make a perfect pie crust, meet some of my blog friends, and get healthier.

I want to work at being inlandempiregirl.

Sibling Assignment #125: An Image of Happiness

I gave another Happiness prompt for Sibling Assignment #125: " Choose an image that symbolizes happiness to you. Post that image and explain why.   I will link RP's and SVG's when they are posted.
This Thanksgiving morning picture from a few years ago depicts happiness to me.

 The sun is shining through the windows and flowers cheer up the room. My mom is decked out in her jeans,sweatshirt, and apron and using my Betty Crocker cookbook to make pie crusts (which are not my expertise.) She is using that dough cutter like an expert and while making the pie crust she is even smiling! I always love having my mom is my kitchen preparing the same things she did when I was a child. There is comfort in knowing the house will soon smell like pie and she will make those little cinnamon rolls from the leftover dough. This picture was the beginning of a memorable day when all my family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner at my house. It was a day filled with happiness, blessings, laughter, and good times.

Relaxation Time In a Week!

 A week from tonight instead of pounding out the last sentences of knowledge for my National Board entries, I will be here,

and here.
I can't wait. Neither can JEJ, Annie, and Shelby!

Too Many Names

“On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.” Pablo Neruda

Too Many Names

Mondays are meshed with Tuesdays
and the week with the whole year.
Time cannot be cut
with your weary scissors,
and all the names of the day
are washed out by the waters of night.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,
nobody is Rosa or Maria,
all of us are dust or sand,
all of us are rain under rain.
They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,
of Chiles and of Paraguays;
I have no idea what they are saying.
I know only the skin of the earth
and I know it is without a name.

When I lived amongst the roots
they pleased me more than flowers did,
and when I spoke to a stone
it rang like a bell.

It is so long, the spring
which goes on all winter.
Time lost its shoes.
A year is four centuries.

When I sleep every night,
what am I called or not called?
And when I wake, who am I
if I was not while I slept?

This means to say that scarcely
have we landed into life
than we come as if new-born;
let us not fill our mouths
with so many faltering names,
with so many sad formallities,
with so many pompous letters,
with so much of yours and mine,
with so much of signing of papers.

I have a mind to confuse things,
unite them, bring them to birth,
mix them up, undress them,
until the light of the world
has the oneness of the ocean,
a generous, vast wholeness,
a crepitant fragrance.
-Pablo Neruda

Vernal Equinox

Happy First Day of Spring!

Only the crocus have bloomed in the garden. The rest are lovely bouquets
transplanted from the grocery store!

Living On a Raft!

I live kinda close to lots of places, but not close enough to any place to stop and pick up a quart of milk, go get takeout, or buy something on a whim. It takes at least thirty minutes for a whim. Shopping requires planning. The up side is we save money not going out to eat. Getting pizza at Papa Murphy's in Colville is a treat. Coffee drinks are few and far between.
The down side is when I do my "big shopping trips" I feel the urge to stockpile enough supplies and food for six months. I buy tomato sauce like it will never be on sale again. Yes, when olives are marked down it is a good deal, but how many cans do we need? Don't even get me started on what I think I have to bring home on my infrequent trips to Costco in Spokane.
I think part of it stems from being raised by my "depression baby, Bargain Betty, coupon cutting" mother. I used to find joy and rearranging the canned goods in our basement pantry. I still like that feeling when the shelves are stocked, the paper products are organized, and I have enough Campbell's soup for three years.

Then it gets out of control. There are too many bags of chocolate chips I didn't use for Christmas baking. Why did I buy maraschino cherries? How can we use the extra oatmeal? My friend SueDean introduced me to the term "living on a raft". That is what her sister calls it when they work to use everything  up. SueDean has a husband that loves to stockpile food also. She has also participated in the "living on a raft" project.

My goal is to live on the raft until the shelves are down, the freezer is ready to defrost, and the lazy susan in the cupboard can turn again. We will buy fresh food and staples, but that is it. So far we have had healthy meals using up canned beans, ground deer meat, frozen chickens, tuna, whole wheat flour (the breadmaker came out), and pasta. It will get interesting in a few weeks when I will be creating meals from canned tomatoes, water chestnuts, frozen berries, rice, dates, sliced almonds, mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries, and sesame seeds!

I feel blessed to have an abundance of food. I feel secure having shelves of canned goods. I share that abundance at food drives and local food banks. I just don't always need to stock up for the next year, even if the sign by the mayo says buy five get two free.

If I create any divine recipes with the combination of food I have left I will be sure to post them!

Another Sign of Spring

Spring is just around the corner.

The End of the Rainbow

As I got ready to sit down to dinner on St. Patrick's Day how fitting it was to look out the window and see a brilliant rainbow over Lake Roosevelt. I had to do some decision-making. If I jogged down the hill, jumped into Lake Roosevelt and swam to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow would it still be there? Would I survive the journey? Was it worth it?
After pondering these difficult questions I captured the image then sat down to eat dinner. I left the pot of gold intact for another treasure hunter.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sibling Assignment #124: Happiness: Capturing Ordinary Moments on Film

I am continuing with the Happiness theme with Sibling Assignment #124 this week. I will link my siblings' posts soon. I finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin last night. Her book inspired me to once again examine happiness this week with this post. Here is the assignment:
Read "Happiness" by Jane Kenyon and share your thoughts about where happiness comes from for you in a poem, essay, or reflection. Due Sunday, March 14th. You can find Happiness by Jane Kenyon here.

This poem has always resonated with me. I don't know exactly when she put the words to paper. It was published after her battle with cancer and her death. She reminded me that is isn't necessary to save your finest garment for a special occasion. Keeping the fine china in the cupboard for a holiday is unnecessary. Make the occasion breakfast today. Rubin calls this " spending out" in her book. How many times have you heard somebody say "I am saving it for a special occasion"? Thursday chicken dinner was when we decided to sample the gourmet sauce that was given to us at Christmas. Happiness creeps into the room and sits on your shoulder when you eat meatloaf off of fine china. Taking the afghan that my grandmother crocheted and placing in on the chair made me smile much more than thinking about it in the hope chest. Sometimes now I actually burn scented candles!

 In the poem I am also drawn to the ordinary images of happiness. The woman with the birch broom, dog chewing on a sock, and the clerk stacking cans of carrots. My not-so-fancy Canon point and shoot digital camera has given me a means of capturing those moments in my life. It made me open my eyes and notice. The morning walks in the garden began with a desire to practice with my camera. Our ten-mile road trips started as a way to explore new places in "our own backyard" and capture the images on film. When JEJ came in to announce the first crocus was in bloom yesterday he knew I would want to snap a picture. I found happiness in that picture. When I caught a series of silly shots of Isabelle our cat on the dryer that made me happy. Seeing the first buds on the rose bushes makes me smile. Seeing them on my computer screen later larger than life filled me with happiness. These are simple pleasures that work for me.

I feel happiness thumbing through my photos and remembering the day I stacked the clay pots in the greenhouse, put the Rolling Rock beer bottle on the roof of the truck, or put a small bouquet of spring flowers in JEJ"s hands so he could "pose" for me. I can remember the exact moment my mom put on my "Russian Woman" hat while talking on the phone at Christmas. I have a picture as an added memory.

I gave my mom a digital photo frame for Christmas. One of the happiest days I spent in December was clicking through albums of pictures choosing the best ones for her first collection. I sat later in the chair in her living room and enjoyed the vivid colors of a summer bouquet, Kit hanging upside down in the tree, and a weathered picnic table at Lake Chelan. I was filled with happiness. I was difficult to choose a series of images for this post today, but here is a start. Trying looking around today and noticing small things that make you smile. Keep the image in your memory. Fill your heart with happiness.
Pumpkins at Yoke's in Kellogg.
winter sunset
JEJ's footprints on the trail
Grandma's afghan enjoyed by Isabelle.
Mom searching in the frig for something!
 lilac and blue

A New Twist on Mac and Cheese and a Keeper from the Recipe Box

My traditional macaroni and cheese recipe has always been the tried and true Pioneer Macaroni and Cheese from the original Betty Crocker cookbook. It is usually a Friday night comfort food dinner at our house. Today I mixed things up in two ways. We had our favorite comfort food on Saturday and I tried a new recipe. I found it at Recipezaar, but it originally came from Paula  Deen's cooking show.  We decided we liked it even better than the traditional recipe! It is more filling with the eggs added and I mixed up the cheese, using a small bit of jack cheese also.  Here is the recipe: 

The Lady's Macaroni and Cheese  
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture.
  4. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Top with additional cheese if desired, and bake a few minutes more until cheese is melted.

March 13, 2010: First Bloom of the Year!


Tire Woes, Dancing in Class, and the Bluebird of Happiness

Sometimes weeks can go by, life is uneventful, and I plod along counting my blessings. Other times there are so many events that the week is all a blur. As  I began to teach today I asked, "Is it really Friday?"

We had one of those weeks at our house. Strange noises from the back tires while I was in Spokane  last week didn't just mean the tires needed balancing. It involved a whole brake system. Whole brake systems mean more than a little change out of the pocket.

JEJ discovered the poison oak on our hillside is definitely alive and well. The cats carry the oil in their fur, the oil is in the smoke when burning brush on the hillside, and it stays on everything it touches. When people are sensitive to poison oak it makes for a miserable time. JEJ is one of those people. After doing many loads of wash, finding effective remedies, and learning everything I ever wanted to know about poison oak online I am just thankful I am not as sensitive to it. JEJ is on the mend.

The school week was not uneventful either. A student is struggling with her mother's diagnosis of cancer, we all said good-bye to a seventh grader that moved today, another girl had just written a beautiful tribute to her dog, but then arrived to class in tears trying to tell me she lost her beloved dog. It was a week full of tears, words of encouragement, pain, and sadness.

Then it snowed a few inches, the pond froze again,the Zags lost the championship game, I sequestered myself in my study for a day to work on my National Board portfolio due in nineteen days, I had my own health issues, and I had to remind students gummy bears are for eating, not throwing.
Then there were times I counted my blessings. I danced in front of my class with our departing student and didn't break a bone or sprain an ankle and have a video to prove it, I baked brownies, I listened to excited students reading comments received on our class blog. I enjoyed a blissful nap today, my dear cousin is out of the hospital and on the mend at home, my brother is finding more energy every day to catch up with his student work (which means he is getting stronger), and I saw a bluebird this morning as I stepped out of my car at school.
I think the rest of the week can only get better!

Tulips from Two Points of View

These aren't from my own garden yet... but the bulbs are slowing pushing up out of the ground.

Sibling Assignment #123: Spring Break at Steamboat Rock

I gave the sibling assignment this week. Think of a destination you have traveled to that brought you happiness. Describe the place/trip and why this particular place brought you happiness. I will link my siblings' posts when they post theirs.
Eight years ago during my spring break JEJ and I decided to get away and go camping. We had never camped that early in the year, but the adventurous spirit moved us! We had begun a quest of visiting a variety of campgrounds in eastern Washington. We packed up our gear, ourselves, and the dogs and traveled in our old Coachman RV to Steamboat Rock State Park. The park is located between Electric City and Coulee City on Banks Lake which was created by Grand Coulee Dam. We had made a perfect choice!
 That year the weather was perfect for camping. The grass had begun to green, the trees were blooming, and the days were warm. We love to camp off-season because the campgrounds aren't as busy. Actually there were quite a few people camping, but this campground is spread out enough it doesn't feel crowded. We were close to the water and the park had lots of places to hike.
Steamboat Rock itself jutts out of the land to form a plateau that provides panoramic views of the whole area. Hiking trails are everywhere. We never made it all the way to the top, but with the dogs explored the trails, the lakeshore, and the area around the park.
I felt much happiness during this trip. For me happiness is when you arrive at a destination with all that you need so you can just do what you want when you want.  It was a much needed break. We weren't on a schedule, had really nowhere else to go,and read, rested, hiked, ate great food, and enjoyed the company of the dogs. That trip was before my digital camera days so I had to borrow a few pictures to give an idea of what it looks like. We returned to Steamboat Rock a few years later in the early fall and had another enjoyable camping experience. I wish I could load up and head there right now!

Postcards From Lake Roosevelt

It was a beautiful day to be out on the lake today with a camera, the dogs, and JEJ.


Tonight I am staying away from home for a training in Seattle. This is what I miss when I am away from home.

The greenhouse,
 a warm fire,
a sunrise,

and JEJ.