January 31, 2011

I Was Thinking...

I might bore you to death with this one!

My mind thinks of strange random things at times. And lately I've been noticing patterns, sequences, and things of that sort. I find this odd, because during my formal education, I hated the problem solving and "find the sequence" lessons. Not my thing, or at least not till recently.

Just to give you an example of what's been going on in my mind:

The other night...I have a lot of inspiration and brilliant moments in the middle of the night while driving...I suddenly had a mental image of a map of Montana in my head. It looked something like this.
In my mind I visualized the interstates 90 and 94running east to west and the 5 biggest cities/towns you pass through on that route.
Take a minute and see if you see anything interesting.

In my wondering thoughts I realized something interesting in the names of the cities. Do you see the pattern?


Missoula, Butte, Bozeman, Billings, Miles City

Isn't that interesting?

Did you also notice that both the "M" states are actually both "Mi" states?

MIssoula and MIles City

Upon further contemplation, I found a deeper sequence. Did you notice that the "B" cities are in alphabetical order, backwards if you read left to right, but still alphabetical.

BUtte, BOzeman, BIllings

I really found this rather interesting. Most likely not done on purpose, or planned out. Just one of those random things that happens. I think its cool!

And what can we conclude from all this? Well I'll tell you.

Obviously, as a truck driver, I have way too much thinking time.

PS: We're out of the bitter cold north country and down in Texas now! I've been working on getting pictures together and will post some in the next day or so. In the mean time, we're soaking up the warm. Its 73 here south of Houston. I hear its -10 at home.

January 28, 2011

A Sesquicentennial

"America has no north, no south, no east, no west. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south. We are one and undivided." - Sam Watkins - 1st Tennessee
(quote obtained from the following website   http://www.carrothers.com/civwar.htm)

This year, 2011, marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. I'm having trouble conjuring up the words for this post. So much could be said. So much wants said, though its all been said over and over again for the past 150 years..

Thoughts of this time in our nations history are solemn. One hundred and fifty years. Do you realize what a small amount of time has passed? One hundred fifty years is a drop in the bucket!

I've always held a fascination with history of our Civil War. History in general really, but particularly this era. As I've matured, my historical interests have expanded to other periods, but the Civil War is always a few thoughts away when I'm in my historical frame of mind. Maybe its from growing up in the south, but I think
really that God just made me a history lover and in particular, gave me a special fondness for this part of our history.

Lots of the battlefield parks and sights will be hosting special events, displays, etc to honor the memory of this tragic part of our history, and the lessons our nation learned from it.  It would be a great year to tour some of these sights and I hope if you get the opportunity, you'll do so!

I did not set off to find a way to commemorate the anniversary. I was just looking for a new quilt for my bed and wanted to make it myself, not just buy it. In the past couple of years a few fabric designers have been coming out with popular fabric lines featuring reproduction prints from the Civil War era, and there are a few quilt kits that use these fabrics. I ran across one that caught my eye when I was flipping through a catalog and promptly ordered it.

My new quilt will feature a block every month. Its a "block of the month" club quilt. Each month I receive the fabric and instructions to piece part of the quilt, using the civil war fabrics. Each square commemorates a battle or event that took place during the war. I've decided to go ahead and expand my project by blogging about it also. Provided I'm able to get each months block finished, I plan to do a monthly post, sharing a picture of that months block, and telling a bit about the event that the block is honoring.

The first month's block:

The first months quilt square is the "spinning hour glass." The kit is calling it "Shots Fired at  Fort Sumter."

April 12-14, 1861
Fort Sumter stood in Charleston Harbor, outside Charleston, SC. Even after South Carolina seceded from the union (South Carolina was the first to do so) the fort remained in Union hands and was staffed by Union troops. The Confederate government commanded Gen.PGT Beauregard to demand the evacuation of the fort, and to force the evacuation if refused. The commanding Union officer, Maj. Robert Anderson, promised to evacuate by noon on April 15 unless he recieved order to do otherwise, or more supplies. The answer was not acceptable to the Confederacy. On April 12 at 4:30 in the morning, Confederate guns began a bombardment of the fort that would lead to the bloodiest war in American history.
Firing continued throughout the day and night, both sides sending shells flying at each other, though the Union troops in the fort were short on ammunition and so were rationing their shots. Confederate cannon shots set fire to the barracks in the fort, but even amid the heat and smoke of the flames, the Union troops continued to send off the occasional shot, compelling applause and cheers from the Confederate troops out of admiration for the Union boys determination.
On April 14, 1961, after 33 hours of bombardment, Fort Sumter was surrendered. There were no casualties on either side and only minor injuries. The Union troops were allowed to leave the fort with honor, even given permission to raise their flag for a 100 gun salute before leaving. Upon their return to the north, they were greeted as heroes.
It was a minor battle in scale. It was a monumental battle in history. It was the beginning of four long years of civil war.

January 26, 2011

Malcolm's Gifts and Carlie Jean's Talents

Malcolm is so gifted. Since the day I met him, he has impressed me with his ability to take an idea and make it happen. He can create pretty much make or fix anything he sets his mind to. And almost all of his talents are self-taught. If he doesn't know how to do something, or can't figure it out on his own, he simply watches someone else do it, and then its as if he's had a long course of study on it to become an expert, only he's an instant expert. He has the "Midas touch" when it comes to creating.

Recently I was discussing my ideas with him for my dream barn. You know, the one where I'm going to keep my imaginary horses, goats and chickens, until they become real horses goats and chickens.

He went out to his shop and took some horse shoes and an iron rod he'd acquired, and about an hour later, he came back inside with these.
I now have about 15 really neat hooks on which to hang my imaginary bridles and halters and such.
They are so neat, so artistic. I know horse shoe hooks aren't anything novel, but I think these are much prettier than many others I've seen. Can't wait to hang them in my real horse barn one day and put real halters and bridles on them.

Our girls are also very talented. They each have gifts and skills with which they entertain us on a daily basis.
Carlie Jean is...well...Carlie is a little simpler than the other two. She's just a very loving dog with not a lot of brains inside the noggin'.  For instance, where as Paris and Ella both have learned to speak on command, Carlie never has been able to utter a sound. She just looks at you with adoration and silence when asked to speak. One would think she'd get clued in just be watching what the other two are doing. But, alas, she just doesn't get it.

In fact, Carlie is our little silent dog. The other two makes lots of noises and yips, growls and barks in playing. Carlie is silent but for a few small sounds on occasion. In fact the only time she ever makes a noise is if she perceives a threat to our space. She is an excellent little guard dog, barking viciously and with great gusto.

A few years ago, Malcolm was given a coyote call for Christmas. Its a little box that, when the remote is pressed, emits a recording of coyote pups yipping and howling. He hasn't had a chance to use it yet. Back a few months ago he was rummaging around in his stuff, and when he ran across it he started playing around with it. Much to our amusement, Carlie Jean threw her head in the air and joined the recording in a long, musical serenade.

From that point she quickly picked up on "can you howl?" Its her only trick. She still can't utter a single yip if asked to "speak," but boy look out if you even mention the word howl. In fact you don't even have to say the word. Just the sound of a little howl from you will get her going. She delights in her new found talent. Its a big thrill for her...and Malcolm, though a bit hard on my ears.

Bless her heart! Once she gets started, she has a hard time turning it off.

January 24, 2011

Another Look on a Clearer Day

If you were with me a week and a half ago, we took you on a rather snowy tour of a 215 mile stretch of I-90 through WA, ID, and into Montana.

Seems like we're making this Washington to Minnesota run quite a bit lately, and believe me, there are NO complaints about it here in the truck! For starters, we never tire of driving through our home state. But the main reason we love this route is that it passes by the house. And on occasion, like this past weekend, we load on one end on a Thurs. or Fri. but can't deliver on the other end till Monday. And what else is there to do but stop at the house for a couple days of R&R. All five of us enjoy this norther run!

Last week, we were on this run from Washington to Minnesota and, unlike the previous post, it was a glorious day! It was just the kind of beautiful day in the mountains that fills your soul with smiles! I had to get the camera out and take advantage of the opportunity to show the beauty of the day.

Remember not being able to see anything of Lake Coeur d'Alene in my pictures? Not a problem at all last Tuesday.

The roads were a lot clearer too, with only the occasional wet spot.
The climate is milder on the western side of these mountains than on the eastern side. So much of the snow had already melted considerably. The night before there had been a heavy fog that froze on the pine trees, but was pretty much the extent of the whiteness.

There are few things prettier than pine trees covered in frozen fog or mist. Its even prettier than pine boughs with snow, at least I think so.

It truly was a glorious day in the Idaho mountains!
Around every curve in the road is something new to see. Steep mountain slopes open up to reveal small fertile valleys before closing back in and squeezing the road in a tight hug.

The old mission house was much more clearly visible. I think it would be neat to stop here one day and explore. Somehow I doubt they have truck parking, but maybe we can make it work. Malcolm has a talent for creative parking so that I can enjoy these type things. ;)

The valley at Wallace,ID was a lot more visible too, though I still couldn't get more than the rooftops of the town buildings. Its just to tight an area to get good pictures in there.
We did finally run into some left over slush when we were going over Lookout pass, but nothing worth mentioning really.

A quick glance at the shoulder makes it pretty clear that they get their fair share of snow up here on the mountain pass.

And then the summit and the Montana state line! This is Big Sky Country!!!
You get a peek at the "big sky" but then for a while, maybe 45 miles of a bit more, you are back in the embrace of the mountains, winding around through the curves,

...and crossing mountain streams and rivers. This is a not so great picture of Clark Fork. (again, its not easy to get good pictures in these closed in spaces). Last night we came through this area again, and I counted, just out of curiosity. On this stretch of I-90 you cross Clark Fork no less than 7 times in about 80 miles. 
Maybe that gives you an idea of how windy the river is and how many curves are in the road through here.

After a while, maybe 60 miles into the state, the mountains start to open up a little.

And its not long before you can see more than just steep slopes of evergreen and patches of blue sky. Montana starts to live up to its nick name.

I love the mountains, and I love all of Montana, but the eastern plains will always own the biggest portion of my heart for Montana. There is something majestic about mountains, something that makes you feel small and awed, but the big open spaces can give you the same feelings.

Over by Missoula the terrain makes a final change over. From here to Billings the mountain ranges can be seen as entire ranges separated by vast valleys of pastureland. Its a taste of what is waiting for me east of Billings.

This tour ends for you at Missoula. 
We stopped to fuel, and by the time we were done, it was almost dark and I was going to bed. I got up to drive through my beloved grasslands in the middle of the night. Another night on the cold Montana plains, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Yes we love these Washington to Minnesota runs. Its a good freight lane to be stuck in for us. The only complaint I might issue is that no matter which way we're heading, east or west, the majority of the Montana portion of our trip inevitably comes after dark.  For now you can enjoy the mountains, and hopefully one of these days I'll be able to show you more of my side of Montana.

January 19, 2011

When She's Warm and Happy...

she does this goofy thing.  It cracks us up! This is Paris expressing her pure joy. Its a low key version. Sometimes she really gets going, but its hard to get her on camera b/c as soon as she realizes your watching, she wants to come see you and tell you in person how wonderful life is at the moment!

(sorry for the racket that the truck makes. Its not THAT loud in here, but the camera amplified the noise.)

January 17, 2011

An Excuse to Indulge

I am a penny pincher. I have a hard time spending money. Not to say I don't dream about LOTS of things, expensive things, to spend money on. I "window shop" quite a bit. In  fact over the past 6 months I've probably spent a lifetime's earnings on horses and related materials...all in my imagination of course.

There are a few things I have a harder time controlling my buying impulse over. Books...I spend money on books way too easily. The reasonable and responsible thing to do would be to check them out at the library. But no, I need to own them. I even have been known to enjoy one of my audio books so much that I'll go purchase the book after I've finished listening to it, just to see it sitting there all pretty on my book shelves. Because I need it!

Fabric, specifically quilting fabric, is quickly becoming another weak area. I haven't indulged too much, but I can spend a LOT of time just looking at the online catalogs and the ones I get in the mail. And its so hard not to buy a couple yards of every piece of fabric that strikes my fancy. I love to go to the cabinet in my laundry room and just look at the scraps I have left from past projects or the pieces I have waiting for projects I haven't gotten to yet. I love all the fabrics. Its hard not to buy.

Another area that is a temptation is the scrapbook aisle at the hobby and craft stores. I just stand there and absorb the beauty of all those gorgeous papers and nifty sticker collections. How I drool over all the beautiful things for decorating and displaying pictures. And then regretfully walk away without indulging because I don't scrapbook my pictures, and really have no desire to do so.

But back in July when I visited my parents in Tennessee, Mom was showing me one of her new projects. I was delighted and have borrowed her idea, and now I have a new fun hobby....and an excuse to buy all those pretty papers and nifty stickers in the scrapbook aisle!

Mom and I are "scrapbooking" our favorite recipes! I don't have many pictures I want to scrapbook, but I have an unending supply of recipes that I love! And I love the idea of combining them into a scrapbook, so I have all my favorites right at hand.

I also love that it gives me an excuse to indulge in those pretty papers and nifty stickers. The only problem I'm running into so far, is that I find myself wanting to scrapbook all my recipes, whether favorites or not, just so I can use some neat stickers or papers I found.
So far I've managed to control the impulse and stick to my favorite tried and true recipes. I've done about 5 pages so far. I scanned two of them in to show as examples. I don't know if they will "blow up" big enough for you to read or copy, but feel free to try them if you can see them well enough. The first is a wonderful hot chocolate mix that we enjoy on chilly mornings when we're home. And the second is the girls favorite cookies, the ones that they will do cartwheels to get! Ella in particular goes spastic when that cookie bag gets opened.

So there you go, one of my simple pleasures in life. One of my excuses to indulge in some unnecessary spending. Because as hard as it is for me to do sometimes, there really is nothing wrong with spoiling yourself a little!

January 15, 2011

215 Miles in About 5 Minutes

because I think that's about how long it will take you to read this, unless you take the time to examine pictures closely. Then it might take a little longer. It certainly took us longer to drive that far!
Considering that nearly everyone I know is enjoying...or maybe suffering through...there own personal winter wonderland, you might not be interested in hearing about another one somewhere else in the country. But that's what I'm posting about anyway. So if your sick of snow, then just move on to the next thing on your "to do" list and come back to visit me later.

To make a long explanation short and set the story up, we were supposed to load in Moses Lake, WA on Tuesday afternoon, and skedaddle back to Minnesota. The guy in Spokane, where we delivered Tuesday morning, had informed us there was a snow storm in the forecast for Tuesday night, with 12-14 inches predicted locally. Meaning the two mountain passes we had to cross in Idaho would get more. We were in a little more of a rush after that, but alas, our reload was delayed till Wednesday morning. So we resigned ourselves to driving in the snow, provided the road was still open.

Wednesday morning we woke up to 3-4 inches of fresh snow. I never tire of looking at it, though I've heard my time will come. Driving in it, though, can get tiresome and as for the girls...well they are just plain sick of it. They never liked snow to begin with, except maybe Ella. She likes to run on packed snow, or fluffy snow as long as its only a couple inches deep. They reluctantly went out as necessity demanded, and then went back to bed.  
After loading up, we headed east, hoping for the best. With only a few inches of new snow, the roads weren't too terrible.
By the time we got back to Spokane, things were a little whiter...
...and it had started to sleet.  We always keep an eye on our mirrors. They say if your mirrors start to ice up, then the road is getting icy too. Obviously it was already slick, but the sleet wasn't helping.

Oh! Check this out. Actually it probably isn't of great interest to you, but Malcolm and I check the progress on it every time we come through Spokane.
This is the brand new, larger weigh station they are building on the west bound side of I-90. Right now they are crammed into a little area off of an entrance ramp. We're just so thrilled to see them getting an improved facility complete with large inspection bays in the garage out back (thrilled...you do know I'm being sarcastic, right?) We're hoping we don't get to help pay for it.

Back to the east bound side of I-90 and into Idaho:
By now the girls had finished their nap and had resumed normal daily activity.

Post Falls, ID is just across the state line. Traffic was really clogging up now, people just puttering along and still being rather careless, driving right on top of each other. If roads are bad, please give each other lots of room. It makes no sense to drive bumper to bumper on ice!

We figured we just had to get through Post Falls and then Coeur d'Alene and then traffic would clear out. We were right.

Normally there are dozens of trucks out here and a number of cars. We felt like we were crossing over the passes in the middle of the night. There were just a handful of us out there.

One of these days I'll have to get pictures of this part of Idaho when the sky is clear. Lake Coeur d'Alene is gorgeous. Its  somewhere out there...
Ooh! There's a peak! You'll just have to take my word for it that the view of the lake and mountains is lovely.

Nothing like stating the obvious!

At this point we had reached the base of Fourth of July pass, the first of two passes that have to be crossed on the Idaho stretch of I-90.

The roads were snow packed, but  nothing extreme.
and we sailed over with no problems.
I had checked the Idaho road reports earlier in the day, and kept checking the updates. They had labeled most of I-90 as having "fair conditions" with Fourth of July pass being the only "difficult conditions" present. Quite frankly, I was surprised they hadn't declared the entire stretch all the way from the state line as "difficult" because it was all snow packed and slick. We were hoping maybe things got better east of the summit,
but it pretty much looked the same going down the other side.

This is Old Mission State Park. The mission was built between 1850 and 1853 and is Idaho's oldest standing building.

The Coeur d'Alene river as it winds through the mountains.

The road crews were out working hard. Can't even begin to estimate the number of snow plows we passed.

And they seemed to actually be making some progress, though the blue flashing lights on the west bound side may lead you to think differently.

I don't know if the USPS sticks to the old adage down south, but out here they are serious about it. "Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail..."

It wasn't long before we were passing through Wallace, ID. This is a little historic town tucked into the mountains and the old mining area. Its hard to photograph from the roadway because things are so closed in...
...but certain things I can see from the highway...

...lead me to believe....
....that I'd love to explore this town! One day...

After Wallace, we weren't too far from the second and final pass. Its called Lookout pass.

If you hadn't noticed in the picture of Wallace, maybe you can see now that the sleet had changed over to big fat snow flakes. They were so pretty. Of course, I wasn't driving, so it was easy for me to sit there and ooo and ahh over the scenery and snow flakes.
The road report had said Lookout pass had some "icy patches." That might be the understatement of the year! I think they had forgotten to update the report! The chain law wasn't being enforced, but there were a few guys at the bottom of the hill throwing their chains on. And a little way up, a truck had slid off the road a bit...

...which inspired others to stop and put on chains.

But generally, if your still moving, its best to keep moving while you can. And so that's what we did. No sudden movements, no fast acceleration, and you should be fine...and we were.

And when we got to the top of Lookout pass, I was blowing kisses in greeting.

I missed the elevation sign. It was partially covered in snow anyway, but Lookout pass is at 4,680 feet.

One of the interesting things about Lookout pass is that Idaho consistently does a better job of maintaining their side of the mountain than Montana does. I have no idea why. And true to form, Montana's side looked like they'd barely touched it with the plows. You can't tell much in the picture, but there were several inches of snow piled up on the left side of the road.

For some reason, our windshield started having trouble icing over. I don't know why it waited till this point to give us problems, but at least it was short lived, and thankfully it was mainly the passenger side that was misbehaving.

We made it to the bottom just fine. And as expected, the port of entry was open. I don't think they ever close this one!
...And that is where your tour ends. Over all it was an easy trip on typical winter roads. We were out of the snow by the time we got east of Missoula and by the time we were in Butte the temperature was up over freezing, though it didn't stay there long. In the end, the biggest upset of the day was breaking my thumbnail while trying to clean ice off the windshield wiper.

And if that's the worst that happened, then it was a pretty good day in a winter wonderland!