the sunset that stopped dinner


Last Tuesday night I was invited to an impromptu dinner at My French Friend Janou’s house.

I didn’t take my camera.  Which was a huge mistake.  The sunsets from MFFJ’s deck can be spectacular.  The kind of sunsets that make you believe in gods and miracles.

I’m not exaggerating.

But my stupid I-phone 5C was not up to the challenge of this particular sunset, one that went on changing the sky for almost an hour.  We were eating on the deck, which made it easy to jump up and take pictures every 2 minutes or so.

Here are some of the results.  I am still kicking myself for leaving my “real” camera at home on the kitchen table.



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an apricot jam kind of day


Wednesday morning turned out to be a day for making jam.  Music lessons had been cancelled and I had three packages of defrosted apricots calling my name.  I’d bought cases of apricots from the Peach Man last month, for the family reunion (my sisters-in-law love apricots as much as I love peaches) and the ones left behind (apricots, not sisters) were frozen.

My grandson and I made  jam one morning when he was here, so he had a suitcase full of jam to give as gifts in Texas when he headed home.  It’s funny how he loves to make jam.

I tried a new recipe this summer, using “Dutch Jell” natural pectin:

5 cups chopped apricots
7 cups sugar
1/3 cup rounded Dutch Jell All Natural
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine the apricots, lemon juice and Dutch Jell in a large saucepan.  Mix and bring to a full boil.  Add the sugar, return to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Skim foam.

There are lots of instructions online about how to can fruit and jam safely should you want to try it.  It’s easy, but there are safety guidelines.  I wash my jars and keep them in a 250-degree oven to stay hot.  I boil my lids and rings in a pan on the stove and keep the water simmering lightly.  After filling the jars (1/2″ from the top) I wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, then put on the lids and rings tightly.  I invert each jar for twenty seconds (I’ve seen recommendations for five minutes) and then set the jar right side up.  I’ve never had any trouble with sealing–that loud “pop” is always such a good sound.

I thought I had to put my jams in a water bath canner until my mother-in-law showed me the “inversion” technique.  We saved a lot of time preserving the rest of our jams that long ago fall.

I always think of her when I’m making jam or canning fruit.  She gave me such a gift when she taught me how to do all of this.  Thank you, Mom!



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no means no, the food version


Properly marked Whoopie Pies from the Pantry.


With so many people here at the house I had to call a family meeting and explain “food rules”.

“Can I eat this?” is a question I heard a lot.  We had tons of leftovers and food galore in two refrigerators and of course no one wanted to get in trouble by eating something that I was saving for dinner.

No worry, I told the family members gathered around the dining room table.  I explained that everything in the fridges or on the counters or in the pantry was fair game unless it had the word “NO” scrawled across a piece of masking tape or on a post-it note.

The men in my family became a little confused over these directions.  My daughter-in-law jumped in to help me explain it for the fourth time in nine minutes.

But the guys eventually got the hang of it.

And the plan worked perfectly on leftover sandwiches, pieces of pie and–as you see above–high calorie loot from the Pantry.

I might have to start doing this in Rhode Island next winter.

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the tomatoes and the deer, 2016 version

Check out my massive tomato plants.  I have no idea why they are taller than I am, but perhaps because they were purchased at the local farmer’s market by Dancing Mandolin Player they are some kind of Super Plant.


I had some expert tomato people on my side this year.

Anyway, Banjo Man and I planted them and moved the pots to the other side of our little front yard, which for the past five years has been safe from the deer.

Do you see the open area on the other side of the porch decking?  There are stairs there, but I have blocked them off with twine and strips of blue washcloth.

Very redneck, I agree, but it is my attempt to discourage a “daddy-horned deer” (as my grandson refers to our neighborhood buck) from coming up the stairs, onto the deck, around the corner, and down three stairs to eat my tomato plants.

He has been known to stand by the decking and stare longingly at my plants.  Every morning I open the back door and wonder if I will see cherry tomatoes or devastation.

So far so good.

But to be on the safe side, I temporarily confiscated one of Banjo Man’s game cameras and posted it towards the tomatoes.


I check the camera to see if he is getting braver (he’s not).

And if the unthinkable happens I want to know who did it.

In the meantime I have lots of pictures of my grandson posing with his Star Wars blaster or his squirt gun.  He loved the thought of being captured on camera while making ferocious faces.


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the outhouse project

Sarge and Son #1 are putting together parts of the outhouse to transport up to The Cabin In the Mountains.


Sarge is in charge and Son #1 is happy to take orders.

The Funny Grandson got into the act yesterday.  He informed me that he brought his own safety goggles and could help load the trailer, which he proceeded to do.  Sarge even let him hook up the ties to hold everything down.

Today Sarge, Son #1 and Story Man have loaded up the 4-Runner and have gone up to the mountain to construct the outhouse.  Banjo Man has elected to stay home and let the younger generation figure it out for themselves.

I’m sure it will be a great outhouse.

Not that I intend to use it.

My daughter-in-law has arrived and is happy to be away from the Texas heat.  She brought a bottle of Deep Eddy lemon vodka in her suitcase.  What a gal!!!!

I think this means we are going to party, don’t you?

Tonight is band practice up on the hill.  The five-year old wannabee drummer is hoping to sit in for a few songs, like he did last year.  In fact, he has talked about it maybe 67 times since he arrived in Idaho.

Drummers are intense.

The Outhouse Outlaws intend to wrap up construction mid-afternoon so they can hear some tunes and catch up with the news on the hill.

Meanwhile…Mandolin Ann, Dancing Mandolin Player and I are heading into town to have a music lesson with Doug this morning.

Not one of us said, “I’d rather build an outhouse.”





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sitting on the dock of the bay


We have had a fine time these past twelve days.  He keeps me busy, which is why there has been no time for blogging.

We’ve had an incredibly fun family reunion week, beautiful weather and lots of cookouts and beach parties.

The morning this picture was taken it was just the two of us on the dock.  We were enjoying the sun and watching for boats, waiting for trains, looking at a floating feather and one very small dead fish as they drifted past.

There was much to discuss.

Just like Banjo Man, he likes to chat.

This afternoon this little guy’s mother arrives, along with Uncle Will (aka Story Man of BBQ fame) to join the rest of us for nine more days at the lake.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.



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he’s here


Once again, he couldn’t wait to take off his clothes, get his bathing suit on and hustle on down to the lake for a swim.

It didn’t matter that he’d been awake since 2:30 AM (oh, those painful early morning flights!) or that the water was cold, the Funny Grandson had waited all year to get back in the lake and that was exactly where he was headed.

The drive from the airport to the lake is about two hours, which is a long time when you are five.  But he remembered the “Welcome to Idaho” sign and said he couldn’t wait to see it.

And then, an hour later, we approached the Long Bridge at Sandpoint.  And the sight of the long-awaited lake.

“When I see the lake,” he told me quite seriously, “my heart feels happy, happy, happy.  And my heart feels like it’s coming home.”

Ah, yes.  There are many of us who have felt that way.

long bridge








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random summer thoughts

It is a blessing to have friends with gardens and share the bounty.

Dancing Mandolin Player keeps us healthy.

Which gives me more time and energy to finish some important summer quilts.



This was one of today’s projects.  The Funny Grandson arrives tomorrow for three weeks.  We can’t wait!!!

And here’s the annual First Tomato of the Year photo, right here in my own little pot.


And finally, a sunset that made my heart skip a beat.  A strange and golden sky…IMG_20160718_202342

This place is truly the “enchanted kingdom” Ben Stein described in a recent publication.

Wishing you all a peaceful week.


More Pie


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not going hungry any time soon

In case you’ve been wondering how I fill my hours here at the lake when the weather is cloudy and cool, here’s the answer.IMG_1323

This was empty two weeks ago.   I’ve been busy—–and very happy.

Yes, it’s a little weird.  I don’t care.  My kids in Texas never complain when I tuck plastic containers of Italian meat sauce into their freezers.

Making big quantities of food is something I really enjoy doing.   And this summer a large number of Banjo Man’s family are coming here to party at the lake for six days.  While Banjo Man is working outside to surprise his brother with a finished landscaping project involving lots of rocks, I have been in the kitchen.

Chicken enchiladas were Tuesday’s project.


There could be two dozen of us around the dinner table in about twelve days, but I am ready!!!

And yes, there will be pie.

There is always pie, because it is summer.  At the lake.






Posted in family, food, just for fun, lake | 3 Comments

a longmire day

I have a secret crush on Walt Longmire.  He’s the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming.  And he lives in Craig Johnson’s books.


I started watching the Longmire tv series (originally shown on A&E) last fall.  After three seasons, the show became a Netflix production.  Series 5 just finished filming and will be released on Netflix in  September.

Eventually I convinced Banjo Man to watch the show and he was immediately hooked.    In the meantime I read all of the Longmire books–in order, of course, because there’s a compelling story arc–and became a huge fan of Wyoming author Craig Johnson.

Craig Johson’s website:

Then, while researching touristy ideas for our road trip I came across an article about “Longmire Days” in Buffalo,  Wyoming and learned that Buffalo was the inspiration for Walt’s fictional town of Durant.


Storefront in Buffalo.


There was a Busy Bee Café, just like in the books.  And the Dash Inn hamburger joint, where Walt and Vic often stop when they’re in a hurry.

“We have to go to Buffalo,” I declared.  And I told my brother, a road trip fan also, about our plans.

“I know Craig,” he said.  “He lives about 20 miles from Buffalo.  Would you like to meet him?”

Well,  I would.  If it’s not a bother.  If he’s not on a deadline and strapped for time.  If he doesn’t mind too much.  If he’s around.

Once we crossed the Mississippi I got an email from Craig Johnson and we arranged to meet for drinks at the Occidental Hotel (a historic hotel where Banjo Man and I would take a break from our Hampton Inns and go for some authentic western flavor) at 5:30 on Wednesday.

How cool is that?!!? 


Wyoming morning.

We arrived in Buffalo in time for lunch at the Busy Bee, which didn’t quite work out because they were a bit disorganized.  We drank some iced tea, cancelled our lunch order and set out to find some Longmire souvenirs.

Buffalo is a small, friendly town.  I saw some other folks taking pictures of the Busy Bee Café and knew they were also fans of the book and/or tv show.  We found a Longmire shop and bought a book.  Banjo Man regrets not buying a t-shirt, though I had done my best to convince him he needed one.

At 5:30 we met Craig and his wife Judy, went next door to the historic saloon and proceeded to talk for almost two hours.  They were lovely folks, warm and funny and sociable.  We talked about writing.  They told stories of Longmire Days (the first time it was held the town ran out of food, money and bandwidth!) and the tv show and the people who inspired the characters in the novels.  They urged us to return for Longmire Days (July 8-10) but we were headed west, where we would stay for a few months.


Judy and Craig.



Craig, Banjo Man and me.

Big thanks to my brother for setting this up!   And our gratitude to Craig and Judy for making us feel welcome.

More scenes from the main street of Buffalo and the Occidental Hotel:

If you’d like to read about Longmire Days:

From the Casper Star Tribune:

Posted in books & music, road trip, television, travel, writing | 5 Comments