Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last Bits Of Summer

There are some enormous maples I stare at each morning, coffee cup in hand, as I figure out what’s up for the day. On this morning, hundreds of green leaves moving about on the air currents that pass through their branches remind me it’s still summer. There are, however, a smattering of those that have turned brown and moved on to sparsely carpet the ground below. Not many, but enough for me to take notice.
A gray and overcast sky will most likely burn off by late afternoon and transition to August warmth by this evening. The first week of September is rolling into view and the fibers of autumn are slowly weaving their way into the lazy carpet of summer. With the first school bus of the year that passed through our neighborhood around seven this morning, a predictable rhythm began. Cool morning air draws me forward...... toward change and possibility.
Hope you enjoy your last moments of summertime!
Warmly,  Margaret

(PS: If you're interested....I wrote about a wonderful Italian cafe, Caffe Dolce , that I visited last week in Missoula on the website Make it Missoula. I've included the link. Hope you check it out!)

Friday, August 26, 2011


I had a few things going on last week, not the least of which was packing up the Suburban to help my youngest settle into his sophomore year of college in Missoula. He moved in to a rental house this year and unlike the small rectangle of a dorm room he inhabited last year, there is quite a bit more space. Quite a bit more space meant traveling with quite a few more things in order to help furnish a kitchen, a living room, a back yard and a bedroom. We got out of town at the time we planned (somewhat unusual for us...) and moved across the state carrying clothes in a suitcase, in bags and on hangars. We carried sheets, towels, mixing bowls, kitchen utensils, plates, cups, bowls, chairs and his bike. There were important items from Costco and Target runs we had made before the trip, as well as a few things from home we managed to fit in for his brother who lives there full time.

What we couldn't find room for greeted me in the entry way as soon as I returned home and will have to be carted over next time. They are items that aren't necessary at this point in the year anyway...like his snowboard gear and a couple more chairs. We did forget and leave the cardboard tube of posters behind, however. He thinks it's pretty urgent that they are sent over ASAP.

You know how you can learn a lot about a person when you're in a bit of a crisis? Like how they handle their emotions under pressure. How they think on the fly. Whether they fall apart or keep it together with a cool head. If they tend to think of themselves first or whether it is just natural for them to reach out and take care of some one else.

My youngest is just an easy going and pretty helpful kid by nature, so when the fuel pump gave out as I hurtled across the state at 70 mph....I was fortunate he was in the seat next to me. Although I had to wake him from a road trip induced slumber, he quickly snapped to and figured out what was going on much faster than I might have with a sleepy-foggy brain. As my car lost speed he reminded me to turn on the emergency flashers and motioned to those passing on our right that we needed to make it over to the wider right hand shoulder of the road. Once safely parked (if it is ever safe to be parked on the side of an interstate!), he used his smart phone to look up hotels and repair shops in the nearest town while I was on mine with AAA. He helped me talk through the decision to be towed all the way to Spokane, which although it would be more expensive, would work out best in the long run since we could stay with my parents for free.

What really did this mom's heart good however was when after digging around in the back seat for a minute, he pulled out a small towel to keep the 90+ degree heat off my head. And that he shared ice cubes with me from the one fountain drink we traveled with. And when he unzipped his guitar from it's case, sat on the edge of the back seat and started playing one of the few tunes he knows so far. Those things.....they make a difference.

We arrived in Missoula the following day and met up with Marc and Peter a few hours later than originally planned. It all ended well. Our car is driving great. He's moved in and settled, and we had a lot of fun during our stay.

Something else that does this mom's heart good: I'm pretty sure he's OK without us. He hugged and kissed us as we left and reminded us not to be strangers....as if he needed to. Last I heard he was spending a lot of time with his friends floating the river and barbequeing in the back yard during this week before school starts. Ahhhhh......19.

Have a wonderful weekend,


Friday, August 19, 2011

One Week.....

Hey Friends,

Guess what I haven't done yet on this blog. Taken a week off!  So......that's what I'll be doing, with not much new for today (Friday) or next Tuesday. I'll be back the following Friday, August 25th. Everyone deserves a little time off, eh?

In the mean time, I invite you to introduce yourself either by leaving a comment or sending an email to thisfriendlyvillage@gmail.com  After nearly 8 months, you know quite a few things about me and I'd like to know a little something about you, too. So far I've made it a point to share snippets of what I think is important, some of what I value, so let me know: What is important to you? What kinds of things do you value? I'd also love a couple of good book suggestions as fall is rolling into view and reading on the couch by a fire sounds kind of good for some reason!

Feel free to let me know what you'd like to hear more about (or less about!) or if there are any particular posts or photographs that have made a difference. If you haven't read them all, I would just love it if you did!

I'll pass along a link to my August 18th contribution on the website www.makeitmissoula.com. In it I share ten things I love about that city and talk a bit about each. Since there is so much I enjoy when we're there, I hesitated calling it my top ten....Let's just say it's a list of some of my current favorites, with more to come!

Here is the link: http://www.makeitmissoula.com/2011/08/my-top-10-things-about-missoula/

Cheers! And have a great week. I plan to......

XO, Margaret

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beary Good

My older boys are twins, you know. They shared a womb and then a room until they were seven. When they were very young they shared stroller space, back seat space and space in a preschool classroom. As kindergarten approached we requested that they be placed separately to minimize the frequency they would be subjected to the inevitable mix-ups and comparisons that come with being a person that looks almost-exactly-like-another-person. If I remember correctly, they escaped being in the same mix all the way through middle and high school. 

When college rolled around they chose different schools in different states. For a year or so beforehand we encouraged them to consider their own personal needs; to make decisions geared toward their unique selves. Although we hoped they would give some real thought to whether they should attend the same school or different ones, we kept from making suggestions the best we could. I could spend some time here talking about perceived similarities or differences in their personalities, but I won't. Only they know for sure. I'm just happy they knew what would work out best.

All of my boys grew up not knowing what it was like to be without one another other, but particularly the older two.  Separate classrooms, colleges and cities allowed autonomy as much as possible, but the truth is that they have been enveloped together since conception and connected in ways they might not even understand. Are there unique gifts born along with being a twin? Maybe, but truthfully, I'm just hoping that all three of them recognize the gifts they received being born as brothers.

As I write this, the two older ones are are hiking and camping in Glacier National Park for a few days. For the first time...ever, I guess.....it's just the two of them away from home, media distractions, friends, and whatever else makes up the fabric of their every day. They're sharing space in a car, on a trail, at a campfire and in a tent. I would love to know what they're talking about; witness how they work and cook and hike together. Maybe they'll find out things about each other that they didn't know before or teach each other a few things. I know for sure they'll have each other laughing, that's a given.

The last we heard from them was a text message sent to their younger brother. It was a picture with each of them on one side of an enormous stuffed-animal type bear. The caption stated, "Montana is Beary Good..."

I can't wait to hear.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Peter rolled in the other night around midnight. I knew he'd pull into our driveway about that time and so went to bed figuring I'd wake up when he got home, just as I have since he was in his teens. A few random noises nudged me and then I became fully awake when his dog, Lewis, sprinted into my room to say hi. He jumped on the bed and looked me square in eye with an invitation to go downstairs and hang out that I found irresistible......so at 12:15 AM, in jammies and my robe, I gave myself permission to sleep late the next morning and then settled in to my awakeness at the kitchen table to listen and watch for awhile. To point out the left overs in the fridge and the raspberry pie on the counter.

Pat was still up, Joey not home yet and Marc asleep upstairs, so it was just the three of us in the kitchen. I'm not sure I'll ever get enough of watching those two boys interact, just as I have since the minute they came into this world one right after the other. They're mesmerizing, the two of them together, and although they would roll their eyes at this, still look at each other, still laugh at each other, the same way they have since they were toddlers. Predictable, guttural, twinkling belly-laughs that have changed only in pitch, not timing.

When I got up the next morning, this is what I found strewn about: A Glacier Park ball cap, a pair of sandals, a guitar...... and every door and a few of the drawers in the kitchen left open. Random silverware, six plates, two bowls, three glasses, pie crumbs and raspberry stains on the counter, along with an empty bottle of wine. They were in the middle of figuring out how Pat could end up in Montana for a few days next week when I decided to go back to bed and must have stayed up for quite awhile after that. Soon after I crawled into the sheets, Joey came home, so I'm sure these and other future plans then included the three of them.

Will I ever tire of this? No. Will I mention my interrupted sleep or the mess I cleaned up the next morning? Never. Someday they'll figure it out. I had 'one of those days' all week this week. You know the ones. One step forward, two back. Days where the best laid plans didn't come together. Ones where I questioned some things that only a short time ago I felt very sure of. This late night noise, this messy mess that occurred was oddly comforting. It stopped the clock for awhile. It was balm for my soul.

Ahhhh....priorities. Have a great weekend!



PS. I would love it if you took a look at my new post on Make It Missoula.  It's about how two of my boys ended up choosing to go school at The University of Montana. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the city of Missoula or are considering attending the University of Montana, you might want to take a read. Here is the link:


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


For the first time in a few weeks we made it to the Farmer's Market here in town. And it was buzzing! So many people out on a sunny day, eating, listening to music and checking out the absolute bounty that is the market at this time of year. I didn't bring my camera simply because I thought it might be too much to carry what with all the fruits and veggies I had in mind. I probably wouldn't have been able to crowd into the produce stalls for good shots anyway......but the crowds or the people......now those would have been good shots!

I came home with young spinach and zucchini, beautiful heirloom tomatoes and a flat and a half of berries. We grilled the zucchini, layered the tomatoes with fresh basil, salt, pepper and olive oil, and made sorbet with the raspberries. The sorbet was so easy I can hardly believe it was the first time I've made it! I liked it best the first day when, although it had been in the freezer for a couple of hours, it was still a little soft. I still haven't figured out how to prevent homemade ice cream from collecting ice crystals after sitting in the freezer for more than a day. Any ideas? 

Afterward, Marc spent some time putting together an enclosed tumbler for making compost (see above). I have to say that I heard more than a few mumblings about the deficiency of the directions included, but it all came together and now we have it. Depending on where you live, it might appear ridiculous to set up a contraption like this just to make compost when it seems like a pile in the yard somewhere would work out just as well. Lately however, at least where we are, whatever is not locked up or locked down acts as an open invitation to an after dark feast for very persistent bears or raccoons.

So with the compost tumbler and a new fence around our garden......I think maybe this is the year to try veggies again. I've been looking into suggestions about what to plant in the fall and just read a great piece about garlic. That seems like a good place to start but would totally welcome other thoughts......especially for our climate. I'll keep you posted.

Wishing you a wonderful week,


Friday, August 5, 2011

Cherries and A Favorite Cookbook

I love the abundance of fresh cherries at this time of year but have to admit that other than eating them raw, I'm not overflowing with ideas about how to use them. We're fortunate here in Washington in that we have a large local crop. When they're in season, I buy a lot. We also travel quite a bit to the Flathead Valley of Montana which is brimming with beautiful cherry blossoms in the spring and boxes of deep black-red fruit right around this time.

On one of Peter's trips home from Missoula last summer, he stopped in at my sister's in Eastern Washington to pick a huge box from her orchard. I don't can often, but wanted to preserve these. We could only eat so many before the quality went south so I spent an afternoon washing, pitting, making syrup and boiling. It was a nice way to commune with my sister who I dont' see nearly often enough. When they were finished I almost hated to put them away because the ruby colored jars were so beautiful sitting there on the counter.......although it may have had something to do with how proud I was of myself for canning. Honestly...I think I left them there for weeks! 

Last night I tried a recipe for Cherry, Basil and Mint Salad that I've been eyeing for awhile. 'Tis the season and well...I was just a bit curious how the handful of ingredients in this dish would combine.  I thought the short list of sweet, spicy and citrus sounded interesting, and besides there is hardly anything I've used fresh mint in that I didn't just love. Oh.......it was good!

As much as I'd like to give you the recipe, it is not mine to share, but I will let you know that it comes from a cookbook that's been beautifying my kitchen and table for awhile now. Tender features food ideas from local chef, Tamara Murphy. It holds uncomplicated recipes as well as chef's notes that talk about foods she chooses to purchase, cook, eat and enjoy.  Each time I page through, I feel like I want to become engaged in a long conversation with her about food! 

I'm a very visual and tactile person, so feel compelled to add that the pages are not overfilled, the font simple and easy to read, and how much I love the feel and weight of the paper. Also....the photography is so well done: Generous, helpful, subtle and interesting, and along with the content of the text, allows you to have a bit more of a relationship with this chef. 

This is a year round cookbook, for sure, but is especially wonderful with the farmer's markets in full swing. I like to stroll through armed with a few ideas, but honestly if I'm not that organized, it's nice to have a volume to peruse when I come home loaded down with whatever produce I just couldn't resist buying.

Hope you're enjoying your summer. I am......especially now that after weeks of clouds and rainy weather, the sun has decided to make an extended appearance.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011


We'll be getting a new fence this week. The old one will be torn down and carted away. New posts will be set in cement, allowed to stabilize and then all in one day (or so we're told) boards nailed into place and with the exception of a short new section, we'll have what we had before. Except that it won't be rotting in certain places, supporting lichen or held together with wire, and hopefully won't need to be repaired as often after a windstorm. I can't wait for that structure to look fresh. I think it will feel like getting a new haircut or an updated room of furniture. It's something we see from nearly every window in our house and I didn't realize until now how often I thought or worried about it falling down. It's time.

While it's absent, for the first time since we've lived here I'll look into the back yard and see something different. Until now I've been snuggled in here pretty cozily, comfortable within those six foot planks of cedar. The very minute we passed through the front door of this house, both of us headed straight to the back yard, and shortly after knew it was the kind of setting we wanted for our home. The fence acts like an enormous picture frame surrounding native fern, berry bushes and salal that crowd and crawl around small boulders and a couple of tree stumps. It holds jewel toned moss that refreshes its color each spring and grows on trunks and branches and rocks. It wraps around the huge and ancient maples that serve as colorful barometers of seasons when they change. It is a peaceful retreat from a busy and sometimes too noisy world and was a great place for kids and dogs to play.

For a few days I'll see into our neighbors yards....and they into ours...which I think is kind of a good thing since they are both fairly new to the area. It will give us a chance to exchange a few more waves and maybe chat more than we have. Our families are at pretty different stages, but still, this makes me realize I should make more of an effort in that regard. They'll probably notice the garden area which, although I keep it fenced off and weeded, contains empty raised beds full of dirt, waiting for the day or the year I make time to plant more than rhubarb. The couple azaleas I want to dig up and give to someone who will appreciate them more than I do. The cottage I once thought would be my writing space but ended up as a pool hall instead. The empty strip where apples trees used to be, that I plan to replace as soon as a new fence is built. The patio we had put in.

It's interesting what you notice when a barrier is removed, or notice again or see a bit differently.

Have a wonderful week,
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