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Down South with friends and queso.

A few months ago I went to Austin, Texas for a few days to spend time with Chelsea and Comrade Kate. They live in the cutest little apartment and graciously hosted me on the most comfortable blow-up mattress ever. Not even a single hint of sarcasm there- I slept like a queen!

Austin was hot, brutally so, but still really beautiful. Chelsea got a job working for a really neat start up company where she can flex her creative muscles (which are metaphorically huge) and Kate freelances with her wicked English and grammar skills and helps edit and make everything better. I secretly see her writing something that sort of makes a little Texas Southern Gothic novel somewhere, but that’s my opinion.

In our time there we ate so much good food. My first meal was catfish and fried okra and it was delicious! Kate and I made the most expensive pie because we bought $40 of fresh fruit from Whole Foods accidentally while Chelsea was at work. Oops. I also forgot about sales tax, a most annoying thing that superior Montanan residents don’t have to fuss over.

My first night there Chelsea whipped up some pretty strong mojitos in their cute little kitchen. We then went across the street to a wonderfully decorated bar where I ordered a whole glass of gin and petted a stuffed javelina head. The bartender asked me if I was sure I wanted an entire large glass of grapefruit infused gin, to which in my mojito-induced state I eagerly agreed to. I’m pretty sure Chelsea intervened and there was some tonic in that gin. The rest of the night was mostly me nibbling at an amazing brisket that I actually didn’t remember eating but I’m 100% sure was amazing.

The next day we went to the botanical gardens, where I was feeling pretty rough. I’m honestly a 1 or 2 wine glasses kind of girl (did I really just type that). The gardens were the perfect salve for my hangover. They were misty and cool, and I was distracted from my pounding head and want to sleep forever by foliage the likes of which I had never seen in semi-arid Montana. I have successfully raised 2 cacti and several aloe plants in my house but it was really amazing to see some fantastic different sorts of plants. We stayed for a few hours and I took so many pictures of all the flora. We found out that some of Chelsea’s Swedish ancestors had chosen Texas as their home, and I chased several lizards and saw a snake.

Afterwards we had QUESO. I had to capitalize queso because it was like I’d met God. Queso, hot and cheesy and delicious, was an underlying theme of my whole trip. I swear if there was a religion around queso I would join and worship daily. I doubt it’s really that healthy but health be damned because queso made me feel like I was a better person just for having eaten it. I still dream about it.

On my second to last day Chelsea, Kate and I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier in their massive bed and then went mini-golfing to shake off the fact that Bucky was the Winter Solider (WHAT). We picked up a six pack of a really delicious beer, and drank the whole thing quickly because it was so…horribly…hot. Sweat was dripping from us all. We golfed faster than I think I ever had. Mostly because there was a couple right behind us, so we felt socially pressured, but also because it was so hot. Afterwards we went and ate more queso. Or maybe that was just me, but either way I definitely ate queso.

While I was there we did go to Sixth Street and had a blast. We had the most amazing queso at an Irish bar (yup) and drank in a bar that had enormous framed Civil War generals and quotes about alcohol that they’d said. I saw my friend Ann briefly.

Overall Austin was a seriously beautiful place with a lot happening. There was a lot of gentrification, a lot of money, and a lot of hope. Optimism was everywhere. Chelsea and Kate live in a really nice part of Austin that is easy to get anywhere from, and I felt so lucky to be able to get a little break from Montana and be with some really remarkable souls who have found a little place to set down some roots. My grandmother grew up in Texas and still misses it and I really liked seeing the Capitol and learning a bit of Texas history and telling her all about it.

Thanks again to Chelsea and Kate for being models, hosts, and makers of wonderful drinks. You both are absolutely marvelous creatures.

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It begins…

It’s not cold here anymore.

After over a week of -20 F with horrible, chilly winds, it has been warm for over 2 weeks. I don’t like it. It’s odd and uncomfortable. I never thought I’d say that I missed the cold, but the regularity of Montana’s bitter chill is comforting.

I began my applications to graduate school recently. Slowly working towards the next step of my life. I am not happy with work at all, so focusing my energy on the future seems like the next best step. I feel under utilized and unchallenged and I am, quite frankly, bored. Attempts to rectify this haven’t succeeded. Working for the government can be very frustrating. In my agency it is very much a “dance of the lemons” where problems, whether they be people or otherwise, are shuffled around rather then dealt with.

I crocheted myself the most enormous scarf that everybody but me despises. It appears to be more like a blanket. I spent 8 hours making it and 4 spools of beautiful yarn. It’s cream and oatmeal and absolutely gorgeous.

It’s December and I cannot wait for it to be 2015 and be that much closer to all that I am working to accomplish. I have started practicing Dutch for our trip. I know that just about every person in the Netherlands most likely speaks beautiful English but my family is from the Netherlands and it makes me feel much better when I travel to be able to read and understand and communicate, even if it’s just a few words.

 

 

 

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Cape Cod in 35mm brilliance

Cape Cod in May is my favorite. The tourists haven’t swamped it yet, rain and clouds still hang around, and sweaters are still necessary. Gin and oysters are consumed, family is seen, and beaches are trolled. I fall in love again with how old everything is and I always see the best people while I’m there. Our yearly excursion to our little haus makes me so incredibly happy.

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Adventures, Americana, Montana, Photography, Uncategorized

Montana things

 

This morning the alarm went off right at 5 am. I had already been up for a while, listening to the intense wind whip in and around the windows. It sounded invasive and also urgent, and getting up to go outside and spend hours with it didn’t seem very delightful.

Nonetheless, I pulled on my sturdy Carhartt pants and a few layers and trudged upstairs. My gun was already waiting for me. Cooper was excited, walking all over the house as soon as he saw us with our guns and the kennel in the back of the truck. He’s almost 12 years old and still healthy enough to accompany us hunting.

Pheasant hunting is fast and intimidating. I haven’t spent too much time shooting, and my father urged me to get my best Annie Oakley on. I carried a lighter .20 gauge to make it easier to swing the gun up on a bird if one presented itself.

We drove in the dark and the rain. Rain in Montana in November is tricky business- it could be freezing, it could leave icy patches, and it could also make hunting absolutely miserable. Trekking through thick, tangled brush with a loaded gun trying to keep up with an excited dog with the wind and rain in your face made me want to return to my warm bed and curl up for a few more hours.

Luckily, as we drove farther and farther North, the rain subsided. The wind, unfortunately, did not. We parked right outside a closed gate and softly shut our doors. Cooper was amped up and excited, in sharp contrast to my regret in not having coffee.

We began our march into the field when shooting light began. There were several other hunters and we kept our distance. This year we’ve encountered a few idiots who disobey the quiet but firm rules of space, space, space, and awareness.  My father and I spread out, watching Cooper. When his tail gets loopy, he’s “birdy” and on some scent. Whether he flushes out grouse, hen pheasants, or roosters, we don’t know until they’re up and flying.

As we walked through several fields we flushed multiple hen pheasants, which aren’t legal to shoot. We watched them fly away. Every flush we made for the morning resulted in a hen. The hunting pressure in the area had most likely made the rooster pheasants head elsewhere for a few days. We made our way through barley fields, wheat fields, sage, and other kinds of vegetation, finally making our way to the edge of the lake. The ice was very slick and looked beautiful. I love how ice changes and moves, how the wind and water and temperature all interact. I’ve fallen in love with the ice on our lake and everywhere else for some reason.

After pulling my hip flexor, it started to get stiff and painful. We had been hunting hard all morning, making good time over multiple landscapes. Cooper was exhausted. I started to head for the truck to let my dad finish up one last field and I was making tall steps so as not to trip in all the brush. I was holding my gun up when about 3 feet in front of me a very handsome, very quick rooster pheasant made for the next field.

This is where I sheepishly admit that I was so surprised that I got my gun up but panicked and thought I wouldn’t have time to get a shot that I gave up before I even tried. He was the only rooster we flushed up that entire day and I missed! Ugh. My father thought it was hilariously tragic, and took us to breakfast in a little town to get coffee and laugh further at my poor confidence.

Overall, though, I had a great day and got to sees some beautiful country. Now, I’m writing this post and applying for jobs and researching grad schools with hot tea at my side.

Note: I know that for some, hunting is controversial. I feel that hunting is ethical when done fairly and with respect to the animals you co-exist with. I would rather eat an elk that my father shot than buy burger from a store when I have the choice. That elk lived without ingesting antibiotics, being in a cage or behind a fence, and that elk was taken in a humane, respectful manner. Hunting allows us to humanely gain access to a healthy food source. 

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Adventures, Exploring, Photography

A place I never wanted to leave

35mm goodness from my sturdy Olympus OM-G. I only brought my f/1.8 lens for some reason, not my f/1.4 or a wide angle or even my shift lens, but I’m still pretty happy with how many of my frames from the trip turned out.

I still can’t believe it only cost $2.00 to go into the gardens. Montana doesn’t have the sort of season to encourage ferns, flowers, and lily pads everywhere, so I’ve never been anywhere like this. I wanted to settle down on one of the many benches and sketch and maybe sing to myself a little because it was the most calming place I’d been in a long, long time. There weren’t a lot of people and we had the gardens mostly to ourselves. The overcast day made parts seem eerily private and in this way perfect. I loved the curling edges of ferns and the twirling stems of so many different flowers.

I’ve got many more frames to share with you all but for now I think I’ll let these stand alone. Mother Nature has such beautiful creations.

I could have set up a tent in the bamboo forest and lived there happily ever after. Too bad we only spent a few hours there! It felt incredible to be surrounded by the hum of birds, bugs, and the sound of water while being visually enveloped with every color possible.

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Exploring, Food, Photography

Craft Pride: Texas brews on display

Chelsea and Kate and I paid for parking after doing loops trying to find a space for the car. It was definitely worth it!

Craft Pride was worth the parking hassle. It had more kinds of Texas local brews than I thought possible (I think close to 50) and deciding was the worst part. If I had the liver of a decades-older Scotsman I might have been able to try multiple brews, but I only had one!

The one I did have, a delightfully fruity IPA called the Yellow Rose from Lone Pint Brewery, was fantastic! I loved how different it was. I am by no means literate in the sort of terms that are used to describe beer, but regardless of that, I plain loved my beer. The atmosphere was fun, too, with tactile, textured wood tables and hanging lights. We went right at the golden hour and so photographing our brews was perfect. I don’t remember what Chelsea and Kate both got but every beer I tried there was fantastic!

Being from Montana, I’m lucky to be surrounded by a wealth of craft breweries that are always trying new things, but I was really excited to experience Craft Pride in Austin! What an awesome place.

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