Monday, September 14, 2015

Anaconda Pintler Hike

Well it looks like I'm going to try to revive this blog!  Can I get a Woohoo!?

Everyone has been patient with my non-foodie posts in the past.  This falls under outdoors and hiking.  Joe and I have been anxious to enjoy some backpacking.  This is just a brief post on our hike and some pretty pictures.  You can find a different type of post about the backpacking on my Conscious Observations, Mindfulness blog.

Just after we moved to Missoula, three (3) years ago, I was on one of those late night flights back to Missoula from Denver that I used to take all the time for work and I was chatting with the guy next to me.  I asked him what his favorite mountain range around Missoula was and he said the Pintlers.  He liked that even though they were small, they were beautiful and had few people.  That conversation stuck with me and I bought a book about hikes in the Anaconda Pintler mountains soon after.  Turns out he was right on all accounts!

This past weekend we did just a short hike, 18 miles in 3 days.

Day 1: Middle Fork Portal to Upper Phyllis Lake (5.6 miles)

The portal was only a 2 hour drive from Missoula.  Love it!  The best thing is on the way back no matter which route we take we pass multiple breweries. But I digress, this was a beautiful hike.  It was a gentle, continuous climb as we gained in elevation.   Most of the trail was through a beautiful forest with views every now and then of meadows and a rock walls and peaks.  At the end there is a more strenuous climb up to a view of the Falls Fork watershed and Lower Phyllis Lake.  We happily ended up at Upper Phyllis Lake with plenty of time for a relaxing evening.  Joe fished, I read and journaled.  For dinner I'd dehydrated a great venison stew with mushrooms, kale and sweet potato.  It re-hydrated really well and we enjoyed it!


Upper Phyllis Lake

Upper Phyllis Lake

Day 2: Upper Phyllis Lake to Edith Lake (7.3 miles)

This lake is set down in a bowl and so the sun set early the first night and rose late in the morning,  This meant I got up and enjoyed a lovely yoga and meditation practice next to the lake and then Joe got up, made coffee, and we hiked up to meet the sun.

The morning view.  Not a bad way to enjoy our coffee.

Then we slowly cleaned up and got everything back into our packs for the days hike.  We didn't start hiking until 11 AM - so luxurious!  We enjoyed a nice climb up to the pass that separated the Middle Fork drainage from the Falls Fork drainage.

Climbing to the pass.

Here  got to see up close some Tamarak trees changing colors.  These trees go by various names, and look like an evergreen tree, but they are actually a deciduous conifer and they lose their needles every fall!

Tamarak Trees.
Tamarak Trees - they actually have many names.  Some call them Larch.

After the pass we hiked down to Johnson lake where we spent a lazy 2 hours eating lunch, reading and fly fishing.

Joe fly fishing on Johnson Lake
 Joe fly fishing.

Johnson Lake

Johnson Lake

Then we hiked onto Edith Lake, our destination for that evening.  On the way we ran into 2 groups of people who said there was a black bear at Edith Lake, but he didn't seem to interested in people, so we continued - with a little trepidation on my part.

We picked a campsite and followed all our bear protocol.  We ate and cleaned up away from camp, down on the beach and prepared to hang all of our food.  We didn't go anywhere without bear spray.  Sure enough, the bear came around, but only once.  He and I scared each other a bit, but he was just on a path looking for food and displayed all the signs of a good black bear.  He did not associate us with food.  No ants or berries here!  As we startled each other, he was about 20 feet from me.  I backed up a bit and found my bear spray and said bear loudly but calmly.  Joe was walking up to the camp and said "Bear?"  "Yes, Bear!"  I said pointing.  We continued to speak loudly and calmly and he circled wide around us.  After the fact, I will say he was a beautiful black bear.  Very pretty thick coat and soft brown nose - but I do not need to have one that close again.  No pictures as that was not my focus.  He would look our way like saying, "Yes, I know you are there.  I don't know why you are speaking so loudly?" and then he'd continue poking at logs and looking for food.  He did not return at all that evening and we didn't see him again before we left the next day.

Joe making dinner.
 Joe cooking dinner.

Christine pumping water.
Christine pumping water.

Day 3: Edith Lake Out (5 miles)

Another lovely morning of yoga and meditating with the squirrels.   I admit to having conversations with the squirrels.  They were so funny!  They would climb all the way up these super tall trees and throw the pine cones down from the top, chattering the whole time.  I was laughing at them and said, just don't hit me on the head with one of those and the next one came down right next to me.  I laughed out loud!  We took our time packing up and headed out for a gorgeous 5 mile hike out, mostly downhill.

Edith Lake
Edith Lake

We passed two waterfalls, stopping for lunch at the second one.

Joe and waterfall


On the way home we came over Skalkaho pass, which has another wonderful waterfall and curves with steep edges that scare me!  And in case you think we forgot, we treated ourself to a stop at Bitterroot Brewery in Hamilton, MT, as Joe wanted one of their Bitterrroot IPA's.  Life doesn't get much better than those three days.

Christine at Anaconda Pintler Wilderness sign.

Monday, September 7, 2015


Joyous plums!  Could there be any better reason to not fully abandon this blog and to get a new post up?  I didn’t think so!

We have a plum tree and many years production is only so so or not at all, but this year!  This year it’s been spectacular!  We even had to share with the yellow jackets, but we still got plenty. 

We started out just eating them out of hand at the sink, on cereal and yogurt, sliced on break with peanut butter … and I soon realized I was going to have to get more ambitious.  So then I made a Plum Avocado salsa with trout one night.  Yum!  Next I dehydrated a couple trays of plums.  Double Yum!  These are going to be such a good snack on our upcoming backpacking jaunt.  Definitely not the prunes found in the grocery store.

Then this past Saturday I was blessed with a fall rainy day.  I love these days!  These days scream at me - Use the kitchen!  Make yummy food!  Heat up the Oven!  So, I complied…

First there was jam to make.  Just a small batch of refrigerator jam.  That’s what I call it when I make it right, but don’t go through the canning bit.  It’s just meant to last in the fridge for a couple months.  There were a few figs left on the counter, because they are also in season and on sale in the store, so, I made a Plum Fig Jam.  I used honey for the sweetener.   

Mmmm.  That’s it.  Only 4 ingredients: about 4 ½ cups of Plums and Figs, ¼ cup Honey, and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice mixed in at the end. 

There is not much more satisfaction to be had then when there are jars filled with jam cooling on the counter.

Next, it was time to eat cake!  I like cake, but my husband is a pie guy, and now that I don’t eat gluten cake is a rarity. But one of my favorites is always a fruit upside down cake.  I’ve made Pear, Fig, Peach, and Apple upside down cakes and I was certain plums would be a good variation.  Also, Upside Down Cake lends itself well to gluten free, because the heartier flavors like buckwheat work well and because it doesn’t need to rise as much.  Now to find a recipe.

I settled on the Plum, Ginger, and Almond Cake from  I did intend to follow the recipe, but then I went off track.  I'm guessing you are NOT surprised...  

First, I was out of buckwheat flour!  What?  How did that happen?  Put it on the grocery list and then think.  Well, Teff flour won’t act exactly like buckwheat flour, but it’s got a great hearty flavor also, so I’ll substitute that and since it’s mixed with almond flour, just maybe, it will work out!  Next, the hubby isn’t as much of a ginger addict as I am so I used much less ginger and added cinnamon and a few grates of nutmeg.  And, as long as I’m already this far off, I like my cakes cooked with the fruit on the bottom, so I melted some butter and maple syrup in the pan while I was heating the oven, placed my fruit over that and poured the cake on top.  It all worked out splendidly.  Ok, I admit that when I flipped the cake over the insides of about ½ of the plums stayed in the pan, but they came out fine with a spoon. 

Below is my version.

Plum Upside Down Cake

1 stick + 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Coconut sugar
2 Eggs, beaten
75 grams Almond Flour
50 grams Teff Flour
25 grams GF flour blend  *
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
A pinch of salt

Enough halved plums to cover the bottom of your pan (Take out the pits!)
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
A few sliced Almonds


  1. In an 8" square cake pan, put the 1 tablespoon of butter and maple syrup.  Set pan in oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and add the egg.  Beat until smooth.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together and fold into the egg, butter, sugar mixture.
  4. Take the preheated cake pan out of the oven.  Mix together the syrup and butter and place plums cut side down. Sprinkle almonds over plums and pour the cake batter on next.
  5. Bake cake for 30-45 minutes until firm and golden brown.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes then carefully dump upside down on a plate.

* (I make my own GF blend from America's Test Kitchen The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook)

The flavor was great.  Just as I’d hoped it had a deep plum flavor, just enough spice and a very moist hearty cake.  We ate it as is – no whipped cream needed.  Although I’m sure if I’d had any in the house it would have went well.

The fact that I'm not a very good food photographer is probably one of the reasons I stopped blogging.  Please excuse the  horrible picture of the finished cake.  :)

There's still plums left, but I'm not sure what's next.  Any suggestions?

Monday, December 9, 2013


The snow falls
      Straight down.

Each flake can be followed as it passes the window,
  gently moving in connection with the other flakes.
   Softly bumping
      Joyfully jostling.

They land.
  Be here they whisper.
    See us now, they whisper.
      As they connect with each other and to all that surrounds them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fire Evacuation and Awareness

I'm writing a blog post that is very different than the one I planned as I drove home less than 24 hours ago from 4 nights at the Jackson Lake Lodge.

Imagine 4 days with the above view of the Tetons, combined with a 3 day Majestic Stillness retreat with Lorna Lange at Synergy Wellness and Fitness (What are you telling me you still have not experienced one of Lorna's retreats?  You are missing out!). But I digress....

This was followed by a beautiful drive through Yellowstone and all the way home to Missoula on Sunday.  We arrived home at a decent hour, enjoyed dinner, some Sunday night football and the last 1/2 of "Field of Dreams".  Who can't smile and feel good after "Field of Dreams"?

As I head up the stairs to bed about 9:40 PM thinking, "If I build it will they really come?" our phone rings and the evening takes a turn. 

The lightening storm that was happening as we watched the movie had landed a lightening strike about 9:10 PM not far from us, about 1-2 miles, and a fire had started.  Our neighbor was watching it and wanted to let us know that with the current high winds, we had a good chance of being evacuated and should prepare..... 

The following chain of events:
     We open suitcases, take out dirty clothes and insert new clean clothes.  I immediately try to use my new tools  as I feel myself tense.  I bring awareness to my jaw and neck and breath into it.  It relaxes.  Two minutes later I have to do it again. And on and on....

     We answer the question if you must leave a building that might not be there when you return what would you take and put by the door the computer, the file with the passport, marriage license, and birth certificate, a few key pieces of jewelry, the yoga mat and relatively little else. I realize my breath is much more shallow than normal.  I stop and breath deeply through my nose and back out and extend my breath.  Two minutes later I have to do it again.  And on and on...

    We decide we might as well try to get some sleep.  I breath, I bring awareness, and then I repeat Loving Kindness Meditation.  I catch myself worrying and repeat those steps. Again. 

      11:35 PM there is a knock at the door - we are being evacuated. It's ok - I wasn't sleeping yet anyway. 

     We pack the car with everything by the door.

     12:20 PM we drive away from our home in both vehicles and the fire is about 50 acres.  We get to the hotel and fall in bed.  I lay in bed confident my home is ok and this is just precautionary, and still my throat is clenched shut.  I breath, I bring awareness, and then I repeat Loving Kindness Meditation.  I catch myself worrying and repeat those steps. Again. Again. I finally fall asleep.

    We awake with about 5 hours of sleep and check to find the fire is about 200 acres.  I breath and try to relax my throat and open my computer to work.  While tired, I feel mostly calm.

     We do some work and go to previously planned meetings.... and check the news every 10 minutes for an update.  I remember again, I need to breath, lengthen my breath, relax my throat and bring awareness to what is clenching within me.

     11:30 AM we find out our evacuation has been lifted, they feel like the fire is mostly under control and houses are safe. The area is only open to residents.  I smile and yet keep realizing my throat is clenched.

At this point we are safe and back in our house.  The evacuation was just a precaution because should the winds change suddenly they wouldn't have time to evacuate everyone and there is only one road out.  As of right now the fire is under control.

I still feel tired and tense, but calm. I realize I could not have had a more intense situation directly after this retreat in which to practice every tool I learned and wonder, "What would I be like if I didn't have these tools?"  I am sure I would be more tired and anxious.  I would be overreacting and definitely not still planning on going to Barre class tonight after I pick up my CSA vegetable share.  I am thankful for these tools of breath and awareness.

I take my last sentence here to recognize that there are people in Colorado in much more dire straights than this and I send all the warmth and compassion possible to them as they struggle to help themselves and neighbors to survive the floods.

May the people in flooding CO areas be Safe.
     May they be Happy.
          May they be Healthy.
               May they soon be able to again, Live With Ease.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Morsel of Mindful Living

Laundry... laundry is something that has to be done.  It's something some people dread and some don't mind.  I find I enjoy laundry more when it's sunny out and I can allow many of my clothes to dry outside.  Why?

It's an excuse to go outside during the work day.   I get to check on the doe who likes to nap under the tree.  I say Hi and talk to her a bit and smell the honeysuckle peeking over the wall.

I get to check on my Lilies, Echinacea, Strawberries, Sunflowers and more in the patio flower bed.  The yellows, pinks, and greens are so bright in the sun and I close my eyes and listen to the bees moving busily from flower to flower.

I get to check out the view on clear days.  Just looking at this view reminds me what a great life I have - better make sure I appreciate and enjoy it!

Laundry doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Stuffed Eggplant

I haven't been posting many recipes lately.  To be honest my digestive system is all whacked and painful again.  So I'm just trying to figure that out and trying to get through all the veggies from my CSA box each week.  This usually leads to a vegetable juice type thing every morning and salads.  But yesterday I was tired.  I was tired of searching for the answer, tired of being sore, and I really wanted something a bit savory and yummy - but something that hopefully didn't make everything worse.

So reviewing my stash of vegetables I realized I needed to use up some of my eggplant.  So that led me to create the following stuffed eggplant recipe AND it was GOOD!  So here it is, sorry for the poor pictures.

This recipe could be tweaked to suit you and the veggies you have in your fridge so treat this as a guideline.  You could switch and make it Stuffed Zucchini, add sliced kale or other greens, or add a variety of other herbs.!

Christine's Stuffed Eggplant
  • Preheat your oven to 375.
  • Wash and cut the ends of your eggplant.  Cut in half and slit each half down the middle, not cutting through the skin.  Sprinkle cut sides with salt and set aside.
  • Gather the veggies you want to sauté for the stuffing.  In 1 Tablespoon coconut oil (use oil of your choice) I sautéed the following in order:
    1. 3 slices of onion, chopped
    2. 1 clove of garlic, minced
    3. 1/2 zucchini, chopped small
    4. 1 roasted poblano pepper, chopped
    5. 1/2 small spicy pepper (from my CSA - I don't know what kind it is!)
  • Check your eggplant. If the salt has brought out lots of nice moisture, soak it up with a paper towel.  I decided the eggplant needed a bit of preheating.  I suggest popping it in the oven for 10 minutes or in the microwave for 2-3 minutes.  I used the microwave as I was ready for it.
  • At the end of the sauté I added salt, pepper, 5 leaves of chopped basil and stirred.
  • Sprinkle the vegetable sauté on top of the precooked eggplant.
  • Optional: I needed a treat so I sprinkled crumbled feta and chopped walnuts on top of the sautéed vegetables.  This was my main course and the eggplant does get pretty soft so the nuts added good texture.
  • Pop in the oven covered for 15 minutes.  Uncover and cook another 15 or so minutes until the top looks a little brown with the walnuts and everything is cooked nicely.

Yes, the plate is dirty because these were seconds for me - but really - it was just stuffed eggplant!

Today's Tip: Roasted Peppers:  Anytime I want a little extra flavor from my pepper I turn on a burner and roast it!  For something like this I left that yummy roasted skin on for flavor, but if I want to take the skin off after roasting them I drop them into a paper bag (no fingers - use your tongs) and close it up for about 15 minutes.  Tada!  They are cooled a bit and the skin comes right off when you rub it with a paper towel!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Morsels of Mindful Living

The Lolo Fire Monday 8/19 at about 2,000 acres.

Fire.. I've always respected fire.  If anything, the diligence my Grandma Graff always had making sure the camp fire was put out instilled that respect in me.  The first time I learned to fear fire though was back in 2002.  While hiking the John Muir Trail, Joe and I hiked through an area that had recently burned, but more importantly was still burning.  The account of this fire can be found on Day 13 of the hike.   But now that we live out West, every year we are humbled by the strength of fire.

We arrived back in Missoula to find the above fire, named the Lolo Creek Complex fire.  This picture is taken from near the end of our road of the Bitterroots.  The fire started during the weekend from a lightening strike, but took off on Monday and both Monday and Tuesday had periods where it was out of control and just running down the mountain.  As of Thursday, this fire is the #1 fire priority in the United States at this moment and it's reported to be over 9,500 acres.

We cannot open our windows as the smoke is so thick around our house and most of the time it's like we are in a fog bank.  Our view had not been as clear as the first picture since Monday night.  

Yet, we are lucky.  This particular fire won't reach us and we can stay in our home, while others are evacuated and wondering about their home.

I feel....
Sadness for those that have already lost their home.
Fear that someone on our hillside will inadvertently start a fire, or that lightening will strike closer in the upcoming storms.
A slight sinus headache from the smoke that has seeped in into the house.
Wonder at the strength of fire and the determination of the people who fight wild fires all summer long.

I smell... smoke.
In the house, it's a light smoky smell, almost a "thick" air smell.
Outside it's like you are standing right next to a big campfire.

I hear...
Fans, as we work to keep a closed up house bearable without air conditioning.
When the fans are off, I hear constant helicopters and low planes.  As of this morning there were 9 helicopters tending the fire.

Despite the thick air, I feel thankful for my breath.  My breath calms me as I watch the fire and it slows and allows me to sleep well even though the air is smoky.