Link to my most recent travel article (Dec 3 2017)

December 3, 2017

This trip was styled a little differently than other trips we’ve done. We saved a ton of money by scheduling the trip according to the Kayak explore site’s lowest airfares. We flew to LA on a separate itinerary first because most international flights are much cheaper out of LA.

Hubby Jeff also opened an Air BnB account earlier this year, so we can find very inexpensive lodging all over the world.

We saved over a hundred dollars between us by using only carry-on backpacks and not checking any luggage. I really like the backpacks, too because as we are boarding buses and travelling in the country, they’re easy to carry and maneuver.

We ate simply. Another advantage of the Air BnB’s is that most allow kitchen privileges. Our regular diet is less disrupted that way too.

In country travel by bus was very inexpensive. They’re easy to navigate and I loved the sense of cultural immersion.

The Tripadvisor site helped us find the best tour companies. We were delighted with the suggestions on rafting, jungle hike, and Mitad de Mundo. (equator site).

When we go to Europe next, we’ll use these same concepts but ride Ryan Air between countries. It’s prices are amazing, but on that airline, you even have a fee for carryon luggage. (I guess you could wear all your clothes and take them off when you got to the country!)

I’d love to see some travel on the cheap suggestions in the comments!

Rerun on money saving tips.

December 2, 2017

My friend Suzanne asked me for the food list I made a few years back.I didn’t find the exact list but a general sketch toward the bottom of  “How does a Pauper live like a prince? Budgeting can be fun.” (search for it on the homepage) There’s another one on the same theme titled “Saving money in the OKC area.” That one is somewhat outdated because food is actually less expensive now than it was.

My goal was to live for a month on $70 (for four people) and I managed it.

I can give a quick overview from memory. We ate beans, rice, potatoes, corn tortillas and pasta. I made everything from scratch. I kept fresh bananas,  onions, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and frozen broccoli, and peas  on hand.

All meat was served in a sauce or soup and always prepared it with chopped onions.

I made cookies or brownies from scratch and sent some in packed lunches each day.

I made homemade bread.

We had a box of powdered milk on hand and always had a loaf of bread in the freezer. This helps prevent an emergency run to the store

I bought 4 dozen eggs at the beginning of the month and sometimes served omelets for dinner.

For breakfasts, we ate oatmeal, other hot cereals, toasted homemade-bread and sometimes made-from-scratch cocoa. Every breakfast contained a starch and milk.

Meat was used only for dinners. Lunches were generally peanut butter sandwiches or tomato soup with chili added, or leftovers.

Dinners were spaghetti, chili with corn bread, gravy over mashed potatoes, tacos (sometimes stretched with taco flavored TVP) Pulled Barbeque pork over rice.

If I find the exact list with numbers of each item, I’ll repost.





Heavenly Caramels are Not Difficult to Make

December 1, 2017

Regardless of the name of this blog implying candy making or kitchen fare, I named it Chocolate Cream Centers because I know of nobody who bites into a chocolate and finding a chocolate creme center is disappointed. But this website is not generally geared to food but to subjects that tantalize the mind and imagination.

But today I want to share a CANDY recipe. Every year at Thanksgiving, I like to try a new recipe. This year, I wanted to make caramel. I had never attempted it, mainly because I never have much heavy cream on hand.

But this recipe uses just a few simple ingredients and is some of the very best I’ve ever had. I pulled the recipe off Pintrest and tweaked it.

Start by greasing either a 9×13 pan or a bigger one for thinner caramels. I use an 11×16 pan.


I toast about 2 cups of almonds and about a cup of shredded coconut. I sprinkle the almonds on one end of the pan (touching each other) and hold the toasted coconut until after the candy is done because the liquid caramel pushes the coconut around. The almonds stay put. I leave the middle of pan plain.

Now you’re ready for a heavy, 4 quart pot.  Cast iron is fantastic but if not, my Club brand pot, (cast aluminum) (thank you thrift store) is also ideal.

Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, NOT  touching the bottom of the pan.

Open 2 cans ((14 oz) of evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)  and keep handy, but don’t add.

Into the pot goes:

2 sticks (1 cup) of salted butter

4 cups of white granulated sugar

2 cups of light corn syrup.

Bring the mixture to a bubbly boil over medium high heat, STIRRING CONSTANTLY. (I use a metal spatula to scrape the bottom better)

Start adding:

the 2 cans evaporated milk, you opened earlier, about 1 tablespoon at a time. The trick is to make sure that the candy doesn’t stop bubbling because the milk is added too fast. So it takes about 12 minutes to add all the milk from both cans.

Don’t stop stirring!

At this stage, I usually turn down the heat to medium on my turbo burner.

Once all the milk has been added, it usually takes about 10 more minutes for the caramel to reach 238 degrees. (firm ball if you’re testing by dropping a little into cold water) Once it reaches 238 degrees, turn off the heat and stir for another minute.

Stir in:

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla 

Pour the hot caramel into the pan, (cover the nuts first if you’re using them). On the other end of the pan, press the toasted coconut into the top of the caramel until it’s all stuck down.

For salted caramels, sprinkle lightly with sea salt at this stage. (Sea salt is less salty tasting than table salt. You get the salty accent without it overpowering the other flavors.)

Let cool. (Fridge is fine)

If you got it exactly to 238 degrees, the candy will be firm enough to cut with kitchen shears and still chewy/soft enough to stretch of you pull it. I cut it into about 150 pieces.

If you want to coat some of them in chocolate, I use about 1 cup chocolate dipping wafers (or candy coat) and 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips,(You can use all chocolate chips, but they won’t look as pretty once they’re set. They tend to get a gray bloom that doesn’t affect the taste) melted in the microwave for  a minute, stirred, melted another minute and stirred again until smooth. It’s warm but not hot. I drop the caramel piece in, roll it around a  little and fish them out with clean fingers. Sorry about the out of focus picture. Jeff was getting a little too excited about the mass of heavenly treats and didn’t pay attention to his cameraman duties.

I let them set up on parchment paper/wax paper or a greased cookie sheet if you don’t have the wax/parchment. They freeze well, and I think it’s a good idea. They’re too tempting otherwise. 

These are gift-quality wonderful with or without the chocolate coating and with or without the add ins.

Ecuador on the comfy cheap

November 5, 2017

My son Thomas wanted a a Spanish immersion experience. He chose Ecuador because of its variety of attractions, climates sites and the fact that it was cheap.

All of that has turned out to be true.  Earlier this week we hiked into the volcano Quilatoa, high in the Andes. We rode mules back up because the elevation was too high to be certain we could make it out. I think the rim is at about 12500 feet where you begin the 280 meter decent over one mile.  The lake is about 800 feet deep and emerald green due to dissolved minerals.  It’s too cloudy in the picture for the green to show. 

We had hot chocolate in a cafe owned by indigenous people afterward. The 2 hour ( $2.75 apiece ) bus ride back to Latacunga was a mountain version of the Harry Potter Night express.That thing careened around curves, passed other busses, trucks and cars 4 at a time.  It was pouring rain and there were few guard rails.

The cool thing is that it is cheap! Our 5 hour bus ride another day cost a whopping $3.50 a piece. It carried us from the mountains to the southern Amazon region.  The bus is modern and comfortable and even has movies.  (In Spanish of course.) The bus system is extremely easy to navigate.  There are competing companies at the station whose workers guide you onto their bus.  In Quito, the city buses looked extremely crowded and taxis were too cheap to make us want to bother with buses. But for overland routes, buses are great.

A 10-15 minute taxi ride costs about $2 anywhere in Ecudaor.

The food is simple, and tasty. Rather than tortillas, they eat bread.  But an average lunch has rice, vegetables or salad, a piece of seasoned but otherwise unadorned meat (typically roasted pork) fried potatoes, a glass of fruit juice,  and some stewed lentils.  In Quito and in the mountainous areas it will cost $2.50-$3.00 Here in the more touristy area of Tena, the cost is about double.

I already ate half the vegetables

Yesterday I ordered the talapia and got….Talapia.  It was steamed in a banana leaf with Yucca root. Yucca root is smooth and starchy like a dense potato. It’s almost flavorless. The mayo-mustard sauce they served it with was thinned and added a needed dimension.  But the fish was FRESH and mild. I scraped the skin onto the head so he’d stop looking at me. The meal with juice and a nice salad was $5.

Today Jeff, Thomas and I went to Church at the local LDS branch.  It was testimony meeting and so we could understand more than if it had been assigned speakers.  Even here, we know what to expect people to say. As usual, the members welcomed us as old friends. They translated enough of the lessons to accommodate Jeff’s and my fumbling Spanish.

I love to go to Church when we travel. It gives a fun dose of unfiltered culture. The Relief society lesson was on budgeting, the same as last week in Quito. But I learned that an average Ecuador worker makes about $375 per month IF they have a high school diploma. If not, it’s less. Very few have more education than that.

A few years back the Ecuador economy collapsed and they changed to American currency.  That makes the money issue easy. Today’s R S  lesson made me double glad for the tips we have been surprising those who have served us with. An extra few bucks means ALOT more to them than us.

After Church and lunch of avacado, cheese, ham and tomato sandwiches on bakery rolls and fruit,  we went for a walk in the jungle surrounding the hostel where we are staying. We found bananas and cocoa growing wild.  I would bring home some chocolate seeds to plant, but they would grow too big to be a houseplant.  It takes such a huge quantity of pods to make a candy bar, I decided to leave it to Hershey after all. This is a cocoa pod with the gooey raw seeds.

But for the shared bathroom this hostel  more like a posh hotel.  We have kitchen access and a sheltered outdoor eating/sitting/hammock area. The beds are comfy and everything is sparkling clean. It costs us the average price here of $26 per night. Most nights we’ve had a private bathroom.     


weve mostly been eating bakery purchases for breakfast with queso fresa. Bananas are about a$.05 apiece. I’m including the inside of a passion fruit photo. You eat the seeds and the flesh has the consistency of snot, but the flavor is divine.  They were named passion fruit by the Spanish because the flower reminded them of Christ’s crown of thorns.

We splurged on hot chocolate often in the mountains, but now here in the hot jungle, we had small banana splits yesterday for $2.  Ecuadorians  love their helado and do it very well, similar to Italian gelato. The flavors are all tropical, however. They were amazing with scoops of berry, maracuya (passion fruit) and coconut ice cream.  I had chocolate instead of the berry but the berry was amazing. ( we shared) We have a white water rafting trip tomorrow and a jungle tour/hikes including an indigenous village where we will make chocolate (or help in the 6 stage process).  More later.



I could hardly hold my tongue.

October 22, 2017

I was pleased that Jeff and I were invited to go camping with our son, Rob, his wife, Marseille and their 6 children. As the previous post indicates we have some nice new equipment that makes camping so much easier and more comfortable, I want to do more of it.

But when after driving a little less than 3 hours we pulled into a dusty, rather desolate wash, I could hardly believe my eyes. No water, hardly any flora but for some scrubby cedars and not enough fauna to tempt a buzzard.  I kept a cheerful face, hoping that I simply hadn’t seen enough to appreciate why we had driven past lovely autumn canyons with laughing brooks and peeping deer and squirrels to this desolation. The girls bathrooms looked suspiciously like large rocks or for the boys, scrubby little bushes. (There is an outhouse about 1/4 mile from where we camped.) But the only water is the water you bring yourself.

Rob pointed out the old Uranium mines up on the mountain. Hmmmm. I’da brought my Geiger Counter to check out the campsite, if only I’d known.

We roasted hotdogs and made smores. Things were looking up. The sun went down and the kids went to bed. The night was utterly still and the dark, moonless sky revealed a heaven carpeted with stars. It seemed late in the season for shooting stars, but I saw four, two of which had orange tails as they burned out in the atmosphere.

The magic of the place began to work on me. . . or maybe it was just the radioactive dirt under my feet.

In the morning, we enjoyed instant oatmeal and hot chocolate with some of the gourmet syrups and melting marshmallows. The kids rode their bikes all around the camp and we hiked to the top of the mountain whose shoulder we had camped on.

Ancient Pictographs Near Goblin Valley

A cozy ledge for Christopher to meditate upon

Jeff has had a lot of adventures in his Indiana Jones hat.

(I have no idea why the server rotates some of my photos 90 degrees. I tried rotating them in the edit, but they come out in the same position, no matter how I insert them. I’m too tired to keep messing with it.  I hope you’re using a laptop and can rotate it. But the last one of Michael looks pretty awesome with him standing on his hands!)

But the fun really started when we drove a few miles to Goblin Valley. We stopped on the way to oogle the ancient pictographs. We could see a cow something with an un-cowlike tail and head wearing a saddle of sorts, a man with a dead deer and another man with a spiral shield. There were buildings, I guess, too.   

Meditating Shaaman? He watches over Goblin Valley

But Goblin Valley itself is a geological wonderland with nooks and caves and hoodoos and strange fantistical formations. If Dr. Seuss ever designed a playground, this would be it.  This fellow meditated so long he turned to stone!

This fellow looked pretty cheerful about being turned to stone

Beth Stephenson climbing the walls at Little Wild Horse Canyon. Even Grandma can’t resist!

This fellow had to take a break from meditating.

Joseph and Matthew on a natural windowsill.

But it’s not just a kid place. In fact, some of the formations are not kid friendly. But young and old alike scampered all over the place, challenging our bodies and courage. 17 month old Zachary grinned from Marseille’s backpack most of the time, but yearned to be set free to clamber up some wild stone serpent or exotic seeming Mars-scape.

In fact, NASA has tested Mars related gear there. Movies have been filmed there too, (I think Rob said it was Galaxy Quest)

Cute Marseille with her oversized Goblin, (Zach)

It’s true that there is no more flora or fauna there than near our campsite. The stone has been shaped by wind and water but the water now visits only in the form of flash floods. The ever-present wind whips dust and grit into the eyes until you get back into the higher more intricate natural mazes.

It was a ton of fun to explore and had the kids not been so little, a perfect place for the best EVER game of Hide and Seek or Sardines. The place is huge extending miles until a cliff drops off into flat, nearly featureless plain.  Rob was the host of a fantastic adventure!

That night back at camp, the wind was up and we had to improvise with our dinner. Instead of the planned foil dinners, we cooked the whole mixture in a dutch oven on the fire. It turned out wonderful with just chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions cut in small pieces and a bottle of barbecue sauce poured over the top.  Hunger works wonders with camp food.

Someone had  “mistakenly” drunk up the Sprite intended for the cobbler. (They had poured it into a water bottle for protection.) But the “cobbler” (a cake mix stirred with a cup of water and a can of cherry pie filling) was tasty, too.

I had brought a different sleeping bag than the one I’d used in Washington. This one seemed warmer and more suited for cold weather. I knew it had belonged to one of my sons, but for some reason, had been rejected by him.

I soon found out what the unnamed son objected too. It LOOKED warm, but with the temps dropping into the 30’s, I was cold even with a hood and several layers. At least my feet were warm in their wool socks.

I still love our Marmot Limelight tent. It stood up to strong winds and the ventilation is great. The shape is so convenient, too, we have room in the 3 man for Jeff and  me and our stuff.

Big to little bridges in Little Wild Horse Canyon, UT

This is a tame pose for little mountain goat Makayla

Michael posed for me, but he was fearless climbing the walls!


The next morning after fire roasted bagles and more hot cocoa we drove back near Goblin Valley to Little Wild Horse Canyon for a hike. It’s a narrow slot canyon, but is easily passable, even for the small fry. There are many places where we could climb the walls and our tennis shoes stuck to the bare sandstone so well that we could ascend the steep walls with ease. Even the little guys loved climbing  the stone walls, hiding in nooks and crevices and trying to outdo each other in daring.

As we tore down the campsite to come home, I found myself thinking of how much my other kids and grandkids will love Goblin Valley and Little Wild Horse Canyon. I just HOPE we can get our great campsite back again. . .

Camping, not glamping, with a stowaway!

September 29, 2017

Jeff has never been a fan of camping. A little here and there, not too primitive and not too long.

But I like to camp. There’s something romantic and exciting and earthy about it. For the first time in our married life, he and I went camping together with just the two of us.

We had packed some of the food in the cooler but the sandwich fixin’s were in the cab of the car. When we got to the campground, I was puzzled that my usually tidy husband had gotten into the Great Seed Bagels and left the seeds scattered all over the seat.

I like the little rocket stove that folds to pocket size when not in use. The fuel provides the base.

These trees were growing over an old stump. They look like they want to get up and walk away.

It was raining in the Fairholm campground at Crescent Lake (Olympic National Park). Long traffic delays put us there in the evening, and we were hungry. A pause in the rain last just long enough to get the brand new tent unfolded. I tried to figure it out while Jeff went to pay the campground fees.

There’s a special kind of panic while trying to set up a new tent in a smattering rain. I managed to get it mostly done/but the rain fly didn’t fit right, so we rotated it 90 degrees and restaked it. It still looked weird. But we fastened it anyway, and put the extra pole and a rectangular sheet of nylon into the stuff sack.

We had bought a Marmot Limelight 3P.  Our son Chris has one and we liked the way it’s more like a cabin, with usable space all the way to the corners.  It turned out that the rainfly fit weird because the extra pole is supposed to cross over the other poles at the peak to lift the ceiling and walls even higher out of the way.

The “extra sheet of nylon” was the footprint, designed to protect the tent floor. That’s a big oops, but we got away without damaging the floor.

Miraculously, after wiping up the rain that got in before the fly was on, the tent stayed completely dry in a significant rainstorm. There’s lots of room and there are dozens of clever little add on’s, that make it comfortable. It’s also well ventilated, even with the rainfly reaching all the way to the ground.

We also each got a Klymit V sleeping pad. They’re extremely light weight but I was actually comfortable, lying on the ground without a cot. WELL worth the money if you’re going to do any primitive camping.

I’m excited that it did so well, since now I’d feel confident to take it backpacking.Surely, it will be even better when I set it up correctly.

The next day, I grabbed the bagel bag for breakfast and realized that something had chewed a hole in the bag and dined on the seeds and part of two bagels.

What in the world? We’ve never had any sign of mice at home. We concluded that a chipmunk must have crawled in the window while we were in a gas station and worked really fast.

But before we left the camp two days later, we emptied everything out of the trunk. One loaf of bread that had been in a different place the night before was chewed into and a hole burrowed through the middle. The critter had pushed all the crumbs out of the package and there was a huge pile. We checked in the spare tire area, we poked into every corner, swept out from under seats. Nothing. 

We kept all chewable food packages in the cooler for the rest of the trip.  We suspect that Stuart Little enjoyed the trip to Olympic National Park, Seattle and San Juan Island, WA. We HOPE that he abandoned ship somewhere en-route but since we never found him in the first place, we can’t be sure. But we couldn’t get all the crumbs out, so our little pal may be feasting in some dark cranny even yet.

But overall, the camping a big success. It’s a BEAUTIFUL place with dozens of fantastic hikes. It was fun to do as a couple and fun to experience such adventures for very little money.


Beggars, beggars EVERYWHERE!

September 24, 2017

Jeff and I are in the midst of a trip to the northwest. We started with a short visit with my youngest brother Hugh and his wife Theresa in the farmland area of Richland, WA.

The next day we spent almost the whole day driving,/ferrying to Olympic National Park. Breathtaking scenery, FUN hikes and interesting flora, (we didn’t see much fauna, (ducks, deer, and a cougar track ). Then on to Seattle where we tried out our very first Air BnB. I’m not sure what the concept implies, but the second ‘B’doesn’t stand for ‘breakfast.’

We found a place in Capitol Hill, not knowing that the area is known for it’s “colorfulness”. I’ve never seen so many same gender couples in my life! Even more distinct is the hoard of beggars. Every block has several actively begging and more sleeping on the streets and parks. Camping tents are in the medians, on the shoulders and in parks.

We rode the monorail from downtown to the Space needle, (More later, I’m going to write about the Space Needle and the Chihuly exhibit in Americana columns) and after those tours, went into the armory to get something to eat.

Food is typically expensive and after our ‘meal’ we both wanted a little more. We were scouting around the food court area. My mind was on ice cream and I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I stumbled against a chair that had someone sitting in it and I mumbled, “excuse me,” as I moved away.

But that stumble set off the fellow’s table mate. He jumped up and started yelling at me for disrespecting them and the man in the seat (who I jostled but didn’t even touch). Soon his language turned vile and he followed us toward the exit. He insisted that I had no respect for other people because they were poor. “You think you’re so much better than us, just because you’re rich and we’re poor!” he yelled. “You MUST respect me, you !@#$%^&*()_+!!!! I’m an AMERICAN!” (Does that seem like a non-sequitur to you?)

I was utterly baffled how to respond to this man. His behavior told me that he was mentally ill. It struck me as so extremely strange to be accused of disrespecting him because he was poor, when my true sin was that I hadn’t noticed him at all before he started cussing me out. I had been thinking about ice cream when apparently this man needed me to acknowledge him (in a louder voice than my mumbled, “excuse me.”)

At last I said quietly, “That’s not true,” and walked away.

He continued his tirade as we headed out. I found myself considering what was truly the best way of handling such a situation. I decided that walking away was probably best after all.

The next day, we packed a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, apples and trail mix. I made some extra sandwiches to share if asked.

Within 10 minutes of walking toward the downtown and Pike Market, a man accosted us. “Will you give me some money so I can get something to eat?”

“I don’t have any money,”(which is true, I don’t carry cash) ” but I can give you a sandwich.”

The man scowled. “I don’t want a sandwich. I want money.”

We walked on. We passed a park that had at least a dozen men sleeping around the perimeter. A man and woman were wrestling and the woman was getting the best of the fellow. A few cross-dressers simpered past us.

Another beggar was just setting up. As we (RICH FOLKS) approached, (not so fresh after camping) He started rocking violently back and forth, eyeing us and positioning his sign so we could read it. As we passed by without speaking, the rocking stopped and he mumbled something ugly.

As we progressed down the street, beggars continued to ask for money. Many had a cigarette in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

One man held up a sign advertising himself as an ugly prostitute.

Female beggars use a universal, distinct voice. It’s high, quavery and weak. But if you hear them address a friend, they speak normally.

I began to realize that begging has become theater. The best actor wins.

Late in the day, we gave a little change from our supper to this street performer.  

It’s tricky to know what to do. I’m unwilling to buy a junky drugs. Begging has become a scam business that replaces honest employment. I’m supposed to feel guilty for not assisting them in their dereliction.

As I sat in church in a Seattle ward today, I thought about the dilemma. We had ended up carrying both sandwiches home to our lodging.  Once beautiful Puerto Rico has been destroyed. Huge earthquakes in Mexico are causing grief and loss on grand scale. The more I thought about the world today and how to do the most good I can, I realized that there are many far more needy and more innocent people within reach of my pocketbook.

Seattle itself needs to figure out a way to help these people get off the streets. A little tough love might go a long way.

The term ‘skid row’ or skid road actually started in Seattle, referring to the skids that slid logs to the water/wharves. The sailors/longshoremen/gold prospectors that frequented the docks also attracted pickpockets, drunks, thieves and prostitutes to the neighborhood.

We passed dozens of help-wanted ads posted in business windows. Apparently there’s a shortage of cooks, janitors, cashiers, etc in Seattle.

As for Skid Row beggars, I hope that by NOT giving them money for NOT working, they’ll move on to finding something productive that will give them what they need as well as self respect and respectability. But I’m also going to make it a policy to carry an extra sandwich when we’re tourists, just in case I meet someone who genuinely needs food.


Hiking the Unitas

August 27, 2017

We have made the hike to upper Silver Lake above Tibble Fork Reservoir twice this summer. The first time, we had kids and grandkids with us, and concluded that it was too difficult for young children. Scott ended up carrying at least one and sometimes two of his kids much of the way up and down.

Jeff carried little Gracie most of the way up. She’s heavier than she looks! What’s more, it was too strenuous for our daughter, Tricia and she waited trailside for us to come back from the last half mile.

Yet, as you can see, it’s a spectacularly beautiful hike. I didn’t get any good pictures of the waterfall that comes out of the lake, but it makes the last steep, rocky climb a little easier.

These penstamon above are common in the Uintas as are the asters, (below).

I guess we’re slow learners. We thought that because we didn’t have kiddos with us, it would be an easy hike.


I was so eager to share the breathtaking scenery, I forgot to consider the breathtaking elevation.  The next set of guests we took had recently come from sea level and it turned into an ordeal rather than a pleasure for my sister in law Catherine.

So NEXT time we make this hike, we are going to carefully interview potential hikers for their fitness level and length of time at higher elevation.  But for Jeff and me, it was much easier without the kids. Add to that our increasingly strenuous exercise regimen, we were better prepared.

If you’re fairly fit and adjusted to altitude, (The lake is at about 10000 feet), the hike is beautiful and varied. It starts in aspen and conifer forest with wildflowers blooming profusely on every side. We heard a bull moose bellowing in this part, but never saw him. Next you cross a stream and begin to climb a little more steeply. Each switch back reveals a new mountain vista. The last third of the hike, wild blueberries, (huckleberry’s) hang in clusters along the trail. Several patches of raspberries stalls us a few minutes and another berry that is thornless but similar raspberries is also tasty.  A waterfall spills down the mountain and the wildflowers change from wild geraniums , yellow daisies, sunflowers and penstamon to Indian paintbrush and yarrow and a bright yellow cluster flower that I don’t know the name of.  The smells of fresh air, wild mint, willow and pines make your nostrils hula!

We drank the cold, cold (unfiltered) water out of the stream and the lake with no ill effects. My gauge is if I am certain there are no beavers or outhouses upstream, I will drink the water.

The fishing seemed to be pretty good on the edges of the day, but not great where/when the sun was on the water.

The hike to Upper Silver Lake is a little more than a five mile round trip. My step counter indicated just under six miles.

A New Book I joyfully recommend!

August 23, 2017

I would not risk my reputation as a writer or the good opinion of my readers on a book I didn’t think was important.

It’s not perfect. If I were the editor, I (might) take out some occasional wordiness. I even must admit that it has a little bit of a slow start.  Before I knew the main character, Jacob, I didn’t much care what or why he thought as he does.

But I started to love him. I started to love Prudence. I found myself not wanting to lay the book aside when I was too tired to read.

Part way through, I was somewhat rude to my mother-in-law, opting to stay in the car reading while Jeff walked her into her home. I usually am attentive and eager to participate in such formalities.

It’s been awhile since I had a book in which I was fully engaged. What’s more, I didn’t expect to like it. I felt brave by undertaking to read it, fully expecting to have to gently tell the author, (whom I know well) to keep trying and hoping and maybe take some writing classes.

I’m not even entirely sure that the author himself understands the magic he has wrought. I can’t even tell you what the genre is. Folktale? humor? family? religious? But it will get you to thinking and laughing, hating,  loving and repenting in turn.

I say in the title of this post that I can joyfully recommend The Backward Ride of Jacob Markoby: The Unexpected, by Mark E Mitchell because I finished the book with a satisfied sigh, not wanting to know in advance what stories the sequel has in store, but eager to read it when it is published. I believe myself to be a bit of a literary snob, but I can think of no audience, (other than young children) who would not only enjoy, but benefit from reading this tale. And that feeling brings me joy because I feel like I have discovered something important that almost nobody else knows about.  The fact that the author is my brother doubles my delight. This is far from his first book, but this is the first that has delighted me.

It’s $2.99 on Kindle and $9.99 in paperback.

Here’s a link to it on Amazon.


Ah SUMMER/ Discount kindle notice for Americana

August 15, 2017

It’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic as the kids get ready to go back to school. There’s the excitement of new classes and new friends, but a bit of pain considering the freedom of the summer is ending once again.

Jeff and I are planning next year’s travel and solidifying plans for the Americana columns and attendant travel for this year. Both our mothers are settled and so are our kids. Our company has dwindled down to my brother and sister in law, Mark and Catherine.  Things are quieting down.

One wonderful thing we did this summer was buy a grandparents deluxe pass for Thanksgiving Point. It was pricey at $300 but it gives access to all the venues for us, two adults and any and all grandkids for a year. The gardens are knock-your-socks off beautiful and the museums are delightful. We visited the Museum of natural Curiosity last night with Rob’s family and we all had a blast. SO FUN!

One scene from the Light of the World garden at Thanksgiving Point

The Monet’ garden bridge at Thanksgiving Point


I am feeling so grateful for this beautiful earth and for this free nation!

If you’re interested in reading Beth Stephenson’s Americana volume 1, there’s a Kindle price promotion Aug 18-Aug 24. It’s $.99 for that week only. Please share with anyone you think might be interested. Here’s the link. The price will change on the appropriate dates!