Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome to Hawkeye!

The sign for Hawkeye, through the rainy windshield.

On the road to Hawkeye. See where the two mountain ranges meet? Hawkeye is nestled back there. And do you see the mountains on the right? Just on the other side of them is Yellowstone National Park. Over the mountains to the left is Teton National Park. Cool, huh?

Our welcome to Hawkeye was filled with rain/sleet/snow. It's mostly rain mixed in with some sleet and snow. It's also 45 degrees and really windy. The weather aside, this place is INCREDIBLE! We arrived at 10:15 and took a walking tour. Then, we moved all of our belongings into the Bunkhouse, which is pretty cool! In June when it finally warms up, we'll move into one of the cabins. Until then, we have a bedroom in the bunkhouse, with a living room and bathroom we share with another staff member, Chad, and an old, fluffy golden retriever named Buddy. Buddy loves the rain and mud. He's very, very sweet.

Our bedroom from the doorway. I used our zebra blanket (from home) to cover the beautiful white duvet and protect it from Indy fur and mud.

The rest of our room from another angle.

Aside from Indy and Buddy, there are two other dogs on the ranch right now. Hudson belongs to Mitch and Alice (our hosts/bosses) and is very sweet and friendly, although in his puppy years he was known for killing deer. He mostly avoids that now. And then there's Lucky. She belongs to J.W. (the ranch manager) and his family. She's very sweet but very jealous. She's already snapped at Indy twice out of jealousy, and he's learning to avoid her. In other Indy news, he's already escaped and taken off once today. We were loading our possessions in and he just slipped out the door. Jason chased him for twenty minutes out to the horse corrals to say hello to the "big doggies" (ie - horses) and then beyond. Obviously, he's not ready for a life off-leash yet.

The rodeo ring. J.W. says he rides in there every day, weather permitting. And yes, I'll be able to ride, groom and help prep the horses for guests. I'm very excited!

After we got unpacked, Mitch took Jason and I on a driving tour of the ranch property. It's nearly 600 acres and very, very, very cool. When the weather warms up, we'll explore further on the ATVs.

The Shoshone River, from the Hawkeye property. In another month or so, it will be full from the snow run-off.

Jason and I took a break to scrounge up some lunch in the kitchen. There's not much in there right now, so I had to get a little creative with my celiac/gluten-free lifestyle. I settled for some Turkey lunchmeat and a clementine.
The Hawkeye Indoor Kitchen.

The outdoor kitchen. Once mid-June hits, they'll use the outdoor kitchen primarily. There's a huge meat smoker in there - Jason's excited. And those "walls" along the right will be removed. They're there for the winter to protect the kitchen from snow drifts.

Then, Indy and I spent some time in the greenhouse, so I could write down all of the seedlings that have been started in there, and write down the names of all the kinds of seeds I have available to me already. I wanted to get a chance to do some homework on some of them, and to start thinking about what I want to start this week. I brought a spiral notebook specifically for that.

The exterior of the greenhouse. In front, you can sort of see the outdoor planting boxes as well. I'll be transplanting into those starting in mid-June.

Interior of the greenhouse. All of the hanging baskets for the property have been planted in here and are waiting until June to get hung out. I'll have to work around them for now and continue to baby them. Along the left side are tables covered in seedlings. Along the right side, you see the raised planting beds. And yes, it's heated!

Jason went back to Mitch's office to start playing with this nifty new camera that Mitch just bought - he's having some trouble with the focus on it so they were going to play some. Mitch has all the tools they had at Jason's last job, just in fewer quantities. It's pretty neat. Even cooler, listening to their photo talk, I actually am starting to understand some of the terms they throw around!

This is where Jason will be spending quite a bit of his time.

Right now, Indy and I are camped out in the bunkhouse (which is nice and warm, Mom, don't worry!) doing plant research and working on this blog. Well, I'm doing that, and Indy's asleep on his bed with his squeaky duck out in front of him.

The great room in the main lodge. It's humongous. It has TWO fireplaces, two seating areas, a bar, a library and a pool room.

Anything else? OH! For the next four days we'll be eating like Kings. They're trying out new chefs. They fly them into the airport in Cody, pick them up, and let them cook for us for two days each. AND they told the chefs that I need to be able to eat - the whole meal doesn't need to be gluten free, but there should be enough that is gluten free that I can enjoy. :) That's pretty exciting. I'll tell you how it goes!

View across the property - that's the outdoor kitchen (boarded in currently) on the right and the main lodge on the left.

Tomorrow? I dig into the greenhouse and get my hands dirty. Literally. I think my first plan of attack will be amending the soil in all the raised boxes that haven't been planted yet. From there? The sky's the limit!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 3!

Today we made it to Cody! It's as western of a town as I imagined, quite a bit like West Yellowstone, but with the addition of all the Buffalo Bill Cody history. :)

Tomorrow? We'll be at Hawkeye Ranch in the morning, checking it all out. Wish us luck!

Driving through the South Pass in the Rockies this morning. 19 Degrees and gusting wind and snow, with black ice on the side of the road. Very beautiful, and very scary.

We stopped at Boysen Reservoir to get Indy some serious exercise after being cooped up in the car.

In Thermopolis, at the Hot Springs park, we saw the first Bison of our trip.

Three days and 1400 miles later, we finally made it to Cody!

This Chandelier was hanging in the Hotel Irma (the existing bar is historical - it was given to Buffalo Bill Cody by Queen Victoria - very cool). I thought the chandelier was awesome (the antler one) and especially loved the completely tin ceiling.

Since there's no Motel 6 in Cody, we've upgraded to the Super 8 - which is really very nice, and still Indy friendly - they don't charge any extra fees for a dog! Woohoo!

Check back tomorrow for photos and news from HAWKEYE!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day Two!

Day Two began at Motel 6 in Salt Lake City and is ending at the Motel 6 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Tomorrow we head North to Cody!

Wyoming. Forever West. I forgot how vast the land is up here - it just goes on forever.

We started our day driving 110 miles WEST of Salt Lake City (read - out of the way or backtracking) to see the Bonneville Salt Flats, where so many of the land speed records have been made. Unfortunately for Jason, who had dreams of speed, the weather has not been cooperative, and the salt flats were more like The Great Salt Lake, Jr. Still, it was beautiful. And cold.

After driving the 110 miles BACK to Salt Lake City, we ate a huge lunch at Pat's BBQ - famous for its food and appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The food was AWESOME.

We saw this place just after we entered Wyoming. Liquor + Fireworks = always a good combination. You know what else was a good combo? Our visits to Boot Barn and Wal-Mart - it's cultural immersion!

Will write again tomorrow from CODY!!!!!!

Day One!

Here's a photo journal of our first day - 750 miles of Driving from my parents house in Torrance to Salt Lake City.

The breakfast of champions!

We passed this guy just outside of Baker. He doesn't look too happy with me. Wish I was able to get a wider shot of this car - Crazy!

Our only stop in Las Vegas. The place Jason lost his sunglasses that I have hated as long as I've known him. (So sad. Poor Jason, yay Erin!) The place that welcomes dogs like Indy: Bass Pro Shops. My dad was so proud!

Short stop in Zion National Park.

Family photo in Zion. Indy is only allowed in parking lots inside National Parks, and is none to happy about being picked up.

This is what the interior of a car carrying everything for six months looks like.

Indy looking regal in his backseat nest. He's very good at traveling.

Petting zoo at the Flying J Travel Plaza in the middle of nowhere, Utah. There was a baby zebra there - we're not sure where they got it, but it must have been cold.

Jason shot this with my camera as he was driving. Pretty! Shortly thereafter we drove into Provo and then into snow between Provo and Salt Lake City.

Good place to stop for the night. Classy? Not really. Cheap, clean and Indy friendly? Yes. And I slept like the dead!

Countdown Week

I wrote this while we were driving yesterday on highway 15 somewhere in the middle of Utah. Currently it is 7 am in Salt Lake City and Jason is sound asleep, so my post on our Adventure, Day 1 is forthcoming. In the meantime, here's a recap of our final week in Southern California (at least until the fall!).

The last week was jam packed. Not only was Jason’s G’ma Joyce still visiting with us (she was so wonderful!), we attended the Girl Talk Concert at the Hollywood Palladium (we bought tickets way back in December, long before we knew that this would be our last week in Southern California for a while). Thursday was Jason’s birthday - which we celebrated with dinner at Jason’s favorite establishment, Chik-Fil-A. He is so Southern, and so cute! In preparation for our time in Wyoming, he received a throwing tomahawk, a throwing knife, a book on hikes in Yellowstone and a bunch of cash.

G'ma Joyce and Caity put a coaster hat on Maddie.

Jason’s mom (Catherine) and stepdad (Bob) came into town to help us (along with my family and G’ma Joyce) get moved into our storage unit. Our entire house fit into a 10 foot by 10 foot storage unit, stacked up like tetris. Wish I had a picture of that.... but I'm sure you can imagine it!

Indy’s been going through his own abandonment issues - boxes and packing really stress him out. He was able to release his stress with two days at my parents house, playing with his girlfriend Sierra, their 85 pound lab. By playing, I mean constant rolling, running, playing and... humping. Indy’s totally in love with Sierra. Fortunately, everyone is fixed and since it’s almost impossible to keep Indy from doing the humphumphump, we mostly give up on it and let them have a good time. Sierra doesn’t seem to mind. :)

Uncle Joe drives Caity around the house on his walker. She LOVED it!

Last night we had a bbq with all of our in-town family. Aside from the usual suspects (My parents, Jason’s parents, G’ma Joyce, my sister Kelli and her husband Jeff), we had many members of my larger family. Aunt Laurie surprised everyone by driving up from San Diego and just walking in the front door. Papa Phil drove himself down. Auntie Ann and Uncle Joe came down. My cousin Kevin showed up. My best friend Solange, her husband Nik (also my good friend) and my two year old goddaughter Caitlin (aka Caity, aka Monkey) came over. At the end of the night we had a visit from Jerry and Lisa. The highlight for me was hours of play and pretend with my precious Caity. She is at SUCH a fun age right now! All afternoon she was constantly saying “Ready, Bears? Ready?! Ready, set, go!” and off we would go. (Bears is my nickname, and Caity thinks it’s my only name). In reality, Caity is Caitlin Erin - my little middle namesake - and I swear to you we are kindred spirits. I’m pretty sad to miss the next six months of her growing up - but hope she remembers me when I see her again in October!

Solange, Caity and I after hours of play!

So that recaps it! Check back for a post on our first day of driving!!!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Moving... Eh.

Thank God for Grandma Joyce. :) Jason's Grandma Joyce has been here to visit and help us pack for the last two weeks. She is FAR more organized than I am, and has been able to help us back a few boxes a day.

Now, though, we're down to the dregs - the awkward items that don't really belong anywhere and that I've been avoiding going through.

But we're getting there. Two more days to pack it all up and then it's time to move it all out. We've been packing the storage unit as we go, to get the boxes out of the house. But still - packing to store everything for six months and simultaneously packing luggage for six months of varied climates (Spring and Summer in Wyoming, early Fall in Florida) involves some serious thought. I can't wait until it's all packed and stored. But, who really likes moving?

Last weekend we moved all of my potted plants to my parents house - mom is going to babysit all of them and nurse a couple of sick roses for me. Here's what our front yard looked like when we pulled out all the pots and plants. My parents are very good people to take on all of these!

The potted plant forest from my house.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jeffers - Album #2!

My brother in law, Jeff, just released his second album, BADDER TIMES. We spent Friday night at his album release party at Mickie Finnz in Redondo Beach. It was a blast! Jeff and his band sounded absolutely fantastic! His new album, sounds amazing and looks fantastic, to. Even though my husband Jason shot all the photos and did all of the album artwork, I'm not even speaking from my personal bias. It looks great. See?

So check it out!

Jeff's website (with Album Purchase options and song previews)

Jeff's Blog (with more sample songs and info on upcoming gigs)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Multicultural Day

I talk a lot about how much I hate subbing - because most of the time, these days, I do.

There are notable exceptions, though. I've been privileged to spend an enormous amount of time in the Learning Center at Alta Vista School, working with some very special 3rd through 5th graders. Then, there are the Dance Classes at North (or any of the Arts classes at North - I love the kids at that school).

Today was one of those good days. :)

I spent the day in the drama classes at North, and SUPRISE! - it was Multicultural Assembly Day. This is the third year in a row that I've subbed at North on a day where they've had their Multicultural Assembly. As it has affected me in years past, I was totally moved by the heart and work put into it by at least one hundred students.

They volunteer their time to create and/or learn cultural traditions (dances, drums, songs) to represent their own (and other!) cultures. Today, they represented the cultures and traditions of the USA, Vietnam, Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Hawaii, the Polynesian Islands, France, India, Pakistan, Thailand, and most poignantly, Japan. There were so many countries represented, that I feel like I'm missing a few! (Just to riff on Japan for a moment - the sheer pride in the faces of these young people as they represented their heritage, knowing that many of them likely have family members stuck in the nightmare overseas, brought me to tears.)

From a professional perspective, the students are not all be the best dancers, and certainly most of the pieces could have used some extra cleaning and more rehearsal time. That's not what it was about, though. It was about representing and respecting the cultures from whence all of these students came. And when it comes down to it, I've always been more moved by work that comes from the heart than from a purely technical place, anyhow.

In an age where all we want is the next big thing, the next toy, where we spend all of our time communicating not with each other but with our devices, where we're always looking forward and refusing to look back, this is saying something. And it gives me hope.

You know what else gives me hope? This year's special guests were active members of the military. Before they entered, the Activities Director asked the students gathered in the gym to raise their hands if they had someone in their immediate family or a close friend serving overseas. 1/3 of the students raised their hands. And when those military men walked into that gym, the student body stood on its feet and applauded with no prompting from staff or faculty.

That's encouraging! I am so often jaded by this next generation, and have been heard to say after a particularly bad day of subbing that "If they are the future of our country, that I'm moving to Europe".

But sometimes, oh sometimes, I feel a great deal of hope.

So yes, there are good days in education.

With that, let me just say that I'm still counting down to my last day before we head out for six months. Two days of subbing left and I'm free until October!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Last year, in March, I wrote THIS POST about a couple of trashy young 8th Graders and a condom.

Go, read it (it's worth it), and then come back to this post.

Today, I was reluctantly subbing High School Spanish at a local school. (As an aside - I feel like I've totally checked out of subbing. If I never subbed another class in my life, I'd die happy.) Last class of the day - in walks one of those two girls - the "Queen Bee".

The good person inside of you sort of hopes that in a year, at a different school, that she would have matured some. Or at least realized that she's not God's gift to horny teenage boys.

And part of you (the jaded sub who hates children) hopes she's still a snide, miserable bitch.

The nasty side of me won today. Not only is she RETAKING Spanish 1 (and STILL failing), she spent the class period staring at herself in a mirror and fixing her caked-on makeup. She was the ONLY student in her class who DIDN'T complete the classwork. She didn't even PRETEND to try to do it.

Not only is she dumb as a rock, but she's cruel to other students.

And you know what? Beauty fades.

And the little negative person inside of me rejoices.

How awful is that? And how wonderful, too!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jason's Blog

My husband Jason has started his own blog about his specialization, photography. Landscape is his love, and his work is beautiful. He'll have a whole different perspective about our upcoming adventure. So go check out his blog!

Indy, Me and the H3

And don't forget to follow me - lots of good things are coming our way!

Friday, March 11, 2011


Hawkeye Ranch. Photo from

We are getting ready to embark on our next big adventure - and I can FINALLY tell you about it!

Jason has been offered his dream job working with an excellent landscape photographer, doing what he's already doing right now (digital tech) and helping to open a gallery at a ranch outside of Cody, Wyoming.. Yes - Wyoming - just outside of Yellowstone Park and very close to Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons. The photographer owns an incredible private ranch ( 40 miles outside of Cody. We'll be living there from April 1 until August 31. Plus, they've offered me a job running their greenhouse and taking charge of all the planting (it's massive!) and working with their private chef. I'm also hoping that I'll be able to sweet talk my way into the stables so I can assist with the grooming and exercising of the horses. I used to ride all the time when I was growing up and I miss it.

We'll be making just a little less than what we're making right now, financially, but without the burdens of rent and utilities which have become so EXPENSIVE. We're working really hard on getting out of debt and saving as much money as we can (we're going through Financial Peace University - it's AMAZING!), and this will be the perfect opportunity for us to build a nest egg. Plus we'll be in God's country (it's so gorgeous up there by Yellowstone), I'll be able to do the things I love and haven't had time for in years (horseback riding, gardening, reading, writing), and Jason will have ample opportunity to go out and shoot his own landscape photos.

After August 31, we're going to travel the Southern states for a month - visiting Jason's family and friends throughout the South - and will return to California by the first of October. I'll be able to go right back to substitute teaching and (hopefully - if they can use me!) caroling. We've been praying really hard about our direction and opportunities - and God is SO in this. He has been so good about opening doors and making our way clear that we can't worry too much about what happens after. It is so obvious to us that we are supposed to GO - the rest will come in time. We just have to move forward and live our adventure!

So that's the story - we're moving! Our little home in Redondo Beach will no longer be ours - new tenants are taking the house starting April 1, our belongings are going into storage, and we are headed out on our great adventure. We cannot wait!!!!!!!!!

Keep posted to my blog - I'll be posting photos and stories of our whole adventure, start to finish.

Hope you're living your own adventure where you're at!

Hawkeye Ranch. Photo from

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peach and Nectarine Cobbler - Gluten Free

I'm usually a cook by a recipe kind of girl (with the exception of pasta sauce - I can make a mean red sauce by instinct. I think it's in my Sicilian DNA).

For dessert tonight, Jason and I went free form.

I had some overripe peaches and nectarines that I needed to use ASAP. Yes, I understand that it's not their season yet, but I was given them and didn't want them to go to waste.

One of my family traditions has always been a delicious cobbler. As I grew up, we would spend two weeks every August camping and waterskiing on Trinity Lake in Northern California with my Auntie Ann, Uncle Joe and Cousins. One of my Dad's favorite fishing holes there is on the Trinity River and in late August there would always be an abundance of ripe, wild blackberries. While Dad fly-fished we would collect a big bucket full of these juicy, rich berries. The reward was a big cobbler made in mom's cast-iron pan. Full of butter and sugar with a crumbly, luscious bisquick crust.

Because of my celiac, I haven't had a cobbler since at least August of 2009.

Tonight, I had cobbler. Made with no recipe, totally fattening. Absolutely delicious - whether you're gluten free or gluten full.

Try it.

And if you can eat gluten, just substitute regular bisquick or pancake mix.

Or use whatever fruit you have lying around. Berries would be delicious!

Peach and Nectarine Cobbler - Gluten Free
Serves 4 (or in our case, just 2, but we ate too much)

For the filling:
3 Ripe Peaches
3 Ripe Nectarines
1/2 Stick of Butter (we used Salted)
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
I shot of Brandy (optional but delicious)

For the topping:
1/3 Cup Gluten Free Pancake Mix (we like Bob's Red Mill)
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 stick butter
1-2 tablespoons milk (as needed)

Quarter, remove the pits and then peel the peaches and nectarines. In a sauce pan, melt the 1/2 stick of butter, stir in the brown sugar and add the peaches and nectarines. When the butter and sugar have melted and everything is bubbling away, add the shot of Brandy and CAREFULLY light it on fire (yes - flambe) with a lighter. When the flame goes out, reduce the fruit mixture to a simmer.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 8x8 square pan - ceramic or glass will do.

While the fruit simmers, make your topping. In a bowl, mix together the pancake mix and brown sugar, then cut in the 1/2 stick of butter using a pastry cutter or a fork. When the butter has been cut into the flour/sugar mixture, add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring until the dough comes together in a ball. Don't use more than it takes to make the dough ball up. Eyeball it!

Pour fruit mixture into your greased pan, and then using your fingers, place the dough on top of the fruit mixture, making sure not to cover entirely.

Put it in your oven and leave it for 20 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.

Let sit and cool for about 5 minutes.

Top with some vanilla ice cream and serve.


Friday, March 4, 2011

I Love the Library

I love the Library. I do. I really do.

All those beautiful books - that I can take home and read without paying for them. That I can return instead of finding a spot for in my house.

New authors to discover, old authors to revisit. New genres. Fresh takes. Words on pages (pages, NEVER a screen - I am still adamantly against the Kindle and all of its kin), ready to sweep you off to somewhere you've never been.


I love to read. I have ALWAYS loved to read. Ever since my mom taught me at age 3, I have been the proverbial bookworm. Anytime I'm overwhelmed or stressed, I need to lose myself in a good book for a few hours. When I surface, I'm always prepared and ready to take my life back on.

This morning, Jason convinced me to take the day off and enjoy myself. So I ignored the sub calls and went back to sleep. I woke hours later to find Indy snuggled next to me in the bed, bumping my leg with his cone. And I was so happy, I couldn't even be mad about the dog hair in our bed.

There were a million things that I could have and should have been doing today. And I ignored all of them except for laundry. I took Jason's directive very seriously and pushed away my guilt at being "unproductive".

I have a stack of library books that have been waiting for me to dive into. I read two of them today.

Did I mention that I love to read?

Indy and I sat outside in the gorgeous sun for hours (with sunscreen on!), relaxing, and enjoying the beautiful day.

And I am so happy.

Aaaaah. The real world can wait until tomorrow.