Fresh snow in the foothills!

Christmastime is the end of my favorite time of the year.  From the beginning of September, through the New Year, I feel like the Universe is my oyster!  I love the snow and cold, I get to celebrate my birthday, and all of my favorite holidays are lined up across those four months.  Christmas just happens to be the cherry on top of the delicious sundae that is autumn and the milder winter months.

When we returned from our four state sabbatical, we had just about two weeks to prepare for the holidays, and another couple of days after Christmas to prepare for our next big trip.  Fortunately I had begun preparing for the holidays as early as Black Friday, and all of the items I had purchased online as gifts were waiting for me at my parents’ house when we got back from Montana.  Wrapping everything up the night of our return, I was more than halfway done with all of my Christmas prep, and feeling much less stressed about the holidays than in past years.

For the two weeks leading up to Christmas, I returned to my old job at Pandora jewelers, to help out over the craziest weeks of the year, and to get in a few last pay checks before leaving for our longest trip yet.  While working in retail is never all that pleasant over the holidays, the ladies I have the pleasure to call my work-family make up for any customers with crap attitudes we may have to deal with during the holiday season.  We all even exchanged Christmas gifts, and I managed to take most of them with us on our post-Christmas trip, or use them before leaving. Read More

For the last several days of our house sit in Boise, I had to fly out to Chicago for a family funeral, and my return flight to Idaho actually landed only a few hours before the home owners returned from their own trip.  While in Chicago, it seemed that everyone was getting sick with either some type of strep throat or the ever pleasant norovirus.  I was one of the lucky ones to get norovirus.  So, after a mostly sleepless night, and with absolutely nothing in my stomach, I flew the three hour flight back west.  When I got back to Boise, I felt both physically and emotionally drained.  Not the best way to say farewell to somewhere I had never been before.  When Chuck and Kathy returned, they took Ian out to a local Mexican restaurant, while I napped on the couch with Tami.  After dinner, Chuck and Kathy headed for bed, exhausted from their 16 hour flight from Australia, and Ian and I packed for our early departure the next morning.

Still feeling weak, and unable to eat the next day, I was kind of looking forward to the 7 hour drive to Bozeman, Montana.  Ian and I said our farewells to Chuck, Kathy, and Tami Fe, and we hit the road.  A cold front had blown in the night before, and the fog we drove through was eerie and had an otherworldly feel to it.  As the sun rose in earnest, the fog dissipated, and was replaced by high speed crosswinds.  As soon as we got into the shadow of the mountains of Wyoming and Montana though, the winds died down.  Driving through West Yellowstone, we got our first true glimpse of wilderness.  Where Boise had received a cold front in the form of frost and fog, Montana received several inches of snow.  Because we left so early in the morning, this was the first drive we managed to complete before the sun set.  With the mountains so close on either side however, the sun was already behind the mountains as we pulled up to Howlers Inn Bed & Breakfast and Wolf Sanctuary.

As we parked, we got our first look at the wolves, and they stopped to check us out as well.  Walking upstairs to the entrance to the B&B, we were met by the owner and operator of the Inn, and she showed us around.  Though there were two rooms in the main house, they were both booked before we managed to make our reservation, so we were staying in the separate Carriage House.  The carriage house was way larger than we needed, with two large bedrooms, a living area, a full kitchen and bathroom.  We used one of the two bedrooms as a storage room for our luggage, for lack of a better purpose. Read More

Winter time is my absolute favorite time of the year.  The cold and snow, the frost on blades of grass; I love it all.  As soon as Thanksgiving happened, it seemed that the weather in Boise decided it was immediately winter.  Temperatures dropped, the colder winds started blowing in, and there were several mornings that the plants were coated in a layer of frost.  As the weather turned colder, Meridian and Boise began their holiday preparations and events, and we made sure to get in on as many as we could.

First up on our agenda was the Idaho State Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony.  This Christmas tree lighting was set for the Monday night following Thanksgiving, and it was our first time going down into the heart of downtown Boise proper.  Unsure of how long it might take us to find the Capitol building and figure out where we could park, we left the house a bit earlier than necessary.  Driving through downtown as the sun neared the horizon, we had no trouble spotting the capitol building (the tallest building at the very end of North Capitol Boulevard, go figure) and found a public parking garage only two blocks away.

Cheap, quick, and delicious. Pie Hole was fantastic!

With a half an hour to spare before the festivities were scheduled to start, we meandered the streets a bit, and found somewhere to grab a bite to Eat before the ceremony.  Pie Hole, almost a literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the corner of Idaho Street and 8th, was way more than we bargained for.  Thinking we would just grab a slice or two of pepperoni or cheese, we were met with much more intriguing options.  The slices of the day included Bell Pepper, Pineapple, and Jalapeno, with Sweet and Sour Sauce; Ham, Pineapple, Mango, and Bacon; and the two slices I ordered, the Pesto Mozzarella, and the Meatball, Basil, Mushroom, and Tortellini on Creamy Marinara (both of which were amazing).  Ian, boring as he is, got two slices of pepperoni (no surprise, that’s what he gets at every pizza place).  The surprise came when we paid.  We stopped by just before 5pm, and were lucky enough to get there just before happy hour ended.  Monday through Friday, they have a Happy Hour special of two slices for just $3.50, so our four slices of pizza and two drinks cost us a total of $10!  Not bad for a filling meal. Read More