Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!!!

I hope all is well with everyone--catch you tomorrow!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Public Service Announcement

When I was growing up my Dad would make us eat black eyed peas each year on New Year's Day. He swore it was good luck and all but threatened the world would end if we didn't eat some. Being a suspicious and generally paranoid child I obligingly swallowed one every year as if it were a pill, though I did so with some degree of fuss and consternation. It's not that I didn't care for the taste (truth be told, I had no idea what they really tasted like) it was the fact that the word 'eye' was in their name and that was more than enough to gross me out. By the time I was on my own and no longer spending New Year's with my parents I gave up on the black eyed peas altogether, though my Dad never failed to ask each year if I'd eaten any. "It's good luck, you know," he'd say in a tone that indicated a warning. Whatever. Those creepy little peas, or beans, or whatever they were, repulsed me enough to risk it.

But then 2006 hit and it was a rotten year. My work, my personal life and even my health were terrible. By the time New Year's Eve rolled around I was so depressed that I could hardly celebrate at all. I was just glad to be able to say goodbye to 2006. The next day, possessed by desperation and a hangover, I marched down to the grocery store to buy a can of my old nemesis, the black eyed peas. But when I got to the store I was slightly panicked to find that the shelves where they were supposed to be were bare. Apparently people other than my Dad believed in the myth, too.

I drove to two more stores before I finally found some. I then went straight home, cooked them up using the recipe on the back of the can and ate two bowls full. To my surprise, they were quite good. When my friend Robin came over I made her eat a bowl, too.

Now, I'm not saying that 2007 was the best year of my life so far because of the peas. That would be silly to base an entire year's success on a couple bowls of vegetables. But life is strange and just in case there really is something to it, I've already bought my stock for this New Year's Day.

This is the recipe I use. Give it a try and enjoy!

Heat two table spoons of olive oil in a pan on low heat
Add four chopped cloves of garlic and sauté on low for one to two minutes
Add one to two teaspoons of powdered sage
Add one can of diced tomatoes, drained and simmer for five to ten minutes
Finally, add one can of drained black eyed peas and simmer
Salt and pepper to taste


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Daily Details

I know, I know, I has been five whole days since I last posted. Oh the shame! Oh the sorrow! Oh the humanity!!!! But I have my reasons/excuses. I was celebrating Christmas with my family, sleeping (a new one for me), hanging out with friends and basically eating everything in sight. And when all of that ended and I returned to my new home in Bozeman, MT there was unpacking, cleaning, and generally stressing about my new job. And yes, these are all really great excuses, but the fact of the matter is that I said I would post every single day and I didn't when I should have. It's not like I had my hands tied behind my back or was in a coma. I simply didn't post. So poo on me. From now on I will only neglect to post if I am in the woods or have absolutely zero access to the internet. Sound fair enough?

Okay, so back to life. My flight back to the wide open country of Montana was fairly easy. There was baby-cries-alot on the first leg of the journey (seated next to me, of course) but other than that it all went fine. I came home, unpacked my bags, and immediately began cleaning the kitchen with a vengeance (hey--it was therapeutic for me).

There was a bit of a miscommunication about when my first day at Backpacking Light was supposed to be. They weren't expecting me till next week and consequently didn't have anything for me to do. However, my new boss was able start me on a really exciting podcast project that I've been happily tinkering away on while warming my toes next to the wood stove. I never thought I'd like working from home, but the truth is that it's kind of nice. It's a totally new experience for me to be able to prop my feet up on the coffee table and sip tea in my pajamas while sending emails. I can do web research and not be distracted by a ringing phone or an annoying co-worker. I can even refresh my brain by taking a break to do the laundry or unload the dishwasher (and yes, that is a plus given my obsessive Type A personality). I'm not thinking about office politics or how I'm interacting with co-workers because the only living, breathing, things that I'm working with are the dogs and the cat. And while the dogs can be distracting, I can generally tell them to go lay down and they'll leave me be. However, the female dog, Sage, has learned that if she really wants my attention, and I'm ignoring her, all she has to do is lay her head directly on my keyboard and look up at my with those adoring princess eyes. It works every time, and I've certainly never had a co-worker do that before.

It also dawned on me while I was tapping away yesterday that this was almost my dream job. This time last year if you'd asked me what my dream job was and I was brave enough to tell you, I'd have said it would be working for an outdoor magazine. And here I am. With the exception of a few minor details such as working full time, being paid salary, and having benefits, this is fairly close to the real deal for me, and that is pretty great.


Song of the Day: Beautiful Day by U2 (Too cheesy? I don't care.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Season's Greetings! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Festivous!

Whatever you choose, have fun today!

We've been having our own type of fun here at the Chilton house. We've been decorating Ginger Bread Houses...

dressing up the dogs....

and opening presents! That's a stuffed squirrel I gave my brother for Christmas (it's a long story).


Friday, December 21, 2007


I'm on Christmas break at my parents house and for the first time in a long time find that I have absolutely nothing to do. After working an average of 60 hours a week for the last six months this free time is, to be honest, kind of freaking me out. There are no articles to write, no research to be done and no interviews to schedule. I don't even have any emails to get caught up on. And now, consequently, it seems I have nothing to say. It makes me feel oddly untethered to anything normal. After sitting here in the quiet calm of my parents living room for the last thirty minutes warming my toes in front of the fire I finally turned to my friend Jeff and begged him to give me a topic, any topic, to write about. His answer? "Talk about a rafting trip."

Well, okay.

But which one do I talk about? I was a raft guide for four seasons and that means a lot of trips. There are people I could tell stories about, animal encounters I could gloat over and more than one rapid that I could speak of as if it were a person. Basically, there was a lot...maybe too much. I could talk about the first and only time I flipped my boat, the most obnoxious student I ever had (thankfully I've forgotten her name), the time I saw a bear or recount my very first trip as a guide. I could talk about how I saw adults turn into little kids on the river, or my favorite clients, the Johnson family. I could talk about what it was like to help someone in trouble or even how I ultimately lost the itch to be a guide. There's so much I could say that now, ironically, I don't know where to start.

It's Christmas time, or Hanukkah for some. Regardless of what you believe, it's a time of gratitude and joy. Each year, as my plane makes it way to Columbus for the holidays I think of all the things that have happened during the year that I am proud of and grateful for. This is the first year in a long time that I'm not counting rafting on my list. I was busy in Wyoming this past summer getting my career in journalism off the ground. To my surprise, I went a whole season without putting my paddle in the water. And while the absence of that which defined me for so long is odd, it's not necessarily bad. I was working on the next adventure and improving my skills as writer, or at least I'd like to think so.

But Jeff had told me to write about a rafting trip, not just the whole experience. And while the memories of those days as a guide are never far, I thought it would be fun to pull up an old essay I had written almost two years ago about a day on the water. It was supposed to be a finished piece, but as I began reading it tonight I immediately began rearranging sentences, changing adjectives and deleting superfluous words. On about the second page I stopped working and realized, quite suddenly, that this was no longer a piece I was proud of. It didn't even sound like something I'd written. Some of the sentences were redundant, the imagery was poor and the explanation of what happened that day wasn't very good at all. I'd let a few people read it once it was completed and I remember them telling me they liked it. I even remember thinking it wasn't half bad. But looking at it now I'm nowhere near happy with it. I don't even want to finish reading it and am tempted to simply trash the whole file.

But that old, annoying, flatulent piece of writing isn't a complete wash. It shows that I have in fact improved as a writer. I'm not saying that what I write now if fabulous, and I do know that I have plenty of room for improvement, but seeing the change from them to now is at the very least reassuring.

So Jeff, thank you for sending me down that strange little memory lane; I hadn't realized just how much improvement I had to be thankful for.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back in Ohio

Last night I landed in Ohio and so far things are good here. My parents dogs are still goofy, the same people are still here, and everything looks the same as it always does.

I'm so relaxed from nothing to do that I can't even think of anything to write. Guess I'll go find a book...


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight

Last night my roommate asked me if I'd miss Lander. I had to answer yes. There was just so much life in that town. It was small, which forces everyone to get to know each other and their business. I like that; it's harder to be lonely when every time you step out door you'll see a friendly face. When I was a kid we moved around a lot, and I learned early on that every city and every town has a personality all its own. You can find it not only in the way people talk or how they dress, but in how they drive, if they open doors for each other or if the local watering hole is more like a pub than a bar. That being said, Lander's personality was made from people who helped their neighbors no matter what, let their kids play in the front yard, left their doors unlocked and their curtains wide open, and were always looking forward to the next party. It was a town that was equal parts cowboys, environmentalists and average American families. I heard someone once say that on one end of the bar there were locals wearing hiking boots and on the other end it was a lineup of cowboy boots. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the top floor window at the Noble Hotel you could see the hiking book variety riding bikes or walking to work while the cowboys powered down the street in diesel trucks or occasionally on horseback.

It was a treat to live in a community of stark contrasts and blatant opposition to time. Like the difference between the cowboys and environmentalists, Lander existed in a much different world than the rest of the country. Its hometown feel with a strong trust for each other and reliance on the community as a whole was so unlike anywhere I've ever lived. It was like going back in time to visit what Anywhere USA should have been. In a word, it was idyllic.

Lander seems to be hiding in plain sight, right in the middle of the country. Its distance from major cities keeps it isolated and, in effect, preserved. And honestly, I hope it stays like that.


Song of the day: Shadow of the Day by Linkin Park

I did tell you she was persnickety, right?

This is Philbert. She used to be a barn cat and still carries that cowgirl persona with her. She likes to be pet and snuggle, but it's only on her terms.

And yes, she bites.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Leaving Lan Diego

Yesterday I packed up the rest of my stuff, put some Tom Petty in the CD player and left Lander, Wy. At -7 degrees Fahrenheit it was a chilly goodbye to the town I called home for the last six months, but it was also very pretty. The trees were encased in ice and with the early morning sun on them they just sparkled. The drive was okay, too. The roads weren't bad at all and it was sunny and clear the whole way up.

When I got to Bozeman I found a cute ski town full of people who look like me, lots of specialty grocery stores (I almost cried when I saw the wall of organic coffee at the co-op) and a cozy cabin with a wood stove for me to live in. It's only been one day, but so far so good.

My new roommates are three hunting dogs, one persnickety cat and their owner. The dogs names, from left to right, are Echo, Ike and Sage. The cat, Philbert, was too good to be pictured so I'll have to get a shot of her later.

This is Echo. He's just about a year old and follows me everywhere. His head was in my lap most of the afternoon.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Last Day

Hi All. Yesterday was my last day as an intern here in Lander. My boss threw a nice little party for me in my department and we all drank coffee with Kahlua and nibbled on biscotti and it was great.
I could get all mushy and talk about how much my internship meant to me, that I had more fun in the last six months than in the whole of my life, and that I'm probably going to shed a tear or two over my McDonald's coffee when I leave town tomorrow, but I'm not going to. Instead, I just want to say that it couldn't have been better and that I'm leaving on the best of terms; just a little sad to go, but excited about where I'm going.

Today is the company party and I'll go to that to see everyone one last time and then head north to Bozeman tomorrow. As my boss, Cara, so perfectly put it, "no girl should ever leave Lander without a hangover."

I couldn't have summed it up better myself.


Song of the day: Car Crash by Matt Nathanson

Friday, December 14, 2007

You've got to be kidding me

Cloned cats that glow in the dark...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

And for fun...

Check this out:

Go here. Read this.

One of the blogs I like to read is by a woman named Heather Armstrong. She's been around for a while now and mainly writes about her life with her daughter and husband or whatever else has come up that she thinks is interesting. Today she wrote about her life with depression and I was really touched by her honesty and clarity on the subject. I highly recommend checking it out at 


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This is the building where I work. It was -2 this morning when I took this shot.

This is Clay, one of the two kids I looked after this past weekend. At 12-years-old he has his own very successful chicken egg business. Of the 124 chickens he cares for, this one happened to be a favorite.

I took this picture from the same house I was looking after this past weekend. Lander is in the distance.

This is the view at sunrise from the house where I was babysitting last weekend. Absolutely gorgeous.
Yep--That is cattle on the left and a cowboy on the right. My boss, Cara took this picture when we were on our way to Jackson last month.

Two Degrees ABOVE Zero

Okay, I know it's cold here and I know I shouldn't be so shocked by this (really--I do know that I am in Wyoming) but it's only two degrees today! That's freaking cold. On the upside, the snow and ice make for some pretty gorgeous sunrises.

When it gets below twenty degrees outside a belt in the ceiling above my room begins to rattle and subsequently makes the fire extinguisher head squeak. It's loud enough to wake me up at night so to remedy the situation I climbed up on a chair with a small bit of cardboard from a cereal box and wedged it between the space where the sprinkler head meets the ceiling. I don't know why it works, but it does. And while I do realize that messing around with the sprinkler system may not be the best idea (and might even be illegal) a girl does need her sleep. [And Mitch, if you're reading this, no, throwing a shoe at the ceiling does NOT work; it only leaves scuff marks on the ceiling that I'll now have to explain to Lindsay]

So today at lunch I was taking a moment to cram some more things into boxes and bags when Dave, one of the maintenance guys where I live, poked his head in my door.

"Room inspection."

"Haha--very funny."

"No, seriously. The Fire Marshall is here to inspect the rooms and sprinkler heads."

I look around the corner, and sure enough, here comes the inspector, clipboard in hand. Shit! I immediately look up at the sprinkler head with it's cardboard embellishment and do a running leap to knock it from it's perch and turn around just in time to look nonchalant as the Fire Marshall walks in.

Okay, so maybe this wasn't my finest moment, but I was not about to pay a hefty fine for tampering with a sprinkler system! And it was pretty funny to see Dave turn bright red from trying not to laugh ;-)

Song of the day: Move Along by The All-American Rejects


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Regularly Scheduled Programming...

I know, I know I know--when it comes to being consistent about my blog, I suck. So, as a New Year's Resolution that will start today, I will write on my blog EVERY DAY. So there.

Additionally, I have reopened the blog to comments. So, if you want to say something, go for it!

As a quick catch-up since I last posted, I have been working, working some more and baby-sitting as opposed to dog-sitting for once. The kids were 12 and 14-years-old and I had a great time looking after them. In all honesty, they were easier to take care of than most of the dogs I have been in charge of in the last six months. They were so well behaved that I felt the need to send a brief apology to Cathy, who took care of my brother and I when we were that age. Seriously--she's a saint.

I also had another Nicki Moment, a term my friend Sandra coined. We have a balance board in the marketing department where I work and I thought maybe I could give it a shot. Basically, it's an oval-shaped board that rests on a cylinder. The point is to use it as practice for surfing, snow boarding, or any other such activity that requires a good sense of balance. I, however, do not practice any of the above skills or even possess an ounce of grace, but, IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME. I manged to get the board off the ground while holding onto a chair. Go me! And then, feeling a tad brave/stupid, I let go of the chair and announced to those around me, "hey look everybody! I'm doing it!" And then I promptly lost control of the board, and slammed my body to the ground. Needless to say, I spent most of last week on a heating pad and have become a regular at the chiropractors office while they try to crack me back into shape. Yeah. Good times.

I'm also getting ready to head out of town on Sunday. I have just about everything packed up and all I need to do now is shove it all into the car and head north. I'm hoping to have someone to go along with me but so far there have been no takers. Oh well--more room for my stuff.


Song of the Day: Juicy by Better Than Ezra.

It's just that kind of day...