Saluting Those Who Served Us

Editor’s Note: This incredibly patriotic local treasure came as a complete to surprise to me (makes me appreciate the opportunities that arise from weak bladders and the need for constant pit stops.)

This post was written a few years ago in honor of Memorial Day, when we discovered this cemetery south of Big Timber, Montana. It was a very wet, drizzly day, yet the flags still hung by the soldiers they served. 

Happy Memorial Day weekend my gentle readers. 


A funny thing happened on the way out-of-town…

After we made a pit stop (for those in the car with the weakest of bladders!) I noticed flags in the distance. Lots of flags. I told Sexy Hubby we simply must stop and investigate.

So we did.

And I am most fortunate that we did.

Off the Interstate in the sleepy town of Big Timber, Montana, a most fitting memorial stands on proud display for the soldiers that lie at rest within the stone walls of the Sweetgrass County Cemetery.

There is something patriotically inspiring and tear-evoking about the sight of an American flag. Especially a bevel of them marking a dirt road through an old cemetery.

It was a damp and drizzling day. In fact, when I got out of the car, it was lightly raining, and as I was worried about the Rebel getting wet. Then instantly, I thought of the many soldiers stretched out before me, their grave sites marked with an American flag, in silent gratitude for their unwavering service to our country.

I cannot even begin to contemplate what those soldiers must have endured while serving our country – me – and I was selfishly complaining of a few scattered raindrops.

We take so much for granted.

We have such unrealistic expectations as Americans.

Yet, on this day, in the middle of a cemetery in rural Montana, I was humbled. And blessed. And so grateful for those soldiers, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.  It was the least I could do to return the favor of honoring them with a few random photos, and private prayers of thanks, along with a smattering of raindrops.

In loving memory of the untold number of brave soldiers who fought for the life, liberty and pursuit of freedom we have the privilege of enjoying each and every day – I salute you.

And I am most humbled to honor you this day – Memorial Day.

This post is in memory of you.


I asked Sexy Hubby, “What are your thoughts about Memorial Day?”

He said, “Thank you to all the soldiers. We wouldn’t be here without you.”

This IS my Holiday Greeting Card!

Editor’s Note: Two years ago I made this decision, and was concerned – wondering – would regret it?

Guess what?

There is not a single regret to be found.

Only freedom – sweet freedom – and liberation from the pressure to get the stinking Christmas card photo taken, ordered, then cards written, addressed, stamped and mailed. 

Whew. It makes me weary just thinking about it…

Over the years, most especially during the holiday season, I’ve done more than my fair share to support Uncle Sam and the United States Postal Service.

Yet, I’m taking a stand.

And I ain’t gonna do it no more.

When did I decide?


Why did I decide?

Because I’m a digital girl living in a digital world, and I would much rather spend my days playing Liberace on a keyboard.

As a writer, I love a good pen, but find the need to use one less and less. In fact, one Christmas Sexy Hubby bought me some super fancy pen that cost the equivalent of a 7-course meal. Must have been around the time I bought him a $200 hammer – the thing used to hit nails. {Should have hit myself in the head for all the sense that made.}

Regardless, I just don’t write anymore, at least the old fashioned way, via pen and paper. In fact, the only humans on the planet with whom I continue to MAIL items are my parents. And that is about to come to a halt, once I show them how to operate electronic mail. Then, I’m going to declare myself paper free!!!

I already pay all my bills online. I receive all of my statements via email. The only paper that arrives in my mail box are local circulars. And a few old-fashioned magazines (which after reading, I properly recycle!) I do love a magazine. Wonder how much longer they will be around??

Over the past holiday weekend, as I belabored decorating the Christmas tree in the back of my mind was this shrill, nagging voice, “You’ve got to get your Christmas cards signed, addressed, and ready to mail. Pronto!”

I hate that nagging voice.

I would have opted to shovel every driveway on our street rather than sit down and scribble out names and addresses. It was killing me.

In today’s social media world, it is rare to go more than a 12 hours without seeing a new photo or update on my favorite social media outlets. We interact on a regular basis. We have no need to clog the land fills with more paper.

And I know one person (he who shall not to be named) that will be extra-relieved to not suffer through another holiday photo shoot. Especially after the year I demanded we go shoe-less.

We lived in California.

There was no snow on the ground.

Yet, by the way my family reacted, you’d a thought I wanted them to walk a mile over red-hot coals.

They have no appreciation for holiday photo staging. {I let them be in the photo anyway.}

For those lucky few who receive a hard-copy holiday greeting in your mailbox this December, I am relieved to say, it will be our last.

Don’t worry, for all the fodder you can stand – all year long – just log on here.

I hope to be around awhile. Blogging this and blogging that.

One last look at the holiday cards from our past…

{As you can tell, this card theme with hand-made bows carried over two years in a row!}

Side Note:

Sexy Hubby: What’s the blog about? (His normal question.)

Me: I’ve had an epiphany.

Sexy Hubby: What this time?

Me: I have decided this is the last year we are sending Christmas Cards.

Sexy Hubby: What?

Me: Yep, I’m over it.

Sexy Hubby: I don’t know if I agree with that.

Me: Great. Feel free to do it yourself.

Sexy Hubby: Forget that.

— The End —

Bozeman Under the Big Sky Stroll

For the 32nd annual Bozeman Christmas Stroll, I had Montana State Bobcat football on my mind…the stroll was a means to an end. Not to mention it was balmy – like 50 degrees. Crazy-warm for December in southwest Montana.

Since I was pre-occupied to get in front of a television screen as quickly as possible, my photos from this years stroll paled in comparison to previous years. So, I’m showing mostly last year’s photos.

They were better anyway.

We had a bit of snow to rim the edges of the photos.

The only new photo is Santa, whom we followed from West Main to East Main, lighting the trees along the way. It was festive and fun to watch all the children strolling along behind…

Christmas Stroll 2012: 

Christmas Stroll 2011:

My favorite photo – walking in a winter wonderland

…and the Bobcats had a big win – advancing to a second round play-off game!

Who Doesn’t LOVE a Tea Party?

{Editor’s Note: There are so many fabulous annual events in Bozeman, it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I can authentically say, the Christmas Tea, hosted by the lovely folks from Friends of the Story Mansion ranks in the Top Ten. Maybe it reminds me of tea parties from years gone by, or the fact I get to dress up and sip tea from fancy China cups, or simply the fellowship – whatever the case, I anxiously await this holiday event every year. 

If you have not participated in this event – don’t miss your chance! The Christmas Tea is being held at the historic Story Mansion on Sunday, December 2nd with seatings at noon and 3pm. Won’t you join the fun?}

Photos from the Christmas Tea last December 2011.


Ruby knows how to drink her tea…pinky’s out…

The lovely Gilbreth Girls!

A special thank you to the Friends of the Story Mansion for once again hosting a lovely Christmas tea party. Not only do the Friends of the Story supply the tea and delicious treats, they also organize the borrowing of the table decor and China from local residents. In fact, one of the “Story Friends” who was serving us tea, shared that the China on our table belonged to her Grandmother. (I told you it was one of my favorite local events – the sense of community and fellowship is overwhelming. It literally warms my heart.)

Everyone at the Walters table “voted” to come back again next year.

How to Create A Thankful Tree

First off, I will admit, this idea is not solely my own (I saw it on Better Homes and Gardens) but when I saw it, I thought, “I am creating that for my holiday table.” So I did. A tree to adorn your Thanksgiving day table where each of the attendees writes what they are most Thankful for this year.

This is a terrific project for FAMILIES to do together prior to Thanksgiving, allowing time together and discussing all the reasons we have to be thankful and have gratitude this holiday.

How to Create a Thankful Tree

The first part- creating the paper leaves was done with my CAP – Child Advancement Project – Pal at Irving School. {I am with the same CAP Pal now for a second school year, and I visit with her once a week for one hour. Such a short time, but I always try to discover new fun projects we can do together.  For more details on this super program, visit THRIVE’S website.}

Step 1:

Hunting and Gathering

Engage your children in this activity with you. Take a “nature walk” together as you collect as many different shaped leaves as possible. While you’re out, also collect several branches to use as the base of the tree.

Ask: What tree produced each leaf?

Step 2:

Tracing and Cutting

If leaves are wet, be sure to dry them carefully, then gently place leaf on double-sided scrap-booking paper – or construction paper – and trace the outline. Once all the leaves are traced – enough for at least ONE leaf per Thanksgiving day guest (I made several extras just in case my guests are extra thankful!) then cut shape with scissors and punch a single-hole in the leaf, and tie a piece of string to the leaf.

Step 3:

Painting the Tree

You can use spray paint in white, gold or silver. I actually painted my branches with Glimmer Modge Podge. They have a lovely iridescent glow! Allow time to dry completely.

Step 4:

Putting It All Together

You’ll need a vase or pot to hold the branches, I used two narrow-throated vases. Have pens – preferably gold or silver – and the leaf’s in a pile so guests can select a leaf and pledge what they are thankful for this Thanksgiving. You can read them all prior to sharing your meal together.

I encourage you to create you own Thankful Tree – and please post the images to our Facebook page. I’d love to see what you create!

“Cents”ational Celebrating

{Editor’s Note: This is a rerun, but I felt it was worthy as we are within the sweet spot of the upcoming holiday season. If any of you have ideas on how to creatively – and freely – enhance the holidays – I’d love to hear them. And so would my gentle readers. No matter how large or tight the budget, there are ways to squeeze in some love this season.} 

I heard a sentence this morning (while sipping hot coffee and shoveling an iHop short-stack into my pie-hole) that I not only do not understand, but in general sort of irked me.

“We are not celebrating Christmas this year?”

(It was said to Sexy Hubby by a general acquaintance.)

Of course, I’ve heard this sentence before, but it doesn’t make “cents” to me.

We are not celebrating Christmas this year.

Not celebrating all the reasons to be grateful?

Not celebrating the fact you have a roof over your head, food to eat, clothes to wear?

Not celebrating time with friends and family? 

Or are you not celebrating Christmas because you don’t have a giant pile of money to blow on crap that no one needs/will remember anyway?

Everyone feels the economic pinch and are searching for ways to keep a holiday budget under control. Bottom line, it doesn’t cost anything to share time with people you care about. In fact, I don’t exchange anything more than time with many of those closest to my heart.

For the most part, Sexy Hubby and I only exchange stocking stuffer’s that may include candy, tea, coffee or a Farmer’s Almanac (someone’s favorite gift!) For us, a favorite way to celebrate is sitting in pajamas, listening to Christmas music, and sipping the most delicious cup of Christmas coffee. {Is there anything better??}

For those feeling the pinch, there are ways to celebrate without breaking the bank, but still enjoying the season – here’s how…

5 Super-Easy and Censational Ways to Celebrate the Season

#1 – Want to celebrate with friends, but don’t want to spend a fortune? Buy a box of hot cocoa (with the mini-marshmallows) and a box of holiday cookies, add some friends, and a cozy sofa = all you need.

#2 – Find a photo of a favorite memory or event and write a note about why that moment meant so much to you. Frame it and wrap in whatever you have. Or not. It’s the thought that counts.

#3 – Bake something home-made {cookies, fudge, soup} and deliver the gift in person. Include a hand-written note why this person means so much to you.

#4 – Re-gift something you already own – a piece of jewelry, a frame, a vase – I’m the poster-child for “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

#5 – Host a humble pot luck and celebrate with loved ones. Even if it’s as simple as chip-n-dip or cheese and crackers, it’s the COMPANY that counts, not the food. {Although, I have been known to make occasional special food requests – like Big G’s garlic crab, or Kim B’s Melting Moments – and thankfully, my peeps usually oblige, for which I am doubly-grateful!}

No matter how large – or how small – my holiday wallet is, I vow to never say the words, “We are not celebrating Christmas this year.” Last time I checked, a hug, a kiss and a smile were free.

{I’m sure my buddy Sara from Saving For Someday has a pile of ideas about how to celebrate on a shoe-string. Sara, I invite you to post here if you’d like – my readers would love to hear your cost-saving tips.}

While looking for Christmas photos, look who I found?? From Christmas 2004 – our first in Montana.

It’s Almost That Time Again…

{Editor’s Note: I’m so excited to announce we will be hosting my parents in Montana for Thanksgiving this year – which means, it’s time to start prepping for the big day. Yep, I’ve already begun the turkey-task of taking an inventory of what I have, what I need, and what might be fun to add – just because.

I’m also happy to say, if you ARE  buying something new this year – as I will – the Thanksgiving items are already getting pushed aside for more jolly-themed items, thus, you can get some terrific deals!

Have fun. Be creative.  I invite you to post images of your decor on Authentic Life’s Facebook page. Do share! I get lonely over there without someone to play with!}

Regarding decorating, you’re probably sick of me saying, “Grab what you already have” – yet – it makes for a well-rounded (and FREE) table setting.

Can you tell the weather is beginning to shift in Montana? I’m cooped up, forced to find my own “entertainment.” By the way, this is the third go-round of “table staging” I’ve created, and it’s not even November! (At least I’m not breaking yet another of Sexy Hubby’s “House Rules” – No Christmas decorations until AFTER Thanksgiving. Bah humbug!!)

Antlers on the Thanksgiving day table!!

In your decorating theme, don’t forget the side-board, or buffet…

Proof positive that I will have more than one “turkey” at my Thanksgiving day table.

Perhaps more than two…

What Summer Love Looks Like

As the heat index nears mercurial proportions, we sweat, and realize we are in love.

We are in love with the sun, and toes nestled in the grass, and heat on our faces. We are in love with summer and all that goes along with it.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a quaint event that if nothing else completely personifies “summer lovin'” to the nth degree – a summer wedding.

I love summer.

I love weddings.

I love summer weddings.

I love the fact a young (or not so young) couple is about to embark on one of life’s most fantastic (if not challenging) journeys. A pledge to serve one another during our best, richest, and healthiest moments – as well as the other end of the spectrum. It’s also at these tender moments – when lives are dedicated to one another – that I not only fall more deeply in love with my husband of nearly 19 years, but I feel hopeful for all of humankind.

My heart runneth over with respect for this young couple who are already a mommy and daddy. They talk the talk, and this ceremony made it official that they now walk the walk. The husband and wife walk – as well as the family walk. While they sweated in their summer wedding finest, their darling children shared in the spotlight of love and commitment, while family and friends witnessed.

Congratulations Tim, Tiffany {and Alex and Alissa.} May your family continue to talk the talk and walk the walk. Of love.

From this day forward…


Does That Banner Yet Wave?

In honor of Memorial Day, I’m sharing my favorite and best shots of Old Glory that I’ve amassed over the years.

If you do anything today, take a moment to remember why we celebrate this day.

Our heavenly veterans who look down over us will be honored.

This photo remains my favorite.

Happy Memorial Day

I’m Thinking of a Number Between 1 and 17

From Birthday #1

{This isn’t a birthday photo, but it’s one of my favorites!!}

To Birthday #17

{Including birthday’s 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 – it’s all the same to me = LOVE}

This day brings up so many emotions for me, suffice to say, I am one proud mom.

And sad that those tiny, precious baby days are buried deep in the past…

Happy birthday Skippy. You will forever be my baby no matter how old or tall you get…



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