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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula Montana

Not much of a line on March 30th 2014, since there were snow flurries and gusty winds.  I was surprised anybody was here at Big Dipper Ice Cream in Missoula, Montana, given the chilly weather.

Thelma tells me it is a popular stop and there are often very long lines awaiting the specialty, home-made ice creams.

I'm from Oregon where Tillamook ice cream is our claim to fame.  Previously, I would have told you that ice cream from the Bandon Cheese Factory in Bandon, Oregon was the best...but then Tillamook took them over.

But in Missoula, this is the happening ice cream stop.  If you watch the video below, you'll see they've even attracted national attention.

Located at 631 S. Higgins in Missoula, this little stand has been making and serving up ice cream since 1995 in the Missoula and Helena areas of Montana.

I can't remember what Thelma ordered.  I ordered a scoop of the El Salvador Coffee and a scoop of Green Tea ice creams.  I had mine in a bowl...I'm not much of a cone person.  They do make their own waffle cones if you like those.  Two scoops costs you $3.75 and I would guess that the portion size is around a half cup per scoop, but that's just a guess.  Honestly, for the money, it seemed really small.

I've been portion spoiled by the aforementioned Bandon Cheese Factory, and a little known stop in Ukiah, Oregon called Rhodes Supply that has to serve the largest and least expensive ice cream on the planet.  Maybe the galaxy.

The ice cream at The Big Dipper is good, yet I could not, in all honestly tell you it is better than what I could buy at the grocery store for the same price for a quart.  So, honestly?  I don't get it.  But to each their own.

Thelma had yet to come here so it was a shared experience, spent huddled next to the car heater watching the snow whiz by.

Here's that national attention I was telling you about.  Watch below or via this link.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Business Review: Caras Nursery and Landscape in Missoula, Montana

Caras Nursery and Landscape in Missoula, Montana, is, as the name implies, a place for plants, and growing supplies.

Located at 2727 S. Third Street in Missoula, it is a large nursery and landscape business with a lot of cool stuff to see.

I visited in late March so it really wasn't even remotely in full bloom or fully stocked.  That's not their fault, that's mine.  I visited when I could.  I didn't find what prices I looked at to be outlandish, but neither were they competitive.  I might get ideas there, and make purchases elsewhere.  That's just how I roll.

I love going to nurseries; especially when I'm yearning for spring planting.  Just to walk around in a greenhouse and hope is like therapy.  Go look around...you won't be sorry.  They also have a healthy supply of miniature fairy scene items.


Here's a short television commercial for the nursery.  Watch below or via this link.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spencer's Gifts, Southgate Mall, Missoula Montana

While in Missoula visiting my bestie, Thelma, we went shopping at the Southgate Mall.  While there, we ventured into Spencer's Gifts.

Let me say, that I'm of an era where I remember back when Spencer's gifts was a mail order catalog only.  I can remember these catalogs having tons of humorous items, gag gifts and just very slightly, marginally risque' humor items.

Later, I perused some of the mall stores when they came out and they pretty much had everything the old catalogs had in them.  It has been years since I've been in one, since I don't live near a mall that has a Spencer's Gifts...or a mall at all for that matter.

I gotta tell you, I was shocked.  And I didn't think I was that much of a prude...except when it comes to children having access to adult material.

Sure, the store has some of the original gag gifts and specialty items it has always had.  But this store was far more adult than general public in content.  There was perhaps as much as half of the rear section of the store filled with sex toys and such.  Both Thelma and I were shocked.  I'll include here a quote from Wikipedia that I found while researching this post, but suffice to say, in this store, access was in no way limited.  Supposedly, no one under the age of 18 can shop in or make purchases from this section of the store.  Nothing separates it, and there were LITTLE kids back there asking questions...like 5 year olds, and young teens that knew they were viewing stuff not meant for them.  To access sex toys and marginally pornographic stuff (yeah, I know that's hard to define), one must be 18.  Not so at Spencer's Gifts.  I don't have any idea how this portion of the store is legal for those under 18 to have even viewing access too.

Spencer's is off my list.  Not gonna give them any of my money and support this nonsense.

Here's the quote from Wikipedia about the controversy.  Seems Thelma and I aren't the only ones that think this is not good business practice.  You can also use that link to read about the history of and the many times the store has changed corporate ownership over the years.  If you've got a petition...I'll sign it.  Yup...this from the woman who will be writing about her trip in to Adam and Eve...but it is only accessible to adults as far as I know.

"Criticism

Following an undercover investigation by television station WEWS in Cleveland, Spencer's was criticized for allowing children access to adult toys and explicit items such as a lollipop in the shape of a penis. This store is for ages 11 and up, but the adult toys, sex toys are for ages 18 and up. Parma, Ohio, Mayor Dean DePiero has vowed to force changes at the store located in the Parmatown Mall after viewing the story. On March 22, 2000, WFTS-TV in Tampa, Florida also did a story on it. Items that draw attention to the store are semi-nude posters of women hanging up in the window, Playboy items such as tote bags and delicates, and seasonal items such as Halloween costumes. Due to these complaints erotic material has been moved to the back of the store where it can be viewed and/or bought by those who are over 18 years of age and have proper identification. Sales may be refused to minors or persons without the proper ID at the discretion of the employees on duty at that particular location. In February 2014 a boycott was started to protest items sold by the store which promote and glamorize irresponsible drinking in addition to stereotyping and denigrating the Irish. The Ancient Order of Hibernians’ National Anti-Defamation Chairman Neil Cosgrove protested, “We note that Spencer’s Gifts is a recidivist when it comes to denigrating the heritage and culture of Irish Americans. Spencer’s St. Pat’s merchandise seems to plumb new lows with each year." The AOH, which was founded in 1836, drew particular attention to a Tshirt on the company’s site with the slogan “F*** me I’m Irish”.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lolo Pass Deserves Honorable Mention

As I start to break down some of my visits during the Thelma and Louise Most Excellent Montana Adventure (see post), I think that Lolo Pass deserves at least honorable mention.  It figured prominently in my travel plan TO Missoula.

Here's a link to information on Wikipedia about this famed mountain pass.  I chose to take the long way on an already long trip because I wanted to avoid as much city-style traffic and decision making and lane changing as possible.  I'm far from a seasoned or confident or even competent driver.

Photo courtesy of recumbantblog.com
First we were watching up to the minute road cam views of the summit because at 5,233 feet in elevation, in late March I was most assuredly liable to encounter winter driving conditions.  Even the day before it looked bad up there.  But when I went through the snow was piled high along the road and the roads were mostly dry...wet here and there.  Overall good.

But...I also have to add that to put this windy-ass road toward the end of my long journey nearly did me in.  It follows the river through the Bitterroot mountain range and it winds and winds and winds.  No cruise control on this road.  Even in winter it is still beautiful.  Lots of fresh snow roadside and icy rivers and snow-dusted trees.  I would have enjoyed that more had I been the passenger.

Not a lot in the way of "facilities" either.  OK, read that "none".  And I swear, just knowing that makes me have to pee.  It was memorable enough that I opted to take the freeway home and take my chances on sudden death just to cut and hour or so off my trip and avoid this pass.  The scenery is hard to beat though...if you and your bladder live through the trip.

I just thought Lolo Pass deserved some mention.   Given that I nearly pulled over and cried and gave up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Product Review: Claire's Temporary Henna Style Tattoo Transfers

OK, um, yeah, that picture is clear as mud....but I had trouble finding a stock photo of these henna style temporary tattoos from Claires.  You can visit this link to see them a bit better.  I found them on a recent visit to Claires when I was in Missoula, MT.

I love temporary tattoos.  No pain, and I can change my mind.  Cheap too!

They cost $4.50 and have several in each package.  Here is a picture of them on the tops of my feet.  There is no end to the fun I will have with these.  I'm easily entertained.

They are smudging and wearing off a bit more quickly than some, but hey...whatever.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thelma and Louise Most Excellent Montana Adventure

I sure am slow getting back into the swing of things after my trip to visit my bestie in Montana!  It's hard to re-enter the real world after an adventure, ya know?

In this post I'll give you a blow by blow of our adventure, and then in subsequent posts I'll review some specific locations, restaurants, stores etc.  I'll try to provide you links in this post as we go along.

If someone else's vacation bores you, just skip it.  But Thelma and I have adventures on a budget and WE think they are 10-ways of fun.  Thelma lives in Montana and I live in Northeast Oregon and we couldn't decide yet on our next foreign travel adventure, so I just went to visit her and we tried to do some things there that she hasn't already done.

You also have to know something about me.  I don't drive on trips and I don't drive long distance.  I am seriously impaired in my ability to navigate and I freak out in traffic.  So this was a true leap of faith and a measure of my love for Thelma to drive from Oregon to Montana to see her.  I had to drive through parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.  It took me forever.

So here we go.  Here's the layout day by day:

Friday, March 28th:  After watching the weather and printing maps, I chose to go the "long way" to avoid traffic and some confusing signs in Washington.  It takes me over a winding mountain/river region called "Lolo Pass".  I left home just after first light and it took me 9 and a half bloody hours with only potty stops.  I was beat!  I called Thelma when I got to town and stayed put in a Wal-Mart parking lot until she came to guide me to her house in Missoula.  Too tired to think, we grabbed sub sandwiches at Wally World and headed home.  We were in bed by 10:15.  SOOOOO lovely to see her again.  I last saw her in September for our Spokane Washington Adventure.

Oh, and on the way?  In a little gas station in Kamiah, Idaho (which is in the middle of nowhere), I stopped to use the bathroom.  Ever been on a long stint of driving and you would kill for a bathroom but there aren't any?  This was that time.  I didn't need gas, I had a car full of snacks, and so...from a gas station owned by a couple from India, this is what I bought.  Who would have thunk I would get a $20 pair of leather imported shoes, hand stitched in India in a dirty little gas and go in the middle of bum-crack-nowhere?  You have to admit, it makes a good story.

Where did you get those shoes?  Well, let me tell you...as soon as the woman saw me glance in the direction of the little imports display, the hard sell was on.  She was going to fix me up and I was not leaving without something.  I said I had really big feet, and she kept grabbing shoes and flopping them onto the floor in front of me to try on.  After I agreed to those, she grabbed plastic buckets of bracelets and I was lucky to get away at all.  I would say this is a fair price to use their dirty bathroom.

Saturday, March 29th:  I slept in till 8:30 (which I guess is only 7:30 Oregon time).  We sat around in our jim-jams drinking coffee and eventually eating breakfast (eggs and toast) and by the time we got dressed and presentable it was around 1:pm.  But that's what vacations are for, right?

We went to one of Missoula's most fab and famous stores, Rockin' Rudy's where I stocked up on incense matches (they work most awesomely for bathroom odors), and a super cool garden decoration.  We also each bought a truffle.  I don't remember which kind Thelma got but *I* had a salted caramel truffle that she recommended.  OMG!  HEAVEN!

 I think we went to the mall next where Thelma's son worked and gave him a hug.  We looked around at do-dads at Clairs and Rue 21 and Spencer's Gifts.  BTW...what the HELL happened to Spencer's Gifts?  It used to be novelty items and gag gifts, and now half of their stuff is adult toys?  How can they let kids in there?  It's crazy!

I think we may have also been to the liquor store and bought some groceries.  During the stay we had margaritas (YUM), and discovered a new drink sensation I made up from tiny sample bottles.  So of COURSE we had to buy the big bottles and keep going.  Neither of us drink normally.  But when girls play....  Anyway, the drink is (in a highball type glass), fill with ice and then 1.5 shots Bailey's Irish Cream, 1.5 shots Malibu Coconut Rum Liquor, and top it off with milk.  In a pinch we also found that just using the Malibu Coconut Rum Liquor and milk over ice tastes like coconut milk.  Now we need to name it.  Hmmm, how 'bout an "Irish Cali-Moo"...well, then YOU come up with a name!

We got home from our errands and shopping late and Thelma threw together a veggie lasagna and we actually ate it by 11 pm!  We need to revise our schedule :-)

Sunday, March 30th:  After sitting around for a bit over coffee and breakfast, we threw a chicken into the crock pot and we headed out to shop.  We're not serious shoppers, mind you...we're do-dad shoppers.  We went to  Old Navy (where I don't think either one of us bought anything), Target, Michael's crafts store, Starbucks, Cara's Nursery, and famed Big Dipper Ice Cream.  The theme is to eat and drink our way through our adventures. 

We still managed to be gone all day but I made biscuits and while Thelma took the chicken off the bones and then I made gravy and threw the chicken in and served it over the biscuits.  We're saving ourselves a fortune cooking at home but it seems to be a challenge to get ourselves organized what with all the laughing.  But we DID manage to eat by 7 so that's progress.  We made an early evening of it and sat around doing our fingernails.  What do you think of my mani?

I got those nail polish stickers at the dollar store...yup...for a buck.  They are Loreal brand and they stuck really well.  They lasted nearly two weeks before I couldn't stand them anymore.  They lasted through hours and hours in a hot spring.  They rock.  I may have to see if they have any more.

Monday, March 31:  We're on a road trip adventure.  We leave at a reasonable hour for a change and head out of town.  We head to Phillipsburg, Montana which is a really small town that looks like something out of a Western.  It snowed the night before and we're really too early for most of the businesses, but check out a few.  We had a tip that there was a fantabulous candy store here, and there sure is.  The Sweet Palace is NOT to be missed.   Not only do they have nearly every type of candy you could imagine, but it is truly a beautiful store.

I'll do a separate post about them with more photos.  It's amazing.

Phillipsburg, MT has about 820 residents, and the town was named for Phillip Deidesheimer who designed the ore smelter around which the town was formed.  So yea...an old mining town.  Lots of cool buildings and some interesting shops.

We didn't stay long...just grabbed some candy, toured some shops and snapped a few photos and then on we went to Anaconda, MT.

Anaconda is another mining town founded around 1883.  The origin of the name is unclear.  Originally, they applied for the name "Copperopolis" but another town already had that name.  Information states that Anaconda came from the postmaster...but his name wasn't Anaconda.  So who knows?  There are a lot of cool old buildings here too.  Population, between 9 and 10 thousand.  We ate lunch at McDonalds (hey, don't judge us!) and bought some groceries at a local store and our true destination on this road trip is Fairmont Springs Hot Springs Resort just outside of Anaconda.

We spend the night at the hot springs resort and really enjoyed ourselves there.  I'll fill you in on that place a bit more in another post.  It was quite fab.

Tuesday, April 1:  We reluctantly leave the hot springs and head to Butte on our way to Helena before we head back to Missoula.

Butte, and even Helena are also old mining towns.  You can tell they have struggled with their economies since the mining booms ended.  Butte is known for it's controversial giant statue of Mary that sits on the continental divide.  I can understand both sides of the argument...but I don't want to argue, so I'm just going to appreciate the immensity of it and the beauty.   There is no way, this time of year, that it was possible to take the road up to the statue. Way too much snow.  I've been up there once before many years ago.

Our Lady of the Rockies is rather impressive.  I just had to shoot a few quick photos out the window while Thelma zoomed down the freeway.

Then we moved on to Helena to take a tour of the Cathedral of St Helena.  We were spoiled by the Cathedral in Spokane Washington, but this is no slouch for sure.  Very beautiful.  The land was purchased in 1905 and the cathedral completed around 1924.  Heavily damaged in earthquakes in 1935, some of it had to be rebuilt.  It has many beautiful stained glass windows.  I'll post some more photos in another post.

We drove around looking at old architecture, and saw the state capital building.  We ate a late lunch/early dinner at The Pita Pit (a place I had never heard of) and headed on down the road to return to Missoula.

We made an early night of things and just hung out at Thelma's house.  She put some hair flairs in my hair, drank our special cocktails and watched some tube.

Wednesday, April 2:  One of Thelma's daughters who is madly finishing up her nursing degree, took a study break and went with us to Ewam Garden of One Thousand Buddhas and to lunch at Sean Kelly's Irish Pub.  I'll write more about the Ewam Garden and Sean Kelly's in a later post.  The gardens are beautiful even though nothing was in bloom and it was still winter there.  Such a beautiful place to visit.

We took a ton of photos here and just enjoyed the sun and the peace.  Shopped a bit in their gift shop and headed for lunch.  After dropping of Thelma's cub, we went shopping at the dollar store and Good Will.  I told you we were not power shoppers.  We know how to kill a day and have fun on a dime.  I made Chicken Ababo for dinner and we hung out.

Thursday, April 3rd:  Geeze the week is flying by! After doing our usual morning coffee and pajama party, Thelma's son and other daughter had some time to spare so we went to breakfast at The Shack cafe (which is FAR from a shack, btw).  As we were leaving, we saw a woman fall on the sidewalk and Thelma and her daughter kicked into high gear and stayed with her till help arrived.  After that, we decided we needed ice cream.  OK, maybe that was me...I can't remember exactly.  So we went to Cold Stone Creamery.  I had never been to one of those before.  Good ice cream...a bit spendy (but so was Big Dipper Ice Cream).  After that we went to the Garden of Beadin' bead store.  I'm sure Thelma's son enjoyed that...OK, maybe not so much.

After we got back to the house, Thelma and her daughters took us out on the deck and we dressed as our best Thelma and Louise selves for a photo shoot.  Silk scarves we found at Good Will, red lip stain from one of the girls, a borrowed cig, some margaritas, a pellet gun for bad-girl effect.  I'm not sure when the last time was that any of us laughed that hard.   I could show you the photos, but then I would have to kill you.  Cuz I'm Louise...the shooter of the pair.  Just imagine what Thelma and Louise would look like had they lived to middle age.

Thelma made veg spaghetti for dinner and we watched rented Sex in the City videos with her daughter.

Friday, April 4:  Following signature morning ritual, Thelma and I with one daughter in tow, hit the road after getting our morning caffeine fix to Victor, MT and the Red Sun Labyrinth.  In a beautiful setting in the Bitterroot Mountains, it is said to be one of the largest outdoor labyrinths in North America.  Even though nothing was in bloom (and it would be incredible when it is), it is spectacular.  I'll tell you more in a later post.

We hit a few second hand stores in Stevensville and Hamilton, MT on our way home and a little (and disappointing) bead store.

Our late nights and riotous living are catching up with us and we're tired today.  Thelma made a Frito Salad for dinner and we retire early.  Our time is starting to run low.  Time flies when you're having fun.

Saturday, April 5:  Morning ritual (by now you know the drill), followed by a quick house blitz cleaning up our slovenly ways.  I noticed when we were out driving around an Adam and Eve adult store.  I'm nearly 53 and I've never been in one.  Not one to shy away from an adventure or an education, I asked Thelma and her daughter to take me there to see what's what.  Wowzers!  Consider me schooled!  There may or may not have been junior high style immature laughter.  What happens in Missoula, stays in Missoula.

We went to lunch afterward (because adult shopping stirs up the appetite) with Thelma and cub to McKenzie River Pizza Company for salads/sandwiches.  After dropping off said cub at work, we ran some errands to the hardware store, grocery store, pharmacy and picked up some Little Caesars Pizza for dinner later.

We hung around the house and Thelma (who knows how to sew and I do not), helped me with a mending project and a sewing project I've had stuffed in a bag for over a year.  We got quite a ways.  She's agreed to finish it for me after watching me glaze over and nearly faint.

Sunday, April 6th:  Holy cow...I have to go home tomorrow! Thelma spend our morning ritual mapping out my return route while I uploaded photos from my camera onto both of our computers.  I'm starting to freak out about the drive home.  Uggh.  Just not my thing.

To get some of the ants out of my pants, we took a walk along the Clark Fork River and Caras Park (home of the famed carousel).  We grabbed a veggie san at Subway for lunch and then ran a few errands at JoAnne's Fabrics (where I bought another pattern...I know...I'm a glutton for misery and so is Thelma since she'll probably have to finish anything I start), groceries, gased the car and Thelma gave me a car wash.

We relaxed at home watching two back to back remakes of Clark Gable movies and giving our own commentary.  I made chicken Parmesan and we hung out, relishing our last hours together.

Monday, April 7th:  Thelma has to go back to work and I have to head home.  We're up early getting ready and by about 7:15 a.m., she's on her way to work and I'm on my way down the highway.  It will be so nice to see my Sweet Baboo at home, but so sad to leave my bestie.

I make an unscheduled potty stop (because I have no choice) at 50,000 Silver Dollars, so take a few minutes to look around and buy a few trinkets.  It's my second visit to this place and I kinda dig it.  I can't imagine what they don't have here.  Food, a bar, potties and an extensive trinket store.  It vaguely reminds me of Stucky's stores from road trips of my childhood.  You can read my review of this place from my last visit.

I drove home the most direct freeway route which took over 8 hours with very short stops for food and bathroom.  I stopped in Ritzville for gas and food and made it home to Northeast Oregon by 3 p.m. our time.

I started unpacking, doing laundry and dreaming of our next adventure.  Wonder where that will take us.  For certain it will be fun.  Thelma and Louise don't do any other kind of adventure.  Hey, remember you can always donate to our travel adventures so I can write about more interesting places by clicking on the link near the top right of the page.

Oh...did I fail to mention, I also included an educational field trip to the head shop, Peace of Mind?   Yeah, I even bought the t-shirt to prove it.  More on that later.

Movie Review: In a Better World

Netflix describes this film, In a Better World (2010) in this way: "Danish director Susanne Bier delves into the realm of fathers, sons and their perceived burden of male responsibility with this Oscar and Golden Globe winning drama about the interplay between two dysfunctional families.  With is father working abroad, bullied Elias (Markus Rygaard) finds solace in a budding friendship with a volatile new student (William Johnk Nielsen).  But the boys' shared revenge only seems to invie more violence."

It is the story of two families.  In one family the father is a doctor who travels to Africa for his clinic work (sort of like Doctors without Borders), while his wife (also a doctor) remains with the children.  They are struggling to overcome his infidelity.  One of their sons is bullied relentlessly at school.

In the other family, the mother has recently died of cancer and the father and son relocate to live with a grandmother so dad can travel for work.  The son is bitter and angry and extremely troubled and volatile.  Grieving the loss of his mother, he blames his father.

For me, personally, that bit about "perceived burden of male responsibility" is a bit of a crock.  I saw it as a provocative and disturbing portrayal of ethical and moral dilemmas on the topic of bullying.  There are three distinct bullies in this film:  a child at school, a tyrant in an African village, and a child's father.  There are lesser or perhaps budding bullies as they respond to bullying.  It is a mind bending examination of where the line is in standing up against bullying and if passivity can be effective in extreme cases (Gandhi would argue, "yes").

In the U.S. what the movie terms "serious vandalism" would be something else entirely and I was thinking they missed the mark on a need for some intensive psychiatric intervention.  I'm not sure if it was implied or if it is a cultural difference.

This film is rated R for language, and violence, and violence involving children.  It is subtitled but not at all hard to follow.  There are some parts that are English spoken.

I was tense and uncomfortable throughout the entire film but riveted just the same.  As a parent, I kept wanting to get in there and stop what was about to happen at every turn.

I think it's worth a watch.  I would love to hear what you think.  It is different and very well-acted by all.  It is available on Netflix and you can also watch it in full on YouTube.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.