Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Over Plum Cake and Chocolate Milk

My breath catches and the page I am looking at blurs.

Recently I started working at a little toy store, Walking Stick Toys.  It is a magical place that fills a sentimental nook in my heart.  You see, much of what is sold here is from Germany and as I am organizing toys on shelves or flipping through the books I run across things that are familiar from my childhood.

Today I am looking around the store, compiling a list of gift ideas for different age groups (a work in progress, but coming soon).

I am flipping through Magic Wool Fruit Children

A picture of sheet cake, with neat rows of plums stops me.  

I found it.

When I was almost twelve, we left Germany in a whirlwind and contacts with people dear to my heart got lost in the mess of it all.

Once a week I would walk down the the city center, ring a door bell and climb up a few flights of stairs to sit on a sofa between bookshelves lined with the most impressive stamp collection I have ever seen and large windows overlooking the cobble street, fountain and courthouse.  Across from me was my godmother, Margot, who was trying to hide the lung cancer ravishing her body under a brown wig, her hands showing me a new craft project and on the table between us chocolate milk and a plum cake.

I don't know that I ever said goodbye.

I tried.

I stopped by before we left, but Margot was asleep and instead I hugged her daughter, asked her to pass on my hug and love and permanently moved across the Atlantic.

On my honeymoon, my husband and I stood in the door way and I scanned the names on the doorbells looking for one that was familiar.  I didn't recognize them.

I still weave the sixteen pointed star Margot showed me out of ribbons.  

Every fall I goggle recipes for plum cake and none have been quite right.

I add the book to my list along with fool and felt: just enough to make a few projects.

Magic Wool Fruit Children - $24.95, Maerchenwolle - $9.00, Wool Felt - $3/sheet
Perfect to be shared over chocolate milk and plum cake.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hotspringing in Idaho: Celebrating my Birthday!

My eyes are squeezed shut, I am gripping the sides of the car, my feet are pushing into the floorboard I am so nervous I have to pee.  I am terrified.  There was an upside down car laying in the boulder field just below the road, granted, It looked like it had been there for 40 years or so, but it instantly gave an image to what I was feeling.  I have a phobia of mountain roads and yet I regularly sit in the passenger seat while Adam patiently tries to drive while I freak out.  Why?  Well,I like picking huckleberries and I love hot springs so I find myself in the situation more often than I would like to admit.  How did I get here this time?

I am entering the fourth decade of life and to celebrate we turned off our cell phones, threw food, clothes, the tent, the dogs and the kids into the car and embarked on a road trip to places we have never been before.  A loop through Idaho stopping to dip into a few of the many hot springs that dot the state as a reminder of when the area was a whole lot hotter.  
Our first stop Bonneville Campground.  

We walked to the springs before breakfast, the steam rising into the sun, and splashed through the creek where hot meets cold and blends into all sorts of perfect.  

The kids pushes the silty sand around and we moved rocks watched the water pool around us until the remnants of the cold night air dissipated and the need for morning coffee was realized.  
We packed up and drove on to Pine Flats Campground.  We set up the tent and just as the sky came crashing down around us we drove off to explore what was ahead.  We stopped at an unmarked pullout, crossed the highway and followed spray painted arrows up the mountain switchbacks. 

 And there it was in the next draw over: Skinnydipper.  

An impressive spring with one summer day perfect pool just over 80 degrees and a steamy hot pool we filled adjusting the flow of hot and cold.  

We bounced from one to the other and when we finally walked down the mountain it was early evening.  

On the way back to home base we stopped to gather firewood and take a quick dip in the remnants of an old bath house at the Hot Springs Campground spring.  

I walked in the morning mist along the river and slipped into a small person sized spring and watched the river flow by.  It is my birthday and the moment was just too beautiful to think of anything.  I watched the sun rise along the trunk of the pine in front of me.  I might have soaked  for fifteen minutes or an hour and a half.  When I walked back to camp there was fresh coffee waiting for me.
Just around the bend from my morning soak, okay in reality it is a little more like a wade along the cliff with hot water cascading down it, a jaunt across a short pebble beach and across a pleasant eddy is the most beautiful natural hot spring pool I have ever seen.  It is comfortably deep and a shower of hot water keeps it hot and clean.  I dunked in, fully dressed.

We broke camp and traveled further west and north.  Our final destination an illusive spring I ran across the internet and is referred to as M-16  or Sugah somewhere along a forest service road in the Payette National Forest.  On the advice of a fellow hot spring enthusiast, and with no help from the forest service employee we asked for directions,  we pulled off the road at yet another unmarked pullout along the way and scampered down a steep slope.

We found a small lukewarm pool and we scampered around the rocks and discovered a beautiful sight.  Two large soaking pools with wooden bridges across the cold rushing stream.  

We were soon joined by a few other groups and I was thankful we had brought along our bathing suits.

We drove on and entered a ghost forest.  It was haunting. The white remnants of burnt trees as far as the eye could see with a lush, green understory of shrubs.  We set up our tent at what is my favorite campground of the trip: Poverty Flats.  It is small.  Tucked against the wet banks of the Salmon River with the remnants of forest green above us.  There was plenty of firewood, and the site was remarkably less utilized than the other campgrounds at which we had stayed.  Before dinner we drove down the road and carefully walked along the sandy path that snakes along the steep drop off to the river.  I turned twice and then I saw the spring.  A blue jewel blue next the river.  

By the light of the camp fire we roasted marshmallows and I cooked my birthday dessert of choice:  Roasted Peaches filled with cream cheese and dark chocolate.  Yes.  They are as amazing as they sound.

And that is how I ended up on a dirt road in a tiny car terrified that I am going to roll off the mountain at any moment somewhere between M-16 and the closest town McCall, Idaho on our way to the hot springs we know and frequent on a regular basis Weir and Jerry Johnson.  I clench my hands together and have to admit to myself that in spite of my fear I am in love.  I love Idaho.  

I love that the landscape changes every 50 minutes and that from one hour to the next I am on a new planet entirely.  I love that the towns on the map are only clusters of a few houses and that gas stations are a rare commodity.  I saw more fruit trees than I have ever seen cover the sides of the road: plums and apples everywhere.  I love that I have a husband and kids I can take on crazy road trips and that I have a driver who will drive me while I am panicking in the passenger seat. And, I love coming home and that during the three and a half days I was away the kale exploded, the cucumbers bulged and the Wichita Pumpkin grew larger than my head.