10 Things To Do In Jackson Hole When JHMR Is Closed

Epic snow storms, wicked winds and a closed ski resort make for some unhappy campers in Jackson Hole these days, but never fear.  Here’s my list of “must-dos” to experience in our fabulous town. There’s so much to do in Jackson Hole during the winter!

SKI SNOW KING:  There is still a mountain you can ski in Jackson Hole.  Snow King is Wyoming’s first ski resort and it’s right in town.  Don’t miss this chance to ski the King.  Snow King is offering a 20% discount to all Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Mountain Collective valid pass and ticket holders through this weekend.

SNOW KING COWBOY COASTER & KING TUBES: If skiing isn’t your thing, or you just want to have some outrageous fun, head over to Snow King and take a ride on their Cowboy Coaster.  The Cowboy Coaster takes riders 456 feet up Snow King Mountain, and then lets you loose down twists and turns as high as four stories tall for an exhilarating roller-coaster thrill ride.  King Tubes has snow tubes, three smooth groomed lanes, and a rope tow to pull you and your snow tube up the hill. All you need are some warm clothes and a need for speed.

NATIONAL ELK REFUGE SLEIGH RIDES:  Curl up under warm blankets on a horse-drawn sleigh as you explore the National Elk Refuge and get up close and in person with the massive herd of elk that gather for the winter in Jackson Hole.  Learn about these beautiful animals, as well as the nicknames the drivers have for some of them.  Tickets are available and departure is from the Visitors Center on N. Cache

DOG SLEDDING:  An experience you won’t soon forget is being pulled by a very happy and energetic set of dogs as you glide through the wilderness on a sled, view wildlife and if you choose, take a dip in Granite Hot Springs.  Pick the dogsled adventure that is right for you.

SNOWMOBILING:  Think warm snowsuits, heated handle bars and spectacular scenery.  There are so many snowmobiling options available in the area, whether venturing in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, exploring Togwotee Pass or Yellowstone.  You can drive your own snowmobile or share with a friend or family member.  Don’t miss this opportunity to see some of the beautiful wilderness surrounding Jackson Hole.

WILDLIFE TOURS:  The snow won’t stop you from seeing wildlife and the incredible guides who offer their tours know exactly where to find that moose, fox, elk, big horn sheep and maybe even a wolf for your viewing pleasure.  There are a number of excellent guides available but two of my favorites are Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris and Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: There is endless cross country skiing to experience while visiting Jackson Hole.  Grand Teton National Park’s inner road is groomed for cross-country, skate skiing and snowshoeing.  Teton Pines Golf Club offers groomed trails to the public and Hole Hiking Experience provide guided tours.  The JH Nordic website provides area trail maps and information. Nordic ski packages are available for rent from Skinny Skis and Teton Mountaineering.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WILDLIFE ART:  Celebrating it’s 30th year, the National Museum of Wildlife Art is just north of Jackson Hole across from the National Elk Refuge.  Come in from the cold and meander the finest wildlife art collection in the United States.  Have lunch or a bite to eat at Palates and the children will find a special room just for them to explore their creativity.

DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY:  You know you want to put on those cowboy boots that sit in your closet most of the year.  Slip them on tonight and go two-step at the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar or the Silver Dollar Saloon at The Wort Hotel.  Other music venues are also available at The Pink Garter Theatre and The Town Square Tavern.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP:  Jackson Hole has a vast array of boutique shops and art galleries.  Start your Christmas shopping early or just treat yourself to something special.

For more information on Jackson Hole, activities and shopping, visit the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce website.

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The Bee Sting

You know that hot searing pain immediately.  You feel a red hot needle piercing your skin and wham, with the slap of a hand you’ve obliterated the wasp and you know what’s coming next – more pain.

It was a beautiful Sunday evening out on the patio, catching up with long-lost cousins from California and JT’s siblings from Boise.  We were enjoying a nice glass of Jackson Hole Wine and soaking in the last rays of the day.  We’ve always had bees flitting around the patio and yes, I’ve been stung a few times, but outside of your typical reaction, I have never had a problem.  So I grabbed the Benadryl cream and pills, popped and lathered and sat back down.

Within minutes I knew something was wrong.  My leg was burning, my hands started to swell, my ears and my neck itched.  My sister-in-law who is a nurse took one look at me and asked if my tongue, lips or throat felt weird.  Nope, I was just itchy.  A few minutes later I couldn’t stand it anymore and went upstairs to look at my torso which was itching like crazy.  Hives, welts, red stripes, dang it…

I said good-bye to the company and JT whisked me away to the hospital.  By the time we got there my heart was racing, I was having trouble breathing and the room was spinning.  The medical team plopped me in a wheelchair and back I went to my cozy room for the next few hours.

Epi-pens, more Benadryl, fluids, and all sorts of fun stuff started pumping into my veins.  The room continued to spin and I answered questions through a fog.  The medical team did their best to keep me laughing as the tremors from the EpiPen started to kick in.  Somewhere I remembered to breathe and do my best to get my heart to stop racing.

My leg was KILLING me!  That damn stinger was still buried in there somewhere and every time I moved, it sent another searing shot of pain through my calf.  My fabulous nurse Dave came in with some lidocaine, rubbed it in and told me to be patient for 10-15 minutes until it kicked in.

Somewhere along the line the shaking and the tremors stopped, the hives started to go away and I drifted off to la-la-land.  The team continually came in and checked on me and JT was an angel keeping my spirits up.

I hate hospitals.  I think it all stems from having my tonsils out at the age of 4 and waking up to a sheet covered in blood from the draining and absolutely freaking out.  JT couldn’t believe that I had only been in the ER once before in my life.  I had a severe asthma attack back on the east coast and after they left me in a room for 2 hours with no one checking on me, I walked out the door and went home.

That being said, Dr. Nelson and the team at St. John’s were fabulous and I couldn’t have received better care.  They made a very scary situation “comfortable” and got me home to bed at a reasonable hour.

Epi-pen in hand until I go through my desensitization shots in a few weeks, I’m ready to do battle with those little bastards if they come at me again!

On a serious note, even if you have never had an allergic reaction to a bee sting, it can still happen later in life.  If you have the slightest symptoms of tingly or swollen lips or tongue, or have problems breathing, get to the doctor immediately.

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It’s not about catching fish, umm right?

There is the window in the spring when every fisherman or woman in the mountains grabs their gear and tries to fish as much as possible.  It’s between when the weather warms up enough not to freeze your keister off standing in or floating down the river, and before the river blows out with runoff.

Blowout: when the snow starts to melt quickly, running into rivers and streams, bringing with it dirt, crud, muck, etc. that turns the river mocha.  The fish go to the bottom not to be seen until run off dissipates and the water clears – usually around July here in Jackson Hole.

This past week the Snake River in Jackson Hole went mocha but we had heard fishing on the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho was still good.  So Sunday morning we threw the kayaks on the Highlander and headed across The Pass to see if we could find some trout.

When we stopped at Rendezvous Fly Shop in Irwin, our hearts sank when Gary the owner told us they had opened the flow from the Palisades Dam.  Alas, it was a gorgeous day for a float and maybe the fish gods would be with us.

They weren’t…..but it’s not about catching fish right, it’s about the experience?!

Kayaking the South ForkThe river was a little murky and extremely cold with all the fresh water from the reservoir.  Our other clue fishing was not going to be good – we only saw one osprey and two eagles surveying the river the entire day.  Typically on that stretch, the birds are waiting for you to catch something so they can swoop in and steal it away!

So down the river we floated.  The sunshine felt glorious on my back, the green grass poking through the muddled browns of deadfall and deteriorating leaves were like microbursts of paint.  We stopped at various gravel bars and tried our luck in seams, riffles and pools that should obviously be holding fish.  Let’s just say it was a good practice day.

As we passed other fishermen we all asked the same question and got the same answer. Nothing happening.   At least it wasn’t just us.

Fall Creek FallsAs we approached Falls Creek Falls, our spirits lifted based solely on the beauty of this spot.  While I have floated past the Falls a number of times later in the year, I had never seen them early on when the water is gushing over the rocks.  A favorite place for fisherman and hikers to take a break, we stood and took in everything around us and were thankful we had the place to ourselves.

Five hours later we arrived at Conant boat ramp, a little dismayed at the lack of catching, but happy to have had such a beautiful and serene float down the river.  There was plenty of time to clear our heads, chat about life, make plans for our next fishing trip to Montana and just take in all that was around us.

I’ve always said, fly fishing is a great excuse to stand someplace beautiful and do absolutely nothing.  It was the universe’s way of reminding me, it’s not always about catching fish.

 

 

 

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The Cutters Run So Children May Walk

Each WinterFest Week Jackson Hole residents and visitors can enjoy two very exciting and unique events benefiting the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake City: The 44th Annual Cutter Races and the 3rd Annual North American Ski Joring Championships.

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Hosted by the Jackson Hole Shriners, the Cutter Races, are held Presidents Day weekend.  The races were originally on the streets of downtown Jackson, but the event has grown so much that it is now held just south of Jackson, off of South Park Loop Road and Melody Ranch. The Ski Joring event was created several years ago as a bookend event to wrap up Winterfest Week in Jackson Hole.

For those not familiar with cutter racing, think Ben Hur, but instead of a colosseum, imagine two horses and a carriage moving at top speeds across the snow! Skijoring gets a little more crazy as skiers are pulled by running horses through an obstacle course filled with jumps and speed runs.  Click here to watch exciting videos from previous events.

The locals know to show up early and park their trucks, flat beds and RVs, then proceed to set up elaborate tailgate parties complete with grills, music and specialty flags so their friends know where to find them.

Calcutta betting is used to raise additional funds and create further competition in the events.SkiJoring

The net proceeds from the events are donated to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Salt Lake which serves children of the Jackson Hole community. The hospital is committed to providing the best care for children in their specialty areas of orthopedics, burn care, spinal cord injury and cleft lip and palate, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

The Shriners and the hospital have helped countless children and their families in the Jackson Hole area receive care they may otherwise have never been able to afford. This care changes lives, brings hope and smiles to the faces of children and parents, and simply is priceless.

The 2014 Cutter Races are held February 14th and 15th at 12:30 pm. The Ski Joring event is February 21st and 22nd at 12:00 pm. There is a $15 entry free for the Cutter Races and $10 for Ski Joring.  Children under 12 are free. For more information on the events, visit www.jhshriners.org.

This post was also published on 3 Creek Ranch Golf Club’s public blog.

Photo credits: Ted Adams Photography

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Don’t Feed Da’ Bear!

cleaningup

Growing up in Iowa, the only bears I encountered were the Chicago-type on Sunday afternoon.  Ditka, the Fridge, McMahon and Singletary.  The two-legged kind who were much more approachable than the four-legged kind who reside here in the mountains.

Meet Ralph.  Don’t ask me how I came up with that name, but 10 minutes into my up-close and in-person bear encounter a few weeks ago, Ralph just seemed to fit.

As I sat working at my dining room table I heard several noises outside.  At first, I ignored them thinking our cat, K2, was outside getting into trouble of some sort.  However, the third time raised the hair on the back of my neck.  I turned in my chair to look out the window and found myself literally face to chest with Ralph who was standing on his back legs, holding my hummingbird feeder in both paws and euphorically pouring the sweet, wonderful syrup down this throat, while the rest splashed all over him and my deck.

DrinkingbearWith a start, I jumped up, fell back on the table and then stupidly (thinking back on it) pounded on the window and screamed at him.  I’m not quite sure what I would have done if he had decided to pound and scream back at me.  But Ralph was oblivious.  He was completely focused on getting every last drop of sugar water out of the feeder and could have cared less about the screaming lady on the other side of the window.

I ran next to the sliding door and screamed and pounded again. No response, just more chugging.  My next thought in looking closely at him was oh crap, where’s Mom?  He was small and yes, cute, so I initially thought he was one or two years old.  I closely scanned the yard around the house, but thankfully, no Mom.

I became enamored with the little guy and caught myself laughing as he would stand up, pour more juice, sit down, lick it off him and the deck and then start the process all over again.

It quickly became apparent Ralph was taking up residence and had no plans of leaving anytime soon.  It was also concerning that he was not scared by my screaming, knocking and presence at the window and door.  Time to call Game & Fish.  Reinforcing the “small world” of society, it just so happens that the head of Game & Fish in Jackson Hole, is one of my high-school classmates from Iowa.  Go figure.  One quick call to Doug and a team was dispatched to check out my sticky, gooey, furry friend Ralph.

WindowbearBy now, Ralph had drained the feeder of every last drop of sugar water and was looking for more.  He stands up, places his paws on my window, looking in as if to say, “Lady, this thing is empty!  Would you please come out here and refill it?”  I was laughing hysterically at this point.

Next, I learned that Ralph was a very considerate bear and he confirmed an old wive’s tale for me.  He trotted off my deck and started sniffing around the yard.  I was concerned he would disappear before the Game & Fish team arrived.  But then he stopped at the edge of the woods that border our lawn, squatted and did his business.  Yes, bears do @#$% in the woods!  He then meandered back to the deck and proceeded to play with the wind chimes and lick up every last drop of syrup on the deck.

The Game & Fish team arrived and instead of running, Ralph was mesmerized.  He literally sat on my deck and was intrigued by these three “creatures” who were loading up the tranquilizer gun and who were equally intrigued by him.

And then, it was nap time for little Ralph.  He did a lap around the neighborhood before the tranquilizer took effect, and then was loaded into a trailer and moved south of Jackson into the mountains.

Upon further inspection by the Game & Fish team, it was determined Ralph was in fact, three years old, had probably just come out of hibernation and was starving.  They too were concerned he showed no fear of humans and hence, relocation to a new home.

While I would rather watch bears from AFAR, it was a fascinating afternoon with my little buddy.  The hummingbird feeders were hung higher, the deck was washed down, but I left the bear prints on the window for a few days just for fun.

I hope Ralph’s hangover wasn’t too bad and that he has found a big hive of honey somewhere in the Wyoming Range to satisfy his sweet tooth!

Life in the mountains is never dull, but when it comes to wildlife, keep your distance and always, always, have your bear spray handy.

Claws

 

JuliAnne H. Forrest

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The mythical season they call Spring

Spring is a mythical season in Jackson Hole.  You hear stories about it from friends and old-timers who talk of the year when the grass was green and the flowers bloomed in April.  In your heart you know it happens, but on days like today when you wake up to a fresh coating of snow, your heart sinks and you covet the glorious Spring days everyone else is enjoying around the country.

BisonMtns

We know there is hope.  We also know Mother Nature has a habit of keeping us in “mud-season” and then, with the flip of a switch, the next day you wake up to 70-degree temperatures and summer has arrived!

A few weeks ago we left the gates of the castle and took a road trip to Idaho to find Spring.  The good news is we found it in Boise while visiting John’s sister. However, along the way through Salmon, Stanley and Sun Valley, the snow was still blanketing the hills and mountains. Despite waking up to a coating of snow on our tent our first morning, fun and fishing were still accomplished, and as always, gourmet camp cooking was a requirement.

Salmon camping

I had never traveled through the Sawtooth mountains and have to admit my jaw dropped at the stunning beauty.  Let’s face it, I am more than biased Jackson Hole with the Grand Teton Range is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but I have to give credit to those Idaho mountains. Wow.

Sawtooth Mountains

Upon arriving in Boise, lush green grass awaited us, along with tulips, daffodils, flox and cherry blossoms.  The warm sunshine was welcome medicine after a cold winter and too many gray Spring days.  I felt like a kid laying down on the lawn and just enjoying the welcome smells and sensations of the grass.

Returning to Jackson is always wonderful, snow and all, and we tried to keep our thoughts positive.  The allusive Spring will arrive, if only for few days before Summer makes its entrance.

On Easter Sunday I pulled out my camera which had acquired too much dust over the winter and decided to go for a drive and see what I could find to shoot.  It was a glorious afternoon to take it all in.

First on my target list was the Kelly Road where you almost always can find wildlife.  Sure enough, hundreds of elk were making their way off the National Elk Refuge and back into the mountains.  Then, as I came around the corner, the bison had returned to their grazing grounds.  The large, impressive animals lumbered and posed for the paparazzi who lined roads.  Of course, there is always the jerk who goes speeding by and not only scares the animals but everyone else.  Seriously, grow up!

Bison and Elk

Further up the road, and unfortunately too far away to get a shot, I counted 12 moose.  Rarely do you see that many moose gathered together, but sometimes in the Spring I have seen this happen and it’s amazing.

But then, I saw it – Spring in its ultimate form.  Two buffalo were off standing alone while the rest of the herd was on the other side of the road.  When I looked closer, I saw something on the ground next to one of the cows.  I quickly dug for the binoculars and yes, a FRESHLY born baby bison!  Mom was cleaning the little one and was more than a little wobbly on her own legs.  I quickly looked over to the other bison and sure enough, a calf was laying beside her as well, but a few hours older.

BisonCalf

Growing up on a farm, one of the coolest experiences was watching the birth of a baby animal.  You may wrinkle your nose, but seriously, it is incredible.  We would always keep an eye on things just to make sure nothing went wrong, but it was a thrill to see within the hour, these little ones start to get their legs under them.

I waited for a good bit hoping I would get to see these calves take their first steps, but they decided on a nice long nap.  As I pulled away, almost on cue, the rest of the herd began to cross the road and join the cows.  The team circled up, ready to protect their newest members throughout the evening from predators who would undoubtedly be checking in.

Spring in Jackson Hole requires patience. During those times when the gray skies and damp, dreary days get the best of you, it is important to pause.  Pause and remember the incredible winter of skiing and other winter activities you just enjoyed.  Then remind yourself this too shall pass, and before long, the green grass will return, the lupine and balsamroot will bloom and you will be enjoying majestic views of Grand Teton National Park from trails, valleys and lakes which will unwrap like a welcome present in a few weeks.

Spring, it may be mythical, but it is a time of rebirth that is simply magical.

 

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My Superbowl Ad Recap

I am one of those weird girls who LOVES football!  Couple that with my pr/marketing career and I’m in heaven today.

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Having started my professional career in advertising, I am slightly biased when it comes to GOOD commercials.  I roll my eyes and wonder, who the heck approved that spot? I remember the days when some of our best spots were created after 10 pm, with a pizza, a 12-pack and throwing darts back in the creative department.

My belief in the creative departments has been revived tonight.  Let’s face it, the last few year’s Superbowl commercials have been lax (with the exception of Budweiser.)  The last good commercial I remember was “Herding Cats .”  While others have a long list of favorites, I’m not a fan of “bad and stupid humor.”  Come on, most of us have brains.

This past week, we have seen sneak peaks of the Superbowl commercials on the various social media and television channels.  I think this was a brilliant move by the advertisers to get more bang for their buck, rather than just the 30-60 seconds they normally would receive.  A great buzz should be the goal of any advertising campaign.

So here’s my running commentary on the Superbowl commercials tonight.

1. MetLife: Peanuts Star Spangled Banner.  Who doesn’t love the Peanuts?  If you don’t, it’s just unAmerican.  Next to Renee Fleming‘s brilliant performance, it was one of the best SSB, ever.

2. Chevrolet:  Bull/Romance:  You may have to be a farm/ranch kid to truly love the humor in this commercial.  Brilliant Chevy, you will undoubtedly be in my Top List.

3. Cheerios: Gracie.  Where did you find that little girl?  You’ve just given every “soon-to-be-sister” leverage for her puppy.

4. Mark Wahlberg in the new Transformer’s movie?!  Women over 40 are swooning….

5. Budweiser: A Hero’s Welcome.   If you didn’t tear up on this one, leave the room… On a personal note, there is a very important campaign I want to bring to your attention.  Keep Your Promise.  Congress last year CUT pensions and benefits for our military heroes and PROMISED to reinstate those benefits this year because it was an “oversight.”   Reach out to your member of Congress and demand that our heroes who keep us FREE retain their full pension and benefits.  #keepyourpromise

6. Oikos: John Stamos and the Full House Boys.  I’m still laughing!  It’s an age thing….

7. Doritos: Cowboy.  Kudos to the Mom who created this one!  Beats the “time machine” hands down as far as I’m concerned.

8. Budweiser: Puppies.  Ok, just make us cry and steal our hearts.   You do it every year, and oh so well…..

9: Mountain Dew: The Dale Call.  For anyone who hunts, you are still laughing and you know it!  Quack, quack!

So my top three and there is no “Number 1.”  I believe they all knocked it out of the park.

1. Mountain Dew: Dale Call.  Simply, I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time.

2. Budweiser: Salute A Hero.  Thank you, thank you, thank you Budweiser.  Our heroes do not get enough thanks.  Everyone PLEASE, contact your member of Congress and ask them to “Keep Your Promise” and return the pensions and benefits due to our military.

3.  Chevy: Romance.  Thanks for having fun with this commercial.  Love it!

And congratulations Seahawks!

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Chuck Pyle, Chris LeDoux and a bottle of Bordeaux

Every January, for over 20 years, Chuck Pyle has graced Jackson Hole with his melodic voice and beautiful guitar playing.  If you aren’t familiar with Chuck’s music, he’s the perfect mix Eddie Arnold, Frank Sinatra and Wyoming’s own, Chris LeDoux.

Chuck Pyle

My iPod has everything from opera to country, jazz to new age, blues to rock and roll.  But my primary loves are country and jazz, with a little Van Morrison thrown in for good measure.

Over the last few years I’ve been a bit disappointed with country music.  Call me a purist, but it’s become too pop and the voice corrector is over-used to create “artists” who can’t even sing.  Give me Garth Brooks, Reba McIntyre, George Strait, Willie Nelson and of course, Chris LeDoux any day.

I had the opportunity to hear Chris LeDoux in the ‘90s when he played in Walk Festival Hall.  Sitting in the front row, that Chris LeDouxrodeo cowboy crooner made me laugh, swoon and want to dance.  One of my all-time favorite songs is Look At You Girl, it makes me melt every time.  He is missed by many.

Chris and Chuck were friends and one of his well-known songs, Cadillac Cowboy, was written by Chuck.  You’d be amazed at how many other artists have recorded Chuck’s brilliant writing.

Originally from Iowa (I knew I liked this guy), and a “recovering Lutheran” (know that one too…) Chuck uses proverbs, cowboy poetry, jokes and real-life stories to create lyrics that speak to your heart and make you cry with laughter.   Picking Out My Outfit is one of those laughter songs.  As Chuck says, most guys wear jeans and maybe a brown pair of corduroys, that only leaves the shirt for variation.  His description of shirt colors is hysterical.  Then there was Santa Claus Is Coming to Town done to the music of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love, but that’s a whole other story and unfortunately, it didn’t make it on his Christmas album.

He switches gears to Wide Open, a song about Wyoming he wrote for Governor Dave a few years back, and then encourages a sing-along with Keepin’ Time By the River.  All the while, you are mesmerized by the beautiful music generated by one man picking a guitar “finger-style.”

A special thanks to Dornan’s for hosting Chuck each year and treating us to real country music, from a cowboy poet who is as melodic as they come and can share a story unlike any other.   I know a real cowboy would have enjoyed a nice cold beer, but the wonderful glass of Bordeaux was perfect for a cold evening listening to a true talent.

And I’ll leave you with one of Chuck’s many jokes.  Baseball, football, basketball – they all use one ball.  Rodeo, that takes two….

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Peace and quiet, I’ll take the noise

Pillows and blankets were strewn everywhere.  At least six glasses were found tucked under and on top of coffee tables, the kitchen floor looked like it belonged in the mudroom and the clothes, towels and sheets piled up in the laundry room mirrored Mt. Vesuvius.

The kids had gone back to Casper, the Christmas company had returned to their homes and K2, our cat was pouting on the couch because she wasn’t receiving the non-stop attention she had been lavished with over the past two weeks.

It was quiet.  No screaming and laughing little girls, no “he-man” stories of conquering the ski slopes, no video-game language (only understood by 16-year olds) warbled from the lounge chairs in the living room.  There was just plain and simple, peace and quiet.

It was pleasant for about an hour and then I yearned for it all back.  Was I insane?  We had up to 15 people in the house over the two weeks, the front door was constantly opening and slamming with a rush of freezing cold air and snow tracked through the house.  The kitchen sink was never empty, the dishwasher and the washing machine worked overtime, and it was wonderful.

I love Christmas.  The decorating and food preparation, the beautifully set table, Christmas Eve service and music, thefamilyantlers squeals and subsequent disaster zone following present opening, everyone congregating in the kitchen, football, family and friends.

With today’s over-commercialized holiday hype, it is easy to get disgruntled about Christmas and lose site of what’s important.   It all comes down to your faith, family, friends and being grateful for the blessings in your life.  You are the only one who can let yourself get distracted from those four very important things.

I am grateful that I had a messy house because that meant the kids were with us, we had lots of company and good times were shared.  I am grateful that kitchen sink was full because that means we had wonderful meals.  I am grateful that we had mounds of laundry because that means we had fun inside and outside and our beds were full with guests.

starangelEach year when I decorate my tree it is a walk down memory lane.  My parents gave us a new ornament each year and when we left home and started our own lives, we had a box of ornaments for our first tree.  Ornaments from travel around the world, family vacations, and “just because” ornaments.  But there is one very special ornament, a star.   We never had an angel on our tree, but a simple star made from cardboard and tinfoil that I crafted when I was around 9 years-old.  It has taken some bruising and wear and tear over the years, but each season I carefully wrap it up and unwrap it, and place it near the top of the tree, next to my angel.

A star that reminds me of the star years ago that pointed the way to a manger in Bethlehem.  A star that reminds me that anything is possible, a star that reminds me of the many Christmas trees it has graced and the friends and family who have gathered around those trees.

While I enjoy the noise, the laughter, the clutter and the insanity, in this moment of peace and quiet I carefully wrap up the star and remember the many blessings I received last year and the many blessing that await to be discovered in the coming year.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas (or holiday of your belief) and a spectacular New Years.  May 2014 provide you with endless blessings.

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Jackson Hole’s Secret Jazz Club

When you first think music and Jackson Hole, country at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar is undoubtedly at the top of the list.  Tourists gingerly balance on the saddles at the bar, sipping Wyoming Whiskey, while seasoned local dance pros two-step, country swing and waltz visitors across the dance floor.  Around the corner at The Wort Hotel, country is also found, but mixed with bluegrass, reggie, folk and rockabilly depending on the night.

But for those looking for that non-traditional piano bar, where you can enjoy a nice glass of wine and carry on a conversation without yelling over the music – where to go?

For many years, one of my favorite fine dining restaurants in Jackson has been The GranaryGranary at Spring Creek Ranch, just outside of, and peering down at the Jackson valley. Whether enjoying a glass of wine on the deck during the summer, cozying up to the fireplace bar or restaurant during the winter, The Granary provides spectacular views of the Teton Range and the Spring Gulch ranches.

The Granary is home to what I call Jackson’s Secret Jazz Club.  Jackson is blessed with two incredibly talented Jazz musicians – husband and wife, Keith and Pam Phillips.   Almost every young, local pianist has taken lessons from this duo, creating a bevy of kids who “get” jazz and classical music.

Typically, Thursday-Saturday evenings you will find Pam twinkling the ivories at The Granary’s bar.  Cole Porter, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole or Diana Krall, you name it, she plays it, with flourishes that will keep your toes tapping.  On Friday evenings, Pam is joined by a variety of musicians, further bringing the jazz club to life.  One of Pam’s regulars is Bill Plummer who lovingly embraces his bass like a very special woman, making it sing.  Plummer has played with The Grateful Dead, Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett, just to name a few.

Before moving to Jackson, Pam conducted for Evita and Crazy For You on Broadway, in addition to playing with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings.  You can find her music on iTunes and in many of the local stores.  One of my all-time favorites is “Woolly Bugger Rag” (it’s a fly fishing thing….)  Make a request and you won’t be disappointed.

So next time you are in Jackson, and if you love piano and jazz, make a point to spend an evening at The Granary, experiencing Jackson’s Secret Jazz Club.  Order a bottle of Hahn Pinot Noir, perfect to enjoy with the Smoked Trout Dip, flaky smoked trout mousseline with Parmesean Reggiano cheese, served with crostini.  You also must try the Game Sausage Plate, exploding with flavors that will excite your taste buds.  If you are having dinner, the elk tenderloin is not to be missed.

If you miss Pam at The Granary, she also is the music director at St. John’s Episcopal Church.  Trust me, the lady can wrap up a church service with a version of Amazing Grace that would bring anyone to their feet with a serious AMEN!

Check the local newspaper, or contact The Granary at 307-733-8833 to confirm the music schedule as it varies by season.

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