Spring in the Valley

I live in a tourist town.  Washington Pass connects Seattle to our little valley and when that pass opens every Spring, the flood gates of tourism open and the locals scrounge to produce, typically while being grossly understaffed.  It’s hard to find good help, and while a lot of fun, it can be insanely exhausting. 

So while we have maybe another week or two before Gandalf obliges, I’m doing my best to take in the little things.  Our valley currently is full of flowers… Spring beauties and glacier lilies for days… followed by hills of balsam root.  It’s breathtaking. 

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Spring always reminds me of a song by Nichole Nordeman called ‘Every Season.’  Back in my Christian days, she was one of my favorites.  She was the only artist I was aware of that ever openly questioned life and faith in her music.  She wasn’t threatened to ground her faith in her humanity, where I feel so many other artists (and their PR firms) are afraid to look anything less than perfect.  Her recent Facebook posts on islamaphobia, helping Syrians and loving your neighbor, find me still a fan.  

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Anyway, I always found it a lovely song… You can find the lyrics below.  

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And you can hear the song here…

Every evening sky, an invitation
To trace the patterned stars
And early in July, a celebration
For freedom that is ours
And I notice You
In children’s games
In those who watch them from the shade
Every drop of sun is full of fun and wonder
You are summer

And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside
Still I notice You when change begins
And I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath
And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, You open doors for life to enter
You are winter

And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced
Teaching us to breathe
What was frozen through is newly purposed
Turning all things green
So it is with You
And how You make me new
With every season’s change
And so it will be
As You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

 

Happy Spring.  🙂

 

Conconully Outhouse Races

In honor of the Super Bowl, I’d like to take you all to a different kind of ‘sporting event.’  A few weeks ago, Lliam and I had the chance to drive over to Conconully, Washington to attend their infamous annual Outhouse Races.  That’s right, outhouse races. For a quarter of a century, they’ve been putting outhouses on skis and racing them down a slick road.  It’s insaaaanity.

While I tend to think of my life in Mazama as written straight from the pages of Northern Exposure, Conconully really deserves the nod.  Another town of 200, their community is even more remote and woodsy.  We get the Seattle hikers, bikers and rock climbers. They get all of the rural hunters and fishers.  #respect    

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I wrote about my experience in The Methow Valley News as part of my weekly column that you can read here, but I wanted to relive the nail biting, hilarious glory through photos that paint a better picture. 

For starters, this is ‘Solo Cup.’  Solo Cup has performed previously in Conconully.  Many of the teams come back year after year for continual glory. Who wouldn’t?!

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This collection of yahoos called their outhouse ‘Skidmark,’ a bold yet simple design that ‘left a mark’ on the attending public.  

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When we arrived, we heard the announcer’s voice booming through the streets, “Up next, the Krap-a-nator and Hooooooly Crapper!”  He also calls for the Omak Stampede so this shiz is LEGIT. 

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Each team heads up to the starting line…  There is a rider inside and two pushers that run down the raceway.  And there are a series of races!  Or heats, or… you know, I’m not really certain their is a ‘technical term’ for any of this.  

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 The Carlton Stoolbus.  LOVE IT!!!
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This outhouse was designed by Beneficial In Home Care. Looks like old folks to me! 

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There is a heat for men, women, children, teens, family and seniors.  Pictured here is ‘Daisy Deuce.’ Where ma ladies at?  On the shitter… 

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The ‘Holy Crapper’ in action.  It was a brutally cold day out and yet the streets were lined with families enjoying this wondrous, nonsensical frivolity.  I think I was out of my body most of the day.  I couldn’t believe this was real!  It was like a confusing dream… I mean, there’s skiing and shitting. This takes multitasking to a whole new level!
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Look at his guy… There’s so much joy to be found in poop!  Who knew?!

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These are folks from The Sage Shop, Omak’s premiere retailer of hash.   And by ‘premiere’ I mean, probably the only one. 

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Carlton Stool Bus won People’s Choice for their outhouse. Can you blame them?  Look how happy their little pooper is in the window!!!

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The day was ridden with good clean family poop jokes.  There was an outhouse from The Omak Chronicle there, “flushing out the news since 1889.”  When I tried to joke about starting a group from our paper called The Methow Valley NewsPooper, my editor deleted it from my column. I have no idea why.  This is serious business. 

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American patriotism!!  I think these ladies were my favorite actually.

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You don’t want to disappoint Uncle Sam!

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So, this is when shit gets REAL.  After all the heats, there is also THE BUCKET RACE.  

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The pushers literally put a bucket on their head and race down the road with only the voice of the rider to guide them. THEY WEAR BUCKETS AND RACE.  THEY ARE BLIND.  RUNNING DOWN ICE.  

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Hay bales were obliterated, fences knocked down… Outhouses flipped over.  It was dangerous and painful.  Lliam could NOT stop laughing.  

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The final race of the day is the Obstacle Race.  The hay bales are lined up like a barrier across the road.  The team has to race to each line of hay bales, pick up their outhouse and carry it to the other side and continue racing.  Many totally CHEATED and just plowed through the bales unable to slow down.  I’m still angry at this unsportsmanlike conduct. 

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Miss Omak Stampede , Michaela Allen, was there to hand out prizes!  If you won that day you got a little wooden outhouse.  That is what you won. Huge honor. 

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This was the rider for the Beneficial In Home Care.  She even stuffed the junk in her trunk. She was AWESOME!  

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Anyway, folks, if you ever find yourself in Washington next January, Conconully’s shit show is where it’s at! You won’t want to miss it!  It really is the absolute BEST of small town fun!!! We had a blast.  🙂

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2016: An Yuge Year– Who Knew?!

When I think back on 2016, it all seems like a bit of a blur.  It was hard.  I was insanely tired. Burned out. Depressed, anxious, confused, unbalanced;  I felt stuck.  For me, a personal emotional rollercoaster for various reasons. Needless to say, when I stopped to really think of what actually took place, I was shocked. I had forgotten SO much!!! Despite those feelings that made it challenging, 2016 was was an epic year of highlights, a million firsts that will forever change my life. I guess a good reminder to myself that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for life to begin.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how I could top this year so ironically, I’m trepidatious to get into 2017.  But I promise you this, I am TOTALLY open to it being even better!  🙂  

Today, I’m reflecting in gratitude all of the great moments of 2016.  Later tonight, I’m gonna dream big for 2017.  

Here is my list of Top 10 things that happened in 2016 that made it a year I’ll never forget:

  1.  I MARRIED MY SWEETIE!!
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Photo By: Stillpoint Photography

Okay, duh. So I totally remembered getting married.  😉  In an amazing feat, my family and friends pulled off our wedding.  Folks came in from all over the country, every one pitched in.  It really is the best day of your life.  You’re marrying your best friend but also all of these people in your life remind you how much they love you?  It leaves you feeling pretty incredible. 

If only my dad loved me more…  😉

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Photo By: Stillpoint Photography

2.  I WENT TO INDIA!!!!  

India was my first foray into traveling abroad. I used my passport and visa for the first time ever and it felt amazing. We went to Delhi, Agra, Alwar and Jaipur… We got to see a ton, took a cooking class, visited the Taj Mahal, spent time at an orphanage and rode an elephant!  I got to paint her, ride her and give her a nice bath.  Elephants are so warm and leathery.  I loved her.  🙂

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There’s so much to say about India and yet I barely remember it now.  I do my best to live through the photos.  I remember thinking I should be keeping a journal but I didn’t know what to say.  It felt just like rehashing the day.  Now, I totally wish I had.  I forget EVERYTHING. I’m also pretty sure I’ve lost a good chunk of my photos.  I guess that will teach me to use a proper workflow.  

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I literally took thousands of pictures in India.  It overwhelms me to think about how to share them in a way that a) won’t make me crazy and b) that will do the experience justice. I’ve decided it’s pretty much impossible.    

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3.  WE GOT OUR BABIES!!!

There is something about raising little kitties from the time they are just babies.  I am totally their mama!!!  They are so snuggly and comforting… stinky and annoying… But I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  They totally have my heart. And their paws on my face. Sniff, sniff… 

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We got Sophelia The Great and Thomas in early July.  They have gotten so big!!! Wahhhhhh!!!!  Little Thomas we sometimes call ‘Fat Cat’ because he scarfs as much as he can during feedings knowing he has to share!  This morning, as soon as just a few pieces of kitten chow were in the bowl, his head was in there.  I literally had to pour food on top of his head to get it in the bowl. It’s crazy. Poor Sophie just sits there until Thomas pulls back for a breath.  Sophie is still Little Sophie but her name has also morphed into Sophatilla and then Tilla or Little Tilla…  Thomas has the big black patch on his face, Sophie has the little wisp… I love them so  much.

“Come play with us Danny…”

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When I think of how small they were when we first got them… I CANNOT EVEN HANDLE IT.   

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My heart literally aches.  I want to cry ugly tears, dry heave for hours.  Whatever… I just… it is literally painful to think of my babies as babies… 

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4)  OUR FIRST TRIP TO STEHEKIN!

I’ll share more about Stehekin in another blog but if you get the chance to go, do it!  It is a tiny town (?) at the very northern tip of Lake Chelan. 

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My honey and I went after the wedding for a few days to visit our friend Tammy, the most exceptional host.  It was so quiet and peaceful, even despite a terrible cold!  Not to mention gorgeous…

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5) FIRST YEAR WITH MY DSLR!

Talk about life changing… For the first time in my life I had $1500 saved for no reason.  That was the exact amount it was being sold for on our local bulletin board.  A Nikon D7000 with a shutter count of 200 that included a bunch of lenses, bag, cards, etc.  It was a steal and I just knew it was meant to be.  Who needs savings?!  😉   I literally can’t imagine my life without it. Technically I bought the camera in November of 2015 but I was too overwhelmed to really use it till this year. One of my first shots… I look back on this period of my picture taking and it makes me nauseous.  Ha!  All part of the learning curve, a lifelong journey, and I’m overwhelmed by what I still need to learn… but nauseating nonetheless!

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6)  OUR TRIP TO LA!

So much to say about this trip as well!  I’ll be sharing these travel blogs as well very soon! We drove along the coast and it rained nonstop… Despite it all, we had a really great time!

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It was all sunshine when we got to Los Angeles… 

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We went to our friends’ Halloween party…

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Walked around Grand Central Market…   🙂

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7) I LAUNCHED MANDICROCKER!

My little outlet where I get to create lots of fun content, share my experiences and projects… It’s a lot of fun.  A LOT OF WORK.  But I have my fingers crossed that this opens up the doors for it to be a paid gig, or even more, opens doors to be able to travel and shoot.  I would love the inspiration/human interest part of this website to become its own thing maybe?  Who knows!   I love doing it all but I think experiencing a new place through the lens is my favorite form of expression right now. We’ll see!  Again, I’m open to it being whatever it is supposed to… even if it’s just for me!  🙂 

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8)  I BECAME A PAID WRITER!

It occurred to me that I also started writing my Mazama column for the Methow Valley News this year! It is such a little baby stipend each month but it technically makes me a paid writer. AND it is totally a stipend that helps! It is a huge challenge to write these every week.  For starters, there’s not too much happening around these parts, I usually have very little time to put into them but the weekly deadline keeps me disciplined.  I also got to do a couple of side articles for our supplications as well!  Click here if you’d like to read one!  

9)  I BECAME A PAID PHOTOGRAPHER!

Every season, we have a Methow Arts Magazine that comes out locally.  I was asked to do the photography for the Fall Season’s artist, Rick Swanson. It was a HUGE learning curve for me.  I was probably asked to do it before I was ready but I think its important to say yes and trust what the universe brings into your life. 

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I also started doing paid portraits, headshots and family photos– another learning curve but a LOT of fun!

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My seester is soooo pretty.  🙂  🙂  🙂

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10)  SISTER TRIP TO SEATTLE!

We are not sisters that typically vacation together. Usually our incomes allow us to merely survive in big cities, let alone have anything extra, but this year we made it happen.  

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It was a bit of a whirlwind… But when the Sisters Three are together, all is as it should be. 

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SO A LOT OF AWESOME SHIT, RIGHT????  And these are all big events!  That doesn’t even begin to cover other little things that happened.  My friend Glen came to visit us, etc.  That’ll learn me!  

Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve and heads into 2017 with full hearts and big dreams.  Anything and everything is possible.  I’m going to do my best to remember how great 2017 is while I’m living in it this time!  😉

Mandi

 

What’s to Come…

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally be launching MandiCrocker. It’s been half a year in the making and an idea that has been marinating for quite some time! I started this site because it was the one place where all of my loves could come together: food, photography, travel and inspiration. Even more so, it is a place where I could build an online community of dreamers and creatives.

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As an artist, it is important to me to create something that means something and with all the crazy that can, and is, going on in the world, I wanted to dedicate a good chunk of my life and energy to something positive. I believe that the world and its people are ultimately loving and good, and that living an authentic life, true to you, is one of the bravest things you can do. I believe that we should fearlessly create, not just for a successful or monetary outcome, but for the joy of creating itself! It can be a healthy outlet that brings us joy in the mundane or it can be a challenge that stretches us and makes us think. I find that our lives and the world around us always benefit.

 

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While MandiCrocker is named after yours truly and I’ll be posting my adventures and culinary creations, this website is really about the community we create here! Where have you traveled? What are you making? What did you create today? What did these things teach you? Send me an e-mail and submit your poems, art, travels, photography, baked goods, etc. I’ll also be looking for guest bloggers with fascinating stories to tell that I will publish weekly, so please nominate someone that inspires you or have them reach out to me!

 

I am currently in Los Angeles with my honey. We drove down the coast of California to end up at a friend’s epic Halloween party. When I come home, I’ll be sure to share my adventures with you! In the meantime, please introduce yourself in the comments below and let’s begin to play!! 🙂

 

Much love,

Mandi

 
 

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