The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in different ways; caregivers, patients and families alike are all experiencing new types of stress, grief and loss. This complicated grief has inspired many members of the community to develop new programs that are designed to meet this need. Here is a sampling of some of the free virtual support groups available in your area.
Did you spend as much time as you could outside last year to avoid dealing with indoor COVID-19 protocols? I know I did. I’m not just talking about parking lot fitness classes and eating takeout on your patio—if you spent extra time hiking, camping, and exploring local parks in 2020, you’re not alone. According to Yellowstone Public Radio, last year was a record-breaking year for Montana State Parks, with over a 30% increase in visitation.
One of best things about living in Montana is that the many types of ecosystems here are home to an incredible amount of wildflowers. Over 2500 species of flowering plants can be found in the state! That’s an overwhelming number, and the purpose of this article is not to help you decide which variety of lupine you encountered on your hike. For that, I’m going to direct you to a botanist. But I think that being able to identify a dozen types of wildflowers is manageable, don’t you? Each flower listed has a short description and a link to its page in the free, state-run Montana Field Guide database if you want more detailed information.
But first, real quick: Please remember to practice leave-no-trace hiking, don’t pick flowers without permission from the landowner, and definitely DO NOT eat things you find in the woods, as many plants have poisonous lookalikes.
Bitterroot, Lewisisa rediviva
This list would be incomplete without including Montana’s state flower. These unusual-looking wildflowers can be found in either a pale, whitish color (pictured) or a bright pink. Look for these around Western Montana in late spring—they don’t bloom for very long!
Keep an eye out for these small, two-toned anemones. They have pale centers with striking pinks or reds with on the edges. True to their name, these Cliff Anemones can sometimes can be found on rocky ledges. They are members of the Buttercup family and a relative to the Pasqueflower listed below.
If you already have some background in plant identification, your first reaction might be to call this an “Indian Paintbrush,” but did you know that Montana is home to twenty-two different species of paintbrush? The Wyoming state flower, castilleja linariaefolia (common name: Wyoming Indian Paintbrush), is one of the best known types. That said, recognizing a plant as a “paintbrush” will probably be all you need.
Remember the beginning of the article when I mentioned different types of Lupine? There are over 200 species of Lupine worldwide, and seventeen species have entries in the Montana Field Guide. The page for Silvery Lupine, which is found all over the state, is linked below.
You might hear this plant referred to as a “Prairie Crocus.” A close relative to this gorgeous purple blossom, the American Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla hirsutissima) is the state flower of South Dakota. The “pasque” in the name may be a reference to their early spring appearance.
Aren’t these squat purple flowers cute? Depending on what you use to identify this plant, you may be scared away from getting too close! Another common name for this plant is “skunk leaf.” These plants are common throughout the western United States and grow at higher elevations.
Montana has both Plains and Brittle Pricklypear. These short cactuses can be painful to accidentally step on, but aren’t the yellow flowers beautiful?
Note: While the image above is an example of a Pricklypear blossom, the I am unable to determine if it is from from a species of Pricklypear that grows in Montana. There are around a hundred species within the genus Opuntia.
Montana is home to a couple types of wild rose, but the Wood’s Rose is a common one found all over the state. If you’ve been out hiking in the fall, you might recognize the red fruit produced by a rose plant, which are called “rosehips”.
Would you believe that the beautiful flower pictured in the header is actually a noxious weed? Carduus nutans, or Musk Thistle, was introduced to North America in the 1800s. It is now commonly found on roadsides throughout the United States. Musk Thistles can grow up to six feet tall!
If you just can’t get enough of Montana’s wildflowers, below are some of my favorite resources. Remember that while these can be fun to use, always check with a professional if you need to identify a specific plant for a special use. Additionally, while I’ve tried to make all this information as accurate as possible, please let me know if you notice an error.
How do you entertain your three-year old grandson during the middle of a pandemic in Tucson, Arizona? The option we recently selected was a morning trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Located in the southwest part of the city, this zoo/museum/aquarium has been delighting guests since 1952. Having been a visitor at ASDM myself since 1975, I was excited to have our grandson experience this magical place for himself.
We set off on a crisp January morning and before even entering the museum, we encountered the charming coyote pictured below. He meandered around the parking lot and seemed unfazed by us humans. Once he disappeared into the prickly brush, we made our way inside already excited about our outdoor adventure.
Our grandson wasted no time running from exhibit to exhibit searching for creatures. Since the air was cool, almost chilly, many animals were out and readily visible. A mountain lion, mountain goat, and rock squirrel prowled, climbed, and basked respectively. The museum was relatively quiet (likely due to the cooler temps and COVID) and we were able to see all the critters up close without obstruction.
Several hours flew by as we continued to discover the wide variety of desert animal and plants throughout the winding paths of the museum. We spent over 30 minutes at the Stingray Touch exhibit mesmerized by the graceful dance of these sea creatures within their shallow pool. While we couldn’t touch the captivating fish due to the pandemic, our grandson smiled up at us each time a ray would glide past and “wave” at him.
As we wound our way through the grounds, our grandson decided to hitch a ride in his stroller and rest. Luckily for grandma, most of the property has paved walkways which makes pushing a stroller, wheelchair, or walker relatively easy.
As lunchtime approached, we knew we had to stop at one last place before heading for home…the Hummingbird Aviary. We entered the enclosure and a pair of little hummers whizzed by quarrelling and chattering as they passed. Brilliant green, ruby red, and burnt orange were just a few of the colors we noted on these amazing birds. It was a special treat while there to spy a female gathering materials to line her tiny nest.
Completely tuckered out, our grandson climbed back into his stroller and we headed for the exit. The little guy was asleep before we hit the end of the parking lot. Later, when reunited with his parents, he talked on and on about all he had seen that morning. I think it is safe to say that our family’s tradition of enjoying the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum will carry forward to this next generation.
There is no denying that passion runs deep in Auburn, Alabama. The city revolves, literally and figuratively, around Auburn University. In the Southeastern Conference where It Just Means More, collegiate athletics are serious business. The city of 60,000 residents welcomes roughly 90,000 fans for football gamedays. What makes Auburn so great? Let’s rank the traditions that keep alumni and fans coming back to The Loveliest Village on the Plains.
1. Rolling Toomer’s Corner
Following athletic wins, fans make their way to Toomer’s Corner to roll the oak trees. The tree rolling dates back to 1962 when ticker tape was thrown into the oaks to signal a road victory for the Tigers. No one is really sure how or why the rolling caught on, but it’s quickly become a fan favorite. Following a big football win, the corner resembles a winter snowstorm.
Fun fact: Auburn is the only city in the country with a budget for cleaning up toilet paper!
It’s not all fun and games, though. In 2011, the original Auburn Oaks were poisoned by a fan of *that other school* after Auburn won the Iron Bowl and the National Championship. The trees died and were removed in 2013. Descendent oaks of the original trees were planted in 2014. Security measures, including the addition of fencing and cameras, were added to prevent future vandalism. However, in 2016 a rival fan set one of the trees on fire following an Auburn win.
2. War Eagle flight
The eagle flight might be the most unique tradition in college football. Prior to kickoff, an eagle circles Jordan-Hare Stadium and lands at midfield as fans cheer. Eagles started flying at Auburn home games in 2000. Golden eagle Aurea assumed the title of War Eagle VIII following Nova’s retirement in 2019.
“War Eagle” is Auburn’s battle cry, not to be confused with the tiger mascot. History about the battle cry and eagle flight can be found here.
According to the University, the role of Auburn University’s eagles is to promote wildlife conservation as a part of the education initiatives of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Southeastern Raptor Center. Aurea arrived at The Center after suffering a wing injury near Selma, Alabama. The injury caused increased flight drag, which keeps her from tracking down prey and surviving in the wild.
ESPN, Southern Living, and the Bleacher Report (among others) rank Auburn as one of the top tailgating locations in the country. Tents and RVs line almost every square foot of the campus. Tailgate spots are open to claim starting on Thursday afternoons prior to home football games. Depending on kickoff time, the menu might include mimosas and Chick-fil-a minis or elaborate spreads of barbeque and trimmings. One thing is for sure- you show up to a tailgate well-dressed. Yes, that means sundresses and button-ups. And don’t forget the boots.
4. Tiger Walk
Tiger Walk is one of the most imitated traditions in college sports. On gamedays, the Tigers walk down South Donahue Drive from the athletic complex to the stadium. Fans line the street to cheer on the team as they prepare for the game. Tiger Walk dates back to the 1960s when kids would cheer on the players and get autographs. It is now one of the fans’ most treasured traditions.
The most famous Tiger Walk took place in 1989 when Alabama came to Auburn and played at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 fans lined the street.
5. Marching Band Pregame
The Auburn University Marching Band has 380 members and performs pregame and halftime shows for Auburn football games. Smaller pep bands play at basketball games as well as away football games. The AUMB is the only band in the SEC without a nickname. Former Auburn president, Dr. Harry Philpott, famously said, “Some other institutions need to give descriptive names to their bands in order to praise them. The quality of the music, the precision of its drills, and the fine image that it portrays have made it unnecessary for us to say more than ‘This is the Auburn University Marching Band.’”
The band’s pregame performance might be the best part of the game itself. The band sprints out of the team tunnel and performs the fight song, “War Eagle” as well as “Glory, Glory to ole Auburn” as it forms the interlocking AU logo. Fans then sing along as the band plays the national anthem and “God Bless America.” There’s nothing else quite like it.
The Auburn University Marching Band also performed in three presidential inaugural parades.
Carbonara is my love language. It is not only my favorite food, but also my preferred way to offer care and comfort to myself and my loved ones. I prepare carbonara at least once per week, sometimes more if I am feeling particularly tender, hungry, or cozy. I often make single servings for myself after long days, or even for a late breakfast, and I have continued to hone my process over several years. At this point it feels more like a dance than a recipe, requiring fluidity, attention, and flexibility.
It goes without saying that I did not create any part of this dish, and that I’m sure there are many Italians that could cook circles around me. What I bring to this recipe is a pure reverence and devotion to the dish, and an utter delight each time I make it. If you take anything from this post, I hope it is not a perfect bowl of pasta, but a desire to find your own sacred foods and cultivate a deep appreciation for the ritual of making them.
3 eggs, separated (fresh, free range ideally – the quality of the eggs really matter in this recipe, low quality yields flavorless pasta)
3-4 oz. of guanciale/uncured bacon/pancetta
Generous handful of spaghetti or bucatini
Hunk of good Parmesan (you can use Pecorino Romano if you like, not pre-shredded)
Heaps of freshly ground black pepper
Optional: scallions/chives/parsley for garnish
Chop or cut pork into small bits.
Sauté pork in a non-stick pan over low-medium heat.
Start to boil pasta water in a separate saucepan.
When pork is starting to crisp, about 5 minutes into cooking, reduce heat to low and allow it to fully cook over low heat in the rendered fat.
Once water boils generously salt pasta water and add pasta, cooking 2 minutes short of al dente
While the pork and pasta are cooking you will prepare the sauce. In a bowl (I use the bowl I am going to eat out of) separate three eggs. You do not need egg whites for this recipe, but I will add a teaspoon of the whites to the yolks to give the sauce a little more fluidity. Mix egg yolks until very well blended.
Grate parmesan into the egg mixture. I use at least ½ cup, it should form a texture like a paste. Add pinch of salt and generous amount of cracked pepper to the egg and cheese mixture.
When pasta is close to al dente scoop a splash of pasta water into the egg mixture. This tempers the eggs and begins to melt the shredded cheese. The texture should thin a bit, but not be watery. Be careful not to overdo it!
Increase heat on pork to med-high to bring the pan temperature back up.
Using tongs transfer pasta directly from the pasta water to the pan with the pork with ¼ cup of pasta water, moving quickly. DO NOT DRAIN OR RINSE YOUR PASTA. Reserve the rest of the pasta water.
Continually stir the pasta and pork as the liquid cooks off and pasta water reduces some. The pasta should be lubricated, not dry, with the fat and pasta water beginning to stick to the pasta. Add more pasta water if you need to during this step as it cooks off.
Pull off heat and allow pasta to cool slightly.
Slowly start to pour egg and cheese mixture into the pan with the pasta, stirring continually as you pour. If the sauce seems too thick after adding the egg mixture you can add more pasta water, one tablespoon at a time. The sauce should be glossy and cling to the noodles, not goopy or thin.
Finish in the bowl with fresh Parmesan, more cracked black pepper, and garnish if you choose to.
Eat immediately! Carbonara is best served hot and eaten quickly after.
This recipe requires you to multitask. Time is of the essence when you make carbonara! It is crucial that you do not overcook the pasta, and it all comes together quite quickly. It helps to prep your mise en place before you begin and have everything close to the stove where you are cooking for easy access.
Tongs are a huge help with this recipe. You can use them to cook the pork and the pasta, and they make it easy to transfer the pasta without draining.
If you’re not a pork eater, you can substitute mushrooms or another hearty vegetable in place of the meat. Add a tiny bit of soy sauce or another umami flavor to the vegetables for the salty, meaty flavor you would be skipping.
Salt at each stage. You need to add it to the pasta water and a pinch to the egg mixture or the dish will lack complex flavor, but it is easy to over salt so be mindful of that!
Do not put cream or milk in this dish. Pasta water works magic here, it’s just not necessary, and it will result in a pasta that is too rich and heavy. Or peas, because frozen peas do not add anything to the flavor or texture of this dish.