Tuesday, January 25, 2011


So...if I am little rusty at this, just remember that it's been almost 2 years and give me the benefit of the doubt :) In retrospect, it is quite amazing to look back upon how things in my life have just fallen into place...especially these recent years. When I ponder over the fact that I am an official MONTANAN when I have been a Southern belle my entire life, it is still quite surprising! What was the sequence of events that led to this scenario, you might ask. Well, there once was a girl named Jenny...

It all started with my decision to go on a mission trip with the young adult group at church. And when I say "decision", I mean that Jason Egly decided for me that I was going and that was that. It was really the best nudge I could have been given.

Early August the group headed out on a flight to Bozeman, Montana. On our drive from Bozeman to Missoula, where we were staying for the week, we stopped in Butte to have lunch at Mark Arbol's (a college minister) house as a sort of "welcome". I was hesitant to pronounce the aforementioned city's name like "butt" during the trip. However, after having been there that one afternoon, it is a completely appropriate title...and most Montanans I have met would agree.

Despite the ghost town appearance of Butte, the Arbol family was lovely! Mark, his wife (she is from the Phillipines and we bonded over some conversation about Asia), and sons were so hospitable! They fed us a lunch of homemade fish tacos, fruit, potatoes, fresh made tortilla chips, and vinegar slaw. I thought this was odd to have Mexican-inspired dishes in cowboy Montana, (where was the buffalo steak?), but soon I would learn that the Montanan treasures the taco like no other people group I have known! More to come in later posts on that...

I knew that there was a chance Jordan would be offered a job in Missoula at a church in town, so the entire trip I was looking for "turn-offs" and "highlights" of Montana. Butte automatically put the score in the negatives with its toxic waste pond and resulting mutant insects. But think positively, Jenny. Missoula is our next stop...

Oh, Zootown! How I love thee! It was a breath of fresh air...literally after that toxic waste pond :) During the summer, this city is vibrant with art, eclectic residents, music, dreadlocks, hippies, happiness, and FOOD! One of the aspects of Missoula I fell in love with was that EVERYTHING was outdoors during the summer. Caras Park (a favorite of ours) is right downtown, and there is some festival, concert, event, etc. happening any given night of the summer here. This was "Downtown Tonight" - a music and food festival that takes place every Thursday. It is such a fun way for the community to come together and enjoy local music, sample some of the restaurants around town, and see some pretty awesome impromptu dancing.

BIG DIPPER...enough said. Anyone who knows me also is aware of my love of this local, one-of-a-kind ice creamery. I don't know if I should be proud or embarassed to say that I had ice cream from here about every week this past summer. It's a great place to meet friends, take visitors, or just enjoy a treat.

You can feel the fresh, hot waffle cone in your hand. Imagine that it is filled liberally with scoops of cardamom & huckleberry ice creams then dipped in bittersweet chocolate and mixed nuts. The chocolate hardens just enough to encase your treasure and protect it from the hot summer evening. It is 9:00 p.m. yet the big Montana sky is still colored with sunlight. And you are happy.

This is why I love Big Dipper.

Our group had the opportunity to go visit the local Ronald McDonald House and meet some of the families staying there during their hospital visits. Some fun kids were staying there, and I volunteered to bake them a treat. The director of RMH took me into the kitchen, and upon searching the pantry said to me, "Well, what can you bake with no flour, butter, or eggs?" In my head I thought "Well, not a lot", but I surprised myself by saying "Oh, I have a perfect idea!". Really, Jenny, really? Left alone in the kitchen I was forced to be innovative. Peanut butter...oats...sugar...but no chocolate! Oh no! I concocted some form of no-bake cookies that the kiddos gobbled up and my friends on the trip devoured as well. Magic, I tell you.

Jordan and I got a chance to experience one of the "Downtown Tonight" festivals at Caras Park during the trip. I enjoyed a falafel pita in the soft grass on the side of a hill. We watched kayakers practice in the river, listened to music, and people watched. Little did we know, we would spend many evenings on this hill with family visitors, friends from Tennessee, and new friends alike!

Jason Egly treated the group to a nice dinner out one of the last nights of the mission trip. When he first said that he was taking us to JAMES BAR, I was a little hesitant as to whether or not this would be appropriate for a church group. However, I am glad it was the restaurant of choice.

This was the "Aidenator" - aka: "Not messin around" burger. Start with a quality roll, add Montanan beef, thick bacon, caramelized onions, jack cheese, prosciutto, and top it all with a fried egg!! Brilliant! Good thing I got the side salad instead of fries...

...But wait. My table ordered a couple conical stands of fries not knowing quite how distorted the portions at James Bar were. We had enough garlic fries and tater tots to swim in. But we just ate them instead. Our other option would have resulted in greasy clothes...

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