A Tool Bench and Coffee Tables

Honestly, this happened awhile ago, but I thought I would still share it will you. Last winter James decided that he needed a tool bench in the garage.  Yes, it made since considering we were using a piece of plywood and two random things holding it up on either side.  It was pretty pathetic and the table was sagging in the middle.  So in the middle of the winter we decided that it was a good time to build a tool bench, in our VERY chilly garage (because last winter we ACTUALLY had a winter).

This was our first pretty big DIY project (besides our garden beds–I will post those once we plant the garden this spring).  While we were trying to figure out what it should look like, James and I learned quickly that we have EXTREMELY different ways to describe the exact.same.thing.  It took us a good 45 minutes, including some bickering back and forth, to figure out that we were talking about the same design.  James is very into the dimensions and numbers when it comes to building and I draw a picture so that I can see what is going on and how we were going to put the tool bench together.

This makes perfect sense to me, James had no idea what I was doing.
Like I said, after 45 minutes we figured it out and all he had to do was put his dimensions in the drawing.

We did our weekly weekend trip to Homedepot or Lowes and got all the wood and screws to build our tool bench.  We built it in the garage with our heater going full speed. Brinks and Maddie wandered around the garage the whole time we were building it and I’m sure they thought that they were a great help!

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See, our tool bench looked just like my picture above!

The peg board was my brilliant idea!

 The sagging tool bench is no longer!! It still looks pretty good, a year later. We do, however, have quite a few more fishing poles, fly poles, and ice fishing poles hanging above our tool bench.  The other day I was looking at our tool bench and thought that we should add a shelf under the bench to get the things that are under there off of the floor, James thought otherwise.  We will see what happens.

We also made all but one of the coffee tables in our house.  This past summer we were wandering around some antique shops trying to figure out what type of table we should put around our L-couch in the basement.  I went to all five antique shops (multiple times, because I did not want to miss anything) over a span of a week and a half.  I also went to multiple thrift shops to see if I could find a coffee table I liked that I could redo.  No such luck.  After waiting for a week and a half, James decided that he was going to take over the project and he was going to make one.  Realistically, when I say James took over the project, I mean he drove me to the reclaimed lumbar yard down the street from our house, let me pick out the wood, let me design the coffee table, and he put it together (I was holding the screw driver for him), and I stained it.  I must admit, I am very good at telling him how to cut the pieces of wood, where to screw the wood together so that it is not seen, and overall pretty good at bossing him around while he is doing the work. Whether or not he actually likes me to be the foreman of the job is yet to be determined. BUT! the coffee table looks marvelous!

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The old nail holes were my favorite.

Our new (old) barn wood coffee table!
It is very sturdy and looks very nice if I do say so myself!


Jackson Hole

This past weekend my husband and I ventured down to Jackson Hole. Originally we were going to go down to watch a hockey game and go skiing. But neither one of those panned out.  I had to work later than I thought and James had to go to ND and was driving home on Friday.  By the time we actually left the house it was around 5:00pm; while we were driving James mentioned that he will have been in four different states in less than 12 hours (North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming).  That is a lot of driving!  We ended up driving the truck out there, so the gas mileage was a bit of a drag, at 16 miles a gallon.  While driving through the back roads of Idaho, we found out how quickly the new truck (and by that I mean New last May) can actually stop.  A baby moose (which, mind you, I said DEER!) walked into the road.  No we did not hit him, no we did not go into the ditch, and NO we did not stop when I saw that there was a mom moose and two baby moose standing on the side of the road.  I wanted to take a picture of them.  The truck has great stopping power; and I know my dad has worn off on me because when James hit the brakes, the first thing that went through my head was “Oh! Warped rotors!

009Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming.
This picture was taken in July of last year, I did not take one of the tetons this time around.

While James was driving over the very steep, long, and intense pass (which I LOVE!, James not so much) I was looking at all the stars in the pitch black sky! It was so pretty and they seemed so close when we were at the the top of the pass. The pass was completely clear of any ice or snow, but the sides of the road had a good three feet of snow in spots.

We made it to the hotel safe and sound.

My Aunt and Uncle were nice enough to move some people out of their rented condo so that we could stay there!  When we arrived to the very elegant hotel we were greeted with a “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. McNulty.”  Mrs. that gets me every time, and I am not entirely sure that I have heard Mrs. McNulty more than once or twice since we got married 2.5 years ago.  It still seems a little strange.  When opened our door to the condo/studio we were greeted with the lights on, a bottle of wine, two glasses, a very nice hand written letter from the staff, and Pig Candy sitting on the counter.

The perks of knowing an owner I guess!
Yes, the Pig Candy was bacon covered in sugar, James seemed to like it.

Friday night we made dinner, soup from a can and toast, in the room. We just hung out, without any interruptions from James work, the dogs, or phones.  Saturday morning we went down to eat breakfast at the buffet.  Growing up, we always took advantage of the continental breakfast and took enough for lunch too (an apple and granola bar).  So if we were going to pay $17/person for a buffet style breakfast here, I was going to take full advantage of it.  So we I grabbed two yogurts and cream cheese for the next day to go with our strawberries and toast we already had in the room.  The hotel still benefited from us at $17/person, so I did not feel too bad.  This reminds me of a story of when my dad would bring my siblings and I to Vail to go skiing.  We did this a few years in a row; the four of us would go to Vail and go skiing for a few days. Each morning we would get up, get our ski stuff on and head to McDonalds for breakfast.  After breakfast we would ski for the day.  The previous part is true. The following part, I think it is, but I may be exaggerating or combining multiple instances together, I can’t remember. For lunch I feel that each of us would have an apple in our coats, we would sometimes get two hamburgers and split them (or just eat our apple and a granola bar from our coat), get water from the drinking fountain, and then if we were still hungry we would go get the individual packed saltine crackers on the condiments line and eat those.  Then after skiing we would go out to dinner.  See, I get my thrifty-ness from my parents..

 After breakfast we looked at the ski runs and I was quite happy we did not spend $120 a ticket to go skiing. there was a lot of dirt showing on the runs!!  We wandered into the city of Jackson and walked around in Teton Village.  I was able to get James to go into a few galleries as well! They were all lovely, but I was partial to one photograph of the Tetons for $75,000.00.  Yes, it was a photograph, not a painting or drawing.  The funny part is, is that I know some poor sap will come in with more money than they know what to do with and buy A PICTURE.  In James mind, a trip to Jackson Hole would not be complete without going into the Ripley’s Believe it or Not. So we did.

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Crazy looking, no?

James and I have NEVER gone out to a fancy dinner.  So we thought, why not do it in Jackson Hole?  Live like a high roller for a few hours.  Before dinner we enjoyed a fire and a glass of wine in the condo.

I swear, there is a fire in the fireplace, but I could not get a picture of it.

We got semi dressed up and ventured down to the restaurant, we went to the Spur.  James ordered a bison sirloin and I ordered the huckleberry glazed venison.  Both meals were to die for!! The executive chef earned his 5 year in a row award winning food in my book!  After dinner we went to the roof top hot tub and just soaked while watching the stars and the groomers groom the slopes in the dark!

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad

I am sure this is going to be great! My husband made a LOT of wild rice the other day and I do not want it to go to waste. So this is going to be sitting in our fridge pretty soon!  I was drawn to this recipe because of the picture. It was very colorful, so I am very excited to see how it turns out!

Cherry, Wild Rice, and Quinoa Salad


  • 3/4 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed if necessary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fruity vinegar, such as raspberry or pomegranate
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups halved pitted fresh sweet cherries
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup diced aged goat cheese, smoked Cheddar or other smoked cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add wild rice and cook for 30 minutes. Add quinoa and cook until the rice and quinoa are tender, about 15 minutes more. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch; drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the rice and quinoa, cherries, celery, cheese and pecans and toss to combine.
  3. Serve at room temperature or cold.

National Nutrition Month

You may or may not know, but March is National Nutrition Month.  At work there is a bulletin board outside my gym that I am in charge of changing each month. I was thrilled when I was put in charge of this task!  This is right up my ally! I can put whatever I please on the bulletin board–health/fitness related stuff, month related stuff, or just complete nonsense that lets the residents laugh.  This month I designed it as a St. Patrick’s themed National Nutrition Month bulletin board.  Take a gander.

See, how fun! Who wouldn’t want to do this?

I have facts for older adults plastered all over the board too.  My favorite one says “Enjoy your food, but eat less”–such a simple concept, but seems so hard to follow these days.  Now, regardless of your political preference, you can not deny that Michelle Obama has done great things for nutrition and nutrition for kids. (PLEASE do not post your political thoughts on my blog–it is a political free space.)  One of the more recognizable changes in nutrition is the design of the food pyramid. It went from the traditional pyramid that we all knew as kids to a plate with the sizes defined as a portion of the plate.  I love the change–every person on earth understands that!

Newer pyramid on left, older on right.

I personally think the old food pyramid makes more of an impact on people than the newer one.  But they did not ask me when they redesigned it.  I think the new one could lead people to misinterpret it much more than the old one for a number of reasons, but we won’t get into that.  I do however like that the new one is saying to eat everything in moderation and that one type of food is not more important than another.  My favorite addition? Exercise! The exercising guy walking up the stairs was a big hit for me when they changed it, maybe for obvious reasons.  Many of the older adults still believe that the older pyramid (one on the right) is the end all; the older one (if you forgot) tells us to start at the bottom of the pyramid and decrease the amount of what we consume as we go up the pyramid.  No no no, there was a reason that the old one was changed.  The base of our meals is no longer solely concentrated on grains.  I put a picture of My Plate up on my bulletin board because I wanted the residents to see what their plates should look like every day.


I have gotten quite a bit of grief from some of our residents.  They do not believe the plate and I have been continuously defending the plate.  Most of them believe that we need to have a lot more protein than the plate shows. I finally had to grab a deck of cards and show them that a deck of cards is the actual serving size of the amount of protein we are supposed to have.  I had one guy laugh and told me that he could eat that in 2 bites, and what was he supposed to eat for the rest of dinner.  My response was very simple: Eat the rest of the plate.  He just laughed and said that I can not teach an old dog new tricks.  At 97 years old, I guess I can not win them all.  A lot of the residents do not like the idea of having so much of their plates full of vegetables–because “vegetables are for rabbits and they don’t fill you up.  I will wait for the rabbit to eat the vegetables and then I will eat the rabbit.”  Hmm…well there’s a thought. I have heard so many different views on nutrition. It has really opened my eyes to what people really do not know.

I have great news, totally unrelated to National Nutrition Month.  My chair fitness class has broken a record, I had 27 people a few weeks ago!  That is a lot of therabands, sponges, koosh balls, and chairs to find.  The normal size has grown to an average of 20-24 people every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I am debating breaking the class into two classes, but I do not think the residents would be ok with 1. Changing the time and 2. breaking up the class.  They are stuck in their routines and I know better than to try to change the time on them, but we are getting pretty crowded in our small room.  I also thought about having everybody do an evaluation and putting them into different levels of class and then I would moderate each class based on what their level is, but again, not sure they will want to be separated.  More to come on that once I make a decision.

A few days ago I had two older gentleman in the gym exercising; both in their late 80’s, early 90’s.  It always starts out the same way, a conversation between the two men while the stock market is running across the bottom of the muted TV and radio blaring NPR.

Man 1: “Hey, how are your earnings today?”

Man 2: “What are earnings? Why don’t you just say what they are, portfolios, or maybe stocks so that this young lady can understand.”

Man 1: “Ok old man, have it your way, how are your STOCKS doing today?”

Man 2: “Oh they are doing just fine. Yours?”

Man 1: “Superb.” “I am still living here, and Jennifer is still employed, so somebody’s stocks must be doing alright.”

Man 2: “Well there you go Jennifer, your still employed, so somebody’s stocks are doing well.  There is some profound wisdom for you to start your day.”   “If the stock market crashes, 99% of the people living here would be out of a house” “What do you think of that.”

Literally, this is an everyday conversation.  It is fun, they enjoy bickering back and forth.  A few days ago they were talking about their times in the military and the good old days of basic training.  They decided that I was tough enough to make it through basic training, a complement well received.  One of the men was in the Marines, the other, in the Air Force.  The retired Marine was bummed that he is no longer able to chest press what he used to be able to do.  He also thought it was a drag that he is always out of breath.  He asked why he gets so fatigued so quickly.  The retired Airman chimed in and said “you’re ancient, what did you think would happen?!”

I could tell he wanted a real physiological response.  I told him that oxygen consumption decreases with age.  That is caused by a few factors:

(1) the loss of lung elasticity (so you can not take a deep breath like you used to). That decreases that amount of oxygen in the blood stream. **I did not tell them this, but lung capacity decreases by 40-50% by age 70.

(2) As we get older the amount of oxygen carrying proteins (hemoglobin) in the blood decreases, so less oxygen is getting to the working muscles, even if the lung capacity was normal.

(3) Our maximum heart rate decreases as we age (10 beats per decade of life). Therefore the heart is not able to pump the (decreased) oxygenated blood into the working muscles quickly enough to keep them oxygenated and working without fatiguing.

One of the men asked why that happens, the other guy said “that’s the body’s way of pushing us over the edge to the great beyond.” I said that it was just the way that we were put together.  They thought that it was pretty cool that our body’s can slowly start to shut down like that.  I guess at that age, dying is no longer scary.

Hiking in March

It is March in Montana; a likely post for two avid skiers would be to about skiing. Not in this case.  It is March in Montana, 60 degrees and sunny.  Why not go for a hike in a National Park? Let’s take the dogs. (James went fishing yesterday while I was working, today was hiking.)  We drove about 25 minutes west of where we live and wandered around Headwaters National Park for a while with the dogs.

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It was quite busy at most of the trail heads; luckily we found a trail less traveled–it is much more fun to hike when you are not passing 200 people along the way.  When it is 50 to 60 degrees in Southwest Montana apparently the whole state jumps to attention and heads for the hills, rivers, or trails. I understand that this next picture is not the most glamorous shot, but it is March, so it would make sense that everything is brown and leaf-less.  I really like this picture because you can see the snow covered mountains.


After we were done hiking we decided that we would take that dogs to the river to swim.  Maddie is all about the water. The instant she sees it, BAM! She’s gone like the wind! Brinks could take it or leave it.  I am convinced that Brinks forgets how to swim each time we go to a different swimming spot (if it is a swimming spot that she has broke in before, she jumps right in). At a new spot she is very hesitant and won’t go out past where she is able to walk. However, once she takes that leap of faith (which takes about 15 minutes) she flails like a hurt beaver trying not to sink–tail flapping the water and all.  Then after that the lab takes over and she can’t get out of the water. From that point on, it’s an all out war to see who gets the stick first!


I may have an obsession with my our two pups.  Maddie and Brinks spend so much time together playing, running outside, and sleeping snuggled up together.  The four of us go everywhere together when we can; James works six days a week most weeks and  I have two nonconsecutive days off.  Most of the time we only have one day off together. Brinks, Maddie, and I go to the grocery store, Lowes, shopping, hiking, ect. while James is working.  Brinks, if I am not around, always go fishing with James because she will not chase the lure like Maddie tries to.

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 James loves to fish. So when he does have a day off, he is fishing.  When I have a day off, I hike.  We do technically do this together, but we are not next to each other.  Fishing bores me, unless it is 90+ degrees, sunny, and warm water.  Then, hand me a fly rod and I will be content for at least an hour, a normal fishing pole, maybe an hour (James 5 hours).  So while James is fishing, the dogs and I are:

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Hiking or playing.

Yes, I allowed my dogs to drink out of my CamelBack.  No, it is not ideal, however when we walked to the top of the mountain at 90 degrees, the dogs were just as thirsty as I was. There wasn’t any water up there, so what was I to do? I drank some and gave the rest to my dogs.

Even in the winter James go fishing.  On Christmas Day we went to a local mountain lake.  James was ice fishing and I went snowshoeing with the dogs.  It was marvelous! I was able to make the first tracks in the fresh mountain snow.  When I stood still, I could hear the snow crunch under the dogs paws when they were running around, even when I could not see them. It was so peaceful!

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The dogs love the snow!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Like I said, I am a fan of heart healthy foods, but when it comes to sweets–it all goes out the window.  Literally.  While my family and I do not eat this kind of food regularly, every once in awhile, who could pass this up?  Besides, what is the fun of putting super healthy NORMAL breakfast items on the blog, nobody wants to try those.  Sugary breakfast here we go!!!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes


For Pancakes:pancakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup milk (skim milk)
  • 1 tbs. canola oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Cinnamon Filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (I used less butter)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbs. ground cinnamon

Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 4 tbs. butter (I used 2 tbs. butter, and added a tiny bit of milk)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (I used low fat, you know, to decrease the “badness” of this breakfast)
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Prepare Cinnamon Filling first: In a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Scoop the filling into a small zip baggie and set aside. (You want this to rest and ‘set up’ while your preparing the other ingredients. Its best if it gets a little thicker, you don’t want it liquidy)
  2. Prepare Pancake batter:  In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in milk, oil and egg just until batter is moistened.  (a few small lumps are fine) OR If using a boxed mix, prepare according to package directions.
  3. Prepare Cream Cheese glaze: In a medium glass or microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter and cream cheese until melted. Whisk together until smooth, then whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Scoop about 1/2 cup of pancake batter onto the skillet. Snip the corner of your cinnamon filling baggie and squeeze a spiral of the filling onto the top of the pancake. When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, flip carefully with a spatula and cook until lightly browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer pancake to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you make the rest of the pancakes.
  5. When ready to serve, spoon warmed cream cheese glaze on top of each pancake.

Recipe brought to you by MUCHTASTE.