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Christmas in Missoula, Montana

Dear Diary,
On Christmas Eve, the kids and I flew out to Missoula, MT to spend the holiday with Nick. He had a 30-hour overnight, and rather than he be alone, I wanted the four of us to be together.

Missoula is a college town, growing steadily, and has an active downtown scene. We stayed at the Double Tree, probably one of the nicest hotels in the city (and in my opinion).

The real draw, is the scenic mountain landscape.

We found this old rail depot.

Accented by what I suspect are bullet holes!

(Especially cool is that it's called The Milwaukee Depot)

Now it's known as an Explorer's Club of sorts, established in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt.

We were able to rent a car.

It was easy to feel small surrounded by the snow-covered mountains.


Nick and the kids CLIMBED THIS on Christmas Day - which I'm sure is a Christmas memory that won't soon be topped!

Mt. Sentinel provided one of the state's most popular hiking trails since forestry students cut its switchbacks in the early 1900s. There is an M on the mountain face, first built in 1909 with whitewashed rocks, and freshman gave it an annual cleaning until a concrete 'M' was built in 1968.

It was snow-covered when we were there, and difficult to spot. The 'M' is 125-feet long and 100-feet wide, and sites 620-feet above the Missoula valley floor.

(The view of Missoula from the top!)

Meanwhile, since I didn't pack footwear conducive to a mountain climb, I stayed at ground level. I explored the surrounding college campus.


This beautiful Victorian home was a family residence for 95 years, and built by miner/cowboy Clarence Prescott, Sr. The University of Montana acquired the home from Clarence Prescott, Jr., who lived in the house until 1993.

Thanks to donations, the home was restored in 1996 to its original splendor.

Today, it's used for special events.

(The stadium - Go Griz!)


(I love this old ticket window.)

The name of this Elks Lodge is a bit ominous, but the detailed architecture was charming. I loved the spooky gargoyles at its roofline.

Thanks to my husband's obsession with the show Gold Rush, I knew immediately what this was and was instantly curious if there's still "gold in them there hills."


I had to include this sign, because I came within a mile of achieving my dream of exploring an old west ghost town.

As we scaled the mountain, I was feeling equal parts nervous and excited - nervous, because the government shutdown meant there wouldn't be staff on site, but excited for the obvious.

Unfortunately, the unplowed switchbacks proved too treacherous for our rental (which was an all-wheel drive Subaru Outback) and we had to turn around. But, even Nick promised this is a "must see" next time he has an overnight in Missoula.

(A beautiful yet random waterfall we found along the Interstate.)

(The sea container completes the aesthetic of this motel - plus I like the 60s signage.)

After exploring, we enjoyed a Christmas dinner downtown.

And of course, on our way home, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise from high above the clouds. Nick piloted our ride home to Minnesota. It was a fitting end to our quick trip, and 2018.

Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

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Dear Diary,
To be a fan of True Crime means you are a consumer of someone else's tragedy.

It's vital that the utmost respect is paid, and the story is well-written.

['Murder in Mississippi' by John Safran]

This book, the Australian version, puts a different spin on the True Crime genre because it emphasizes shock value. A controversial Australian journalist with a reputation for pushing boundaries regarding race, pulls a public prank on a white supremacist in Mississippi. Upon learning of his murder, he befriends his black killer and writes this book.

The author visits "the murder house" where the white supremacist was killed, interviews the detectives, defense attorneys and prosecutors; talks to the families, reads the files, transcripts and reports - it's obvious he covered both sides, did his best to remain unbiased, and did his research. Any time he hypotheses one angle or direction, he's caught off guard by a revelation that presents more questions than it does answers.

In America, it's published under the title, God'll Cut You Down.

It was an interesting account, as it provided a perspective of America's disease of racism from a non-American. It noticed that the Confederacy is still revered, and the resulting oppression of a population is visible in the neighborhoods and businesses. White areas were maintained by the state and cities better than the black areas. White initiatives were better funded, and there were still "segregation schools".

I felt no compassion towards the victim in this story, which is atypical for a True Crime book.

Instead, and while I don't condone the act of murder, I felt an understanding towards the perpetrator. I didn't find the humor John Berendt, who wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, referenced in his review of the book, but I do consider this perspective one everyone should read about.