hump day nuggets: in my blood

hump day nuggets: little bits of the season in photos and words about the last week

I moved around a bunch growing up, my dad’s job taking us to three of the four corners of our country. My parents were both born and raised in Montana and their parents in the western Montana towns of Kalispell, Alberton, Hamilton, Ronan. And my greats too. Montana is in my blood. I am tethered to this place. And it is this connection that grounded me solid through all those moves.

Just after the best run with my cousin and our dogs.

The Beartooth Pass

I liked moving as a kid, most of the time. I think I wouldn’t have liked it much if we didn’t have Montana to come home to every summer. Every year when the grass began to brown we piled in our boxy SUV, my brother and I crowded in the back seat, my parents so big and old in the front seat. We drove for days and eventually fell into the bright valleys of Missoula and then Red Lodge where our relatives waited with open arms and big gardens.


As a kid, my cousins and I picked wild raspberries in East Rosebud, sifted through piles of sparkling beads at the Mountain Man Rendezvous. We fished at Line Lake, hiked up the Lake Fork and barbecued every night. We spent entire days making cat palaces out of cardboard, sitting on the front porch and biking up and down every single street in this valley. In Roscoe, we jumped off bridges just high enough that our parents would have definitely disapproved. We ate lots of Red Box Car soft serve ice cream.

Gramma Joan and the girls. It wasn’t until I downloaded these photos that I realized Ruby is imitating her big sister.

As an adult I moved here to heal after a difficult eating disorder recovery. I got out of the hospital and needed a change. So I moved home to live with my aunt and uncle for a summer. Oh, that summer. I had known Andy for seven years. He was my cousin Colin’s best friend and often tagged along for family picnics and the like. He was waiting in my aunt and uncle’s kitchen when I flew in from Georgia, donning white chunky sandals, light-wash tapered jeans and my best coral and tan striped cardigan. I remember picking out that outfit, hoping I’d see Colin’s hot friend that night.

That was exactly 14 years ago.


After that Summer of Love, I tried to go back to college in the south. It didn’t work. I always felt more beautiful and smart in the Montana and, after living there for three months and falling deep for the boy I always hoped I’d fall deep for, well, that was that. I left my full ride scholarship, packed my white VW Rabbit and drove west with Andy. We landed in Missoula.

14 years! Happy Anniversary, love. I like you a whole lot.

Every summer and holiday break in college, I waited tables and Andy swung hammers in Red Lodge. We came over every Memorial Day to ski the pass,


we came for weddings and holidays bouncing between his family and mine.

Margot caught her first fish with Uncle Colin. The pond is stocked with an unknown species of fish that resemble black lab-pitbull mutts.


Now we roll across this state with two more people who have roots in this valley. Who spin stories about Mount Maurice and the Pass,

“Ruby dahlin, it’s important to accessorize no matter the company.”

who find simple, wonderful ways to have fun

Tossin’ rocks in the summer snow

Tossin’ rocks in Rock Creek

who hike and ski its hills,


fish its waters,


wander its streets,

find family under the bluest sky,


who love it here.

My childhood gave me equal parts homebody and wanderlust. We won’t be moving our family around a bunch but road trips and distant travels will happen often. I can’t say for certain that we will never move but I can say home will never be far away.


Where is your home?

:: :: ::

all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from

66 Responses to hump day nuggets: in my blood

  1. Mandy says:

    your babies are beautiful.

  2. Ani says:

    What a beautiful post! Montana seems like a magical place.

  3. Marti says:

    I’m from GA and would give just about anything to live somewhere else just for a little while. My Dad has a 200 acre farm down here and I feel like if maybe I lived on it then I would feel more at home but I can’t live there, at least not yet, maybe one day.

    My husband is from the mountains of NC and when we are there I do feel at home. It’s almost like I was meant to be there but was just born in the wrong place. It’s really hard to describe the way it is. The scenery and the people are all very different there.

    Love those pictures of Ruby mocking her big sister!

  4. Amy says:

    Holy, I think this pregnancy must have dropped off a fresh batch of hormones this morning…
    This post brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my lips!
    Montana is beautiful and the way you are raising your girls to love it as much as you do is so fantastic!
    Enjoy your vacation!

  5. April says:

    Beautiful post. Born and raised in rural northcentral Idaho I had a taste of the midwest (yuck!) before landing in Missoula around 2000. Spent 5 years there in school and working and falling in love–and even though now we just live over the pass from it, we still consider Missoula our second home. I love it more than where we actually live some days… I like seeing your take on the town.

  6. You’ve inspired me to become more fascinated with our “home”! Thank your for being so real! Your photos are so amazing-always!

  7. smallTown says:

    Love love love this post!
    I can relate to being a homebody with wanderlust – I tend to travel far, but always end up back home. As they say in Sweet Home Alabama, It’s OK to have both roots and wings.

  8. Tina says:!!!!! Beartooth Pass?!?! Never even heard of it but it looks AMAZING!

    Seriously, I need to come to Montana. The pictures of the fabulous landscape slays me every time… and I’ve probably said that like fifty times by now. The beauty is just totally breathtaking from photographs alone! If we ever (no…. WHEN we do!) decide to come out there I am totally going to be emailing you asking you for tips on what to do and where to stay. Hope you won’t mind. 😉

    I got goosebumps reading the part about you and Andy falling in love… it’s like storybook love. Absolutely perfect.

  9. Christi says:

    Congratulations on 14 years.
    For me, Home is where my mountains are!! No matter where I move as long as I have beautiful mountains to gaze upon, my heart is content.

  10. Jeanne says:

    Great post! Montana is a state I have yet to visit. I am really excited to one day see that big sky and stunning mountains to fall in love with. Growing up in Flatville, USA I love the west! I moved to the Acific Northwest and the moment my toes touched the eart here in this magicial place, I knew I had found my home. I left my entire family back in Chicago to move here. It wS the best and most random decision I had ever made in my life. I thought the pull of family would be too great after we welcomed our first child into our lives. Sadly for my family, the PNW is just way too awesome!

  11. 5happyapples says:

    LOVE the comment about the accessories up on the mountain. You are so funny.

    You totally brightened up my already sunny morning up here, home in the Okanagan….while part of me will always be home in my childhood prairies, I don’t want to move back!

  12. sweet post. i moved a lot too in childhood (with a mullet and red/pink plastic glasses…thanks mom!). but our family’s base was in SE Michigan where the smell of lake water still conjures up memories of fire fly catching, long afternoon swims and gobbling orange push ups on the dock. headed west the summer after high school and during my 5 years in Missoula, i thought THIS is my home. the rattlesnake. the bitterroot. the hot springs. the vibe.

    Then I fell in love with someone who lived over the ocean on a small island off Australia. I can remember bawling my eyes out as the train pulled out of Glacier station thinking “Oh god, what have I done?’ But the gamble paid off…we’ve since bounced around a lot but after 8 years living among various coastal locales, this midwest raised/mountain loving girl is really starting to feel at home closest to the tides.

    Spins my head sometimes that among my kidlets first memories will be of pounding surf, swirls of kelp, whales breaching and pelican spotting.

    I think one of the reason’s I enjoy this blog is that it’s another lovely to tap into the homespun Missoula energy I love so…

  13. sweet post. i moved a lot too in childhood (with a mullet and red/pink plastic glasses…thanks mom!). but our family’s base was in SE Michigan where the smell of lake water still conjures up memories of fire fly catching, long afternoon swims and gobbling orange push ups on the dock. headed west the summer after high school and during my 5 years in Missoula, i thought THIS is my home. the rattlesnake. the bitterroot. the hot springs. the vibe.

    Then I fell in love with someone who lived over the ocean on a small island off Australia. I can remember bawling my eyes out as the train pulled out of Glacier station thinking “Oh god, what have I done?’ But the gamble paid off…we’ve since bounced around a lot but after 8 years living among various coastal locales, this midwest raised/mountain loving girl is really starting to feel at home closest to the tides.

    Spins my head sometimes that among my kidlets first memories will be of pounding surf, swirls of kelp, whales breaching and pelican spotting.

    I think one of the reason’s I enjoy this blog is that it’s another lovely to tap into the homespun Missoula energy I love so…

  14. maggiekw says:

    Home is where the heart is. After growing up in Minnesota that is home because that is where my family it. After living in Missoula for 10 years, meeting and marrying the love of my life and producing the most amazing baby girl, this is home because it is where my heart blossomed and grew. As long as I have my peeps (my fam) then I am truly “home”!
    Thank you for your beautiful post…

  15. Annia says:

    This post gives me wanderlust for the place you call home :)

    As a city, Toronto is home for me though I spent many of my formative years in the ‘burbs just north and east of it. If the Cline clan is ever so inclined (ha, see what I did there?) to visit, I would love to give you guys the grand tour!

  16. Courtney says:

    My home? Though I’ve now lived in Montana for more years than not, home is in eastern Washington (state), where both sides of the family center around a small farming town of 300 people. Fourth generation wheat farmers. Although one set of great-grandparents did farm in East Helena in the 19teens, they went broke and moved back home.

    My great-grandmother’s advice, when my parents were moving to Helena in the 1970’s? She pulled my mom close and whispered “Don’t stay in Montana more than 5 years, you’ll go broke.” Crazy thing is, both times Great grandma has been correct…

  17. It’s a magical thing, having that strong sense of home. For us, it’s Wyoming. When we moved to Montana everything felt so *wrong*. We always felt like we were in limbo, waiting to get back home. Now we are here and loving it. My parents grew up here but I didn’t. So I know the strong pull of HOME right along with the strong pull of WANDERLUST. I live and dream about travel, but it would lose all its appeal without a *home* to return to.

  18. Red Lodge is like magic in the summer no? I loved stopping to visit the girls there on my way to and from UM and of course Joan always made everyone feel welcome. Local parades, rodeos, and pig races. What is not to love.

  19. Caroline says:

    Love this! Reminds me of the snow we find up in the mountains in Colorado. And I so get where you are coming from as far as seeing your children getting joy out of things that give you so much joy and where you have amazing memories of your makes those places even more special!

    And love how Margot carries around the purse. My daughter does the same and I believe she has the same purse only in silver!

  20. Courtney says:

    Love it Nici. One of your best posts. 😉

  21. Jennifer says:

    My home is Helena. It’s where my babies were born. It’s where I drive around with Bruce Springsteen’s “Hometown” blasting into my mini-van and tell my children: “This is your hometown. It always will be.” And I’m crying a little.
    But my heart has two homes: Babb, where my grandparents live. Where life clings beautifully despite the wind and ten full months of winter. And Lockwood, across the river from Billings. That is where I grew up. Next to an oil refinery. Next to the Interstate. Where every home had a septic tank — and not in a glamorous way. There is something so wonderful about Lockwood. It is a piece of Montana that no one /ever/ waxes poetic about. Russell Chatham has never been there, even though it has great rainstorms. I love the shit out of that place.

  22. Ailene C says:

    This was such a wonderful post! You should work for the Montana tourism department — I’m always forwarding to my hubby with the note “When can we go here?!”

    Home. Huh, that’s interesting one. As an adult, I’ve moved a lot, never staying in one place for too too long, never feeling that my “home” was anywhere yet feeling “at home” in a lot of places, if that makes sense. I’m looking forward to putting down some longer term roots soon, as our kids are reaching school age and I’d like to tumble a bit less during that time :)

    But I guess if I had to pick one place that always makes my dreams a bit brighter and my days a bit calmer, it would be Maui, where I grew up and where my family still resides. I left there at 18 and had no idea how hard it would be to find my way “home” again. Pesky things like professional prospects, public schools and property values have gotten in the way! But, a girl can dream…and save up her frequent flyer miles!

    Love your posts, truly. They brighten my life, wherever I happen to be.

  23. Kristine says:

    My home is in the littlest state of Rhode Island. But we find big adventures around every corner. :) And this post makes me want to find MORE and BIGGER adventures! Thanks for that. Montana is just so beautiful. Seriously breathtaking. Happy 14 years!

  24. Peggy says:

    Oh, the tears you have inspired today. The love story of you and Andy is just wonderful. (I will require an in-depth Georgia story at a later date. You know, when you have nothing better to write…) Northwest Georgia/Atlanta is home to my heart (my family, my friends, my history), but my spirit lies elsewhere. We spent a year in Rochester, NY and fell in love with it. We have since been “home” in Georgia for a year, trying desperately to sell our house so that we may get back to Rochester or explore another part of the world looking for that perfect fit. You inspired me to consider Missoula, but there are no direct flights to Atlanta (and while I may not want to live here, I do need quick access to those I love). We just got an offer on the house yesterday, so we are currently working with the bank. Keep your fingers crossed for us!!! We can’t handle another Georgia summer!!!

  25. Melissa says:

    That photo of Ruby in the green grass, just her sweet little back in that summer top? My favorite!

    I am a California girl, through and through . . . now we see ourselves settling into Berkeley and I can’t imagine a better place to spend the next couple of decades . . . though spending time abroad is also in order and we’ll see how that goes . . .

  26. Kelly Cach says:

    This post was so soothing….is that the right word? So much contentment & love. Thanks for sharing your personal stories….your love story is so sweet.

    My home is Idaho. simple. beautiful. comfortable.


  27. Sarah says:

    I am from a small town in Tennessee and we live now in Fredericksburg, Va. I don’t think my children will have that same sense of being from somewhere like I do. My Dad likes to say, “some places you live; some places you are from.”

  28. hodo says:

    Oh, how you have made me homesick for my Montana. My current home is beautiful Oregon, but my roots are in Montana. I met my love in Red Lodge too! Love this post, Nici. All the pictures are making me very excited to be getting on the road next week and making stops in Missoula and Red Lodge. I always love coming home to my Montana.

  29. colette says:

    Beautiful post. I visited Kalispell when I was a teenager. My family and I drove from Wisconsin to ski the beautiful mountains of Montana. A trip I’ll never forget.

    Love all the pics in this post. Margot is looking so much older.

    Oh, and BTW, my home is here in the beautiful, varrying northwoods and farm-country of WI. Love it.

  30. Oh my, so familiar. My parents and I moved about every two years. I too loved it, but like you, because non of those places ever needed to be “home”. Home, is in South Dakota, on my grandparents farm. It is where I always went to recover from life. I returned to SD for college and spent 4.5 years there, to date, the longest I’ve ever lived in one location.

    But…on July 22nd I am moving back with my husband, 3 babies and our Swissie. My heart could explode from the joy of us moving back to South Dakota!

  31. Louise says:

    Wonderful post. My true home is England, I just spent 3 weeks there with the kiddos, I agree its amazing to see your children doing the things that you once did as a child. My adopted home is Long Island, NY, it is made for summertime. The beautiful waterfront, the beaches, the wineries…it feels more like home with each passing year.
    Congrats on 14 years!

  32. Daniele says:

    Beautiful country!! I’ve never been to Montana but always wanted to and have especially wanted to since I started reading your blog. It’s breathtaking.
    I was born in Los Angeles and lived there till I was 5, but home for me is Illinois. Very flat here, it is. I have always lived within 40 mins of downtown Chicago. It made for a beautiful upbringing…being able to be in Wisconsin farm country one weekend and at the Water Tower or Shedd Aquarium downtown the next. My dad was a competitive sailor my whole childhood so we spent bunches of summers on the piers of Lake Michigan, staring at the Chicago skyline. I complain about many things here, weather topping the list, but it’s my sweet home.

  33. Karisa says:

    Many familiar notes… my family’s bouncing took us from corner to corner of the U.S…MA to WA to ME to CA to WA…as an adult I moved back to MA to “complete my circle” only to meet my future husband, freshly stationed there after graduating from Bozeman. Montana is in his blood too, and is seeping into mine, as we were married there and I’ve spent two deployments living with my in-laws. The Air Force is bouncing my two girls around, but they will grow up knowing that the Northwest is “home” for Mommy and Daddy. For now, as our little family of four, we make our own home wherever we are. Missing me some mountains today.

  34. Sarah says:

    <3 Love this post. Beautiful pictures, beautiful story.

  35. gelka says:

    I grew up on the plains of West Texas and now live in Colorado. I don’t much care for it here – the winters are far too brutal for me. West Texas was far too conservative – and I’m not talking about weather. But I do miss the heat of West Texas, the wind sweeping over the plains – looking across the sky and seeing the curve of the horizon where it hugs the Earth.

  36. This post made me teary. My family lives in Kansas right now, but my heart is still in Colorado. Oh how I miss it. Isn’t it amazing how a place can become family?

  37. lorri says:

    Beautiful post. I am in Oregon now but I am heading “home” to Missoula this weekend for a wedding. Your gorgeous photos always make me homesick for the rockies.

  38. oversewn says:

    This post just killed me!! I miss that place so bad it hurts! I wonder if I could call anywhere else home. I have always returned to Santa Barbara. I wouldn’t mind trying Red Lodge! Beartooth Pass is so insane!!
    THANKS!!!! for this post.

  39. Kelle says:

    Before I even met you in person, I admired your loyalty and love for where you live. You played a role in my own love journey for our sunkissed town. While I always love your stories and writing, there is an obvious energy and life to your words when you talk about Montana. It is enrapturing. xoxo

  40. TRB Holt says:

    I was born in Ennis Montana, lived in Missoula,MT…Spokane,WA… Bremerton,WA…Seattle,WA, Minneapolis,MN, Rochester,NY…Atlanta,GA & when people ask where home is I always say….I am a native Montanan and always will be…it IS in our blood. A beautiful post Burb!

  41. Abby Taylor says:

    OK, not a comment for this post, but I have to tell you anyway. I was reading some of your older posts and came across one where you and the girls are trying to get baking cocoa from a neighbor’s house. Margot said “What the hell is going on here” and I laughed so hard I almost peed.
    Man, did I need a laugh. Thanks!

  42. Deb Bratton says:

    I love the firm hand hold Grandma Joan has on Margot’s coat while tossing rocks in Rock Creek!!! Grandma’s rock!!

  43. Deb Bratton says:

    And I remember that summer well. We loved having you. Just another graduated teenager to worry and stress about!!

  44. Colleen says:

    This just might be my favorite post that you have ever written. I feel like I have learned so much more about you.

  45. BRH says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post. I’ve got the chills to prove it! Happy Anniversary to you two!

  46. Jocelyn says:

    Beautiful, Nici. All of it. Congrats on your gorgeous family, on the peace you’ve found, your fantastic talent, and the beautiful person you are…

  47. Jennifer says:

    That’s how I feel about Texas. Even though our summers are hot as hades! Your winters colder than a witches boob! We still love our roots that keep us grounded for generations.

    I cannot believe all that snow piled so deep! AMAZING! Never seen pics like that before, or rather that a scene like that existed. Is that at a summit or pass in the mountains?


  48. Ellie says:

    Such beautiful pictures in this post, and the subject of home hits home, so to speak. Born and raised in Eastern Europe until 17, lived in suburban NY for a year, then four years in MT, now over ten years in CA. Though I hate the crowds and the congestion, and I am a little reluctant to admit it, Northern California feels very much like home these days. I love that we can drive to the redwoods or a mountain side or the ocean, all within 40-60 minutes. I love that my children are growing up surrounded by every nationality and race imaginable, and that their bilingualism is the norm around here, rather than the exception. That said, I’d love to move to the Rockies and make a new, more serene, more settled home some day, even if it has to wait until a decade or more from now.
    (p.s. Just bought a D60 and will be signing up for a DSLR class. So excited!)

  49. Erin O. says:

    I love taking a trip down memory lane to remember my husband before he was mine…back when we was my friend Jason’s hot older brother. What a trip it would have been, 13 years ago, to peek into the future to see our two kids and happy life.

    Love the photo of Joan and Margot on the bridge…Grandma holding the back of her coat. Hanging on to keep her safe, but not to she realizes it. :)

  50. KWQR says:

    Lovely post! We moved around a ton growing up but when I moved to Alaska at age 8 I knew we were “home”. Even though I have travelled the world & have now lived in my current home in nor-cal longer than I have lived anywhere, there is just something about being surrounded by mountains & powerful nature in AK that is like nowhere else on the planet. But really, home for me now is wherever I am with my three boys!

  51. jen says:

    It sounds weird but I would love to know more about your eating disorder experience. As someone who suffered from one (and continues to, really. It never really leaves. Dammit.), I am interested in others’ experiences in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, we can help each other to stop it from affecting our daughters.

  52. Erika says:

    Beautiful post. Like you, I moved a lot–but almost always lived in sight of mountains. You’re so right about that rooted extended family–it was always so comforting I grew up hearing about beautiful Montana, so when my family moved there while I was in college, I transferred to Missoula–and I maintain it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. I now live in Ontario, and I miss the family I grew up in. I miss those Montana mountains, but now that I’ve built my own family, I know home is where the three of them live.

  53. Annie says:

    Your words and stories make me want to pack up and move to Missoula!

  54. Jean says:

    Beautiful photos! Loved seeing you and Ruby and Margot. See you at Andy’s opening.

  55. FinnyKnits says:

    Happy anniversary, you two – that’s awesome :)

    I feel a lot about my home town and my parent’s place in Santa Rosa much the same as you do about Montana and Red Lodge.

    Something about being able to walk in the same fields, smell the same flowers blooming, feel the same grit on my toes from so many summers spent running barefoot in the country – that’s home.

  56. MeganMR says:

    “The Lake” is in my blood. My parents have a place there, it’s about 2 hours away from me. I managed to get up these for Father’s Day weekend. I have been going there since I was 5 days old.

  57. Beautifully written. I am originally from Kansas, and feel my roots there when I visit. But when I come home to Colorado, when I see the mountains becoming clearer and bigger in the distance, my eyes always tear up. Colorado has my heart.

  58. Melina says:

    North Pomfret Vermont, anywhere in Vermont, anywhere in New England.

    Seattle for now, but always…New England.

    I loved this post beyond words, Nici.


  59. Carrie says:

    Right now in my life, “home” is a changing, growing organism. Geographically speaking, it always used to be that blue house on the hill out on Riverside in Michigan, but less and less so in the past five years. Now home is a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of Kentucky’s Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Does it have a leaky roof? Maybe. Is it noisy as hell with the bus stop directly below our bedroom window? Absolutely. But it’s where I live with my love and our dog. I’d say that’s a pretty good home. Happy Friday!

  60. rebecca says:

    ,,,the people who i adore and love “to the moon and back” are in arizona, my roots are there,,,though for now home is in maryland 209 KFB,,,we’re here enjoying the nooks and crannies of this state and the other states so close by,,,we’re exploring where we eventually want to call “home” maybe it will be oregon, maybe vermont, maybe arizona or montana,,,(smile)

  61. I love the way you describe Montana – makes me want to explore it. Your love for Missoula and your contentment there is contagious and is beautiful to read. I wish I could feel that way about where I live, Vancouver, which is very beautiful, but I don’t think you can really feel that way about a big city. I grew up in a small town in Germany and while the childhood memories are sweet and grounded, it has also started to feel a bit foreign. I suppose home for us is wherever our little family lives.

  62. Jill says:

    I had to come back to this post. Your older daughter and her gold purse is so cute. And I love the quote you have her saying to Ruby about looking your best no matter the company.

  63. Home is growing up right across Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, WI. My parents bought the house from my mum’s grandparents, a cape cod. Though the lake was usually cold, I just loved looking at the sunrises & the sailboats racing on Wednesday evenings. I currently live in Alabaster, AL and I do not feel like this is home. I’ve been in the south for 4 years and I am eager to leave! (I do love Atlanta, that’s a possibility.) Oh, but I love visiting Milwaukee… so diverse and I love supporting Alterra coffee :) I really miss my family. xx

  64. Sasha says:

    the good old north west, oregon to be exact. i am an hour from the coast, an hour from the slops of mt hood and about 2 hours from the high desert and i LOVE it here. even in the big city of portland i am less than a mile walk from my front door to forest park, one of the country’s largest reserves within city limits. not to mention surrounded but rivers. there is something for everyone to find here in atleast one of the city’s many unique neighborhoods. not sure if i could live anywhere else

  65. it’s insane how much we have in common.

    6 states, 15 houses, all before the age of 9. three schools in three states in second grade alone.

    my tether to montana is four generations long as well. every summer spent here. instinct tells me the time is coming for me to jump back on the gypsy train, but this place will always hold my heart. even when it’s broken.

  66. My home is your home! Graham and I just went over Beartooth pass for the first time this week, and I was just awestruck at the beauty my home holds. Even southeastern MT (Colstrip, to be exact…) has it’s own beauty. I told him that when I complain at Christmas about no snow in Portland, to remind me that I got my fill in the snowy wonderland of the top of that pass. Your pics always bring me home, Nici. Thanks.