December 30, 2011

Shiny and New

I have always loved the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. In my childhood it was a week spent immersed in the newness of whatever my Christmas gifts had been; exploring to the fullest the possibilities of each new toy, the pages of every book, the hue of each crayon or marker or paint. When I was a little older, with the limited and misplaced priorities of the average middle schooler, the post-Christmas pre-New Year's week seemed to be a time to determine how my new possessions redefined me.Because it was, after all, all about me. And as a teenager it became a full seven days to make plans for New Year's Eve, or, more specifically, what to wear on New Year's Eve. Something shiny and new, without question.

Even now, as a (sometime) grownup, a sense of newness fills this week. I'd like to think my priorities are slightly better ordered at this point in my life, and I can say with certainty that I have come to understand that I am defined by my actions rather than my possessions, (though I will readily admit to still wondering what to wear on New Year's Eve) but still that sense of newness lingers...Even in the quiet, restful week we're having in our home (much quieter than usual with Riley being sick) I see the signs all around.

New Lincoln Logs and Legos to mix with the old = a million new things to be built. While staying in new Batman jammies all day, of course.

New purple polka-dot ribbon tutu that Mamma is amazed to have spotted  not on the body of a certain little girl.

New project ideas 'inspiration' stacks and piles appearing all through the house.

New habits and goals to reach for. 
(This alarm clock was Laurelei's favorite Christmas gift- isn't it funny the things we become attached to?)

And in my mind, a whirl of thoughts that include both old and new. Memories of the year that has passed and hopes and dreams for the year to come. An appreciation for what's used and loved, and an anticipation for moments shiny and new.

I hope to share them with you.


December 27, 2011

Christmas Past

This Christmas:

::I finished most of the things I wanted to make (Laurelei's dress, for example) and didn't let myself feel guilty about cutting from my list the things there just wasn't time for. 

:: We immersed ourselves in this beautiful place we live in and let our spirits and our bodies be renewed by the magic of a forest in winter. (I wish Brian was in this photo, but he's always the one taking the pictures).

:: I tried to remember what Christmas felt like when I was a child, and looked for that same wonder in my children's eyes, listened for it in their whispers and anxious sighs.

:: I thought of my mother as I chopped walnuts in the kitchen on Christmas Eve, and I wished, for just a moment to be there in my parents' house, in the kitchen with her...the windows steamed over and the Kitchenaid whirring and the steady chop chop chop of walnuts on the cutting board.  

:: We went caroling (with Brian on guitar) and sang to the firefighters at our neighborhood station who couldn't be with their families because they were there for us. Just in case.

:: I did something I haven't done since childhood Christmases and lost myself completely in one of my presents -a book, of course- for most of the evening Sunday and as much of Monday as possible.

:: Riley developed a fever and spent Sunday evening and most of Monday sleeping in my arms (which didn't hurt my sit-on-the-couch-and-read plan one bit).

:: But most of all this Christmas, I tried to live each moment fully- tasting and breathing it all in. Making memories and bearing in mind that all too soon, this Christmas would be another Christmas Past. And unlike a certain Dickensian protagonist, whose tale I also found time to revisit this Christmas, I'd like to be able to welcome the ghosts of my Christmases, when they come upon me in the night.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart and keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. 
I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."
-Ebeneezer Scrooge

How was your Christmas, blogland? 
I hope as beautiful as mine.


p.s. Thanks to my hubby Brian for the photos in this post. When Riley's feeling up to it, I'll share some photos of his Christmas outfit as well.

December 24, 2011

From Me to You

A free Christmas printable designed by me for you, gentle readers.
Happy Christmas.


December 21, 2011

Today List

Today I'm grateful for

:: waking to a world that has gone, overnight, from patchy spots of snow on brown grass to a white Christmas winter wonderland. Like magic.

:: children who can't wait until after breakfast, who can't even be bothered to put a coat over their pajamas, before opening the door and touching their suddenly changed world. 

:: late brunches of pancakes and cocoa, followed by the noise of snow pants sliding over jeans, boots clunking on the stairs, and muffled giggles from within coats zipped up over the chin.

::my own warm coat and fleece-lined boots. Off I go...


December 20, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

When Brian and I decided, about a month ago, that we would not be able to make the trip to get our things (including all our Christmas decorations) from storage in Idaho before the end of the year, I saw a kind-of crazy opportunity in the midst of my disappointment. 
We had an excuse-- no, more than an excuse- a very good reason, to make everything this year-- to have a homemade Christmas in Kentucky. Montana. Sorry, childhood flashback involving Kenny Rogers caught me by surprise there. 
The point is: look at our tree!

(Hard to get a full-length shot in our small space!)

I knew from the outset that this undertaking-- making everything handmade for Christmas-- could go 
two ways: 
1: Mamma, the artist, the designer, the visionary, could take control of everything, adorning the tree with hand-painted blown eggs and hand-embroidered felt birds, miniature glass mosaics and dozens of other delicate pretties, stressing herself out in the process, and ending up with something that, while pleasing to the eye, was not our family's Christmas tree, but Mamma's. A don't touch tree!
2: Mamma could let go and step back, quietly introducing the tools and the methods and watching as the little ones, and even Dad (who is not so crafty, most of the time) discover the beautiful things they can make. Mamma could say 'yes' to more paint and glitter and 'why not?' to another color and know, really truly know that the making of the ornaments was the making of so many memories for our family. And our tree would truly be ours. A hands-on, we-made-it, please touch tree!

I think you can guess which way things went.
This may well be my favorite of all our Christmas trees. Ever.

If you're curious as to the specifics of what's hung on the evergreen boughs, here's the rundown:

1. Salt flour dough snowmen, letters (each of our names spelled out with cookie cutters), trees, etc.
2. Applesauce-cinnamon dough stars, gingerbread boys and girls, and free-form shapes.
3.Borax crystal snowflakes and icicles (both art project and science experiment in one!).
4.Cut paper snowflakes (pinned on with worn old wooden clothespins).
5. Popcorn (popped the old-fashioned way) and gumdrop garland.
6. Puzzle-piece ornaments made at the Missoula Art Museum holiday workshop.
7. Felt matryoshkas made at Selvedge Studio.
8. Gussied -up pine cones via the Christmas craft kit from Sandi.
9. Fabric strip garland also made from the aforementioned kit.
10. Little paper birds (this one was totally Laurelei's idea-and I LOVE it) cut from a roll of wrapping paper (Target) and strung on random ribbons and rick-rack.
11. Glittery birds and apples made one fun crafty afternoon with the Hendersons.
 12. A few vintage keys I had laying around, on pink and red ribbons (okay, so that one doesn't count as handmade, exactly...but, still...resourceful).

And that's our tree.
We love it and we loved every evening, every hot-cocoa- and- Bing- Crosby family craft session spent making it.
Merry Handmade Christmas!


December 17, 2011

Christmas Giveaway!

Update: And the winner* is...
Congratulations! Please email me for all the details!
*chosen by the purely scientific method of numbering all your comments, writing the numbers on little slips of paper and drawing one out of a bowl. I wish everyone could win. But I'm not Oprah.
Thanks for entering!

Okay, blogland beauties, Ms.Sandi's 12 Days of Christmas is over. Winner takes all.
Time to have a little fun right here on the farm* with a 
of our very own!
I'm thinking...

...a $50.00 gift certificate to the Amber June Studios shop!

What think ye?

To enter, become a follower of Amber June Studios (see that little box in the sidebar that says Join this Site?) and leave a comment on this post letting me know. That's it!
Pretty simple right? I'll keep the comments open until Monday evening-ish and notify the lucky (if I do say so myself) winner on Tuesday. 
So spread the word and the giveway maaadness Christmas cheer!


*I don't actually live on a farm. I just get excited sometimes.

Comments are now closed.

December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Winner!

The winner of a Handmade Hobby Horse from Amber June Studios has been announced on 

Go take a look and see if you're the one, then come back here tomorrow for our own giveaway!
Bwahahaha! It's giveaway madness! 
(Okay, did that come off as joyful-Christmas-crazy or maniacal spokesperson for deals-on-wheels? Oh well. Either's maaaadness!)


December 13, 2011

In the Hopes That St. Nicholas...

Quest for a Handmade Christmas progress report: the stockings are hung!

(do you love little miss's milk mustache?)

They are without perfection, but not without perfect beauty. 
Because we  made them. Our family. Together.
Without spending a dime.

More reports to come...


December 12, 2011

Five Years Ago

Five years ago today, we met you.

Our little boy.

I think, at about this time that morning, Daddy and I were huddled together on the bathroom floor of our hospital room in Ketchum, Idaho, cradling you and kissing you and filling the bathtub because already we'd discovered you liked the sound of running water.

You were colicky- that means you cried for the first six months of your life, everyday for about nine hours.
And then, all of a sudden, you were tired of crying. You stopped and seemed to decide it was time to 
laugh instead. You made us all laugh with you, too.

You bring us joy with your smiles and silly songs and made-up jokes and dances.
You soften our hearts with your tender sweetness.
We are blessed to have you in our family, Riley.
I am so grateful to be your mamma.

Happy Birthday my boy.
I love you.


December 10, 2011


It's Amber June Studios' turn on 
Sandi Henderson's 
12 Days of Christmas 

Click on over to and leave a comment for a chance to win a
Handmade Hobby Horse
from my shop!

And look for two more horses to join the herd today: Zinnia and Pudge!


December 9, 2011

Today List

Today I'm stitching:

:: felt hand puppets to go with the puppet theater the kids are getting for Christmas

:: stockings with the kids- burlap and raw-edged vintage fabric- two eager little stitchers taking turns pushing the pedal and cutting the threads

:: popcorn and gumdrop strings for our handmade Christmas tree. Does that count as stiching? I think it does. Stitching and a snack all in one.

:: most importantly, I'm stitching memories for our family.

What are you stitching today?


p.s. Look for a giveaway from the Amber June Studios shop tomorrow on Ms.Sandi's blog-!

December 6, 2011

Christmas Magic

We live in a magical place.

Saturday was Missoula's annual Christmas kick-off celebration, and, though we hesitated when we found out that Brian would have to be working that day, Laurelei, Riley and I decided to go as a threesome anyway. I love our downtown neighborhood and all the businesses, both quaint and quirky, that fill it (whenever we're going there the kids and I sing a rather raucous rendition of 'Downtown' by Petula Clark on the way), so I was excited to have an excuse to spend the better part of the day wandering the city sidewalks (which, by the way, were dressed in holiday style). 
We stopped here and there, at the organizations participating in the day's festivities: making ornaments at the Missoula Art Museum, eating lunch at a yummy sandwich shop, petting ponies at the ambrosial local ice creamery, Big Dipper, riding the carousel, making another ornament at Selvedge Studio (the hippest little fabric store in town), getting hot cocoa at our favorite cafe, watching the annual parade of lights and then joining the throng of merry-makers gathered for the lighting of the town Christmas tree. 
Which seems like a lot. It was a lot. 
When I think about it, the day could have easily turned into one of those forced family fun outings, during which the parents drag the children from one activity to the next as the children grow ever more overwhelmed and weary and the parents keep repeating, "Isn't this fun?" with a manic look in their twitching eyes, but, for some reason, it wasn't.
It was a slow, moment-by-moment, magic day. Maybe it was the break we took after lunch to attend the baptism of a friend; the quiet and renewal of that small hour. 
Maybe it was that we came home for a few minutes mid-afternoon to change into warmer clothes for the parade, thereby avoiding the crankiness that inevitably comes with cold toes. 
Maybe it was that we all just really wanted to be there, in our community, doing things that we felt a part of.
Celebrating Christmas. 

Whatever it was, as the Christmas tree lights went on, silvery-white snowflakes began to fall.
We each caught our breath for a moment in the night air, tilted our faces to the sky and smiled.


December 1, 2011

Today Lists

There is not one specific moment for me when the Christmas season begins. 
The feeling of Christmas-- and here I'm not talking about the Christmas Spirit, which I hope is with me always-- but the almost-palpable, memory-made feeling of Christmas can sneak up on me at any time throughout the year. Late at night, when the house is quiet and the lights are all out but one, I'll glance out the window and see it. Christmas. 
If I happen to wake one morning, early, and open the door while everyone is still in bed, the cold air will bring it to me and I'll breathe it. Christmas.
I can hear it in the silence of the first starlit snow fall and touch it when I walk through the forest and my fingers graze a pine bough... and taste it in anything covered in powdered sugar or walnuts. 
And as the year goes on and Autumn fades away the feeling surprises me more and more often until suddenly it's December 1st, and what was memory has become real, not only for me but for all the world.

I love Christmas.

I was thinking today (I have a yucky head cold so I didn't do much else) about a journal I filled this past year by using the writing prompt of  'Today List' (rather than to-do list- get it? I'm so clever. Ha ha). 
Each day that I wrote, instead of  essaying or storytelling in the traditional way, I simply made a list. Today I felt. Today I did. Today I thought about. And I have to tell you, it's the first time I've filled a journal in years. So I thought the idea is something I'd like to apply here, once a week or so. And I thought today would be a good day to start.

So, Today Begins:

:: our family's quest for a homemade Christmas. With our ornaments and decorations all in storage in Idaho (long story),  and our difficult decision to not stretch the budget and go get the stuff before Christmas, we have an opportunity to make everything.  Together. I mean, the majority of our gifts are always handmade, but to do the decorations too...I'm actually really excited about it.

:: one of my favorite months of the year, not only because of Christmas, but also because my little boy was born this month...can it really have been five years ago?

:: the time when the songs I'm singing (and I'm pretty much always singing) switch to Christmas carols and Christmas pop hits and even Christmas commercial jingles from my childhood...everything from "O Come O Come Emmanuel" to "Blue Christmas" to "Who's That Kid With the Oreo Cookie" (the Christmas version of course). And I don't get tired of any of them. Well, most of them.

:: the itching in my fingers to play my violin. It really doesn't get me at any other time of year- I confess, that fiddle has pretty much been in its case since last New Year's- but at Christmas I want to make music, and I find I am annually grateful for the eight years' worth of lessons I muddled through. 

What does December first begin for you? Share in the comments. 
Oh, and, of course,
Have a Merry Christmas.