July 29, 2011

Book Love

Everyone once in a while I come across a children's book that I instantly love. It usually happens when both the story and the illustrations speak to me separately as artistic labors of love AND they enhance each other's beauty when combined. These books call out to me from the library/bookstore shelves and I almost don't have to read them to know I've found one. In the past, it's been Suddenly One Day and This is Just to Say, among many others, but until this week, I have never before fallen in love with a book I can't even read...because it's in Spanish.

Yet here it is:

Using my extremely limited and very patchy Spanish translation skills, I know that this is a story about a boy name Fonchito...and The Moon (y la luna). (wow, I'm good.)

There's also something about a la nina mas bonita  (beautiful little girl, I think) named Nerieda, whom Fonchito wants to kiss.

And that's about as far as I get. I'm not even sure where the moon comes in, but I just know that if I could read it, I would love it. The ilustraciones de Marta Chicote Juiz tell me that much.

I haven't been able to find the story in English anywhere, so I suppose I will either have to scope out the Spanish skills of friends and acquaintances or improve my own.

Anyhow, the moon and stars have been on my mind quite a bit since our backyard camp-out, which we repeated last night with friends and star-gazing and constellation mythology all thrown in the mix. A good time was had by all, although, I have to say, for coziness and memories, I prefer the homemade blanket tent to the ol' North Face Rock 22. We'll have to revert back next time.

I linked up the post about our original camp-out to the Carnival of Outdoor Play at The Nurture Store. You should click on over and check out some of the other fun ideas for outdoor learning-through-play adventure.

And go to the library. Maybe you'll hear a book call out your name, in English or otherwise.

July 27, 2011

Chickens and Horses

I have always wanted to keep animals--chickens, goats, maybe horses--for many reasons. Self-reliance...certain knowledge of our food source...a work experience for my kids.
But our family has not, as yet, lived on a piece of property where fulfilling that dream would be possible. Thankfully, we have friends who do!

Last Thursday we went road-tripping down the beautiful Bitterroot Valley to a farm full of ducks, turkeys, chickens, and charm where we chose three little pullets to start with. I asked the very knowledgeable chicken lady for breeds that would be gentle and docile; good for children who would want to hold them and hand feed them and chase them...and that is exactly what we got.

Meet our little trio:

Riley chose an Old English Game Bantam Rooster and named him Silver.

Silver is, well, a bit of a cocky little guy (no pun intended), and a very fast runner, but he seems to know that Riley is his boy. 

He is one half a very attached pair. The other is the little hen, also an Old English Game Bantam, that Laurelei chose:
Dainty Grace

Dainty Grace is dainty indeed. She had a little bit of adjustment trauma (maybe heat sickness?) on making the transition from farm to Henderson Homestead, and she wouldn't eat or drink for almost 24 hours. She barely moved, in fact. We thought her leg might be broken...we thought she might die. So Dainty Grace spent two days in our home, being cooed over, constantly watched and gently nursed. 
When she started to lift her head and move a bit, we finally were able to get her to drink some blueberry vitamin water...and she figured life might be worth living.

She spent the rest of her convalescence eating strawberry tops, being carried around in my cardigan pocket, and generally becoming the sweetest most spoiled little house chicken ever. 
(She actually slept while Riley was doing this.)

And then there's my poultry pick:

The mild and meek Rowena Blueclaw, of the Phoenix breed.

I don't know how many of you have ever held a content, sleepy chicken in your hands, but it's heaven. They have this thrumming sort of purr...like a cat, but quieter...they close their eyes and puff out their feathers and breathe slow and deep.

I am fascinated by birds in general, but I've always had an ethical objection to keeping them as pets. (If you could fly, would you want to live your life in a cage?) But Rowena Blueclaw and Silver and Dainty Grace offer the perfect compromise. Chickens of their size can't fly more than a foot or two. And they're not caged at all.
So while the children and I understand that they are not really meant to be 'pets,' I see no harm in loving them while we can.

And oh! We love our chickens!

p.s. The horses I mentioned above are of the Hobby variety. Two new little foals are joining my Etsy herd later today: Willow Runner and Pink Melba. Stop by and pat their noses.

July 25, 2011

Backyard Camp-Out

Sunday night was perfect for it.

Perfect for building a blanket tent under cloudless sky. It wasn't too hot out, so perfect for snuggling. This Mamma had a fresh LaLa Beeka* story growing in my mind, and...there was plenty of time to make the absolutely necessary Backyard Camp-out Cookies.

Yep, Sunday night was pretty perfect.

*LaLa Beeka is a dragon my kids made up. We tell stories about us visiting him in Dragonland, and the funny things that happen when he visits the human realms. Last night, we met his two friends: Foo Foo Siss and Bert. (Hey, I don't make up the names, just the stories.)

Here's our recipe for Backyard Camp-out Cookies. Turns out, these are pretty good for breakfast too.

Backyard Camp-Out Cookies

(a one-bowl, one-pan, anything goes recipe)

Heat oven to 375 

Throw into a large mixing bowl:

1 cup raw granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 16-ish oz  jar extra crunchy peanut butter (we like Adam's)
1 stick o' butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unbleached all- purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder


this is the 'anything goes' part.
We threw in  half a bag of coconut flakes, a couple handfuls of rolled oats, and a cup or two of Rice Krispies cereal. These would also be great with chocolate chips (obviously), raisins, or nuts.

Spread the entire mixture on a greased baking sheet, bar cookie style, and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Then build a blanket tent over your clothesline and enjoy. :)

July 23, 2011

Bluebell of the Ball

Can I just say how much fun I'm having with these?

This is the about the tenth stick horse I've made (my own design, thank you), with mixes of vintage/ found fabrics and premium quilting cotton and I love each one.
The 'stick' part is an old banister spindle from one of my favorite Missoula thrifty stores ever: Home Resource.
If you like them too, four are currently available in my Etsy shop. 

I'm just sayin'.

July 21, 2011


one old cupboard door with a hole in the middle, some random chain & canvas strapping found in the garage





July 19, 2011

A Box of Her

Recently my mother sent me a couple of boxes full of stuff that she’d cleaned out of her storage room; stuff to keep or use or send on to my sisters  as I saw fit. I didn’t have any expectations when the boxes arrived. There was no one item of hers that I coveted or felt would come to me. I felt only as excited as I usually feel going to a yard sale or a flea market to pick through the trash to find the treasures.

But when I opened the boxes, I realized that my mom had sent me a box of her.

This is her before her daughters were born, when my dad had only just come into her life.

This is her alone in a big city far from home, waiting for her sailor to come back safe.

(Can you see the notes on the perfect-fit bell-bottoms? And the gold jewelry?)

This is her figuring out how to be a mom, make a home, build a family life.

And I learned things about my mom that I never knew. She clipped pictures from magazines of things she wanted to make, or fashion styles she liked… things that inspired her, like a two-dimensional  1970’s version of Pinterest all her own.  She collected books on needlework—everything from crochet to crewel to cross-stitch—and there were even a couple of pieces of her handwork in there.  

(Totally going to make use of this one.)

And knitting needles! Sandi and I are gearing up to learn how to knit this fall. I even bought a handful of knitting needles at an estate sale on Saturday, and then, bam, I open the box and there’s a little piece of who my mom is: knitting needles, patterns and project books… things that got put away when the practical demands of being a working mom overrode the ideas and the plans and the somedays.

I’ve seen the visually-oriented maker in her come back more in the last few years as she re-landscapes my parents’ yard, paints the house, tiles the bathroom, etc.  It may not be needlework or fashion, but the creative beast never dies.

These pieces of her are going to see the light now, through my sisters and me. The ideas, the scribbled notes, the lists…we’ll each use them in our own way. A way she taught us without ever knowing it.

Because someday is today. 


July 18, 2011

In the Kitchen with Mamma

This past week my seven-yr-old, Laurelei, has been in a summer daycamp at the Missoula Children's Theater,   learning her part as an Evil Magic Flower in the Wizard of Oz, so it's just been Riley and me at home. I love having both my children at home, and I love homeschooling them, but I really look forward to these opportunities to spend time with just me and my little guy as well. I don't know how it is for other mammas, but for me I think it has been harder to get to really know who my second-born is, because, being the second-born, he's never been the only one at home. Big sister has always been there, and had two and a half years of me all to herself before Riley came along. Laurelei and I, we've got the mamma-daughter thing down pretty well. Riley and I, well, I think we're getting better and better at the mamma-son thing. He used to get so frustrated trying to explain things to me, or show me things, because he didn't quite know how to put it in words that were not big sister's and not Mamma's and not Daddy's, but just his. But now, he's four, and he's so full of joy; so sure of who he is and what he wants. I pick him up sometimes and he puts his hands on my cheeks and turns my face toward him and says, "I love you Mamma stinker," and then laughs maniacally. Yup. That's my little boy.

Amazingly, the house that we share with family (them upstairs, us downstairs, shared kitchen) was pretty quiet this week as well and when I asked Riley what kinds of things he wanted to do, I couldn't have been happier that he wanted to spend some time in the kitchen. I love that it was just the two of us, in the mid-morning sunshine, making homemade yoghurt (when it's homemade, you just have to spell it with the H), banana muffins, and stemming and pitting all the cherries that we'd picked earlier in the week to make jam. 

I don't know if, years from now, Riley will remember standing on a chair next to me and mashing bananas. Or squeezing the cherry stoner and watching the juice fly. I don't know if he'll recall taking a break and sitting on the counter with Mamma, our bare feet swinging against the cupboard doors while we ate a couple of PBJ's.   I hope he will. But even if he doesn't remember in detail the smells and the sunlight and the closeness, I hope he remembers the feeling of learning through work, and of working by the side of someone who loves him more than any other little boy in the world.

And the fruits of our labors:

 It’s good to be in the kitchen with Mamma.

July 14, 2011


It's here. Tonight. Midnight.

Oh, Harry how can this be all?

You forever changed my reading habits ten years ago (I was late to jump on the bandwagon), helping me to realize that yes, as an adult, I can get lost in the world of a story just like I did in middle school. There is still exciting fantasy/adventure literature out there and just because I am grown up doesn't mean I am relegated to the grown-ups section of the library. YA is where the good stuff is.

I loved you from page 1.

And then you came to me on the silver screen. I admit, it wasn't until Prisoner of Azkaban that I actually looked forward to seeing you in any other way than how I envisioned you while I read. But, once Christpher Columbus was out of the way, there we were, enthralled in the dark: my husband and I, my best-ie and hers, each with our 3 month-old, ten-hours-apart little girls sleeping on our chests. Daniel Radcliffe became you for me. After Prisoner of Azkaban, I couldn't picture you any other way.

There are points in my memories of the last ten years of my life that are inextricably linked with you. That's the road trip when I finished reading book 5 and bawled in the car...That's the picture of you that Laurelei, at three years old, asked me to paste into her locket...That's the night we sat at Two Sisters with Dustin and Sandi, eating crem brule and speculating on what would be in book 4...

And while the books ended four years ago (four years!), it was only a halfway parting, because there was still more to be played out on film. But now the end is upon us. The parting of the ways. I'm packing tissues for tonight, Harry.

(Anyone else as excited as I am?) I had planned on posting a free Harry Potter embroidery template this morning, but, alas, life and other projects have delayed my intentions. In case you want to do a little 'Pottering'  around  (*snort*) before you go to see the most anticipated movie of the year, check out this amazing fan art at Gallery Nucleus.

And Happy Harry Potter-ing.

July 12, 2011

Skates and Pillows and Pepper Shakers...

Did a little reveling in thrifty goodness yesterday via an hour or so rummaging in my local Goodwill. And what did you find, Amber June?

Why, I'm so glad you asked.

A new pair of roller skates for each of my kiddos, ready whenever they feel like socking-up their nearly-always-bare summer feet.


A pair of pretty purple pillows (say that ten times fast).

And this...carved? patterned?...ceramic set of salt & pepper shakers, handmade by some local artisan here in my own home town twenty years ago. 

Not bad for an hour and a few bucks.

I'll be linking this post to Rhoda's Monday Thrifting Party treasury (even though it is now Tuesday :)) over at Southern Hospitality--go check out what everyone else found!

How about you? Have you had any great thrifting finds of late?

July 11, 2011

In the Right Direction

Our lives have been filled lately with so many beautiful memory-moments...

and moments of teaching and learning from each other.

That is between the kiddos and I, my husband and I, and even our best friends, who have become, even more than they always were, a sustaining source of love and goodness in our lives. Despite the trials our little family is experiencing right now (my husband, Brian, has been working in a different state, going back and forth for visits, for the past year. Yup, one year, officially today) I find that I have been falling into bed every night with the warmth of little kisses fresh on my well-sunned cheeks, the loving sound of my husband's voice in my ears, a tired body, a tired mind and a grateful heart.

But, more than anything lately, I've had this growing feeling that our little family is headed in the right direction. That all the things Brian and I have been working for for so many years might actually be starting to come together.

I had the opportunity to teach a lesson in our church's women's organization, The Relief Society, yesterday and the topic was Family Responsibilities. I was overwhelmed by all the mentions in the scriptures and the articles I researched and the lesson manual of words like: Love. Gentleness. Meekness. Respect. Kindness. Consideration. And again, Love, love, love.

It turned out to be a really meaningful opportunity for me to take stock of how I am doing as a parent, and to realize--in a very clear and real way--that it doesn't matter that we don't have our own home right now. It doesn't matter that we don't know what the future brings for our family. What matters is that Brian and I know we love each other, and our children know, without a doubt, that we love them. And as far as bringing our family physically together again...all I can say is that I know we are headed in the right direction.

So, my favorite Mom moment this week? It's actually two. But both of them showed me that this goal we have of raising confidant, creative kids is coming along pretty well.

Moment 1: These shots were taken by my four-yr-old, Riley when we were tending my nephew Oz. Both Laurelei and Riley are so attentive and sweet to babies, it warms my heart.

He actually got down and the floor and told me he wanted a 'low angle.' He's heard that from Mom and Dad before.

I'm really pretty impressed with his eye!

Moment 2: My kids have often heard me say that play is the work of children (paraphrasing a quote that has been credited both to Maria Montessori and Friedrich Froebel) but the other day, Riley said to me, "Mom, play is work for children, and grown -up work is photography and writing, and drawing stuff, and sewing, and being our Mom and Dad, right?"

That's right, Riles. And I can't tell you how much I love my job.

How about you? How was your weekend?

July 9, 2011

Gallery Art

Way back in January, my awesome BiL (that's brother-in-law, if you didn't know) who is an artist in L.A. called and asked me if I wanted to exhibit some of my art in a group show featuring mixed-media, collage-type art. I said something to the effect of, "Uh, are you kidding me? Yeah (valley girl accent applied)" and spent the next several weeks making and/or finishing four pieces to send to La-La land.

It was a little difficult for me to package up my original works of art and send them away, not knowing if I would ever see them again. I'd never done anything like that before. In fact, my art, up to that point had been something I did for my pleasure, for my home, as gifts for family and friends...but never to put out there in the world and subject to criticism or praise at a stranger's whim. It felt a little like hanging myself up on a wall with a sign around  my neck that read: What do you think of me?

But still, I wanted to do it and send them I did. And it was sort of a breakthrough for me. I realized that maybe I did want to share more of my creations with the public at large. I started looking through my past works and pondering the idea of selling prints online. I called up my Big Sis (wife of the artist BiL) to talk it through. Because that's what Big Sis and I do.

"I think it sounds great." Said she. "Did you photograph the pieces you sent out to us? Or scan them?"

Me: "Ummmm, well, kind of."

"Kind of?"

"I sort of took a snapshot of them all laid out on my bed."

That's when Big Sis gently and patiently explained that I didn't know what I was doing. It was true.

I won't bore you with the details of all the research and learning I did over the next several months as I prepared to open my Etsy shop and actually ask people to trade their hard-earned dollars for my art. Suffice it to say that I now have my husband, who happens to be a rather brilliant landscape photographer, shooting high-resolution images of every piece I produce. And the BiL, also a photographer extrordinaire, was kind enough to photograph the pieces I sent so far away. (And which will finally be in a show this summer-- the first one got cancelled). I got the pics yesterday and it was like seeing a long-lost friend.

Oh, hello Wet Rabbits. No one likes your smell, but I like you.

How've you been Seven Blackbirds in a Bare Tree? Staying out of that cage?

Been to Grandma's house yet, Little Red? Of course not. You've stepped off the path.

And you, Darkling Thrush, my darling, how hopeful you still are.

It's good to have a little piece of them home again. Prints of each of these will be up for sale in my shop (see the link above) over the next week or so. Darkling Thrush is there now, but I've no more time to post the rest today. I'm working on something I'm very excited about but can't yet share...teehee teehee...I will tell you this: it's big. For me, it's life-changing big, in fact. Are you intrigued? Well then, I guess you'll have to keep coming back :)

July 8, 2011

Drawing Children

If you follow me on Twitter you may remember how excited I was a couple of weekends ago about cleaning out the garage. No-- wait. Let me rephrase that. It was not the cleaning of the garage that got me going, but the finds made whilst the cleaning ensued. Long forgotten treasures, never unpacked for lack of space; it was like Christmas morning. Only dirtier.

For example, a box of summery handbags and accessories that I'd forgotten I even own (yay!), a Scrabble Junior board game(relic of my youth) which my kiddos now love, and...the crem de la crem of all garage finds...a box of books that my sisters and I shared in childhood. Oh, the memories that came flooding out of that box! Golden books like The Large and Growly Bear, or Just Ask! books like Why Does it Get Dark and Why Does it Rain? Anyone else have those as kids? I realize why, no matter how little shelf space we have or how tight the budget is, I can never walk away from good books for my children. My mother couldn't either and every one of those stories became a little part of me, influencing every aspect of my life from art to writing to motherhood.

My little ones each found their favorites; tomes I was thrilled to sit down and read with them as it came back that these were once my favorites too. And there was something for Mamma in the box as well:

Isn't it exciting?
Wait--let me open it for you.

Look at these illustrations! Beautiful children with their pointy little noses, long lashes and wild locks...

These are two of my favorite. I love that you can tell it was the '70s when this was illustrated. The vintage feel only adds to the charm.

This book has become an almost-always-with-me item ever since I opened the box, not only because the art is bewitching, but because I have been, even before I found this, trying to improve my ability to draw children. Some of the art pieces I most admire and covet are depictions of children, and while I think I've got a pretty good handle on the adult female figure, woodland animals, flowers, trees, and various other pretty objects, children are really stinkin' hard to draw!

So I've placed Dean's Mother Goose Book of Rhymes at the top spot in my kid-drawing reference collection. It even ranks above Dick and Jane. And I'm improving...

...I think. Little by little. I've just got to keep at it. Isn't that all we can do?

What are some of your favorite childhood books or illustrations? I'd love some recommendations. Share in the comments!