August 31, 2011

Book Love

It's happened again. Meet my new love:

It was inevitable, I suppose, with the dream-team combination of Phyllis Root and Mary Grandpre.

But just look at it. It's beautiful.
And it doesn't hurt that the story is one with deep roots in folklore- some of my favorite stories are.
This one is a Nordic tale of a brave and witty girl who goes looking for the sun when it suddenly ceases to rise. The wording is simple but evocative, transforming nouns like light and dark to living things:

"Sunlight followed Lucia through the front door and poured across the floor, 
as warm and as sweet as honey."

Love it.

I'm also really enjoying (though not on the same level of deep love, of course- that is reserved for picture books only) :

I have never seen the movie, and really picked this up by chance, but I decided I'd like to read a Civil War story in which I did not utterly despise all the characters.
I'm finding that Mr. Frazier writes beautifully, describing the land, the characters, the events with a telling poetic clarity that transcends their physical appearances.
But what I am loving most of all (and I'm really not very far into it) is watching Ada and Ruby 
take control of  Ada's farmland, wasting not an inch of space or an ounce of resource. The way we homesteaders-stuck-in-the-burbs would do it if we could.
(Can I get an amen, self-sufficient farm sisters?)

And for some more book love...
I am now officially bringing my passion for vintage books to you, dear readers and discerning shoppers, with
coordinated decorator sets of vintage books now available in my Etsy shop.

Aren't they pretty? 
And, if you want, you can read them too.


August 25, 2011

Open the Door

This time of year is always hard for me.The mornings hold the promise of autumn in their brisk chill, but (apply dramatic martyr voice here)  how quickly the sun burns those hopes away! It's hot. It's dry. And by the end of August in Montana, the valleys all hold the swirling smoke of a half-dozen wildland fires; a sooty haze that only intensifies the heat.

Water has become our refuge. 

Last week, before the smoke set in too heavily in our town, we spent  two days at one of our favorite little mountain beaches; a spot on the Bitterroot river where a marsh-willow covered sometimes-island splits the current and, on one side, the water slows to a kid-friendly pace.

There's something about rivers that speaks of stillness and omni-presence to me, despite the constant motion of the water's flow and gradual change of it's path.

To quote Norman Maclean: 
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters." 

A couple of days later, we found ourselves hiking in the Bitterroot Mountains, alongside a body of water with a different kind of voice: a cold and rushing, change-is-coming voice. 
The voice of a mountain creek.

We stripped our feet bare and washed the summer dust away, wading into the water deep enough to let the icy water redden our skin and nearly numb our legs with cold. Then we sat on the rocks in the sun for awhile, warming up just enough to want to do it again.

This week, however, the smoke arrived. Bringing with it itchy eyes and sore throats and leaving a much-anticipated-but-now-cancelled camping trip in its wake.

I can't wait for fall. I want an excuse to wear sweaters and boots, eat soup (lots of soup!), and every morning, wake up and open the door- if for no other reason than to breathe in the cooling earth and clean sky.

Until then, I suppose, we will just have to hunker down in our (thankfully) air-conditioned digs and make plans that involve knee-socks, leaf piles, and copious amounts of apple pie.

What part of fall are you most looking forward to?


August 22, 2011

I'm thinking...

Last week I scored some vintage sheets and pillowcases (translation: fabric on the cheap) at my local Goodwill. I used my favorite one -a pretty, ruffly sham- to make myself a simple blouse:

 and the rest I've just kind of had draped around my little studio corner, with the last (*gasp*) of my gray polka dots (one of may all-time favorite vintage fabric finds), waiting for the right idea.

I'm thinking...

a cowboy shirt for Riles, using this vintage pattern courtesy of Grandma.
Oooh! or the blue/mustard print for the cowboy shirt.
Save the floral for Laurelei.

This? The blue-pocket style one? Hmmm...maybe...
or something a little more like this:

Or both. 
Yup. Perfect.
Now all I have to find is the time.


p.s. Would anyone be interested in a little tutorial on the sham shirt? Let me know in the comments and if there's enough interest I'll cook one up.

August 19, 2011

Creative Cycles...and Photography

It's taken me years to figure it out...years of feeling like a quitter or a flake every time I set a project aside because I've felt the overwhelming (literally- can't sleep at night) urge to start something else...but about two years ago I finally realized, I'm a creative cycler (did I make that word up?). It's the only means I have of describing my mad methods for managing my seemingly endless store of ideas (I realize that sounds a little egotistical- okay a lot- but it's true. I've always had more ideas than I know what to do with). For weeks, or even months at a time, I'll feel the need to throw all my creative energy into drawing and painting and collage. I'll walk around with a sketchbook in my handbag and at least two drawing pencils and one paintbrush sticking out of my hair at all times. Then, slowly, that inclination will begin to fade and I'll sit down to write. And write and write and write-poetry, fiction, children's stories-this is why I have a series of three novels in the works that will probably be in the works for the next four or five years. And I've learned to be okay with that. Because the muse will always come around again. After I write for a while, my sewing machine and embroidery hoops call out to me. My stacks of fabric and rolls of ribbon and jars of buttons beckon and for the next few weeks I happily stitch away.

And lately, I don't want to do anything, or go anywhere, without my camera.

Yesterday I finished a dress I've been working on. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I wanted to both wear it and photograph it myself, so today, the kids and I set off, picnic basket in tow, to do a little tripod/timer photography, Esther-from-the-sticks style.

I spent so many years just shooting on auto because I was kind of afraid of the whole tech end of photography, but now that I've actually started listening to my husband when he starts in on aperture and ISO and blah, blah, blah (love you honey), it's starting to make sense. And I'm experimenting. And you know what? This photography thing is really, really cool.

Two things I learned in the last couple of days and one I learned long ago:

 1. My dress form's breasts are much perkier than mine. I suppose she hasn't spent a cumulative total of more than three years nursing babies.
Note to self: adjust future designs for Mamma sag.

2. If I really want to capture images of my children being who they are-no poses, no pretense, no fake smiles- all I have to do is set the camera on a tripod and let them take turns with the little remote control. 
They loved it. And I love the images we ended up with.

(Oh, alright. So I have the remote in that last one. Still, that's my sweet girl.)

3. There's time in my life for all I've been blessed with the ability and desire to do. But I have to be patient. I have to remember there is so much beauty to be found in the rhythm of my home and family and the adventures of everyday. To find inspiration in a life well lived, I first must live it. 

And let the cycles come as they may. But don't forget the camera.


August 17, 2011


You may have read my mention last week that I was spending some time with my grandparents, on the farm and in the Snake River farm country of my childhood. It's a place I've visited many times as an adult, but, I think, never with the stillness and openness of heart and mind that so overwhelmed me on this visit. Never with the willingness to sink into the flow of memories and their meaning, to let them wash over me and change me and remind me who I am.

I live in the mountains of Montana. I love the mountains and I sometimes get so caught up in my life here that I forget I was once a flat-lands farm girl. But last week I remembered my roots.

I remembered...

...summer evenings in space so open and wide you can see the desert twenty miles away, but you're surrounded by rich farm soil where you stand. Wheat on one side of the road, flowering potatoes on the other. The ditch banks adorned in thistles and wild asparagus gone to seed.

... my childhood home, just a field away from my grandparent's farm, and all the sites of childhood adventure at both homes and in between.

...the treehouse-on-stilts that Grandpa built in Nebraska and hauled to Idaho forty or fifty-ish years ago.

...the cool of the hammock in the evening

...all the bridges and paths and 'secret forests' where little bare feet belong

...the canal where, as a child, my sisters and I swam nearly every summer day, and where I with my children swam again. 

I never forgot, but was reminded why my adorable Grandma is my #1 style influence with her vintage thrifty eclecticism...

(these are her laundry room cupboards, and she can tell a story about every scrap)

But most importantly, as aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandchildren gathered to say goodbye to my grandfather, I remembered the roots of one branch of my family- the branch that, for several generations, knew no life but the life of soil and crops, cattle and sheep and land.

Goodbye Grandpa.

Thanks for helping make me who I am.


p.s. Thanks to my awesome hubby for some of the photos in this post. You can see more of his work on Flickr or his blog. I LoVe this one.