January 30, 2013

Paper Flower Valentine Wreath

It's the onset of "awkward wreath season" — that strange chunk of time where I don't know what sort of decoration to put on my front door. I'm completely sick of the evergreen/pineconey Christmas wreath but my full-on Spring floral one feels a little premature. In years past I've just left the door vacant but his year I decided to make an early-Spring option (in hopes of coaxing something green to poke through the soil). I also wanted it to feel a bit Valentine-ish too.

Last weekend I got busy with a few inexpensive craft supplies and about an hour later I had created this little cheery number. I'm tickled pink over how nicely it turned out.


~ Styrofoam wreath form
~ craft punch
~ fun scrapbooking paper
~ glue
~ ribbon for hanging

Simply select some coordinating papers, punch your shapes and start gluing. I started by gluing them to the interior portion of the wreath, overlapping the flowers slightly. Then I worked on the outside edge. Finally I began filling in the front, more visible portion of the wreath, making sure to vary the colors and randomly overlap the flowers.

With all the paper punches and beautiful papers available the possibilities are endless here folks. I can feel the creative juices flowing when I consider all the paper wreaths I could create.

January 29, 2013

What if?

Hmmm . . .


What would you do?

January 28, 2013

Party til you drop

{or How I survived yet another kid birthday party}

I have a confession (and you know I love a confession session).

okay, here it goes . . .
Large groups of children scare me.

Don't get me wrong or think me evil. I love children, positively adore them — individually, or in groups of two. I'm just one of those people who should not be a teacher or acitivity leader of groups of children. If I had been Fraulein Maria, the Von Trapp children would've completely run me over like a freight train and served me up in pieces on a plate.

When my girls were little, in Preschool and early grade school, I volunteered in their classrooms quite often. I did it because I thought it was a good thing to do. I thought it might make a difference — like they'd be better people in the end because of my dedication. Or maybe my presence would lighten the teacher's load so she could do her job more perfectly. I also thought the teachers would like me and think me a nice person, and I enjoy having people like me. Ultimately I have no idea what effect it really had on any of that stuff. But I do know that the teachers probably thought I was about the worst "helper" of anyone they'd ever met. I was a nervous wreck. And I was really bad at it. I bet they actually dreaded the days I came to help. "Oh crap, Jenny's helping today. Maybe I can put her to work tacking something to a bulletin board or filing papers today."

Ask me to lead three-year-olds in a craft project involving paint and glitter? They'd end the day with paint all over their high-end clothing and glitter in their ears. Plus most of the projects won't turn out at all like the teacher was hoping they would. (true story)

Ask me to take a group of 3rd-graders into the hall and help them with a math worksheet? They will end up running amok in the hallway (while I'm softly calling "Oh dear. Okay kids, let's come back and work on this paper, okay?"), talking too loudly, not cooperating or working on their papers AT ALL. I think their math skills will actually revert a little bit. (also a true story)

Give me a birthday party of 5-year-olds and I will seize up. All those little faces staring at me, waiting for the next activity, the next snack . . . I'll barely pull it off, then crawl up to bed for a long nap once it's all over.

Give me older kids, say a gaggle of wild 12-year-olds and things are a bit better. I don't have to plan activities, but there is the stress of "enough food" "fun music" "cool activities." The last thing I want is a bunch of tween girls (who are by now mostly my size!) thinking the party is "lame."

Whew. . .

In the end Kate's party went swimmingly. Thirteen girls ate a ton of pizza, cupcakes, chips, and soda. They threw a huge dance party in the basement. They opened gifts. They wrestled and screamed and giggled. They planned sleeping arrangements, watched a movie and finally, around 2 a.m., they slept. They woke up before the sun (why? no idea) and ate scrambled eggs and 3 dozen cinnamon rolls.

And then, it was over. I was glad. Not just because it was over, but because Kate had a really great time. And that fact made it all worthwhile.

Later in the day I took a two hour nap (also a true story).

January 24, 2013

Kate turns 12

My dear baby Kate turns twelve-years-old tomorrow. Twelve fun, crazy, snuggly, dreamy years. Her life is a gift to all who know her. She is funny, smart, beautiful, honest, compassionate, curious, strong . . . oh, how I love this little girl. 


Remembering the birth of my second (and last) baby:

January 25, 2001

1. It was a Wednesday night, ten days before my due date

2. Gary and I had lunch at our favorite chinese restaurant where I had a bowl of Hot & Sour soup (I could not get enough of that stuff when I was pregnant with her)

3. I'd been feeling uncomfortable all day. Around 11 p.m. I was darn uncomfortable so we took the party over to the hospital

4. I didn't want any pain meds, much to the distress of my labor nurse who seemed very upset at seeing me in pain and kept trying to talk me into drugs (What the heck?! she was a LABOR NURSE for pete's sake. I should've had someone stab her with some sort of valium shot.)

5. I had been "feeling" like maybe I was having a boy but the whole night I kept getting images of two little girls playing on the beach on the Oregon coast

6. and . . . it was a girl! (oh joy — a sister for Emma!)

7. She was born at 6:15 a.m., 6 lbs. 11 oz.

8. We couldn't decide: Katherine or Lucy. She was Lucy for her first hour of life, then she became Katherine . . . baby Kate

9. Settled in our room an hour later Gary pulled back the curtains from the window. It had been snowing like crazy all night. Everything was blanketed in piles of white. It was still coming down hard — millions of huge, swirling, silent flakes, falling from the sky

10. I felt like the world was magical and life was perfect, and I knew Kate and I would always be friends

artwork by sarah jane studio on etsy 

January 22, 2013

One Today

One Today

by Richard Blanco 

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the "I have a dream" we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won't explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 2
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father's cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day's gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling, or whispers across café tables,
Hear: the doors we open for each other all day, saying: hello

shalom, buon giorno


namaste or buenos días

in the language my mother taught me—in every language

spoken into one wind carrying our lives

without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 3
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn't give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

January 21, 2013

My favorite

I'm posting more winter photos. I hope you don't mind. I never intended to be a weather blog but I simply had to show you some pix I took a few days ago.

A thick, dense fog settled over the whole valley but the temps were still far below freezing and when we get that combination it makes for my FaVoRiTe of all winter landscapes. The moisture in the air wraps around every blade of grass, every tree branch. It lies down on every field. And then it freezes, forming the most delicate shroud of white on everything in sight. 

I actually get giddy when I wake up to this beauty. It feels like a gift. All magical and mystical — like stepping into Narnia. And it's so delicate. If you dare to touch the frosty surfaces the heat from your finger instantly melts the crystals and the spell is broken. Or if the sun heats things too much the fog lifts. Lucky for us it stayed like this all day. Some of these photos are from 10 a.m. when I was out running errands and some are from around 4 p.m. when I ran out to drop off something for Emma at the school.

January 17, 2013

A hat for baby

This is the story of two crocheted baby hats:

My brother and his wife were expecting a baby.

I used my keen psychic abilities and secretly predicted a girl.

I crocheted a tiny ruffled-edged girly baby hat.

They had a beautiful baby boy.

I gifted the hat to Harriet May (who used to belong to my Aunt and now sits on a shelf in my room).

It was a little big on her so we turned up the edge.

I took a trip to the yarn store.

I got busy on a blue hat for my new nephew Parker.

I shipped it last week.

I heard the weather in Texas finally got chilly and I was secretly glad.

Then I got this photo from my brother.

I have never seen a cuter hat-wearing baby in my life.

Also, he looks a little concerned.

I love being an aunt.

January 16, 2013

I'm F-F-Freeeezing

Icicles outside an upstairs window.

Lone tree across the street from my house.

View out my front window as the snow falls.

Canada Geese in a field by my girls' school.

The top of the hills on Missoula's East side.

Looking East around 4 p.m.

Again with the deer.

Looking North from central Missoula as evening sets in.

Snow falling on deer.

Sunset on the North hills.

Dusk, tip-top of southern hill in Missoula (extreme zoom on camera)

It's really, really cold. The kind of cold that causes involuntary wimpering when you go outside. Can you feel it in my photos? Everything is that same frostbitten blue color — the sky, the snow, the mountains, the air. They all blend and merge into a silent, frozen canvas. It's so quiet and so beautiful. But if you're outside and you stare too long your eyesballs crystallize so it's best to take in the views by looking through the window while you stand over the heating vents and sip a hot beverage.

Even indoors I can't seem to get warm. I'm in a constant search for heat sources. Aside from heating vents and hot drinks I'm trying fuzzy socks, soup, hair dryers (not just for drying hair - they make a great instant warming device), indoor-mitten-wearing, blankets, and space heaters. If it looks toasty I'm on it like a moth to a flame.

This coming weekend we're heading up to our cabin in Philipsburg, where it was -8 degrees (-22 celsius) at one point last weekend. My family plans to go skiing at Discovery Ski Area. What the—? Not me. I plan to plop myself in a chair by the gas stove, and do all the cozy indoor stuff I love so much.

January 14, 2013

Valentine Suncatchers

{or How We Added a Little Color to Our Graywhite January)

Create Crayon shreds with a pencil sharpener.
Sprinkle between two layers of wax paper.
Melt with a warm iron (slide a piece of paper betweeen the wax paper and iron so you don't get wax on your iron).
Trace and cut out your hearts (or any shape you'd like).
Hang with embroidery thread or tape to your windows.


January 11, 2013

What Twain said

Twenty years from now you
will be more disappointed by
the things you didn’t do than
by the ones that you did do.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from safe harbor.
Catch the winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

~ painting from the book A Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey ~

Wishing you all a weekend of exploring, dreaming and discovering. xx

Please note: * From now on I will be sending replies via email rather than replying here. Replying here just seemed a little weird to me because I never knew if people checked back and I hate imagining folks feeling ignored. 

January 10, 2013

My Perfectly Imperfect Poo-eating dog

Sure, sure, she looks all sweet and innocent but what Izzy isn't hinting at is how she ran into the bunnies' enclosure while the girls were cleaning it last night and scarfed up a whole bunch of bunny poos before anyone could snatch her. (Sorry, I hope you weren't eating malt balls while reading this). 

*sigh* For some reason both Izzy and our labrador Tule think that bunny poos are delicious candy treats the bunnies set out for their doggy friends to snack on. Those two pups love to suddenly show up when you're busy in the bunny cage and suck up poo like a high-powered vacuum. It happens so fast you hardly know what's happening. 

The second thing you can't tell from Izzy's face is how around 2 a.m. she started doing that gagging thing dogs do. Gary sprung out of bed from a dead sleep to grab Iz and run her into the bathroom, where she barfed (on the bathmat rather than the hard floor. nice.). 

From the darkness I heard Gary scold her like a two-year-old "And that's why you don't eat bunny poo." I just had to laugh out loud.


Reader, you think I can't hear you, but I can. You're whispering to yourself "Why is she writing a blog post about this?" and truthfully . . . I don't know. I guess I just like to keep it real all up in here. 

January 9, 2013

January rain?! and book drawing

Today got off to a rough start. I woke up to find it raining — which is just gross because it melts parts of the snowpack and makes things all puddley and dirtymuckyslushy. Then I drank way too much caffeine this morning and ended up poking myself in the eye with the mascara brush. Mascara on your eyeball does not feel fun, FYI.

But things improved. I got some work done and met a good friend for lunch. She knows how to make really amazing chocolates (it's so much more complicated than I'd ever imagined - it's all about keeping the temperatures exact) and is an avid runner.

I also created this little 'reading girl' sketch (drawing at top of post). My daughter asked "Is that supposed to be you? 'Cause it looks just like you." So I guess I must spend more time with a blanket and a book than I thought. Decades ago I used to draw little people like this all the time. Then I quit. But as part of my new year of being courageous I am resurrecting them and putting them out into the world.


Now for the book drawing. I've got all the names in a hat (well in an empty cracker box really because I was too lazy to go get an actual hat) and I'm going to fish out two names.

The winners are:

Rebecca for The Forgotten Garden
Jean for We Are All Welcome Here

Congratulations! Thanks for playing everyone. This was really fun for me. I think I'm going to do another book giveaway soon.

January 7, 2013

Found: Happy Things

These are some of the hardest days for me. These weeks when, although the days are supposedly getting longer, I feel like the sun is never far enough over the horizon and my bones are in a constant state of chill. 
To combat the dark I am on a constant search for pinpricks of light — a sprig of green, a sunny song, a hopeful laugh.

Here's a little roundup of some things I recently discovered.

BOOKS ~ This site — bookcrossing.com — where you can send your books out into the universe and track their journey. A version of the elementary school "Flat Stanley" project . . . . for grown-ups! (Thanks to Danni of Silo Hill Farm for telling me about the site.)

TV ~ This list of feel-good documentaries from PBS.

SOMETHING PRETTY ~ This dress from Mod Cloth. I don't wear dresses often, but this one is divine. Maybe I should plan a fancy Valentine's day dinner and get this dress for the occasion? Except, dang, one of my words for the year is "simplify." Buying a semi-pointless dress doesn't really work into that plan.

READING ~ This book. I'd never read it and decided it was high time.

ART ~ This french artist's blog and artwork. And this one too. There are so many talented people in the world, aren't there? 

MUSIC ~ This documentary on Tom Petty. (Again with the talent.)

HOOKY ~ For all the crochet-crazed out there — this free baby bootie pattern. I think I know what I'll be working on next!

And finally POETRY. This poem:

Robert Louis Stevenson (from A Child’s Garden of Verses, 1885)

Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.

Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.

Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.

When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap;
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.

Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house, and hill and lake,
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

Wishing you a happy week. 

Oh - and don't forget to put your name in for a book drawing. I'll pick names on Wednesday (see previous post).

January 3, 2013

3 Books for cold nights

It's colder than heck here, but sunny and clear. The dogs keeping asking to be let out into the sunshine, but soon come knocking at the door when they realize they can't feel their noses.

As for me, I just don't go out unless it's an emergency — say, we're completely devoid of a single crumb to eat or if I've run out of Diet Coke.

However, it is the perfect weather for reading, and I've been doing a fair bit so I thought I'd pass along a few good titles. I loved all three of these (very different) books (click the titles to read the Amazon summaries):

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Enchanting settings, an engaging, mysterious plot, likeable characters. Definitely a cozy read. Plus this author seems really cool. She's a fan of Jane Eyre, Roald Dahl books and claims to have read stacks of Trixie Belden mysteries as a child (oh, how I loved those books), so how could I not like her?!

~ Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Wow, this guys can WRITE. Beautiful character sketches of ordinary people living in New York City in the 1970s. McCann touches on life's tragedies and triumphs, and shows us how our lives overlap and touch the lives of strangers. I plan to read more of this guy's work, for sure.

~ We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg. I've been a fan of Berg for many years. Her books feel like a little "homecoming" to me — easy, thoughtful, kind, warm and honest. I'm never disappointed. And although this wasn't my absolute favorite of hers (I loved Range of Motion, Pull of the Moon, Durable Goods, Joy School, and her book of short stories The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted) I still really enjoyed it.

Before the New Year, I would have crammed these books into my already bulging bookcases (you never know, I may want to read them again), but the new (simplifying) me is going to send them out into the world for others to enjoy. Colum McCann's book was a loan from a friend so that one is not mine to give away, but the other two are, so . . .

I'm announcing a little GIVEAWAY! If you would like to read either The Forgotten Garden or We Are All Welcome Here simply leave me a comment here with your name and which book you'd prefer (yes, you can say either or both). I'll do a random drawing and send the recipients their books sometime next week . . . let's say next Wednesday.

* congrats to Rebecca & Jean. Thanks for playing! *


January 1, 2013

Ready, Set, Go!

{or Let's Get it Started}

It's 2013. I've taken down the tree and put away the ornaments. I've dusted and swept up about a gajillion pine needles. I'm ready.

For the past several years I've picked a Word of the Year, an area of focus for the days ahead. This year I think I'm going with two words: Simplify & Courage.

SIMPLIFY: declutter - my house, my brain, my life. Streamline. Get efficient. Eliminate excess and focus on fewer things.

COURAGE: Be brave. Take risks. I once read where someone said "In the end no one is going to thank you for not living your life." It hit me like a sack of bricks. I kinda think I'd been feeling proud of myself for making safe and responsible choices or for putting other people first all the time. Hearing the truth, that there's no reward for martyrdom, that you don't get a prize for never taking a crazy risk, made me realize if I have something I really want I need to GO FOR IT! Now. Cause time isn't going to wait for me to get brave. I just need to put on my big girl panties and start trying.

So here I go — I'm starting today (I already simplified by getting rid of five Christmas decorations that I've never liked. Yay me.).

Are you starting something new this year? Trying things differently? Anyone else out there have a "Word" for the year or a special goal? I'd love to hear what everyone's planning.

Happy New Year all!