Black and Silver on Mullein

I’m so glad the leaf-out has arrived and flowers are blooming. Photography is not my forte and I have an especially difficult time selecting the right background for the item I’m capturing. But incorporate a natural background–a leaf, a flower, a colorful rock– and suddenly the whole picture comes together. Nature seems to give everything a little boost.

Not that this bracelet needed any improvement. It’s bumping along on a mail truck right now on its way to Texas. My customer there is married to her computer 9 to 10 hours a day and she was concerned that beads on the bracelet would bang on the keyboard. Still she wanted a little silver color peeking out. So I incorporated silver chain and it turned out gorgeous.

Girl in Braids, 1982. Girl in Braids, 2009

My Girl in Braids watching the horses at Duck Harbor Pond.

My girl in braids watching the horses at Duck Harbor Pond.

Last week I slept in my bed exactly 2 times. Every other night was spent sleeping on the ground somewhere in Pennsylvania with my kids, husband, family and friends.

We packed 3 camping trips into a week and a half, and my kids still didn’t want to come home. That makes me smile. I’m glad they enjoy the outdoors as much as I do.

A few of those nights involved a trip down memory lane as the kids and I camped with my parents at a lake in Wayne County.

Our connection to this lake reaches way, way back. My mom vacationed there as a kid. When she had kids, she brought my brothers and me to the lake, as well. We refer to it as “going to the mountains.” My son is the first to question why we call it “the mountains.” He also wanted to know if there would be snow there. Not in July.

We do the normal stuff you do on an outdoor vacation…boating, fishing, hiking, hitting trees with sticks, playing lots of games (Traffic Jam, badminton and chase being the favorites right now), catching lightning bugs and picking flowers.

Of course the bugs love us, too. As I write this, a mosquito bite on my big toe is particularly itchy. And this time we had an unfortunate encounter with ants.

One other game we play is guessing how many deer we’ll see as we drive around each night looking for all manner of wildlife that may be moving about at dusk. This tradition started out many years ago as a way to scope out deer for the hunters in my family.

As we drove about the bucolic areas of Wayne County looking for deer and rabbits (we even saw an egret!), watching one farm melt into another, I realized the origins of my fascination with farms. Maybe this is why I long to live in a stone farmhouse or converted barn. This is where my admiration of stone fences came from. This is why I love horses and cows and sheep and all things animal.

The lake where we play is home to a bustling horse farm and a cow farm. As a kid, daily I walked down the dirt road to the horse farm to check on the foals. This is where I stole a pat on the head from a horse curious enough to come to the fence.

As I got older, I worked hard at home to earn money to buy a $13 trail ride from a another farm a car ride away. I scooped dog poop and painted, mowed grass and picked up sticks (awful job!), just so I had enough money to take a trail ride or two in the week we spent at the lake.

I still remember the day my mom got on a horse and proceeded to get right back off. She was NOT going to ride a horse. That farm still has horses, although the house we called “Little House on the Prairie” is gone, and it doesn’t seem they give trail rides anymore.

Too bad for my little budding horse lover.

Still, she watched the horses eat hay and waited for a passing pat last past week. As I watched my daughter wait patiently by the fence I saw myself in her. Not just in the braids and love for horses, but in my dreams. As I kid, I wanted to be a jockey and ice skater (just like Dorothy Hamill). Tall dreams for a short, fat little kid. My daughter says she wants to be a “horse rider” and ballet dance. Maybe not too far off for a tall, skinny kid…

P.S. Don’t forget you need to pre-register if you want to attend Sunday’s horse hair jewelry class at the Museum of Indian Culture. Click here for more details.

New Designs

Gold and silver beads are braided into the horse hair.

Aren’t fall leaves just the best background for photos?

The neighbors probably thought I was nutty the other morning. After dropping my husband off at work, I stopped the car numerous times to pick up leaves. Who drives to pick up leaves? I was in a time crunch, folks.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The leaves made for great props in my photos. Above are some new designs I’ve been working on. The adjustable bracelet was inspired by a recent request. I loved making these delicate bracelets with the tiny beads woven with the horse hair.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and adjustable bracelet.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and an adjustable bracelet.

All of these designs will be available for purchase next weekend at the Lehigh Valley Crafter’s Guild show at Swain School in Allentown, PA. Click here for more info and $1 off admission to the show. Stop on by to see us and bring your horse hair if you need a custom piece done.

I also snapped some quick pics of the custom horse hair jewelry I’d just finished. By now, these bracelets are on the arms of some very happy horsepeople.

Honoring Jack Frost

Honoring Jack Frost

Just a reminder: Horse hair for custom Christmas gifts needs to be in my hands before November 26 to avoid rush fees.

Return from Sea

Treasures from the beach: shells and sea urchin spines.

Treasures from the beach: shells and sea urchin spines.

Last weekend was my annual girls weekend at Bethany Beach.

The key ingredients for girls’ weekend: no kids, no husbands, lots of wine, lots of coffee, lots of chocolate. little bit of shopping.

We women vent our frustrations about life, kids, husbands.  In the grand scheme of things, the five of us have nothing to complain about. We all have healthy kids, husbands who held down the fort at home with the kidlets while we let down our hair, and lots of friends and family who love us.

I think I found a shark tooth.

I think I found a shark tooth.

Still, once in a while it’s good to let it go, feel like you’re heard, and realize your are not alone in the vast ocean of trying to balance family, work/career, exercise, relationships and personal growth.

After the emotional cleansing, we went for the external cleansing with a dip in the ocean. A little salt-and-sand exfoliation.

Then I got my yearly ass-kicking.

You know the scene: you’re happily rollicking in the ocean when a huge wave knocks you ass over tea kettle and next thing you know you’re swirling around among the crabs on the shoreline. There’s so much saltwater up your nose and sand in your ears you can’t even worry if the cute lifeguard saw you make a fool of your self. The main concern: are all of your parts are still inside the swimsuit?

The ocean doesn’t care if you weren’t ready. It knocks you over and moves on to the next person. The ocean reminds us that there are still things larger and more powerful than us, than our internet connections, than our excuses.

I returned from the sea renewed and ready to say for the 20th time (with a smile on my face): “eat that peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the table.”

Do what you can to get away for a weekend, a day, an hour. It’s good for you and those around you.

Apple Picking in a Hurricane

Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.
Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.

There we are, my kids, niece and mom (plus my sister-in law, who is beside me snapping pictures, too) slogging through Hurricane Hanna’s downpour with our apples.

An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.
An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.

Today was the day I scheduled for apple picking. So we went.

Mind you, we weren’t getting the high winds from the hurricane, just lots and lots of rain.

So am I so saddled to my schedule that I’ll take on a hurricane to meet today’s tasks? Or am I a free spirit, not constrained by such things as weather?

Most people don’t do enough in the rain. The first sign of a drop, a they’re in the house because it’s wet. Being in the rain is so fun.

Some were eating more than picking.
Some were eating more than picking.

Today we had more than our fair share of “fun.” We were drenched; even our underwear was wet. But the kids had a great time, and I got my bushel of organic apples to store up for the winter.

Tomorrow, the cozy smell of apple sauce and drying apples will fill my kitchen.

The Bounty of 10 Local Dollars

Strawberry Picking!

Strawberries are in!

Strawberry Picking 5And so are the daisies and rhubarb. This is our pull from a morning’s work…2 buckets of strawberries, a bundle of rhubarb and a bucket of wildflowers all for $10. Can it get any better?

The kids and I packed up enough Strawberry Picking 6snacks for 3 days and headed to the strawberry patch for an hour and a half.

The snacks and the tractors on the farm kept my youngest occupied and off the strawberry plants. The camera–and photos below–plus the myriad weeds/wildflowers kept my oldest occupied.

The farm where we pick doesn’t spray any chemicals. So that field of weeds with the farm in the distance is actually the strawberry patch. It’s fun hunting for the berries among daisies and wheat. Plus, when the kids get bored of picking strawberries, they pick the flowers.

Strawberry Picking 4

Strawberry Picking 9Strawberry Picking 2Strawberry Picking 7Strawberry Picking 8

Blueberries for SalConicindentally we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey this week, a sweet little storybook about a girl who puts more blueberries in her mouth than in the bucket. That was our theme, too. But we did come away with enough for eating and freezing, and I have big plans to return so I can get more for jam and strawberry cordial (more on that to come in later days).

Enough procrastinating on the dish-washing and strawberry-hulling. And if you hear an explosion, that’s my making-rhubarb-sauce-in-the-pressure-cooker experiment gone awry. Wish me luck!

Best Mother’s Day Ever

I just had the best Mother’s Day ever.

Canoe Opener

No flowers or candy involved. No breakfast in bed (even though a little one said she was going to). No gifts at all. Okay, so I did get a little bag my wee one made a preschool, filled with very fragrant potpourri and a badge. But nothing store bought.

And yet, it was the best mother’s day…

Reason #1: The WHOLE family slept til 9 a.m. That’s right, we ALL slept through the night and until 9 a.m. If you have kids, you know what an accomplishment this is. If you don’t have kids…well…I won’t hold it against you that you can sleep ’til 9 a.m. every Sunday.

Reason #2: Laid back friends. Yes we awoke at 9, but we had friends coming at 10 a.m. to go canoeing. One hour to: dress four of us, make breakfast for four, get “I fell into the water clothes,” find paddles and life vests, put canoe on car. Sure.

We got most of it done, except for the canoe on car. My canoe hasn’t seen water in many years (last permit expired in 2002) so I couldn’t even remember how to get it on the car.

Luckily my friends and their boys roll with the punches. We got canoe on car with not damage to our car, no damage to any neighbors cars (we live VERY close to other people) and hopefully no embarrassing video on YouTube (very close to people with video cameras to tape their schmo neighbors doing something stupid).

Canoe with kidsReason #3: Goofing on the river. Nets, buckets, canoe. Throwing rocks. Watching ducks. Trying to catch fish smaller than my fingernail with a butterfly net. Shuttling kids up and down the river on their first-ever canoe rides.

Reason #4: Leaving the vestiages of society behind. I was so excited to go canoeing I forgot my mongo bag with wallet, cell phone, day planner, etc. All I had in my pocket was my keys, 2 clothespins and a twist tie.

Reason #5: Lunch on the fly. I scrounged up a credit card between us adults and headed to a local store to pick up lunch. No planning or cooking. No thinking about nutritional balance and who likes what. Just hoagies and macaroni salad. Yum!

Canoe ShoesReason #6: Coming home to a clean house. My husband’s gift to me was cleaning the whole house on Saturday. So when I returned to the homestead after a rough day on the water, I had nothing to do but relax and put up my raisin-wrinkled toes.

Best Mother’s Day ever.

I Love Spring!

Baseball artist book

As I type this, I am sitting outside, precariously balancing my laptop upon my knees with the sun shining in my face. I love spring. And it has finally come to eastern Pennsylvania.

Today will mark the third day in a row I’ve spent all day digging in the dirt. I love spring. And I love digging in the dirt.

Something about it renews me, makes me feel better after a long winter of being cold and shut in without only grays and whites outside. My husband begs for these days to come by mid-February, because apparently I’m much easier to deal with after I’ve had my hands in the dirt.

True, indeed. Everything is okay in the spring. It doesn’t matter than my 5-year-old just dumped my coffee all over the table because we’re outside and I love spring. It doesn’t matter that my 1-year-old had jelly all down the front of his shirt after wrestling a PB&J sandwich. He went on to play in the yard until he covered the jelly with dirt. That’s okay because it’s spring and you’re supposed to get dirty.

As kids we used to measure a day by how much dirt we got in the folds of our necks. A good day equaled lots of dirt in creases you didn’t even know you had.

I’ll be digging my new veggie patch today and planting some lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard. Nothing is as beautiful as a patch of freshly dug and then raked soil. It’s so even and perfect. Okay, so maybe the little curly heads of peas popping through the soil are even better, but I won’t see that loveliness for another 7 to 10 days, weather permitting, according to package directions.

Off I go to dig in the dirt like a happy little mole, but I leave you with these pictures of the artist book gifts I made for last weekend’s birthday parties. The little artists loved the books and I think they turned out well.

The owner of the green and orange book with cat pockets likes the Lyra Ferby pencils, which are short and fat, so I made two rows of pencil pockets. The are great colored pencils, by the way, if you haven’t tried them.

Cat artist book

The outside of this book.

Cat artist book outside

I never located any Red Sox or Phillies fabric for the pockets on the baseball artist book, but I like the way the ticking looks like an old-time baseball uniform. I’m sure that’s lost of its 5-year-old owner.

Of course, an hour before I left for the party I realized it really needed a baseball team patch on the front. A thought for the next project, and the project after, that I’ll be pondering as I dig in the dirt.

Baseball artist book outside

I love spring.

Tag, I’m It


Seems I’ve been tagged by Kris at Monkeyfoot Designs to answer some questions about blogging.

Somehow, this reminds me of taking a Cosmo quiz in high school. I did try to wiggle out of it by claiming a rarely cited rule about not being able to answer questions if you have less than 5 blog entires, but alas, that did not work. So here it goes. (I included a few fun spring photos in case you get tired of all the words:))

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging for a few reasons: 1) I’ve been looking for new and different ways to expand my business 2) I was hoping to find a way to stay motivated and 3) planning to get myself on a regular work schedule. As I was rethinking/redesigning my web site, a blog seemed a good way to accomplish many of these things all at the same time. Plus I had a lot of familial influence, with my husband and his sister being bloggers.Crocuses

2. How did you come up with your blog name?

My blog name is the same as my business name, which was inspired by a red-tailed hawk. For many years I have been involved in wildlife rehabilitation and education. I was training a red-tailed hawk for use in education programs, and often wondered what the hawk thought about me in its life. For days I pondered this and then it occurred to me that this red-tail probably called me a red-tail. I have red hair and usually wore it in a pony-tail when working with the bird, so I sported my own “red tail” on a regular basis. It seemed an obvious name for my company.

3. Do your friends and family know about your blog? What do they think of it?

My husband helped me design my blog and most of my friends and family know of my blog. About half of those people look at me kinda funny like, “a what? a log? a smog? a frog?”

Wheel barrel o pussy willows

4. How do you write posts?

Being trained as a journalists, I write my posts like one. I write stream of consciousness, then go back and edit and make it a story with beginning, middle, and end. It will be interesting to see if that changes over time.

5. Have you ever had a troll or had to delete comments?Pussy willows

Thankfully, no.

6. Do you check your stats? Do you care how many people read your blog? If you do care, how to you increase traffic?

I do check my stats. I find it interesting to see how people get to my site, what words they search to get there.

7. What kind of blogs/posts interest you?

Right now I read many sewing and crafting blogs. I like seeing how people put together materials that wouldn’t normally be associated with each other. That inspires me to try different things.

8. What do you like and dislike about blogging?Snowdrops

I like how people can connect and get fabulous new ideas from blogging. I don’t like that I don’t have enough time to do it as often as I’d like and that my pictures are as fabulous as I’d like them to be.

All done! I am going to tag Melody, Hedge, and Ken to continue the Cosmo Quiz blog questions. While they’re doing that I’ll be off to tackle my pile of birthday goodies I got this week. Lots of old issues of Mary Jane’s Farm and a new book called Doodle Stitching. Can’t wait to see what they inspire next!

Doodle Stitching

Sugar On Snow

Sugar On Snow Opener

I just returned from the north, visiting my sister-in-law Kris and her family in New Hampshire.

As a fellow stay-at-home who is nursing babies and fledging business, we spent a lot of time talking about balancing family life and trying to be an adult with goals and accomplishments. The conclusion from the weekend can be summed up rather simply. Raising babies and raising a business are very similar: both are hard but rewarding, and with both you never seem to have the time to do everything you want to do.

It snowed about 10 inches while we were in New Hampshire. This is real snow, not the snow-sleet-rain stuff (affectionately referred to as a “wintry mix” by the Weather Channel) we so often get here in Pennsylvania. Nothing worse than having a “snow day” only to find no snow on the ground but an awful lot of slush or ice.

All this snow inspired a Little House on the Prairie moment as I decided to try my hand at making Sugar on Snow. This ultra-simple yumminess entails pouring boiling maple syrup over fresh snow so it hardens quickly into a taffy-like candy. If you like maple syrup as much as I do, you have to try this. The only thing better than this is slurping the syrup right out of the jug (please note: not something I’ve done, but something I’ve contemplated when clearing the table after pancakes).

I searched the Internet and found many Vermonters happy to share directions, not that you really need a recipe for this. Vermont Living provides specifics about the best temperature for optimum candy-making.

With only a meat thermometer reading to temps of 220°F at my disposal (above 230°F is the best boiling temp for the syrup), I winged it. Here are Sue’s direction for making Sugar On Snow.

Sugar on Snow Scoops 1. Pack some fresh snow into a bowl. Salad tongs make good snow scoopers





Sugar on Snow Good Boil
2. Bring the maple syrup to a rolling boil, to the point where you fear it’s going to boil over. Sugar on Snow Bad BoilI began with about 1 inch of syrup in the bottom of the pot and it boiled all the way up the sides. The picture to the left shows a good boil. The picture on the right shows the syrup that hasn’t reach a good boil yet. But never fear: if you don’t let it boil enough it just melts the snow instead of hardening and you end up with a maple syrup snow cone, which is darn good, too. You’ll know it’s not hot enough when it looks like some animal did its business in your snow.


Sugar on Snow Spoon

3. Without stirring, pour maple syrup over the snow directly from the pot. I scooped out the last dregs with a wooden spoon.




Sugar On Snow Closeup 4.Wait a few seconds for it to harden, then dig in. Yuuuuuummy!Sugar on Snow Yum Eat it right off the snow. Don’t serve it on a plate like I did here (right), because it melts onto the plate into a gooey mess if you don’t eat it fast enough.

I did try the Vermont tradition of eating a sour pickle after eating some maple taffy. Although this tastes much better than it sounds, it’s not something I need to do again.

There’s no reason we folks here in Pennsylvania can’t make sugar on snow. In fact, you can use shaved ice rather than snow. Pollution is an issue for me, however. I live in the city so the rock salt seems to get everywhere. It pains me to tell my kids not to eat the snow here, but alas, they eat the vast snowcones that are grandparents’ backyards.

In addition to satisfying a sweet tooth, I also got to satisfy a long-standing Little House on the Prairie fantasy. Laura Ingalls Wilder details the sugar on snow party in Little House in the Big Woods book. As a young girl with long braids, I too, wanted to be Laura Ingalls, or more specifically, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls on the TV show. I wished for the bonnet and petticoats and lace-up boots. I wanted to tumble down a hill of wildflowers like Carrie in the TV show introduction. So finally my wish has come true to live like Laura and experience a little colonial life. And I didn’t even have to put up with Nellie to do it.