Storm Debris #2

More storm debris from Hurricane Ike.

"Botanists say that trees need the powerful March winds to flex their trunks and main branches, so that the sap is drawn up to nourish the budding leaves. Perhaps we need the gales of life in the same way, though we dislike enduring them. A blustery period in our fortunes is often the prelude to a new spring of life and health, success and happiness, when we keep steadfast in faith and look to the good in spite of appearances."
- Cheryl Richardson


A Few Little Projects

I haven't had as much time as usual lately for crafting, but I thought I'd share a few little projects with you.

I finally made some earrings with a some of the gorgeous stone beads I found in South Dakota this spring:

ATCs for Mimi's swap - can't wait to see everyone else's!

Hmm - my very first attempts at acrylic painting in a local class - the one on the left was the first one I've ever done; the one on the right was the second (and was black and white, now glazed with color):

Putting together invitations for a friend's India-themed engagement party to be held during my upcoming trip to SoDak (can't wait!):

Not the greatest picture, but this is a 'thank you' necklace of ceramic beads and bronzey fresh water pearls for my pen friend Cindy, who sent me a very generous package of lovely stationery this summer:
What are you working on?



Late afternoon in a Houston city park

This photo always reminds me of my sister's visit at Thanksgiving two years ago, and it reminds me of autumn and of all the things still to be explored (and photographed!) in this place I currently live. With my sister and autumn in mind, I'm eagerly anticipating my visit north in a few days, where I'll get to see her and experience autumn at home (it won't be autumn down south for quite awhile.) Of course, there's all the other good things that come along with a visit home: family, little ones to entertain, old friends, walks, hikes, tea and coffee downtown in cozy shops. I'm trying to focus on these good things more than on my flight phobia; it's only been this year that I've gotten on a plane again after seven years on the ground. My trip this week will be my first flight alone in a long time. This flight phobia story deserves a post of its own at some point!

What are you anticipating right now? How do you approach your fears?

Soup Swap: Easy Chili

Jessica over at Turkey Cookies is launching a Monday soup swap to kick-off autumn! As soup is one of my favorite things, I thought I'd join in.

Now, chili isn't necesarily one of my favorite soups, but my husband loves it and this version is quite easy. Add sour cream and shredded cheddar to your bowl, and it's downright delicious.


Brown 1 lb. or so of ground beef. I add a diced onion. Sprinkle to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drain fat.

Then, add one can diced tomatoes, one can tomato sauce, one can each pinto and Great Northern beans (rinsed and drained), and a carton of broth (pictured above.) At this point, I also shake in chili powder, paprika, and a bit of cumin (sorry not to be more specific; I rarely measure when I make soup!) Add a little water if you want it thinner. Let simmer for 45 minutes or so, and it should be ready. Enjoy!


Storm Debris #1

Magnolia pods

Children learn by example, and one thing I learned from my mom was the simple pleasure of collecting lovely bits from nature. My sister and I helped her gather perfect pinecones on the forest floor, which she used to create beautiful wreaths at Christmas. In the autumn, I walked with her to the edge of our neighborhood where she could collect dried milkweed pods, yucca, and other plants for her dried floral arrangements.

So I began to gather similar items myself, delighting in petite little cones gathered underneath thriving spruce trees or larger ones that had fallen from ponderosas. As I’ve lived in different places, I’ve found different objects to collect: beach pebbles, sea glass, shells, sand dollars, acorns, autumn leaves, lichen-covered twigs, bits of driftwood, small chunks of quartz. They fill jars, shadow boxes, shoe boxes, and vases in our home.

Hurricane Ike blew down all sorts of beautiful pieces; I’ve been bringing them home after my walks this week and wanted to share them with you over the weeks ahead.

What do you collect?


Uncle Louis - Memory Eternal

Uncle Louis is the one on the left, as a youngster

As my sister said, it seemed like he would live forever. Yesterday we lost our great uncle, Louis, 86 years young, one of my dear Grandma Helen’s brothers. It still seems a bit unbelievable to me, as deaths so often do at first. Louis was a lifelong bachelor, full of stories and tall tales, big dreams and clever inventions. We spent a lot of time with him, since he came down often from North Dakota to spend a few months every year with our grandma. Much of our time was spent around the kitchen table playing cards, snacking on donuts and drinking percolator coffee while Grandma and Louis (and their brother Frank) beat us most of the time. My earliest memories of Louis are from my pre-school days, when we would visit him, his brother Steve, and their father, our Great Grandpa John, at their bachelor pad in rural NoDak. Louis liked to sing and play the guitar and reminisce about old girlfriends from his soldier days in WW II. More thoughts and emotions are filling my mind right now than I can express here. Louis, you will be greatly missed, along with Grandma Helen and Uncle Frank. I pray you are all reunited now, laughing with each other and telling jokes again.


After the Storm

The winds of Hurricane Ike began on Friday afternoon and by late that night we were sheltered in our interior bathroom with cushions and blankets, listening in disbelief to the newscasters on our battery powered radio throughout the night. This was our first hurricane experience; coming from up north, I felt as though I had no context within which to place my expectation of the coming storm. The winds at first just sounded like a blizzard to me, which isn't terribly scary. Obviously, it was so much more than that. Today I'm thankful for safety, cool weather after the storm, and my dear hubby with whom I rode out the storm. You can read more of our hurricane story and see more pictures on our new family blog.


Ten Months Old

It’s been a crazy two months, beginning with excitement and a touch of nerves when we brought him home for the first time. We struggled a bit with potty training and accidents, tried various foods to find out which worked the best with his sensitive stomach, and even had to make a late night emergency call to his grandma for help! We learned that some toys interest him and others are useless. We watched with curiosity and a small bit of apprehension during his first play dates, and relaxed when he was able to make friends. We cheered when he was friendly toward the doctor and his assistants, and breathed a sigh of relief when we realized he settles down well for long naps. He sleeps all night quietly and contentedly in his cozy bed. We’re still working on manners around people (he loves people so much that he just can't contain himself), although we’re proud that his cuteness makes him quite popular around the neighborhood. Shiloh, we’re so glad that you’re our puppy! We love you!


Memories of Spring

Memories from spring as we very slowly ease into autumn - our pink magnolia budding last February.

ps - Green Kitchen is hosting another groovy giveaway for a nifty felted child's apron (check out the tutorial to make your own!), and Grosgrain is also hosting a giveaway for a beautiful child's nightgown.


Food and Faith

I keep forgetting to mention that I won my first blog giveaway last week! Renee delightfully shared some awesome books with her readers; I am eagerly waiting to peruse Food and Faith. She has lovely photos, tasty recipes, great ideas for children, and more over at her blog! Thanks, Renee!

Remembering What's Important

This topic is a little bit removed from what I usually post about, but these stories are so poignant and touching that I wanted to share them with you. It's lives such as these that remind me to wake up and pay attention to what's really important; to savor my relationships and grow my faith while I'm blessed to walk on this earth. These women are true heroes, living courageously and joyfully in the face of their illnesses.

A friend recently shared this with me, she and her husband having known Amy's husband during college:


This story has inspired and spoken to many in the Orthodox Christian Church during the last few years, as well as to many others:


May they inspire us to pray for them and their families, as well as awaken our commitment to lives well-lived.


Birthday Giveaway Over at Cozy Living

Just a note to urge you to go say 'happy birthday!' to Linn over at Cozy Living and enter her giveaway for a beautiful homemade tablecloth. If you're new to her blog, you'll find lots to enjoy!



Working on the Railroad

I recently found this tiny 1961 Cottonbelt Route rail employee's daybook for 99 cents on ebay. It arrived yesterday and I was quite amused by the motivational quotes on every page, which read a bit like fortune cookie slips but also seem so much more grounded than some of those silly motivational posters found in offices today. It also recalled my great uncle Frank, who worked for the railroads in North Dakota and enjoyed it thoroughly, as well as another family ancestor who was unfortunately killed one winter while working on the rails in NoDak. Oh, and let's not forget some of my memorable Amtrak adventures - some of these quotes would have been useful to share with their employees!

Here are a few:

- A cup must be bitter that a smile will not sweeten.

- He that grasps too much holds nothing.

- Prosperity gains friends; adversity tries them.

- No one has ever injured another through silence. (Perhaps this quote was included after employees complained about some of the chatterboxes they had to travel with for many miles?)

- A man never appreciates ashes until he slips on ice.

- A bold attempt is half of success.

Do you have any pithy advice to share with us today?


Love Thursday

I thought I'd share this photo of my little nephew for Love Thursday over at Shutter Sisters. This was back in May on a busy day at Mt. Rushmore; he'd been becoming more and more steady on his feet and had a great opportunity to walk unimpeded on the flat, paved viewing patio. He was clearly delighted with himself for toddling along so well, moving as quickly as he could and eluding his parents' grasps when they tried to catch up with him. He had us all in giggles. I snapped this picture when he paused long enough to look at the toddler girl in the green dress, who looked as though she'd ever so much like to join him.


Today I am...

Working on an essay while lounging in my pj's.

Thankful for a yummy lunch of noodles with feta, pepperoni, onions, tomatoes, and basil.

Puttering with some beads and earring ideas.

Enjoying some strawberries.

Daydreaming about craft projects and other ideas.

Imagining that autumn is here because of the sound of the breeze and the train in the distance (even though autumn won't really arrive where I live for a few more months.)

How about you?