Adventure In My Side Yard

For as long as I can remember I have had this fascination with abandoned houses. There is just something about forgotten structures – it’s like the people who lived there once still haunt the dust motes, telling their stories in the sun rays.

I haven’t had too many opportunities to explore abandoned houses, but every chance I get I do. There was one about half a mile from where my parents lived when I was in high school; sometimes my friends and I would go there when we were bored, but the inside was locked up so we had to content ourselves with wandering the remnant filled yard. Old tractors, rusting fridges, tires, bottles…

There was also a good one near Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, where I went to college for a few semesters. Now that house was interesting. The roof had long ago fallen in and it was thusly covered in a blue tarp. We went at night, my friends and I, sneaking in through the gaping front door, checking for squatters around the corners. We found curiosities there, like a pair of dentures and a ghostly picture of an man in a suit.

My married life hasn’t contained many abandoned buildings – until we moved to Dayton, Wyoming.

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As it turns out, the house we are renting is more than just a house – it is a commune of abandoned buildings!

In total, we have seven buildings on our acre yard. Three of these are old houses in varying states of disrepair, three are decaying sheds (one of which is literally falling over), and one is the house we live in.

Now let me take you on a journey through my favorite one. (Rest assured, this is not the one we live in.)

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Aren’t the floors just magnificent? And the windows?

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Unfortunately, this house is destined for the bulldozer. I don’t think I’m supposed to be wandering through it for safety issues and what not, but can you blame me?? It’s adventure in my side yard!

Back To School Blues

My husband goes back to high school next week – as a teacher, not a student. This will be his first year of teaching high school math (I’m always glad one of us can do math, though I applaud his courage at deciding to teach it) and he has enlisted me as classroom decorator. I never thought I would say this, but all this talk about lessons, classroom decorating, and wandering hallways in search of colored paper and sticky tack has kind of made me miss high school. I’ve got the back to school blues.

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Einstein: Started as an original painting – ended as print on fabric.

There’s just something serene about crisp paper and new pencils and the prospect of a whole new set of responsibilities. A fresh start. You never knew what the new year would bring, and that was the most exciting part of all.

It’s been a year now since I graduated college and more and more I find myself wishing I had a book to analyze or a set of problems to mull over. Sometimes, I read over English papers I wrote in college and lament that I have no occasion to write things like that anymore. (I know, I’m a super nerd.) Don’t get me wrong, I love having the freedom I have now – to write whatever I want or spend hours painting bookmarks or take long hikes in the mountains – but I miss exercising my brain. I didn’t realize it would create such a hole in my life once school was over.

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One in a series of passes I designed for Grant’s classroom.

Luckily my house is basically a personal library, though, and my new little town is full of fresh adventures. My brain will be adequately employed without school, I’m sure, and when I want a little taste, I can just wander across the street and visit Grant in his classroom. (The coolest classroom, I might add, thanks to some excellent color-coordination on my part.) Not to mention, there is plethora of cheesy high school television dramas right at my fingertips ;)

Do you ever wish you could go back to school?

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Why I Love Farmers’ Markets

Summer in Iowa means farmers’ markets galore. Now, I think “farmers’ market” means something different up here than down south. When I was living in Baton Rouge I remember being severely disappointed at the lack of vendors, veggies, and general feeling of freshness in the Downtown BR Farmers’ Market. I went into it with a vague childhood memory from the one time I went to the massive and beautiful Des Moines Farmers’ Market – to which nothing can be compared. Up here, farmers’ markets are a vegetarian/health freak/outdoor lover’s dream, and Des Moines is the Taj Mahal of them all.

Eat Your Veggies Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Eat Your Veggies Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Nevertheless, they can’t all be Des Moines. The smaller ones are are not to be ignored – they are absolutely wonderful as well! (Just on a much smaller scale of wonderful.) This summer (at least until July) I am privileged to be a vendor at the Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market with my friend, Caroline Sallen (whose work can be found here). Two weeks ago was my first farmers’ market vending experience, and it was awesome. There is simply nothing better than spending a Saturday morning surrounded by mounds of fresh vegetables, smiling faces, and other artisans like myself.

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But anywaaaaaay. Here are my top 5 reasons for loving farmers’ markets:

  1. I love being surrounded by fresh vegetables. Call me crazy, but it makes me feel healthy, like there’s some sort of osmosis happening. And there’s no sight more beautiful than piles upon piles of fresh beets newly pulled from the ground, or rows of perfectly symmetrical heads of lettuce.
  2. I love buying local – not just for the food aspect of it (though I do feel more comfortable eating something of known origin) but for the human aspect of it. When I buy from my neighbors, I feel like I am not only personally gaining by stuffing my face, but I am also helping support someone’s livelihood.
  3. I love seeing all the different dogs. Apparently, there is a general consensus that farmers’ markets are a good activity not only for humans, but for their dog counterparts as well. Consequently, there are always a ton of different breeds sniffing around, and it is great!
  4. I love talking to the farmers and local artisans – their stories are oftentimes very interesting and very inspiring! Even if I don’t buy anything from their booths, I still feel like I am walking away with something.
  5. I love the bustle – normally I am not one for crowds, but on a crisp morning, it is nice to see people convening for something as wholesome and beneficial as a farmers’ market. People supporting people. It makes my heart happy.

To make your farmers’ market experience even better, I have selected a few farmers’ market must haves from shops on Etsy. (But if I’m perfectly honest, all you really need for an incredible Saturday morning outing is yourself, a friend, and a cup of joe.)

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1. Vintage Slingback Sandals by Our Town Vintage on Etsy, $34 // 2. Teal Crossbody Bag by MUNIshop on Etsy, $65 // 3. Dead Stock Vintage Shorts by Bless That Dress on Etsy, $28.27 // 4. Fruit Pin by Jordan Sondler on Etsy, $15 // 5. Vintage Umbrella by Vintage Wall on Etsy, $30 // 6. Farmers’ Market Bags by Moxie Madness on Etsy, $14 // 7. Rabbit Necklace by I Am a Bird on Etsy, $50

For those of you in Iowa:

After you hit the Des Moines Farmers’ Market this Saturday (May 24th), please come by the Kirkwood building downtown for Market Day! (Farmers’ Market – craft edition.) I will have my booth set up with all sorts of lovelies, and it would be a delight to see you.

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Divergent: A Series Worth Reading

Divergent Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Divergent Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

As a bibliophile and an avid reader, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. However, sometimes the artist in me judges in spite of it all. Recently, I discovered the err in my ways. A couple of years ago, my mom gave me one of the ugliest contemporary novels I’ve seen in a while – a cliche ring of fire, dark city scape, rolling clouds – and urged me to read it. I thought Divergent was about robots or some other sci-fi theme I don’t typically want to immerse myself in, and so I let it gather dust on my bookshelf.

However at the beginning of the year I decided to finally pick the book up (after seeing the movie trailer which piqued my interest), and I am so so glad I did.

The Divergent series consists of three books in which the narrator, Tris Prior, grows up in her identity – both what society marks her as and what she marks herself as. The series takes place in a post-apocolyptic Chicago, where the citizens are divided into five factions, based on their primary character quality: Abnegation (Tris’s starting faction), for the selfless; Dauntless (Tris’s chosen faction), for the brave; Amity, for the peaceful; Erudite, for the intelligent; and Candor, for the honest.

Divergent Hair Pins by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Divergent Hair Pins by Peels and Posies on Etsy

The pivotal issue in the story is that it is not in man’s nature to be just one thing, and Tris Prior must grapple with not only her own inner stuggles, but with her broken society as well.

This series has an extremely engaging plot and relatable characters. I highly recommend both the books and the movie (but obviously, read the books first!).

Check out this Divergent-inspired gift guide I put together. For the complete collection, follow this link.

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1. Carnival Photography by Carolyn Cochrane on Etsy, $30 // 2. Teal Constellations Print by Elise Mahan Fine Art on Etsy, $12 // 3. Be Brave Pillow by Belles and Ghosts on Etsy, $36 // 4. Be Brave Inspirational Print by Sweet Peony Press on Etsy, $10 // 5. Black Air Plant Pod by The Yarn Kitchen on Etsy, $21 // 6. Black Gothic Fairy Tale Crown by Neesie Designs on Etsy, $17 // 7. Bird Cake Topper Set by Ross Lab on Etsy, $28 // 8. Eye Moon Original Drawing by The Micromentalist on Etsy, $84 // 9. Grab Life Painting by Messy Bed Studio on Etsy, $99

Bring Back the Thoughtful Gift

Anymore, it seems like people, when encountered with a gift-giving situation, decide to take the easy way out – gift cards or cold hard cash. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with cash gifts (there is a lot of flexibility there), it does make me kind of sad that the thoughtfulness has gone out of gift-giving. Thoughtfulness, I think, is the essence of a gift.

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Note: thoughtful does not have to equal expensive. Some of the best gifts I’ve received have been handmade. Etsy is also a great option for those of you who simply aren’t crafty or don’t have enough time to be.

With graduation and Mother’s Day approaching, gifts are in most of our futures. So I have compiled a list of thoughtful gift ideas just to get the juices flowing. Here goes it.

  • Instead of a bouquet of fresh flowers, why not make (or buy) a bouquet of flowers that will last forever? Such as this bouquet of paper ranunculus.
  • A book. When did giving a book as a gift become uncool?? Books are chuck full of thoughts! Think about the person who is receiving the gift. Do they like to cook? COOKBOOK. Do they like history? AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY. Do they enjoy nature? BIRDWATCHING GUIDE. It’s easier than it seems, guys.
  • On a similar vein, if your person is an avid reader, get him/her something book-themed. If I had received this Nancy Drew brooch as a kid I probably would have died with delight. Likewise, book-themed candles, book jewelry, purses made out of books, purses made out of book spines, basically anything to do with books will satisfy the soul of a bookworm more than anything else.
  • Maybe the person you are buying a gift for is a foodie. If so, there are a lot of great options out there. I have a line of fruit and veggie bobbie pins and food pun art in my Etsy shop (found here) but there are literally TONS of food-themed items to search through on Etsy. I particularly love these fig earrings and this kitchen herb print.
  • Lastly, I would suggest thinking about the things they obsess over. Be it Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Parks and Recreation, or the Royal Family, you are sure to find something suitable to their needs.

the thoughtful gift guide copy1. Beatrix Potter Coin Purse, Bagsy Me First on Etsy, $34.52 // 2. Fig Stud Earrings, Doll Food Miniatures on Etsy, $38 // 3. Espresso Patronum Print, Indie and Company on Etsy, $10+ // 4. Botanical Blueberry Necklace, Htozkaya on Etsy, $50 // 5. Six Paper Ranunculus, Adorn Flowers, $42 // 6. Ron Swanson Key Chain, Peachy Apricot on Etsy, $8 // 7. Get Out There Typography Throw Pillow, Belles and Ghosts on Etsy, $36+ // 8. Old Books Scented Soy Candle, Frostbeard on Etsy, $15 // 9. Novel Literary Floral Purse, Whimsey Books on Etsy, $23.50

Words of Wisdom Concerning Outdoor Craft Fairs

Last weekend I participated as a vendor in my first ever craft fair – Craft Your Environment in Iowa City. It was an event that focused on recycling, reusing, and being kind to the environment. All of the vendors sold art that included upcycled materials.

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In the weeks proceeding the fair, I got increasingly anxious (how stupid would I feel if no one wanted any of my stuff?!?), but after twenty minutes or so into it I felt like I had finally found my niche. Selling art is fun! I got a lot of chuckles, a lot words of encouragement, and  yes, even a good number of sales!

This was an outdoor show, which is a bit of a risk when selling items that could potentially be damaged by the elements.

Rainy Day Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Rainy Day Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Nevertheless, everything turned out well, and to this point I would like to share a few words of wisdom when it comes to outdoor craft fairs.

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  1. In April, mornings are cold. Even if the high for the day is in the 70s, bring gloves or else your fingers will freeze solid as you put up  the tent.
  2. A tent with side-walls is a must, especially if you live somewhere where it is windy. The walls really helped protect me (from the cold) and my items (from blowing away).
  3. Bring tape. Lots of tape. Just do it.
  4. If you want to bring items that are personal jokes, expect to be questioned about them. It took me like 5 minutes to explain to a lady that “Por Queso” didn’t actually mean anything, it was just a bad pun that I thought was really funny. Needless to say, she left with a rather bewildered expression on her face.  

    Por Queso Badge by Peels and Posies on Etsy

    Por Queso Badge by Peels and Posies on Etsy

  5. You’ll be neighbors to the vendor next to you for the entire event. So try not to let yourself get annoyed by their “selling ways.” You may hear the phrase “All my items are made from recycled magazines” two thousand times, but chances are you’ll have a nicer time if you don’t let it nettle you (or at least make a joke of it).
  6. Finally, if you are OCD about dust and dirt and things falling off the table, don’t do an outdoor show. It is probably not worth it.

I really enjoyed my first craft show experience. It was both rewarding and fun. I am especially grateful for my incredible husband, who was by my side all day without complaint. It takes a special kind of man to do that!

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There are a lot of great craft fairs/shows/markets in Iowa during the summer (like this one I will be participating in in May and this one in June), so it is kind of a bummer I’ll be cutting the season short in July as we move to Wyoming. Luckily for me, however, there are a lot of great crafting opportunities in Sheridan as well. One down, a lifetime-ful to go!

The Mountains Are Calling

Here is a piece of advice: Don’t be surprised if all your well-layed plans fall to the wayside in the blink of an eye. It’s happened to me more times than I can count in the last four years.

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Wild & Free Mountain Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Just as I was getting used to the idea of staying in Iowa long-term (finally acclimating to the climate, learning about crops and tractors and Iow-y things, figuring out the good places to craft, etc etc), the unexpected happened in the form of a particularly persuasive school superintendent. A few weeks ago, my husband went to a teacher career fair to look for a job – hopefully somewhere in Central Iowa – and came home with the all the shining possibilities of the Wild West.

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Seek Adventure Journal by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Wyoming had actually been a joke between Grant and I as he filled out applications for teaching jobs:

*sardonic voice* “Hey, Haleigh, I think we should go to Wyoming!”, to which I scoffed and made some rude comment about hillbillies and the middle of nowhere.

The truth is, I didn’t know a single thing about Wyoming until about three weeks ago. The mental picture that came to mind every time someone mentioned the state was a big, flat, boring abyss where the most exciting thing to happen was roving cows munching on grass. But, au contraire, Haleigh. Au contraire.

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This summer, Grant and I will be moving to Sheridan, Wyoming, which is comfortably nestled halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore. It sits at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, and is one of the most deliciously beautiful places I have ever been. The place is teeming with wildlife (elk, pronghorns, buffalo, bears, deer, just to name a few) and there are endless possibilities for outdoorsy adventures like hiking and rock climbing and snowshoeing in the winter.

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Honestly, the closest I ever thought I would get to this kind of life backdrop was the Wichita Mountains (which are deceptively-named hills). But then, by now I should be used to things happening exactly the opposite of what I expect/want. For instance:

- When I lived in Tyler, Texas, Mississippi was the last place I thought I’d be for college. My fantasies included Boston, North Carolina, Maine – somewhere grand and long-praised. But I landed in Jackson, Mississippi for my first three semesters of college, and I don’t regret it a bit.

- When I lived in Mississippi, I hated Louisiana with an unmarked passion. Driving across that state on my way to Mississippi was the most detestable thing I had to do. And yet, by my fourth semester of college, I was in Baton Rouge attending Louisiana State University. To this day I still hate the state, but it’s where I met my husband, so obviously it was where I was supposed to be.

- My entire life I was against Iowa. In fact, it was the only state I audibly and passionately declared off my list of potential places to live. I was born in Iowa City, and as both sets of grandparents live in Central Iowa, it was the most common vacation destination for my family. I thought it boring. But then I met Grant, my lovable farm-boy from the hills of Northwest Iowa, and the rest was history. I took my last semester of classes at Iowa State, got married, settled into Gilbert, and really started to love my roots.

And now I’m being uprooted yet again.

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Adventure Brooch by Peels and Posies on Etsy

Wyoming was nowhere on my radar a month ago, but now that it is I am extremely excited. Sure, it’s far from family, but sometimes you just have to take those leaps and be adventurous. If the mountains are calling, go to them.

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Not to mention, my mountain-themed art (found here) will fit in perfectly. :)

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Mountains Teacup Pincushion by Peels and Posies on Etsy