Tongue River Canyon

The Tongue River Canyon is one of my favorite places in the Bighorns. It’s only about five miles from my house, and is just one of those places that is so breathtakingly beautiful you can’t seem to get your bearings while you’re there. Honestly, if it’s not on a puzzle yet, it should be.

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The trail itself hugs the Tongue River, which comes down from the mountain in a fury. Even in the dead of summer the water is shockingly cold. The trail goes on for miles, and the further in you go, the greater the rapids are in the river.

Every time you go to the Canyon, something looks different. The first time I went was in the middle of summer, and the trees were with heavy with emerald leaves. Now the leaves are starting to change colors; the landscape is turning golden. When my friend Sydney was visiting, I took her to the Canyon the day after it snowed, so there were still piles of white glistening on the rocks.

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Doesn’t she look just marvelous with her flower crown?? Blends in perfectly!

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This is the snowman I made. I just couldn’t pass up the most perfect snowman-making snow I’ve ever seen.

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I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this hike. Even though it is the same landscape each time, there are subtleties that are ever changing – the noises, the colors, the shadows, the skies. Tongue River Canyon is definitely a place to visit if you’re ever in the area.

In the meantime, watch this excellent video Sydney and I made while romping the rocks and hills. It’s all about Harry Potter, so that’s great.

Curry Refrigerator Pickles

I’ve been obsessing over curry recently. I put it on everything – sweet potatoes, sandwiches, cottage cheese, basically anything you can think of… So the other day I opened my fridge and spotted two shriveling cucumbers (I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers) and the thought occurred to me: Curry Pickles!

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I enjoy homemade pickles, especially when they are super easy to whip up. The recipe I use does not require boiling the brine, so it is really just a matter of slicing, mixing, and waiting! Honestly, there isn’t anything quite as satisfying as making something from scratch that is so commonly bought at stores.  And of course they taste so much better.

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There are many other variations of pickles you can make using the basic recipe below (everything minus the curry). Try adding fresh dill for the classic, fresh basil and oregano and thyme for herbed pickles, or pepper for an interesting twist on the classic.

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Curry Refrigerator Pickles

INGREDIENTS:

2 medium sized cucumbers
2 cups water
1 cup vinegar
3 tbsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp curry powder
1 clove minced garlic

METHOD:

1. Slice cucumbers. Thickness is a matter of taste – I like mine rather thick.

2. Combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add curry powder and mix it in.

3. In one large or two medium sized mason jars, place garlic and then cucumbers over that. Pour brine mixture over the cucumbers. If the cucumbers are not completely covered, add a little water. Put lid on the jar and make sure it is tight.

4. Place pickles in the fridge and let sit overnight before enjoying.

A Day of Winter in the Middle of Fall

Every year when autumn arrives, I remember why it is my favorite season. The smells, the colors, the crisp air, the unearthing of cozy sweaters – ahh, what a marvelous time of the year! I’ve been so inspired this fall, making all sorts of autumn-themed decor – because the only thing better than the feeling of fall outside is the feeling of fall inside your very house.

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For the most part, my first fall in Wyoming has been incredible. The tree outside my craft room is already burning with color and every once in a while I’ll watch a leaf dance down. The mountain air smells delicious and I can’t seem to ever breathe enough of it in.

This past week, however, my perfect mountain fall did experience a little hiccup.

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Yes, a freak winter storm. It snowed all night and all day, resulting in around 6 inches in some places. And of course it had to happen when my lovely friend Sydney, lifestyle blogger and artist (find her work here and here) was visiting all the way from Oklahoma. We had fun taking pictures of the snow, though, so it wasn’t all bad. And of course we spent the rest of the wintery day crafting inside :)

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While the little taste of winter was interesting, I am so glad to get back to fall. I’m not quite ready to be buried in snow – I haven’t been buried in leaves yet! The last day of Sydney’s stay was beautiful – we hiked the Tongue River Canyon and wandered around the cutest craft fair called Born in a Barn. I was sad to see her go on Saturday, but I suppose we have to get back to reality eventually! And thank goodness, this winter wonderland isn’t reality quite yet.

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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