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Homemade Mobiles!

My end-of-summer goal is to vigorously clean ALL the nooks, crannies, cupboards, and drawers that so easily accumulate unnecessary objects. On the surface this is not the most creative task, but I’m finding that it stimulates my creativity in unexpected ways.

One of my favorite things to do with the treasures that hide away in boxes or gather dust on a shelf, but that have sentimental value, is to make mobiles. It’s a great way to give them new life and visibility and purpose.

{I found all of these feathers within the course of a month a few years ago. Feathers mean “change” and I thought it would be a good reminder to stay open to whatever change was coming by having them present in my office. Plus, they’re pretty.}

To make your own you will need:

Treasures : not too heavy, like shells, postcards or pictures, feathers, dried leaves or flowers, or pretty papers cut into shapes

A wire coat hanger or heavy gauge wire (18 or higher) — the weight of wire you need depends on the weight of the objects you are using

Thread or fishing line and a needle

Wire cutters


Glue (Elmers is fine)

Clear off a large work space and lay out your treasures in the way you’d like them to hang. As you arrange them, think about weight and balance and remember it DOES NOT have to be symmetrical. We tend to gravitate towards symmetrical things, but balance is more important with mobiles (who knew making mobiles would be a philosophical exercise!) ::  if you have one object that is much heavier than the others, you will need more lighter ones opposite it to balance it. Also, think about how the objects will move around each other when they’re hanging and be sure to give them plenty of room to spin in your room air currents.

For example, in the photo above, the last object on the right thread is a small metal feather, probably about the weight of a quarter. It took SEVEN big feathers on the left in order to balance it.

* * *

{I had these little homemade felt balls stashed in a box, waiting for brilliant inspiration. They are MUCH more inspiring in mobile form, and still useable if another idea comes to mind.}

Once you’ve come up with an arrangement you like, get them ready for hanging : thread your treasures onto thread or fishing line. If the objects are weighty, you’ll want to put a stop-knot below each so they don’t smoosh together. Once you’ve finished, leave the end of the thread really long so you have plenty to work with when you’re ready to hang them.

Now for the scaffold. If you’re using a coat hanger, unwrap it and cut off the squigley ends. You will need one long piece for the top and one, or two, or three smaller pieces depending on how many strings you have. Bend loops at the ends of each piece to hang your objects from — you can make them simple or fancy, whatever your preference. Tie about a foot of thread or fishing line to the center of each scaffold-wire — make sure your knot is secure.

Next, find somewhere you can hang your mobile while you are working on it so you can have both hands at your disposal. You want it to hang freely so you can balance all your objects : a table edge, a light fixture, or a significant other all work well. First hang your top wire (the longest one) from this temporary hanger. Next, attach the smaller wires to the loops at the length you like. Don’t worry about balance yet as it will change when you hang your objects.

Tie your strings of treasures to the small scaffolds at the length you’d like. I tie loops in the string at the right length and then just hook them over the scaffold loops. This way they are easy to change later, if necessary.

Once everything is attached, start balancing. To balance the mobile, move the hanging wires along the center of the scaffolds. In the photo above, you can see that the thread attaching the top scaffold wire to the ceiling is NOT centered. You also might have to slightly adjust the lengths at which your objects hang. Once everything is in place, dab a drop of glue on each scaffold-wire/string junction so everything stays where you want it. Let the glue dry a bit and then stand back and admire your handiwork!

{I can’t claim ownership of the idea for this one, but it is BRILLIANT. And easy to make: tiny clips from a craft supply store, wire, thread and your favorite pictures or cards…}

* * *

Besides being a source of inspiration for you, mobiles make great gifts and are a lovely addition to a kids room, over a baby-changing table or in the garden.

~Let me know if any of the instructions are unclear in the comments and I will clarify.~

A little bit of tropical

It may seem unlikely, but I have a lemon tree in Montana.

It lives in a pot and in the winter it soaks up the sun from a spot on the table that I built. Once the summer sets in it moves onto the deck. It has more blossoms this year than I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I forget it is there and as I sit on the deck the breeze brings the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle, the noise of the street becomes the sound of waves, and for just a moment I’m no longer in Montana.

Herbacious Elixers

This year I planted an herb garden off the back of my deck. Herbs are beautiful ornamentals because of the variety of leaf shapes and plant architecture. Plus, they’re useful! Over the last two months, my little garden has THRIVED. What began as a few little starts here and there has become a lush, exploding border of greenery.

I’m channeling all my creativity into finding new ways of preserving them so that my winter can be filled with the scents of summer.

Infusing with herbs is a great way to capture their oils. Here are a few infusions I’ve come up with:

Preserved in oil:

Infused oils add a subtle zip to a familiar dish.

What I’m doing:

Olive oil infused with oregano and thyme to use in Med. dishes.

Olive oil infused with basil for late summer caprese salad and winter pizzas.

Marjoram infused walnut oil for a rich, simple vinegrette: all I’ll need to add is a little lemon juice.


Preserved in syrup:

Simple syrup is a secret ingredient in well-stocked kitchens for use in cold drinks, a simple glaze on cakes or a substitute for syrup on pancakes.

What I’m doing:

A one-to-one ratio of sugar and water with each of the following:

Orange mint, peppermint, lavender and thyme


Preserved in alcohol:

Infused alcohols are easy to make and a great DIY way to spice up your evening aperitif.

What I’m doing:

Vodka infused with tangerine sage and pineapple sage.


What are your favorite clever ways to preserve herbs for use in the winter months?

Driving across the West

I’ve been in Seattle for 5 days. Five days filled with green and familiarity.

I showed a friend my blog this morning and as the picture from Monday’s post loaded, my entire body sighed… I am no longer a forest girl. The plains have claimed me completely.

As you read this I will be headed home. Driving east : past fruit stands (where some Washington stone fruits will hitch a ride home with me for my jam pot…), through pass after pass after pass, through the wooded, winding roads of western Montana, HOME.

These annual roadtrips fill me with inspiration : the varieties of landscapes I pass through, the funny observations that start stories spinning in my mind, the different color palates and monuments flying past my window…

There are a few new prints in MY SHOP inspired by these trips back and forth across the west.

A reminder of summer adventures to hang on your wall.

Monday Morning Joy : MUSIC!


These were my three favorite songs that I heard last weekend at the Red Ants Pants Music Festival.

Martha Scanlan * Seeds of the Pine

Carrie Rodriguez * La Punalada Trapera

Lyle Lovett * No More Cane



Side note: the Festival was AH-MAZING! It’s going to be an annual affair : Mark your calendars for late July 2012 and plan your trips to Montana NOW. So worth it.


The setting is amazing — all sky and grass and mountains. The people were incredible — every demographic possible and all so happy to be there. And the music was phenomenal — see above.



Two of my favorite past times : cooking and reading

I love to cook all the time, but there is something especially magical about planning meals in the summer. Maybe it’s the long days that makes it feel like there is time for elaborate preparations. Or the abundance of fresh produce. Or the activities and adventures that make food taste so much better.

Whatever the reason, some of my favorite summer reads also revolve around food. Many of these are well known and if you haven’t read them, check your local library. Others are more obscure but SO wonderful and worth looking through used bookstores for :

The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon (wouldn’t you HAVE to become a food writer if your last name is Capon?!)

ANYTHING written by MFK Fisher

South Wind Through the Kitchen by Elizabeth David

My Life in France by Julia Child

I’m headed to Seattle for the week to visit family and friends (one just moved onto a houseboat!!!!!!!!) and stumbled across this at the library : My Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz . I love reading his blog — full of humor and astute observations on food and culture — so I CAN’T WAIT to settle into my seat on the plane and crack this open.

Vacation, here I come!


Joy as wide as a meadow

Della’s favorite past-time is to chase songbirds.

Her herding instincts have targeted the wrong species and she doesn’t seem to care a whit that they pay no attention to her directional suggestions. She runs full speed back and forth across the hillside, hidden these days by the tall grass. Every so often I’ll get a glimpse of black ears and white face and giant smile spy-hopping through the flowers. She and I came home from an adventure in our favorite meadow today and my fella said her head smelled like flowers. Now she’s passed out in the sun, a smile still on her face.

She is the best reminder in my life to be present and enjoy every moment — even the impossible tasks.