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April projects : update

This has been a BUSY month!

I still haven’t gotten very far on the project I was going to spend ALL my time on, here’s a very cryptic sneak peak of the start :

But I have made progress on a bunch of other freelance work and commissions:

And I’ve started a few experiments. I like the experiments…I’m never sure where they’ll take me…

A recipe for the weekend

There is so much volatility this time of year :: school is winding down, summer field work is ramping up, the garden needs tending, the woods need exploring, the house needs a good spring cleaning, and all the new growth outside is inspiring all sorts of new ideas for projects and blog posts and designs…

I wish I were an octopus!

Spring weather can make me feel like a ping-pong ball — a week of sunny mornings, warm sunshine, blustery afternoons, and green springing up everywhere gets me excited for outdoor adventures. And then 6 inches of snow overnight, brings me back to curl up in front of the fire.

After a grey day of restless angst and semi-productiveness on Tuesday, I realized what I needed was to celebrate this transition time between the seasons rather than let myself get knocked around by it.

When I feel frenetic and overwhelmed I am drawn to the kitchen.

The regular, measured steps of baking calms and focuses my mind. The smells transport me away from where my thoughts are getting stuck, and it is impossible to rush the alchemy that occurs within pots and pans.

 I made vanilla pudding, and as I stood stirring at the stove, watching the milk and starch and egg thicken into a creamy mass, I found myself slowing and focusing and I left the kitchen calmer and more organized (and with a yummy treat).

When I was in cooking school we were taught that a great dessert contains four elements: crunchy, creamy, meaty (like fruit or nuts or chocolate), and saucy.

I had the creamy going in my pot of custard, fragrant with vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. Out from the freezer came strawberries from last summer’s garden to gently simmer into a sauce, barely sweetened with a touch more vanilla sugar. And to add the crunch, chocolate-orange buckwheat sables.

Tuesday night the temperature fell into the teens and a fire roared in the living room. A bite of fragrant vanilla and bright strawberry and earthy buckwheat was exactly what I needed to be totally content. 


I used THIS pudding recipe, but any basic vanilla pudding recipe would work. I happened to have a jar of vanilla sugar (a split vanilla bean stuck into a jar of white sugar), so I used that, but regular sugar would work just fine.

The strawberry sauce is simply:

1 cup frozen strawberries + 1 T sugar or honey
Put berries and sugar into a small sauce pan or saute pan, turn heat to low. Let simmer until saucy and filling the house with an unbelievably delicious aroma that transports you immediately to warm summer mornings, eating strawberries right out of the garden.

And I used this recipe as the starting point for the cookies.

1 1/4 cup AP flour (I used 3/4 cup sorghum flour, 1/4 cup brown rice flour and 1/4 cup corn starch to make these gluten free)

3/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 # butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

zest of one orange

1/4 tsp Kosher or sea salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (I used a Dagoba eclipse bar (87% cocoa))

Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer or wooden spoon until creamy but not fluffy. Stir in the salt, vanilla extract, orange zest and chocolate. Quickly stir in the flours until just mixed. Form dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and wrap in plastic. Let chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment. Slice dough into 1/4 inch-thick disks and place on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 12-15 minutes, until just starting to brown around the edges. Let cool slightly on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Store in an air-tight container.

Happy Weekend!

Monday Morning Joy : Yellena James

I have been a fan of Yellena’s work for years — her designs make me feel like an explorer, peeking into unknown worlds.

Simmer by Yellena James

The worlds they show changes depending on my mood and daydreams — sometimes marine, sometimes inter-galactic, sometimes as close the rocks and moss in my backyard.

Garden by Yellena James

There is a feeling of growth and alive-ness in all of her work, which is maybe why it is especially appealing to me on a moody spring day like today.

Morning by Yellena James

For more of her work, visit Yellena’s website or her Etsy shop.

Happy Monday!

Looking forward to summer sunsets

Summer Sunset Card

This week, temperatures got to nearly 60 degrees! More and more crocus are popping up around town and the lilac leaves are SO close to opening! In honor of growing things, I’ve released a new card in my Etsy shop. Inspired by sunsets from my favorite spot in the Valley, the original collage uses a variety of papers and hand-stitched embroidery to depict summer in Montana. The cards are printed on thick, textured recycled paper and the colors are rich and vibrant. For more information, check it out in the shop!

Montana Sunset

Nature walk

This is going to turn into a nature blog again, now that spring is showing herself … I hope you don’t mind.

In the last week we’ve had days of sunshine and warm temperatures followed by snowstorms that drop 6 inches in town. On nice days, I go for walks with renewed vigor and interest, excited to see what new green things have popped up.

Here is what I’ve seen recently:

I love the tight curl of these leaves as they push through the debris


Pussy Willows! A life-long spring favorite of mine

The ants have woken! Check out the lovely damask stripes on their abdomens

mossy stars

Every day there is more green around town chasing away the muted color palate of winter.

Monday Morning Joy : Mary Temple

Look closely — it will take you by surprise : the brilliance and simplicity of these works by Mary Temple.

Shadows painted on walls — permanent reminders of sunny days.

Extended Afternoon, by Mary Temple

Extended Afternoon, by Mary Temple

Extended Afternoon, by Mary Temple

We’ve had spring snow storms all weekend and this is JUST what I need to remember to take a deep breath and look towards long summer days.

via butter and brass

How to tell it is spring in Montana

In a state where it will likely snow in June, it can be tough to tell when winter is actually over.

April Blizzard, photo by me

In more temperate climes, daffodils are often the first sure sign of spring, or perhaps a week of sunny days in a row. Here in Montana it is never that clear cut — the tulips start pushing their way up through snowdrifts, you’ll see robins and blue skies one day and a foot of new snow the next. But there is one sign that I look for every year, that to me is the official start of spring.

The return of the Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Crane photo by me

They arrive in pairs.

Dunn colored with a bright red top-knotch and impossibly huge — it is amazing to me that something so big can fly.

With the stately elegance of all cranes, all legs and neck.

But the best part, the part that makes my cells vibrate in anticipation of green-ness, is their call.

It is the most gangley, unruly, warbley call of any bird I’ve ever heard.

It is the sound of spring. Of pure, unadulterated joy.

My heart races when I hear their call echoing over town and my thoughts immediately turn to planting seeds, and late summer evenings around the bonfire, and drinking coffee on the porch in warm morning sunshine.

All of that is still months away, but thanks to the Sandhill, I know it’s coming.

What screams spring to you? I’d love to hear the tell tale signs from around the country.

Monday Morning Joy : Angie Pickman

Despite the snow falling as I write this and the week’s forecast more wintery than springy, spring is undeniably on its way — bird song in the mornings, leaf buds fattening up and an insatiable craving for lettuce.

Little Bird Big Song by Angie Pickman

Since I can’t really see the signs outside my window today, I look instead to the work of Angie Pickman.

No Ceilings by Angie Pickman

Her cut paper birds are so filled with personality and self-satisfaction they exude springiness. It makes me eager to see the robins and chickadees around town again once this storm has blown through.

Bird Song by Angie Pickman

For more of her work, check out her Etsy shop, Rural Pearl.

Happy Monday — I hope you are all surrounded by signs of spring this week!