Friday is the first day of summer but it feels like we've been in full swing for at least a month! We've been cramming picnics, farm trips, shorts and tees, lemonade, butterfly catching, gardening and every bit of summer fun we can into every sunny day we've had so far. What have YOU been up these sunshiney days?
Hello! I missed you! We spent a warm, cozy, family-filled Christmas up at the cabin and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The cabin was chock-full of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents all willing and excited to play with Sam any time of day. It's so delightful to have your little one entertained and happy all day long. It was a blissful week for all of us with only a few tears shed when superman stunts off the furniture ended badly, and those were short-lived, always ending quickly as he squirmed off my lap to chase after some cousin or another, laughing again.
That's the best thing about the cabin, we get so much time to simply be together, sharing the same space, laughing at the same jokes, playing board games and eating all sorts of delicious, rich food entirely guilt free. We did the sibling handmade gift exchange, which was one of the highlights of the trip. I'll report on that soon... And nearly every day found us outside, cross country skiing through the bracing cold, breathing deeply that unparalleled mountain air. It made me miss Maine where we used to ski out our back door and through the old logging trails in the woods behind the house.
I was feeling very "Little House on the Prairie" as we had to park two miles from the cabin and snow mobile in. Every inch of skin had to be covered; boots, ski pants, gloves, parka, face mask, goggles, hats with ear flaps... And if you missed an inch, you felt it! Sam was so brave, bundled up so much he could hardly move. We paused once and I asked him how he was doing (I couldn't even see his face to gauge his reaction to the ride). "Crazy!" he said. Indeed it was rather crazy barrelling through the snow in the dark of night with only the moon to guide us. But exciting, romantic and energizing! It really felt like we had stepped back in time; life at the cabin is simpler, more elemental, we focus on the important things like family and food. And there's a wildness about the wide open Montana spaces. I can't wait to go back again!
We spent a glorious week at Clay's family's cabin in West Yellowstone. What I love about their cabin is that everything is designed around family togetherness; it's not fancy by any means, but the kitchen is huge with plenty of mismatched dishes and huge bowls for tossing salads for fifteen. The couches are old and saggy, but perfect for little ones to jump on or for watching old movies on. The walls are covered with family pictures, handmade crafts, grandma-made cross stitches and a framed list of cabin rules by Sam's great grandpa. The whole place is just saturated with memories and comfortableness. We all took a deep breath of clean mountain air as soon as we stepped out of the car and just kept on breathing deeply the whole week long.
Some favorite memories:
:: Swimming in the Fire Hole River
:: Lazing about with plenty of time to read
:: Watching Sam devour his latest favorite food
:: Rousing games of speed Scrabble
:: Taking in a show while Grandma and Grandpa watched the little ones.
:: Plenty of walks through the wildflower-strewn fields
:: And sunset rides with my arms wrapped tight around sweet Clay
This past weekend was the first annual Summer Social Retreat, hosted by Sweet Life in the Valley. I'm already looking forward to the rumored Winter Retreat! The event was a chance for women in Utah who are involved in social media and/or are entrepreneurs of some sort to get together and just play and get to know each other. We had the choice of signing up for fly fishing, a train ride, hiking, or horseback riding all provided by Rocky Mountain Outfitters. Of course, I signed up for horseback riding! I'll hop on a horse any chance I get and love every minute of it.
The area surrounding the Soldier Hollow Lodge was so beautiful. I almost drove off the road several times ogling the scenery. While my heart will always beat for Maine, I must admit that the West has cornered the market on brave, sweeping vistas.
The cowgirls that worked at Rocky Mountain Outfitters were so cool, I totally want to be a cowgirl when I grow up, with my own Wranglers, cowboy hat and big ol' turquoise belt buckle- yee haw!
And did I mention the swag? Swoon-worthy swag it was. My favorites were the DoTerra essential oils started kit (lemon, peppermint and lavender). I use essential oils a lot, so I was excited to learn about this local company. They have extremely high standards; their oils are food grade, i.e. you can use them to add a little zip to your cupcakes! Then there was this new-to-me line of organic makeup called Yes to Carrots. Apparently I'm out of the loop because they've gotten all kinds of great press. I wore their red lipgloss while home cleaning the house and felt like a 50's housewife all dolled up. Oh, and the Badger Balm! We love Badger Balm around here, Clay especially since it doesn't smell all girly and works really well on tough working man hands.
Besides playing and getting great presents we also ate great food! Shirly J, the queen of quick and easy pantry miracles, provided the seasoning for some AMAZING pot roast. Good thing I'm not actually a vegetarian, because it was fabulous. The best part of the event though, was meeting all sorts of amazing women, like Vanessa who organizes monthly "Nature Days" for kids here in the city, Heather the red-haired graphic designer, and fellow East Coaster Jefra who takes lovely photos. Everyone was amazing. It was such a treat to rub shoulders with other moms who are finding ways to be creative, pursue their dreams and still be moms most of all.
Sam and I are in Maine! It feels so good to be home. No matter where I make my nest, Maine will always feel like home. As we were flying into Manchester my heart swelled to see the green trees, thick like moss over the landscape, little hollows carved out with houses nestled in. I can feel stress rolling off my body like water off a duck just from being here a few days. We're at the family homestead Clayton and I spent a year renovating. It was built by my great, great grandfather. For years it sat empty until Clay and I took on the project- and what a project it was! We've since passed that torch on to my parents.
My dad whipped up a delicious omelet for us when we got home; smoked salmon, Gorgonzola, tarragon and dilly beans! Yep, dilly beans, and they were delicious. He gets pretty adventurous in the kitchen and often hits upon a real winner. The dilly beans that didn't make it into the omelet were quickly devoured by Sam and I. I was glad to see that Sam appreciates my parent's homemade specialty as much as I do.
We almost sold my old, wooden high chair at a yard sale once, but luckily someone thought better of it. I love seeing Sam in it. It was from way back before all the oodles of safety regulations so, of course there's no belt to buckle him in with. Which means you have to do it the old fashioned way: be super vigilant, or grab a winter scarf and wrap him in! With two grandparents enamored with his every move, the scarf seemed redundant.
I smiled upon opening the fridge and finding freshly gathered eggs, a cold pitcher of juice and a bottle of Moxie, the Maine health tonic. The fresh colander of strawberries on the table made me pretty happy too. Don't you love the flavors of home?
It's been eight months since my parents last saw Sam. All his walking, talking, and signing is new to them. He immediately started calling my dad Papa all on his own, which is what I used to call him when I was little. As we grew up, my brother and I eventually shortened it to Pop, so it's perfect for Sam to revive the original name.
As soon as my dad set it down for a moment, Sam grabbed his hat and started marching around the house in it. As long as I can remember my dad has had some sort of "Indiana Jones" hat (or so we called them). This one has a feather clipped to it by some sort of electrical widget. It's so my dad. Funny how those things you once thought were quirky (or embarrassing!) as a kid turn out to be the things you love the most about your parents. Who would've guessed that some day I'd even consider dilly bean omelets a gourmet treat?
This is my last San Francisco post, but I couldn't end without sharing about Paxton Gate! It's the coolest, most unique store; kind of like an old school natural history museum, but you can buy the exhibits. We picked out two items for our own Natural History Museum.
This owl from the kids' Paxton Gate was made of paper by artist Aimee Baldwin. Actually, I think the whole materials list includes styrofoam, wire, clay and paper. I imagine it's quite the process. She has a bunch of "vegan friendly" taxidermied animals that are all pretty amazing.
Here are the starfish and sea urchin shells we picked out for our museum.
Walking through the Conservatory of Flowers you feel like some old school explorer. Around every corner is some new, eye-poppingly fantastic plant. It's such a beautiful place and the plants are so exotic and interesting. It was a treat to discover such lovely things.
One of my favorites was the pitcher plants. The shape is so outrageously cool and the combination of beauty and viciousness (they're carnivorous!) is fascinating.
I love these snuggling fuzzy pods.
They had a special exhibit about edible plants with tons of tropical fruits and trees to examine. Many we knew; vanilla bean, mango, durian (which Clay is holding above; it's almost as big as Sam!), papaya. But many we didn't know and the descriptions made me wish we had them here in the states too!
Chinatown was a must; I didn't want to miss the hustle and bustle, and the sights, sounds and smells that are crammed into just a few small city blocks. And because I planned on bringing back a bunch of paper lanterns for garden parties as my souvenir.
I have a feeling these shadow puppets and paper cuts will serve as inspiration for some future project...
I love exploring all the weird widgets and gadgets; I couldn't believe I didn't find a single thing in this kitchen store to bring home. I'm sure at some point I'll think, "Dang, I really should've gotten that corn stripper or little citrus juicer that looked like a faucet you stick into the lemon..." Or maybe not, but they sure were fun to look at.
Sam loved walking among all the brightly colored, dangling kites and lanterns in the kite store.
And he cheerfully tried everything offered to him. He's never had a bit of pickiness in him and I only hope it doesn't come on later!
Clay bought this wonderful beetle as his souvenir to add to his collection in the Thompson Family Natural History Museum. And here are my lanterns, which I deliberated over after visiting several stores. I attempted bargaining, but chickened out at the last moment. They still weren't very much though and I can't wait to string them around the yard all lit up for some festive occassion.
One of the most magical places, to me, in the Bay Area has always been the headlands. Living in the North Bay I would often take a quick detour along the cliffs, overlooking the misty ocean on the way home.
Exploring the old army remains is always fascinating. They're now covered in grafitti and moss, flowers growing in the cracks in the cement, layer upon layer of culture and time. We had fun speculating about what the buildings had been used for and what the people were like that manned the stations and ate their evening meals in the large, beautiful cream and brick officers houses or the more utilitarian barracks.
One of my favorite things has always been this whale skeleton. I was happy to see it was still there and seemed to be in good shape. These are the latest of many pictures I've taken of the lichen covered bones. It's pretty awe-inspiring to stand straddling the great vertebrae, gazing from tip to tail, imagining the great bones covered in muscle, undulating through the water. Kind of takes my breath away; I have a pretty healthy respect for the ocean and its inhabitants.
Has anyone else heard of the Steampunk genre? It was totally new to me and I'm completely fascinated. Apparently the aesthetic is inspired by time periods in which steam power was widely used, most often Victorian era England. Combine that with science fiction-y, futuristic stuff and you get this very H.G. Wellsian time traveler look.
They had crazy things like a completely retooled laptop all decked out in metal script keys, a windup key to start it, wood and leather casings. But it worked just like a regular laptop. I loved this booth of leather masks. I've always wanted to go to a masquerade...
My favorite quote from the fair was the following conversation between a little kid and the guy pictured above
Kid: "Hey, I like your jet pack!"
Time Traveler Man: "Thanks."
Kid: "I like your outfit too."
TTM to kid in jeans and t-shirt: "I like yours, very versatile, like you're ready for an adventure."
The kid looked pleased as punch; it was really cute.
So many beautiful colors, textures, fabrics, bags, toys, clothing... I was in heaven walking through the crafters' section at MakerFaire.
Clay got to try Provo Craft's new Yudu silk screen machine and made this great bag which I've already taken shopping with me several times.
We were crazy about this knit chair; have you ever seen anything so cool? If only I knew how to knit... (it is on my list of things to learn).
I loved all the maker stations set up everywhere. You could sit down on a comfy couch and learn to felt, make a simple dress, punch a leather mask, make a bar of soap (below) or letterpress something (two below). So much creative energy flying around!
Paper robots kind of sum up the convergence of so many different media, art forms and sub cultures that were MakerFaire. Seeing the myriad creative directions a mind can take was so inspiring!
MakerFaire was amazing. The best part was that I left feeling so inspired and uplifted seeing all these passionate people who just love making cool stuff! It was fun, silly, ingenious, beautiful, innovative and exciting. And it made me want to get to making something rad!
Wooden bikes, who'd have thought? When our kids are older I hope this is the kind of stuff they do.
Why build a two story metal flower sculpture that shoots flames? Why not?!
Or how about a pair of faun legs? You know, for when you're feeling kind of Chronicles of Narnia-ish.
I loved this band, they epitomized coolness without even appearing to try. The girls were really young, really talented and just possessed this elusive quality of being cool to the core. It made me want to do high school all over again and be in a girl band.
Our lovely friend Ashley posing in front of a huge sculpture of iron wings.
We all decided that if we had the sorts of yards where modern sculpture didn't look out of place, this is the sculpture we'd want.
Human-powered ferris wheel! You and a friend pedal to make it go, how fun is that?
Every hour the life-sized mousetrap went off. There were people in mouse costumes dancing around and a big bowling ball that went through it tipping levers, rolling through old bathtubs, setting off springs.
Straight out of A Series of Unfortunate Events, this traveling gypsy wagon delighted the fairytale-loving kid in me.
The best part was that it was an entirely kid-friendly event. From leather punching to felt animal making to lego Jeep decorating there was plenty to inspire and engage anyone. Even Sam had a blast looking at all the people and crazy inventions and creations.
It took me awhile to sort through all the pictures and get back into our regular groove after the long weekend in SF. What a great trip it was though! So liberating to discover what a great traveler Sam is. He slept when we wanted him to (in the car) and was curious and happy when we were out, and was charming at all the right times; meeting family and friends and playing peekaboo with strangers on the plane.
The highlights of the trip were reconnecting with people we hadn't seen since we lived in SF about four years ago, staying at the lovliest, comfiest, poshest, most perfect hotel and having our minds completely blown at MakerFaire. I've got a ton of amazing, inspiring stuff from MakerFaire to share today. But first, the Inn Above Tide. Just saying the name makes me feel more relaxed.
Somehow they've arranged the rooms and the decks so as you step out onto yours it feels completely private, never mind the people in the rooms surrounding you. It seems as though the sweeping views of the Bay belong to you alone. It was magical waking up to fog shrouded hills and the sea birds swooping and diving.
We drove through the hills of Sausalito, enjoying a voyeuristic peek into the multi-million dollar neighborhoods. The landscaping there is really lovely, obviously meticulously cared for, but in a manner that makes you think that given the right conditions it might have just happened to grow like that. Very natural with a hint of wildness.
This sweet blossom was waiting for me by the sink in our room. Can you think of a lovlier gesture? Everything was just perfect. The breakfast was fresh and healthy; organic yogurt, fresh berries, flaky croissants (okay, mostly healthy) and a big pitcher of fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning.
It was good for our souls to enjoy a few days or creature comforts and soothing scenery; high thread count sheets, sweeping views, friendly staff, beautiful landscaping. It's got to be one of the lovliest places I've stayed.
We're headed to San Francisco, the city where we first met, for the weekend! Lots of fun things planned and family and friends to see; Makerfaire, China Town, the conservatory of flowers, Paxton Gate, Design Within Reach, the zoological gardens, Rodeo Beach, and a few nights at the Inn Above Tide in Sausalito, for starters. Four days is all too brief, but we plan to pack in as much as possible! I've got a couple posts scheduled for you on Friday and then I'll be back Monday with plenty of stories from the City by the Bay!
The lovely picture above is by photographer Jonathan Canlas, who recently shot my brother and sister-in-law's wedding. The nicest guy and SO talented.
Thanks to the couchsurfing project we had three of the loveliest house guests from France last weekend. I love meeting people from far away, sharing a good meal, a cup of tea, stories and impressions. Morgane, Patrice and Morgane's mom Lucy were on their way to Yellowstone from Moab and needed a place to stay in Salt Lake City. We were only too happy to have them stay with us for a night. The next day Sam and I took them to Heritage Park to share a little bit of our local history and culture.
Lucy spoke the least English of the three (but her English is still light years ahead of my French!), but she and Sam had no trouble at all communicating. She played with him and sang him French songs and he just adored her. She can come back and be his French grandma any time!
Morgane brought us some lovely gifts from France; candles, a French picture book and this silky soft teddy for Sam. She picked out the bear because in our email correspondence prior to her visit I had told her about the mama bear and two cubs we saw in Yellowstone on our honeymoon. I hope they had similar luck on their visit!