Spring Vacation Ideas!!!

Dear readers of my words,

I didn’t know I needed it. Did you know I needed it? That I needed to hear from YOU? You must have known. I sometimes find myself gulping nostalgic memories of when things felt gentler on the internet. And I also appreciate the challenge to hold steady and true in the midst of so much noise. You gave me and this space a wholesome boost and I am so appreciative. So, THANK YOU. For reaching out and telling me how you are. I wanted to know, and I read your words in solidarity.

With love,

:: :: ::

Mama! Come here!

I’m making coffee. She hollers from her bed, under her polka dot comforter, quilt made by Gram. I step over bright, decomposing piles of leggings and leotards. She says

Do you know what I love most in the morning? I like it when I wake up and you are already in the kitchen with the radio on and making breakfast. I like that the best.

I lift her sleepy big sister from the top bunk and she wraps her legs around my waist like she has since her little ankles barely reached my hip bones. Now, she can easily cross her ankles at my tailbone, her elbows hinge over my shoulders, her arms drape halfway down my back. She is heavy. I think I will miss this more than anything as my kids grow. The day I can’t carry them.

Mama? I feel like I will cry. But I don’t think I am going to. I feel sad. I don’t know why. I just do. It’s uncomfortable.

I know that feeling my love. We don’t always know why we feel like we do. We just feel it. And try to help ourselves feel better.

Squishy grapple pours from plum clouds. Ruby says the mountains look like they are sleeping. She says they are tired and just leaned over to take a nap.

We spend spring break at home. Sure, we’d love to go somewhere warm. It seems like most everyone we know is somewhere warm. Maui, Mexico, Moab. All their friends are talking about it so it becomes a thing. We explain it to the kids 12 times and they still ask why we can’t just stop working and write a check for the plane tickets?! I might be overly Pollyanna-esque but my kids are used to it by now. I tell them we must imagine our best week here at home. We all must focus on gratitude and the big adventures that await – if we choose to see them.

There are groans and no fair!. Later that night, Margot disappears into her bedroom to write, as she does. And emerges with a piece of paper, a smile and these words

Mom. I decided we will have a wonderful week. Here you go. Look.

Spring Vacation Ideas!!!

(1) cabin!
We make the short drive to our friend’s cabin. It takes hours and hours to get out the door, on the road. It is our first trip of the year that requires camping stuff, so I go through all our bins and remember and restock what we need. Just us girls. It is hard work to hike into the cabin with all our gear and food and generator and 27 stuffies. I am impressed with my kids. They hike in and out four times carrying big loads with me. Mabel runs and bounces down the trail that was so familiar to Alice. It feels wonderful and painful at the same instant. Andy joins us the next day. We hike, make food, make fire, stay one more night.

(2) Little!
We finish The Long Winter. In addition to the death of Jack and the excitement over candy at Christmas, this episode of the Ingalls’s lives has a great impact on my kids. No warmth, no food, no play. Just gutsy survival and love and hope. When the wheat is low and they run out of firewood, things seem grim. Margot is pensive and then softens with a realization: Laura definitely lives because she wrote these books!!! And there is no way she could live alone as a little kid so I bet her family survives too!

(3) eggs! pante!

(4-6) Quinn’s! picnic! nail polish!
These things don’t happen. Instead I get some work done while the kids watch How to Train Your Dragon on my studio floor. Instead we clean their room and take walks up the hill. Quinn’s is a local hot springs. Here’s a snap from our last visit – the Old Perma Store, a stop we love along the way.

(7) sewing!
We do several small projects but the favorite for all three of us is Margot’s hoodie. She turns her drawings into clothes.

(8) jump rope!
All day, every day.

(9) friaend dinner!
We do breakfast instead.

(10) new chicks!
Doesn’t happen but will tomorrow.

(11) ski!
This last month we gardened in the mornings until the sun warmed the south facing mountain slopes and skied in the afternoons. We kept thinking it would snow again. We skied those faces until the last bits of snow gave into the spring earth. Our last few runs are sunny and slushy and required us to take our skis off to hike down over patches of mud, tiny creeks racing to the valley floor. Margot snowboards for the first time.

They say our snow pack is 80-90% of what it was but that it is only above 7000 feet. They say we are the lucky ones with snow compared to our neighboring states. They say our winters will be a full month shorter and our summers a full month longer in 50 years. My daughters will be 55 and 57 and I wonder how the forests will stand? I wonder where bears will wander and what our favorite swimming hole will look like?

Read this piece by my friend Rachel Turiel.

(11a) In an effort to save cash money, we tried to avoid the post-ski beer/shirley temple stop and instead have those things at home. Also I try really hard to be groovy with occasional bits of food dye and corn syrup but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have been told that my shirley temples are way better than any Shirley Temple anywhere ever. Ahem.

My secret? Soda water + sweetened pomegranate cranberry juice + lime. Boom. Healthish Shirley. To sweeten the juice, pour the entire jar into a pot with 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir until sugar dissolves. To make: 2/3 soda water, 1/3 juice, lime with a cherry on top.

(12) goodwill shopping!
The kids want to spend their money on new wallets at goodwill. We spend 45 minutes right here, choosing and counting money.

Ruby makes coffee. Two mud splashes on her face from the bike ride. Dirty dishes in the sink from dinner, from breakfast. That leaky faucet is like fingernails on a chalkboard. It needs to replaced after the broken deck boards are replaced, before the trim around doors. The kids argue first about the orange bouncy ball and then about the white chair, the purple pony, the pencil sharpener.

I start in on the dishes. I’m tired and I feel a bit lost, like these neverending dishes are a metaphor for the neverending pile of things I want to accomplish. I scrub melted cheese from the knife that cut the quesadilla. I push hard on the cloth, not realizing the knife has shifted in my grip. I slice the tip of my finger right off. Just the very tip. It doesn’t hurt so bad but the mental replaying of doing what I did sends shivers to my brain. It bleeds and bleeds.

At the end of the day on Easter Margot tells me that her favorite part of the day is that I am her mom. She says it’s hard to explain but she just feels it. She then pushes her face to my chest and infuses my body with her words. It’s one of the top compliments I’ve ever been graced with and I hold my breath to remember the way it is said, the place it is said. That is my favorite part of the day too.

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8 years: 8 giveaways

Eight years ago I started this blog as a place where I would document my gardening. It was anonymous and private.

I wrote:

I have journaled about gardening and subsequent life endeavors ever since I managed an organic tomato and grape farm in the Rattlesnake Valley in Missoula, Montana. In journaling I recorded things I would likely forget like…start beets earlier next year or don’t ever plant anything in the southwest corner of the garden because my lame neighbor’s unruly, weedy, eyesoreish tree will completely block the sun by June…that kind of stuff.

A blog seems much more permanent and less likely to be left in the arugula row during an April deluge. Although those crinkled, barely readable pages offer nostalgia, really the whole point is for the information to be available the following year. And who doesn’t love to save paper?

Every year I can’t wait for this day. The first day I get to dig in the dirt, count worms and hope for a great tomato year. It is exciting and disappointing–I always wish I had done something differently the year before.

This space has grown and evolved in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I published that post. This space gave me the courage and purpose to leave my museum work to write and make and – mostly – be home with my kids.

This space doesn’t exist without you. Thank you for your thoughtful conversations, your wit, your wisdom, your humor, your support of my family in joyful times and sad times. I say we are all in this together a lot and you, dear ones, are a testament to that truth. I am happy to be in this life with you, where we make our own definitions of Rich and Success. Where we strive for the most authentic, brave-hearted versions of ourselves. Where we notice, give, receive and love what we love. Thank you.

In celebration of 8 years I am giving away 8 things to 8 of you chickens! Simply leave a comment below by Friday, March 28. I will announce winners here!

1. Jar of our plum jam, label by Margot.

2. Bag, handmade by my friend’s mom out of crocheted plastic sacks.

3. Handmade beaded earrings.

4. Set of two of my photographs (from my exhibit Sow, Mend), mounted on ironwood and ready to hang.

5. Vintage linen tablecloth and 6 matching napkins.

6. Book: Steal Like an Artist.

7. Heart hot pad, made by me.

8. $50 gift certificate to my shop.

With gratitude,
Nici Continue reading

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A day.

It is only an hour time difference but it feels like the moon is tugging against the sun, a force that keeps me in bed. I am tired but I am wide awake. I get up.

Andy is up next. We sit across the living room from each other with our coffee. Sunlight creates a sharp warmth across the billions of pet hairs on the floor. We talk in the quiet, about big and little stuff. About how to be there for a friend in crisis, about planting spinach, money, chicken run expansion, our disagreement last night, skiing. Our pets vie for our attention. The sun spills across the entire room now. The kids wake up and nudge our thoughts into present tense.

Mom, make your hippie pancakes!

Blond bed heads, nightgowns, bare feet, bruised shins.

Margot immediately, furiously pens the book she’s been working on. It is called The Poor but Happy Village. She takes a break from that story line to spend some time copying several books for practice. I think about how her teacher says she is reading “below benchmark” and decided, again, not to think another thing of it. Continue reading

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LE BAM: 20-minute knit skirt

Yesterday, after many days with plans I put my foot down. I felt like my words enunciated and firm as my children bounced and asked if friends could come over for the fifth day in a row.

No playdates today. We are going home and hanging out. I pushed through the protests. Truth is, I am an introvert in that I recharge alone or with my immediate family and sometimes I short circuit over the number of children and continually hopping about in my kitchen. I love it and then I need quiet time.

It’s hard for me to admit that. Because I definitely, deeply appreciate that my kids and their pals love it here. And I love kids and loud-living-loving life and…I don’t need to justify this anymore. Every so often, I need a savasana in the middle of the asking and answering and dance parties and the snack making (holy shit I am pretty sure first grade girls are as hungry as 13 year old boys). What if I just busted out my yoga mat and corpse pose in the middle of a Katy Perry jump rope performance?

So, yesterday. Margot has been carrying around fabric, dreaming up a skirt in her head and we decided to go ahead and make it. One for Ruby too, of course. After snacks, of course.

I am all about simple lines, functional wear, no-fuss patterns and bonus if it is a quick make. My girls both prefer soft, stretchy knit fabrics. Margot likes capri leggings with tall socks, layers, tucking in and interesting accessories. Ruby likes very fitted leggings or tights, long sleeved shirts that end exactly at her wrist bone, a line skirts and changing her clothes every six minutes. They also prefer “slippery” skirts that don’t stick to cotton leggings.

This skirt meets every single one of the points in that paragraph up there!


Le Bam is our new phrase of choice, invented by Andy’s uncle because it is Mabel’s name backwards and it totally fits because she moves like a slinky, leaps like popcorn and does crazy things like jump off our second story deck (that really happened. she is fine.). 

The skirt. A simple knit skirt using a straight stitch on the sewing machine; any machine can sew this skirt. It’s only four pieces and only requires four straight stitchings. A raw edge at the bottom eliminates the need to finish with a turned hem. Continue reading

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nervously, wistfully, thankfully

Everyone says

Last year at this time we were skiing in the streets.

Either nervously, wistfully or thankfully. We might not have the adverb in common but we do have the noticing in common: it’s unusually warm for February in western Montana. My garlic is coming up, my fruit trees budding. People are jogging in shorts. There are rumors of early bear activity in the hills.

There is a new space to our days that we don’t dare fill up. Our kids pick out their clothes and dress themselves, unload the dishwasher, feed the animals, remind me to return library books, argue and work it out.

We revel in the gloriousness of existing in this state of funky symbiosis, this new place on our life map. Things feels easy in ways they weren’t for years: we aren’t needed like we were; our offspring play together for hours in imaginary worlds and help themselves to snacks. And things feel hard in ways they weren’t for years: navigating this world where my daughters are further away than on my hip or further away than I can shout, bounding up the hillside deep into their own, bright self-discovery.

Margot: OK honey, and what would you like to eat?

Ruby: Oregano Soup

Margot, whispering and out of character: No Ruby, it has to be something I can spell. Like Lucy Soup or Phoebe Soup or…

Ruby: Oh ok. I’d like Ellie Soup please. And a side of Daddy Ice Cream.

There are still plenty of MAMAAAAAs singing from their bedroom as they sort out who gets to wear the tall green socks or sob over Ruby drawing a kitty in Margot’s secret diary without asking. Continue reading

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