The lakes are starting to change from ice to water in our neck of the woods, and we are welcome hints of green.  


We have had some beautiful weather in our neck of the woods lately, and while we know we still should anticipate the chance of some snowfall, we know it won't last for long.  Soon we will be swimming and gardening!



maple syrup yum










A successful season of sugaring has come to a close.  I am learning a little bit more each year.  This year I boiled down about 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to produce at least a gallon of maple syrup.  

This morning we celebrated with blueberry pancakes for breakfast!

Later this week I will be hosting a pancake party in my kindergarten classroom to share with my students who learned about the process and helped record and collect sap from our schoolyard maples.  Our class also donates some syrup to a  local non-profit for a fundraising auction that helps support our school and community.

It has been a sweet harvest!

::a mama & daddy getaway


 Early this week, the daddy and I ventured on an escape to Denver.  James had a training for work in Denver, and I, quite last minute, decided to use up my two personal days of the school year to tag along.  

IMG_9252We were just gone three days, but in that time we were able to have some nice dinners together and to take in some mountain scenery.IMG_9254During the day time, this mama bummed around - taking the bus downtown to do some shopping at the Tattered Cover Bookstore and the huge REI store downtown Denver.PicMonkey Collage


On our trip we had some great food.  We drove into the mountains the first evening eating at a the Bistro and downtown in the LoDo neighborhood the second night.IMG_9260




It was a fun getaway welcome change of pace, but as always, it is great to be home.


::with gratitude to the bees - an unexpected honey harvest::



A couple of weeks ago I checked in on my bees and determined one of the two hives that I tried to overwinter was still buzzing.  Yesterday, checked in with intentions of adding a pollen patty (protein source) and I found that the small cluster of bees that made it through the winter had since perished.   

This hive was strong going into the winter and even now had quite a surplus of honey.  I decided to take three frames of honey for an early spring harvest, saving a couple of full frames for the for the new bees that I will be starting over with later this spring.  

6a01053643b439970b017616aaff75970c-500wiThis was a fun learning experience that resulted in a yield of wonderful raw honey from my very own hives…and a very sticky kitchen.


I used the "crush and strain" method to harvest my honey, using materials and supplies I had on hand - learning as I was going along.IMG_9181





I also rendered the wax to use for lip balm and lotion bar recipes.







Even though I will be starting over this spring, I am happy with my unexpected harvest, and I am eager to embark on another season of beekeeping.


::Taproot - SONG


It's here!




Taproot ::SONG:: has been published and is on stands and in the homes of subscribers now!

I am so happy to be contributing to this issue with my article "Keeping Chickens" with photographs by Amanda Blake Soule.

It is a such wonderful experience to see my very own ideas come to life through print - and to be a part of Taproot, a magazine that I enjoy with a vision and mission that I believe in.

I hope you are able to get your hands on a copy - and maybe even get a little chicken raising guidance and inspiration from my article.

Interview with Nikki McClure (plus a giveaway!)

Nikki Header
Meet Nikki McClure, an inspiring artist, author and individual known for her painstakingly intricate and beautiful paper cuts. Nikki cuts her images from a single sheet of paper and creates a bold language that translates the complex poetry of motherhood, nature, and activism into a simple and endearing picture.  
I am a big fan of Nikki's work, I own several of her publications, and I often share her books with my children both at home and at school.  Nikki was also the cover artist of my first published piece in Taproot Magazine.  Needless to say, I am very happy to share our recent conversation:
::Nikki, please tell us a little bit about yourself - where you live, your family, and your interests.
I live in Olympia, Washington along the east shore of Budd Inlet, the southernmost part of the Salish Sea (Puget Sound).  The fog is lifting, the waning moon is in the sky, pine siskins are chattering away and I have fed the crows leftover scraps of eggs and bacon. My son is at school, he’s 10 and the proud completer of his essay about Bufflehead and American Wigeon migration. (I’m so happy that’s over!) My husband, Jay T. is looking at some wood at a friend’s shop. Jay T. builds fine furniture. He has a shop at home. I work at home too. My studio is on the bottom floor (almost a basement…but with windows and a door).  It’s a quiet morning and I finished an image for my next book yesterday, so today is the pause to consider which one I’ll tackle next. 
My interests? Outside. But I also love insides too, all the ways that people live and make spaces into homes and fill them. And I’d rather sleep inside most of the time. Outside I marvel at cedar leaf plaiting, eagle mating, dome weaving spiders, everything really. I putter about and stare and stare and garden some to get my fingernails properly caked with dirt.
::Can you tell us about the process of creating one of your paper cuts, from your ideas and inspiration to a final product?
Ideas, they come from all that staring and dirt digging: my living. I then make several small sketches, little squares, look through photos, stage some photos perhaps, draw more sketches. When I have a sketch I like, I draw it to size, transfer it to black paper using graphite transfer paper. Then I redraw it on the paper following the transferred guide lines, and start cutting! The hardest thing first to get it over with. Faces usually. The final paper cut is scanned, sent to a friend to clean up, paste together, color if needed. I then send the digital version to the printer or publisher. The original I glue down and frame and show at an exhibit and sell it. Then I start all over with more staring and dirt digging.
::In most of your paper cuts you have a word paired with an image.  What comes first, the word or the image?  
The image usually comes first, though I keep a list of words only wall for the next calendar. The words that appear as necessary and needed. Sometimes the words appear while I am cutting out the final image, before it is completed.  My sketches usually have a trail of words, one leading to the next. I consult the dictionary often and get lost in etymological rabbit holes.
::Do you have a favorite?
Do you?
Re- words, pre- words, trans- words- 
Courage has been a favorite at times. I like the COUR, heart, but it also has RAGE and it is a word that serves as a guide. I feel it tugging my heart forward.
::Through your work, you share messages of simplicity, connection, and gratitude that encourage people to slow down, pay attention, and to live a rich and mindful life.  What impact has sharing these messages with the world through your art had on your own life? 
This is a difficult one to answer for some reason. The immediate impact is that I have been supported by so many people and have been able to just BE. Be an artist making images and exploring ideas without having to hustle much or compromise. I am able to do what I want, mostly. I still have to get up too early and stay up too late. I know my son will have more options as he creates his life. But even I have to sit at computers too much!! And after a day of thinking and making, I often don’t have any creativity left to make dinner.
The most remarkable thing is when people share their stories of how the art has affected them. The impact it has had on their lives. That’s the part I never expected. I am just making the pictures that I want to make of mostly my tiny life, moments, seconds freeze-framed. But those moments, this small life has had some profound connections with people that reveals how art, art, can connect memory and experience, and transfers energy between people. I’m sounding kinda kooky here. But I can’t explain some of the things that have happened. Deaths and grieving and healing and loving. The calendar is made for a future that comes true for strangers. So I play with that sometimes. What do I want to happen in December of 2016? I’ll be making that image soon.


::Tell us about your new book IN.  What was the inspiration behind this book?
A sunny day in June when we were freed from school! And all my son wanted to do was stay inside. Inside!!!
Not outside, where I wanted to be. So I gave him so much inside that eventually he broke free. We made popovers and were cozy. By the time he bored of the inside world and had read every book (well, not actually. We do have a lot of books), he ran outside…and it was raining! Oh, he was soooo happy! He loves the rain. There is a storm water river that happens when it rains. He can dam it up, build bridges, tiny, tiny forts…and get completely wet and muddy and happy. He really does jump into mud puddles belly first.
::What's next?
On that list is another book, “Waiting for High Tide” which I am making the final art for. Interspecies needs being common. A raft is built. There is a sharp hatchet. Hungry gulls. Everyone lunching. And vision and glasses.
The 2016 calendar. 1/6 done!
A summer solstice card.
A gate for the Seattle Food Bank.
Nettle noodles to make tonight which means picking nettles in the woods and trying to find the other deer antler to match the one I found a few weeks ago picking nettles.
And theme night at school tonight as well…that essay is done!!
Los Angeles Art Show, April 4th, at Giant Robot. there is artwork from IN and some 2015 calendar originals.
and a bigger fence to build to keep the deer out of my berry garden: raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
Now to make another picture for “Waiting for High Tide”.
Thank you Nikki!
Now for more fun!  I have a copy of Nikki's new book IN to giveaway courtesy of Abrams Books.
To enter use the Rafflecopter below:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make:: Grass Guys

This week in kindergarten we're going to be sprouting some fun with our annual grass guy project.  I thought it would be fun to share this project here in case you wanted to play along!

Grass guys
 knee high nylon stockings, potting soil, grass seed, googly eyes, tacky glue, acrylic puff paint, clean spray bottle, and plastic plate or lid.

1)  Gently scoop approximately 1 T of grass seed in a nylon stocking.  Guide the seed to the toe end.

2) Scoop approximately 1 cup of potting soil into the stocking.  Press down into a ball.  

3)  Tightly knot the nylon, compressing the soil, forming the head.

4)  Gently turn the grass guy over - the seed should now be on the top.  

5)  Decorate your grass guy with eyes, nose and a mouth and let dry.

6)  Set your grass guy on the plastic plate and use the spray bottle to lightly saturate the dirt and seed.

The “hair” of your grass guy should start sprouting in a couple of days.  Add water with the spray bottle daily to keep moist.  Hairstyle when needed.