Fickle, Fickle Amber

22 Jun

Hi, my name is Amber and I’m a blog-host flip-flopper. I’ve been through about four blogs in the last five years…I want to commit to one blog hosting site and one blog, but I’m just constantly bombarded by new ideas, old hankerings for the simplicity of blogger… you guys know what I’m talking about. Anyway, this week I started a new blog. Again. I don’t think this one you’re reading now is going to make it. We’ve just outgrown eachother–I’ve changed. I feel good about the new blog, I think this could be the one. But I’m going to need your support, readers, bloggers…random web surfers in the back. Please click. Help me commit. No one can do this alone.



Memorial Weekend 2011

6 Jun

Q:Wait…what? Memorial Day? What happened to California part 2? For that matter, what happened to February, March, April and most of May?

A: Ummm…yeeah. So I’ve noticed that I go through cycles of blogging activity. The down times (no posts) are usually during times when I am experiencing technical difficulties in running my life. Nothing huge. Just…stuff. So don’t cry for those lost months or the blog posts that could have been. They are gone and they ain’t comin’ back.

Q: So, you’re just never going to finish writing about your trip to California, or the rest of your homeschool year, or post pictures from your daughter’s birthday or quote your son’s latest verbal eccentricities?

A: I might get around to a catch-up back post. Or I might not. No pressure on me.

Q: Fine. So, Memorial Weekend?

A: Right. You may or may not remember (depending on your lack of reading material/mental stimulation over the last year) that my hubby’s family has an annual tradition of gathering in Idaho on Memorial weekend at a little, slightly-run-down-but-heavily-sentimental-to-the-Johnson-clan spot called Mack’s Inn. There is always rain, that’s guaranteed, and because there is always rain, there is always mud. Most of the time there is also snow.

That’s right. We crazy Johnsons use the weekend most Americans regard as the official kick-off of summer to congregate in one of the only places in the United States that is still experiencing winter. And we like it.

Some fish, some ride ATVs (yes, they put helmets on)…

…we (our small section of the clan) almost always do some hinking…

(the elk like this trail too)

…and spend at least one day in the good ol’ YNP.

This year we took the official guided tour of Old Faithful Lodge, which we have never done before, and it was pretty stinkin’ cool.

And even though we all live in the American west and see them on a regular basis (I could name three ranches within 20 minutes of my front door), we still, for some reason, feel compelled to pull over and take a picture every time we see a Bison.

Just like tourists.

How was your Memorial weekend?

California, Part One

20 Dec

Oh how quickly it came and went! But our trip to LA to visit my two sisters and Broinlaw (thanks for the grammarian awesomeness, Miss J), was so much fun. The traveling party consisted of Me, B, R, and L, plus my parents, hereafter referred to as Nana and Papa. R had his fourth birthday while we were there- I can’t believe my little boy is 4!- and what will probably be that December baby’s first and last birthday pool party. December pool parties don’t generally work out in MT or ID. Anyway, the rundown of said vacay

First airplane ride for a very excited R, but L, who is apparently a seasoned pro after our Cedar City adventure, chilled in the airport ‘reader’s corner’ with Papa. She did get excited on the plane- it was fun to watch her face. I couldn’t see R, who was sitting behind me with Nana, but she said he was ecstatic.

Friday afternoon we drove from Long Beach Airport to No Ho, where Big Sis and Broinlaw live in a storefront space that functions as both home and art studio.

We got settled in, then went to dinner at local joint PitFire Pizza-yum-, then back to the house to work on the gingerbread train…

… and get the kids and the grandparents to bed. Then the sort-of-grown-ups sat down to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.

Ok. How had I not seen this before? Big Sis and Broinlaw, were like, “What? How have you not seen this before?” I know. That’s what I just said.

LuV it.

If you, like me, live, apparently, under a rock, and have not seen this before, and plan on watching on my advice, be forewarned: not a comedy. Hilarious. But not a comedy.

You’d have to watch it for that to make any sense.

Anyway, on with the vacation. Little Sis arrived via San Francisco commuter flight in the wee small hours, and Saturday morning we all had a pajama picnic at the park near Big Sis’s place.

Then, after getting dressed, it was on to The Getty! ~sigh~ The Getty. Unfortunately we had only a few hours when we really needed a few days. I saw maybe a tenth of all I’d hoped to see. Guess we’ll just have to go back!

The gardens and the architecture are art in and of themselves. But then you go inside…

Oh, I love the love (excuse the repetition) that is so apparent in this painting.  This is The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis by Jacques-Louis David (in case you didn’t know).

Doesn’t Degas look like a moody, Byronic sort of fellow?

And, back outside…

Okay. That’s one long blog post. And that was only Friday and half of Saturday. Part Du at a later date. Merry Christmas!

Love, AM

Thanksgiving and The Black Friday Scorecard

27 Nov

I am Thankful for Thanksgiving. Is that a little redundant? Well it’s true. Because without Thanksgiving and its accompanying two-state-wide blizzard as an excuse, my sweet hubby probably would not have sat in a unheated bus station from 10:30 at night on Wednesday until 3:00 Thursday morning waiting for the  Greyhound that would bring him home to spend two and half blissful days with the kids and me. Without Thanksgiving and said blizzard, B would have stayed in Blackfoot, and, even though we would go to see him next weekend, he would probably not have had the chance to come back to Missoula again for a very long time. And, I may have mentioned this before, we love Missoula.

But we did get snow and we did get B and we did get turkied and pied and stuffing-stuffed, and snuggled and smiled and hugged and all-around familied (yes, I just verbed a word again) for two whole days.  And I am thankful.

Random crafty note: We made these little place markers for the table out of walnut shells, twigs, construction paper and candle wax. They’re supposed to be ships… like everyone’s own personal Mayflower. I think they turned out cute.

And then there was Black Friday.

Okay, let me just step up onto my soap box and say that I think the Black Friday shopping hullabaloo we Americans plan,prepare for and participate in year after year after year represents something seriously wrong with the spirit of our nation.  The commercialism! The indignity! The unabashed greed!

And down from the soap box… Wanna hear about all the stuff I got?

I have never gone out shopping on Black Friday of my own will and accord (once I was coerced- but I didn’t buy anything, I swear!), until this year. See, on Monday I was dropping some things off at the Goodwill donation door, getting ready for the big move and all, when the friendly, helpful, Donation-Taker Man ( that’s an official title) mentioned in his friendly, helpful way that on Friday the store would open an hour early and everything would be 50% off.

50% off on thrifty goodness? Vintagey-why-would-anyone-get-rid-of-this-awesomeness? I cracked. Yesterday morning, my MiL and I were third in line outside those shiny glass doors.

Here’s the breakdown: While all those suckers over at the mall (no offense to any of my readers who might be mall suckers) paid $75 for a pair of socks, a bottle of cologne and a food processor, I laid down $ 74.86 for:

3 pairs of (practically new) jeans for me

3 sweaters for me (including this pea-green vintage awesomeness)

2 dress shirts for B

1 scholarly- looking corduroy suit coat for B

and 1 pair of never-worn GAP khakis for B

Good deal, huh? But wait! That’s not all! I also wrangled:

1 skirt, 1 jacket, and 1 sweater for L

1 shirt, 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of Handy Manny overalls (from Disneyland) for R

6 (count ’em) 6 matching picture frames

2 box sets of Pippi Longstocking books

5 American Girl books

And approximately 25 other excellent books in excellent condition for the kiddos.

Add my Black Friday haul to the handmade Christmas craft-stravaganza already in progress in my sewing corner, and my gift- giving is practically done. Snap. All hail the thrifting Queen.

I hope your Thanksgiving was as heartwarming and your Black Friday as frugally fabulous as mine.

Love, AM

No little old ladies were trampled by mob-mentality coupon holders in the making of this post.


October Review

12 Nov

Hmmm… two weeks into November… Thanksgiving approacheth… time to get around to posting the Halloween pics. And a bit of an October review in photos.

One of R’s favorite games this last month was Alphabet Hopscotch. I’m not sure if he liked the letters so much as the excuse to throw rocks, but either way he is now recognizing most of the first half of the alphabet.



L, on the other hand, really got into a little math game we made and called Pumpkins and Ghosts. Because it had a bunch of little pumpkins. And some ghosts. We’re original like that.

She’d shake a handful of the beans (with ghost and pumpkin faces drawn on them- it didn’t take as long as you would think) onto the tray, and then write an addition sentence based on how many beans, how she sorted them, etc. She loved it and I really like to present the kids with games and activities that engage their creativity and allow them to assert their preferences, rather than having everything pre-determined with only one possible solution.

We’ve been using themes to organize our learning activities and that is working out really well. For October, the themes were Columbus,  Bears and Hibernation, and Halloween.  I just have to say that I have always loved children’s literature- something about the simple story with the picture book images (some of my favorite art is found in picture books) just excites me, but never have I appreciated the genre so much than I have as a homeschooling parent. Whatever I want to teach, whatever the kids want to learn, there’s a wonderful picture book to help the process along. In October:

We love this series- it belonged to me and my sisters when we were kids.

L got really into the Chet Gecko series by Bruce Hale and got to participate in book discussion at the library. And when I say ‘participate’ I mean dominate, as she was the only kid who showed up. So she and the children’s librarian chatted it up for a half hour. It started her on a bit of a mystery kick. She read two more in the Chet Gecko series and then discovered American Girls History Mysteries. I’ve hardly seen her face since.

I won’t even try to list all the Halloween books we read and loved, but The House That Drac Built was our favorite this year.

For Halloween we drove down to Blackfoot to be with B (no, we are still not moved- that is another story. One that involves looking at many houses, waiting patiently, finding one with the Magic, and then not getting it- but that is for another post) and then we all trucked down further south to SLC for Boo at the Zoo. Hogle Zoo, that is.

R was a Jedi who would not wear the awesome Padwan braid his dedicated mother made for him, and, after about 10 minutes, didn’t want to carry his lightsaber, so… basically just a kid in a robe. But a cute one.

Here he has used the Dark Side of the Force to stuff as much candy in his mouth as possible while still allowing for a mischievous grin.

L was a princess.  She took her role quite seriously…

…except when hobnobbing and running amok with this little devil, cousin Bella. Other cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents joined the throng…



A grand time was had by all. We threatened tricks if treats were not given later that night as well, but we have no pictures because it was pouring rain. The kids were dedicated to their candy-seeking, though, and pulled through.

Hope your October was fun and memorable too.



London is so Diverting…

9 Nov

…as many an Austen character might tell you, but, apparently, so is the blogosphere. I sat down with Muriel (my trusty laptop) about an hour ago intending to whip up a witty and entertaining October Review including, but not limited to, Halloween pics of the munchkins, a book review or two, and a mad-dash recap of some of our recent homeschooling adventures. Through the seemingly innocent act of checking my email first, however, I ended up downloading a cute new dress pattern, checking out Tula Pink’s new fabric line (LUV IT), taking a Which Jane Austen Heroine Are You quiz (link in the sidebar), and reading a (an?) hilarious fictional interview with Emma Thompson on (I’m Elinor Dashwood, by the way. Hooray! No surprises there.) I kept telling myself I could stop anytime I wanted to… but one link led to the next and I just kept reading and clicking… and now it’s time to tuck the kids in bed and write (serious novel writing, not blog writing) so the Halloween pics will just have to wait.

I am easily distracted by metaphorical shiny objects (good books, impressive craft projects, vintage objects of curious origin, random scientific facts) , I know. And when I’m seething in frustration that it has taken my children 30 minutes to brush their teeth because they keep getting distracted by the rhythm of the dripping water or the double funny face reflections they can make in the beveled part of the mirror (so cool)  I know it’s my own fault. They got that from me.  It’s a miracle I ever wrote a novel, I tell you what, because every time I toggled over to Google to check a thesaurus or a French term of endearment or I entered the realm of Wikipedia to check a (an?) historical fact I could have easily gotten lost in absorption-of-information mode. And sometimes I did. But ultimately I did not want to be that girl who’s Always a Jeopardy Champion, Never a Published Author, so I clicked the red X and persevered. Yeah, Wikipedia and I are frenemies.

And see? Here I am still rambling when I should be reading the bedtime stories and setting to work on editing and revising said finished novel. So I’m going now.

Just one more thing.

I normally wouldn’t recommend this type of blog post because of the, ummm… adult language involved, but if you are a Project Runway fan at all, and you’ve watched season 8, and you know the story of the Gretchen drama, then you need to read this. Hi-lar-i-ous. Seriously. This one diverted my attention when I should have been balancing the checkbook.



Aren’t They Beautiful?

6 Nov

I have two sisters- one older, one younger- who have been on my mind a lot in recent days. Maybe because I came across these lovely pics that I hadn’t seen in for-ev-er.

They both live far far away. And our lives are so different from each others’ that sometimes the distance seems amplified. But when I see the things my sisters create, the little bits of freshness and beauty and love they put into this crazy world, the miles disappear and we are sitting, the three of us, side by side on the hearth of an old stone fireplace in a living room with red shag carpet playing When I Grow Up.

Little Sis (always certain): When I grow up I want to be an artist.

Middle Sis (I went through stages): When I grown up I want to be a writer…or maybe a teacher…or maybe an artist…and a mom.   Definitely a mom.

Big Sis (she dreamed big): When I grow up I want to be a fashion designer/ rock star.

And now Little Sis is a student at the prestigious San Francisco Academy of Art University. Middle Sis is, well, you read about my life here, and I’m living all my dreams in my own way. And Big Sis lives in Hollywood, doing a lot of creative things that I don’t entirely understand that all have a lot to do with fashion and design and rock stars. And I am so beyond eXcItEd to be going to CA to see them both in just one month’s time. I miss sitting on that hearth and believing in everything we said we’d be. But I believe in us still. And I’m so proud to call these two women my sisters. Aren’t they beautiful?

Check out Big Sis’s new fashion blog: Full-Time Fancy.

On a completely different note, you faithful readers (all 2 of you)  may have noticed that I’ve been messing with my blog’s theme lately, trying out a few new looks. I like what I’ve got now- all except for the headline font at the top. It’s much too Extra Extra Read All About It for my tastes. But I can’t figure out how to change it. I’ve been reading all kinds of tips and articles on designing a custom blog background, but none of them seem to apply to wordpress blogs. I’m seriously considering going back to blogger… Of the three blog hosting services I’ve used (blogger, wordpress, and typepad), it seems the most user-friendly as far as customizing things. Advice, anyone?

Keep Soaring,