My History

November 28, 2012

It's What You Make Of It

My passion for cooking began when I was a little girl, living in our modest, yet homey cabin in the woods. Our cabin was built by my dad, completely by hand, and was a testament to his love of all things handmade and salvaged. Our home was filled with items found in old landfills or secondhand shops and treasures passed down within our family. I didn’t own toys, rather, my collections were the things that my grandmothers had used and cherished over the years. Their cookbooks, banded bowls, measuring cups, depression glass, and hand beaters. And what I loved most of all was to spend my days reading through their cookbooks spattered with the ingredients from their kitchens of long ago, deciding what I’d like to bake that day. And because I never got to meet either of them, it was my opportunity to be close to them in my own special way.

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My Grandpa, Grandma, and Dad

Our cabin in the woods was high in the mountains and had an old wood cookstove, but no refrigerator, electricity or running water. Teaching myself to cook at a high elevation with the fluctuating heat in the stove was a challenge, but not unlike the rest of my life, where improvising and making do was just the way it was.

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Our first kitchen, in our family gypsy wagon home.

When I was in sixth grade, our local newspaper, the Siskiyou Daily News, advertised a baking contest and I was overjoyed at the prospect of participating. I chose a complicated whipped cream and chocolate cake that required refrigeration. We made a special trip to town to buy huge ice blocks for the ice chest and the special ingredients for the cake. I spent all night working on the cake, which was so delicate and fluffy. I discovered a way to keep the whipped cream from separating and had all of the elements ready to assemble the next morning. When I awoke, my heart skipped a beat, thinking about the impending contest and I excitedly went to work, piecing everything together. And when I was finished, my fluffy little cake was a masterpiece I was so proud of. Time was of the essence. My cake had to get to town quickly, so the judges could see and taste if before it warmed up. So I wobbled my way to the front seat of our car and placed my masterpiece on my lap. And as we drove down our three mile long dirt road into town, I held onto that little cake with all my might. But as we rounded the bend in the road, our car hit a huge pothole which sent my cake straight onto the floor, where it landed, along with all of my hopes for the contest.

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After I got over the initial disappointment of the cake crash, we were able so salvage much of the cake and enjoyed it as a breakfast treat at home that day. And my dad proclaimed it to be a real winner.

And it was delicious.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

You can read more about my childhood here.

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July 27, 2012

The Originals

Something I have great admiration for are the originals. Those people who have original thoughts, are creative, and do what they do because it's just who they are. I love that about my family history and know it's why I'm not overly interested in trends or what's popular at the time. I want to blaze my own trail.

Years ago, my mom and dad were blazing a trail of their own and my dad's amazing ability to turn waste into our family Gypsy Wagon was documented by Lloyd Khan in his book, Shelter. All images and copy are from the book, with the exception of my comments directly below some of the images.

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Some years ago Joaquin De La Luz traded his '48 Triumph motorcycle for this vintage Chevy flatbed, and with little money, much imagination, and found discards set about making one of the most unique homes ever to roll along America's roads. For the past five years, Joaquin, Gypsy and their three kids - Heather, Bear and Serena - have moved around the country and were last seen parked along California's Feather River. Following are some tips on mobile design, and living on the fringe prepared by the De La Luz family, and from the photos you can see it's true when Joaquin says: "I love trucks."

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I have found more freedom in my building designs by not confining my ideas to a planned form. If you plan what you are going to build then you have to find materials to conform to that plan.

Every area has its own unique throw-aways.

If you build a house on wheels it is best to build the frame of good solid material, preferably all the same dimension.

Bending bolt shank works better than lock washers on house trucks (esp. metal framework). See sketch above.

Never use less than 5/16" nuts & bolts on house trucks. (When bolting studs together).

Make truck level before starting to build.

Use a square: it pays off in the long run.

Notch every corner you can when building with wood.

Junk building material does not mean junk workmanship.

A good solid frame is most important even if you have to buy the wood.

I have found it  much easier to find building materials to cover a building with than to build the framework with.

Build house trucks with as low a center of gravity as possible, It is better to have steps over wheels than to have floor too high from chassis. This is very important. It means you can have more space inside and lower clearance from ground to roof outside. 4" makes a big difference.

Lower center of gravity also means much better handling on the road.

Heavy leather makes good hinges for cupboard doors.

A chainsaw can even cut round shapes like archs for truck roof.

I have found the chainsaw the most useful tool for my style of building. I used my chainsaw to build the entire framework for my house. It was built with green Douglas fir rough cut 1 x 4 that I bought new from a mill. Every board was dripping wet as it was winter in Oregon at the time. The chainsaw cut smoothly thru every board, an unequaled feat for sawing wet wood. A mini chainsaw is best for building with.

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Found fretwork adorns the handmade dutch door, the dishrack finds a home on the door, an old found animal horn tip works as a latch. ~Serena

Utilize beer cans by cutting them into pleasing shapes for shingles - light weight - no rust.

Use bailing wire for "ground wire" cutting electrical installation costs in half.

After cutting out rear wall in cab of truck, join house with cab with an old inner-tube, cut & tacked to keep air tight. (Rubber allows for movement between house & truck.)

The waste of America is the richest in the world.

Building with cast-out wood you are sometimes faced with cracked pieces - cut different shapes out of whatever metal is available & tack over crack to strengthen.

Old produce crates make great spice shelves etc., many uses!

Old cans that have been discarded such as anti-freeze cans of 1 gal. size cans, can be cut and used for punched tin cupboard, making holes with a nail.

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My affinity for calico was born with the curtains seen here. My mom's necklace doubles as a work of art in the window. A found tobacco tin holds pens. The treadle sewing machine I learned to sew on. ~Serena

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July 18, 2012

Life's A Dance You Learn As You Go

42 years ago today I came into this world. Born in a little dirt-floored cabin in the woods where my parents had temporarily parked the gypsy wagon.

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Delivered by my father, with my five year old sister playing nurse. They named me Serena Melegra Ume De La Luz. Melegra meaning miracle and Ume meaning part you, part me - something that came into my dad's mind when he held me for the first time. "She's part you, part me!", he exclaimed to my mom. And so it was.

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Joaquin and Gypsy (9 months pregnant), my parents.

Today, as with every day of my life, I wonder at how I came to be. At what a miracle life is, no matter what we have or don't. And it's those thoughts that define me. That make me grateful for my roots that made me the person that I am today.

Life's a dance we learn as we go. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow. Don't worry about what you don't know. Life's a dance we learn as we go... ~John Michael Montgomery

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April 17, 2012

Happy Trails to You

The day after I graduated from high school I caught a plane to Alaska to work for the summer. Turned out that summer would turn into seven years.

I needed to put my little town in the rear-view mirror. Our family had always struggled to get by and the feeling that I could never get ahead felt claustrophobic to me. I didn't understand it at the time, but that feeling was much like what my parents felt when they set out on their journey as hippies, long before there was a me.

After I'd been living in Alaska for about two years, my parents sent me a video tape - a documentary about the sixties - which was their way of explaining why they'd chosen to live the way we did - first in the Gypsy Wagon, and then eventually off the grid, in the mountains of Siskiyou County. And after watching it, I understood we'd all been seeking freedom from the lives we'd been living. It made more sense to me.

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My family and our Gypsy Wagon

My parents journey was one of peace and happiness as we traveled about North America. They named it Happy Trails. And everywhere we went, that was their message: "Happy Trails to You!" They had found their peace and love and wanted to spread it around the world.

We made our income from donations people would give us for getting a tour of our little home on wheels and by selling postcards with the image of our Gypsy Wagon and the happy trails message that my brother, sister, and I would handstamp on each one.

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When I grew up, it was a message that stuck with me and that I try and pass along whenever I can. My happy trails message is be happy! Spread joy in what you do. Lift up others whenever you can. Shine a light on the good that exists in the world. And we will all be better because of it.

Happy Trails to You!

P.S. Now you know why this Happy Trails to You message bids you farewell as you leave The Farm Chicks Show each year. ♥

December 20, 2011

Taking a Drive

When I was a girl, one of my parent's favorite things to do was to take a drive. We'd all pile into the Crummy and set out on an adventure. Inevitably, we'd end up on the steep and twisty roads of the Salmon River, where my mom would hunt for river rocks to bring home. Once the Crummy was full of rocks, we'd stop at the little country store for an It's It (a chocolate chip cookie ice-cream sandwich).

The ice-cream was a really big deal for us, as our mom wasn't big into sugary treats, so we'd make them last for as much of the ride home as we could.

Now that I'm a mom, I love family drives too. And I especially enjoy packing treats for us to enjoy.

Packing is half the fun because you can make it all pretty - which makes everything taste even better.

Tips:

Vessels like old enamelware (as seen below), wooden pop crates, and wire baskets work really well for holding the goodies.

Vintage thermoses are perfect for keeping cocoa hot.

Mugs can be stacked with little cloth cocktail napkins in between each one, which not only provide cushioning for the glasses, but also can be passed out to your family members once you pour the cocoa.

Caramel corn, nuts, or trail mix packaged in handy little paper bags are a simple, tasty, toteable treat.

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P.S. Did you know that "Crummy" was the name of the vehicle that would haul the logging crews around on the job? My dad was a logger and during fire season, my mom would oftentimes become the driver for the fire crews. And since we were a family big on nick-names, our family car was always called the Crummy.

Image by John Granen.

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August 03, 2011

Time to Shine

The first business I ever had was selling mud pies to people who would venture up the three mile long dirt road to our cabin in the woods to see my parents. I was in elementary school and I still remember my exhilaration once I'd made $20 from those pies.

In fact, with that success, an entrepreneur was born.

And there's really something about entrepreneurs isn't there?

All chasing a dream.

A big idea.

The next big thing.

Or the next little thing.... that maybe does nothing more than to make us happy.

Big or small...

dreams are dreams and that's what being an entrepreneur is all about. Dreaming, doing, following through. For you.

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You. That's really what I'm trying to get around to today.

And here's why. I want to help shine a light on other entrepreneurs. Because we can all use a boost sometime.

It's your time to shine.

...     *     ...     *     ...     *     ...     *     ...     *     ...     *     ...     *     ...

Here are the details:

Please send me a description of your business (from anywhere in the world), anything that helps me to better understand what you do. Tell me your story, your successes, failures, whatever it is that's brought you to where you are with your business today. (If you have a web address, please make sure to provide that as well).

Put everything together and send it to me here:

The Farm Chicks

Time to Shine!

P.O. Box 1328

Mead, WA 99021

or you can email me, with the subject line: Time to Shine.

I will be going through your submissions and will select several to profile here, on my blog, for the world to see.

Because you deserve it.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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July 28, 2011

Croy Gulch

When I started Kindergarten, my family had temporarily settled into a tiny shack on the Klamath River in California. The house was just off the road, so there was always a lot of action going on beyond our doors. This was Croy Gulch.

My parents made their bedroom in the garden, in part to enjoy the cool that the evening would bring and in part to guard the tomatoes from the deer. An old clawfoot tub was in the garden as well, filled with water to be warmed by the sun and where we'd take our occasional baths. We'd wash our clothes by hand and then run them through the wringer, that sat just on the other side of the garden. My brother and sister slept in the main house and the gypsy wagon was my bedroom, which meant I was closest to the road.

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One summer night as we all lay sleeping, a commotion arose in the driveway. Bright lights, scuffling, car doors, banging, and then a booming voice: THIS IS THE POLICE! YOU ARE SURROUNDED! COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!

My mom came flying out from the garden with her hands in the air and was met by a police squadron with their guns drawn. "I SURRENDER! I SURRENDER!", she screamed.

What ensued was a standoff between a man who had robbed a store down the river and the police, following a chase that had ended in our driveway. In the end, we were safe and the robber taken away, but it was the beginning of a long string of high drama summer incidents that marked our stay at Croy Gulch.

Living just off the road was a sort of entertainment for us kids and oftentimes, we'd stand at the edge of the driveway watching the cars go by. "Flatlanders!", we'd say about the people in each car that'd pass, imagining they were from the city. The flatlands, as we called it.

They weren't tough like us, we imagined. Because we were adventurers. Tenders of the goats, hunters of rattlesnakes, and always covered in poison oak and big white dots of Milk of Magnesia, applied to dry out the sores.

Our favorite days were the ones when the road crew would come through. When my mom saw them coming, she'd pull out my grandma's old dough bowls and make her famous homemade bread. We'd take the hot, steaming thick slices out, covered in big slabs of butter and feast with the crew. They always made sure to set up their base at our driveway whenever they were nearby.

Eventually, the BLM who owned the land we were renting, informed my parents that they needed to remove the shack from their property. So they threw a huge house tearing down party and then, just like that, we moved on.

Because that's what adventurers do.

Footnote: The 67 Truckin Co. seen on my family car (above) was sort of like our family brand. 1967 is the year my parents met and my dad painted 67 on many of our vehicles and gypsy wagon.

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June 16, 2011

On Suffering, Kindness, and Perspective

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The year our fourth boy was born threw me for a loop.

The three youngest were all in diapers, one had colic, and I had mastitis. I remember the day I made it in to the Doctor's office for the baby's first checkup and being berated by the receptionist for being a few weeks late. And I distinctly remember the way that made me feel. A bad mom. Irresponsible. Overwhelmed.

I wanted to cry.

Instead, I choked this out: That she didn't know my story. That she had no idea why I couldn't make it in until that day. And requested that the next time she wanted to cast judgement on someone or speak unkind words, that she first remember that she didn't know that person's story and perhaps a few words of kindness could go much further.

And then something happened that shocked me.

She apologized.

Not a shallow apology, but one that I could really feel. I knew she meant it. 

Today I was thinking about the winter of my childhood where I'm pretty sure we nearly starved to death, surviving on not much more than potatoes and powdered milk. The winter where my sister and I invented potato cereal (no... it's not tasty), I was stricken with scabies, dug through dumpsters for food, and I learned to dig deep within myself to survive. To make it through to the next day. And the next.

I became the strongest person I knew.

And it's a good thing for me to remember. Because sometimes, I need perspective, just like that receptionist needed some too.

But don't we all sometimes?

I think everyone suffers at some point in their lives. What can we do to make a difference?

We can be kind, because it's really easy to do.

            Just a smile

   or a wave..

                        a compliment

...or two.

                                      just because.

 

                .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

I've been gone from here for a bit, but I'm looking forward to returning soon.

Here are some things I'm loving and am thankful for lately...

                             hearts of palm

       fresh mushrooms

           the farmer who works our fields

               my freshly planted garden

                .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

I'll be back soon.

Love,

me

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May 08, 2011

My Giving Tree

Dear Sis,

I thought of you today. Happy Mother's Day. And not just because you're a mom. But because of what a mom you were to me. You know, for all those early years.

ky heather serena breakfast

My brother, sister, and me. Early 1970's.

Remember the year you made me a birthday cake, with jam for the frosting, because that was the best thing we had.

How you protected me when that girl at school made fun of me for looking poor. You made me feel like a million bucks.

You introduced me to Richie Rich, Uncle Scrooge, Archie, Casper, and Emily Post. And to a world beyond our life in the woods - at the library, where books became my everything and magazines like Vogue, Bazaar, and Seventeen became my inspiration. Because you showed them all to me.

Remember the hover craft that you saved up for? The one we thought you'd drive? That turned out to be as big as the palm of your hand and that eventually got so tangled up in your hair that it had to be cut out? And the sea monkey family? Remember them?

You were like my giving tree.

And then one day, you grew up and moved away.

And I was sad.

"Come and play with me!", I'd write. But you were too far away.

So I'd go to the spring and think about you. About the day you and Ky ran into the bear there and how you and the bear both turned and ran away in fear. I'd think about the old days when we were all together. You, me and Ky.

And I was happy.

I thought about you today, Sis. About what an impact your mothering had on me. I'm not sure where I'd be, had you not been there for me.

My giving tree.

 

April 08, 2011

The Homecoming Queen

In fourth grade, my family settled into a tiny cabin in the woods outside of Yreka, California. Yreka had a JCPenney department store downtown and lovely fashions like leather and wooden clogs that were all the rage at the time.

Yreka is small town America. Where Friday nights mean football and nothing matters like cheering for your home team. The Miners.

In the fall, Homecoming is all the hoopla. Each high school grade toils away on massive parade floats that scream school pride, princesses are nominated, and eventually, a big school spirit parade weaves through town. Truckloads of teens, firetrucks carrying the cheerleaders, and fancy sportscars with a homecoming princess perched in each one.

When senior year rolled around, my friends and I were all abuzz about princess nominations. Who would be nominated? Who would be in line to become Queen?

Turned out, all of my friends. But me. And I was crushed.

When I was a little girl, I didn't know my family had very little. I never missed what we didn't have. But as the years ticked by and I became a teen, I began to realize that I was different and had to work so hard to fit in. My dad had a pony tail. My mom - an earring in her nose. I couldn't take a bath without heating water on the top of the wood stove. I lived deep in the woods, in a home I was too afraid to ever reveal. I wanted nothing more than to just be normal. To be like everyone else. And to someday be a Queen. But it just wasn't my time.

Yesterday as our new home buzzed with the last flurry of workers and Colin and I worked like dogs to get things packed up and everything done, my mind was on the last forty years.

Years that I wouldn't give back for anything. No matter how hard they were at times. Because as hard as some were, the better ones prevailed. Years where I grew to realize it really didn't matter what I had or where I was from or if anyone wanted to nominate me for anything. Years that made me who I am.

A wife. A mom. A happy girl.

As we begin to settle into our new home, the place Colin and I intend to live out the rest of our years, this is our homecoming.

And I am Queen.

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P.S.

One of my favorite songs my mom would sing when I was a girl, went like this:

"No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best, 'cause I'm the Queen of the house!

Queen of the houuuuusssssseeeee!"

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

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March 15, 2011

Kindness

Sometimes when I start thinking about the things in life that are difficult, I'm reminded of those people in my past that have shown incredible kindness. People that I can only aspire to be like.

I think about the Hughes brothers who were "neighbors" of ours in Northern California, living several miles away in the country.

We lived deep in the woods, with no running water, electricity, or telephone and winters could be really harsh. There were times when we'd be snowed in for days, and sometimes, weeks on end. It was tough. But what I remember so clearly is that just when things were really beginning to deteriorate and I'd begin to think that we were doomed, I'd hear a rumbling in the distance. "It's the Hughes!", I'd scream and sure enough, soon after, Vern or Andy would show up on their Cat, and plow us out.

I loved them. Everything about them and their families. They were kind and generous and always there for us when we needed them.

I always looked forward to superbowl season, because I knew we'd be invited over to Vern's for the big game. We'd eat wonderful snacks and watch the game and for me, it was a view into a home and lifestyle that was so completely different than ours. I'd hang on to every word of every commercial and soak in what was to me a world that I knew absolutely nothing about.

When our home burned down, they gave us new furniture. They loaned us their Cat. And years later, after I'd moved away, I could still call Vern and ask him to check on my parents when a major storm hit.

Kindness.

When I think of kindness, I think of the Hughes, and all of the people who have been there for me when times were tough.

And thank goodness for that, because I think when we show someone kindness, it plants a little seed. And it makes us want to grow into better people who do good things.

Vern, Andy, and families: Today I thought of you and remembered your kindness and was reminded that I'm a better person because of you. And even though these words will never be enough....

Thank you.

Prairie2

 

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February 04, 2011

Collecting: Lockets

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I've been collecting lockets as long as I can remember. When our home was burglarized a few years ago, they took most of my grandma Marjorie's jewelry and the locket that contained her picture. But luckily, they left her picture. So, I still keep her with my collection. Isn't she beautiful?

My favorite locket has the inscription:

Butterfly
Mornin
Wildflower
Afternoon

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As a girl, I collected butterfly jewelry too. But that's a story for another day...

My collection was started for me by my mom because she LOVED hearts. Anything hearts. By the time I left home, I was so sick of hearts that I never wanted to see another one again. But thankfully, this year I've warmed up to hearts again (in moderation) and am so glad that I still have my collection...

Serena grade 6

...after all these years.

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January 13, 2011

A Short Novel About Fashion

Thank goodness my sister was into fashion.  She used to order us Esprit catalogs which we'd pour over, learning what was cool at the moment.  When we were done with them, we'd pull the pages out and hang them on the walls of the little travel trailer she and I shared as our bedrooms.  It opened my eyes to a beautiful world I never knew existed.  I thought being a fashion model would be amazing, but I was going through an awkward phase, so I set my sights on being a hand model.

When I was in fourth grade, my family moved deep into the woods outside of the small Northern California town of Yreka. I loved when we'd get to make the trip into town and I could gaze in the windows of my favorite store, Directions.  The window displays were always done by a beautiful woman named Yoni, who I admired very much.  When I got older, I would pick her brain about how she created those amazing displays.  And it's definitely where I learned to appreciate a good display, especially one with cute merchandise.

My mom eventually took a job at a shop in town called the Second Hand Rose, which sold used clothing. It was like a dream come true for me because I got to be in charge of window displays.  And sometimes, there wasn't as good of a selection as other times, so I learned to be resourceful with outfit displays, leaning on a few good key pieces to pull the looks together.

Along the way, I met my uncle who was a very successful doctor in San Francisco and I began to visit him on holidays.  He shopped in wonderful department stores like Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue and would take me there to shop, carte blanche.  It was a shocking experience for me, as his world and mine could not have been more different.  Now I could have the Esprit outfits I had only seen on my travel trailer bedroom walls, never even imagining that one day they could possibly be mine.

When I was just beginning my life as an adult, I'd still order fashion catalogs and would fill out huge orders on the order forms, sometimes taking several days at a time before I was done.  Once complete, I'd tuck them away and wait for the next season's catalogs to arrive.  For many years I wasn't able to place the orders, but the process made me happy.  Like I was in touch with fashion.

I still love seeing each season's collections and look forward to every catalog that arrives.  Each season (I break it up by spring/summer and fall/winter) I try to think about one main color I'm going to build my wardrobe around so that everything works well together and my dollar goes farther.  For spring/summer this year, I'm loving navy blue.  And so many colors look great with Navy.

From Boden.  Wouldn't this be a cute start to my navy spring/summer? :

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From EmersonMade:

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and from Made by Hank (any of these would look so cute with my wardrobe):

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And even the color of the year looks great with navy!

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Look sis, it's me! I'm a hand model.

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December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas, Team!

It was 1976 and my family was attending an unfamiliar church.  I was wide-eyed, watching the service which was very unknown, yet fascinating to me.

At the end of the service, a nun gifted me with a children's Bible.  The first Bible I'd ever seen.  It was full of beautiful pictures and it became a favorite possession of mine.  I looked through it so often that the pages became worn and dingy.  I loved it so much.

That Christmas, when searching for something... anything to give my family members, I couldn't help but think of my little Bible.  It was so special and I decided my dad would love it just as much as me.

So, I carefully inscribed it, "To Dad. Love, Serena De La Luz", and wrapped it up.  I could barely stand waiting for him to open it the next day.

This picture was taken Christmas morning.  Can you tell I was a weeee bit excited about the gift?!

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I love the anticipation of Christmas.  The parties, treats, celebrations, seeing the excitement in my children's faces.  The magic of the entire season, when whichever holiday is being celebrated, regardless of belief, that the world just feels more peaceful to me.  As if we're all on the same team.

And I like that.  Very much.

And I just want to say to you, my friend:

Thank you for another wonderful year.  For visiting with me here.  For being on my team.  I'm incredibly thankful for your support and for letting me share what I love to do every day with you.

From the bottom of my heart, Merry Christmas, to you ♥ .

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December 06, 2010

Finding Inspiration

This weekend, some friends and I ventured out to a Christmas sale.  We had several friends who were selling there and we wanted to make sure and pay them a visit.

Colin and I even squeezed in a date night.  I LOVE date night.

And then suddenly during date night, I was feeling Christmasy sentimental and asked Colin if he'd take me to Rite-Aide.  (It's the closest thing to my childhood drug store, Thrifty's).  And so off we went.

When I was a young girl, Thrifty's was THE place in town that I loved to visit and find great things.  And at Christmastime, it was the place to go for tiny Whitman's Sampler boxes, colorful barrettes, and Bonne Bell Lip Smacker.

I'd wander those aisles looking at all that fancy store-bought merchandise and my brain would start churning.  Seeing all of those simple items made me think of things that I could create on my own and I'd be inspired.  Inspired for Christmas.

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(That's me (seated) at the Christmas play at my teeny tiny Hornbrook School.)

And it's the same for me today.  Inspiration comes easiest when I have to struggle to see it.  And that's why I LOVE the drugstore.

We left Rite-Aide with several bags full of simplicity and me full of inspiration.

And as we drove home, I remembered something I always thought about growing up...

It's not about what you have.  It's what you do with what you have.

...

Merry Christmastime.  Merry Inspiration.

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November 23, 2010

The Luckiest Girl

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My parents were married on Thanksgiving day.  A hippy ceremony on our Klamath River property.

I was their flower girl.  Our herd of goats was there too.

And what a wild life that was, being the child of two people who were born to roam.  It seems like just yesterday, and a thousand years ago too.

Every Thanksgiving I think about how lucky I was to be born and how thankful I am that my parents met on a lone dirt road in Soulsbyville.  And fell in love.

And that I was born in a little shack in the woods, with dirt floors and my dad playing doctor.

How lucky am I?

You see, it's one of the reasons I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world.

And I'm so thankful.

........

Happy Thanksgiving to you, sweet friends of mine.  I'm thankful for you too.

Image by the super wonderful and amazing Samantha Cabrera.

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April 08, 2010

My Gypsy Wagon

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When the journey in our family gypsy wagon came to an end, we settled down in a little shack on the Klamath River in Northern California in a place called Croy Gulch.  The gulch was hot and dry and suffering from several years of drought.  Rattle snakes ruled the land, poison oak thrived, and we and our bare feet weren't the least bit intimidated.  We were strong and independent kids.

Shortly after we arrived, I decided to take ownership of the Gypsy Wagon and make it my own "room".  And each night, after dinner, I loved leaving our family's little shack with my life-sized homemade doll, Mr. Howdy Doody in tow, and making my way to my gypsy wagon where I'd settle into my cozy calico bed and read by kerosene lantern, all about Laura Ingalls and her little house on the prairie.  Life was good.

Good until the middle of my second grade year, when an executive at Magic Mountain theme park (now known as Six Flags) noticed my gypsy wagon in the pages of the book, Shelter, where it had been featured, along with a story about our family.  He imagined it'd make a great feature in the park, in an artsy area called Spillikin Corners.  Somehow, he tracked us down and made an offer to buy it.  No way!, I thought.  Was he crazy?!  But just like that, my gypsy wagon was gone and I was left with a broken heart.

I'll never forget the day the picture was taken with my family around the wagon and me in the cab and how I was feeling at the time.  It was the last time I ever sat in my gypsy wagon.

Eventually my dad built another wagon and we moved away from Croy Gulch.  And my sadness slowly wore away as I discovered home really was anywhere my heart was and really, what I made of my life, not where I made my bed.

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March 19, 2010

Refreshment

6a010534adb750970b0120a9556896970b-320wi-2It was always so quiet in our 40 acre woods and I'd wander off to the cliffs where the wind would blow and I could gaze at all of the succulents growing on the rocks. I'd look down onto the forest below and wonder what was there under that canopy of trees. Then I'd make my way down the narrow path to the old fallen tree that was hollowed out and try to fit inside. It seemed so cozy. So perfect. But I couldn't ever squeeze my way in. So I'd gather the bark that lay in piles all around and I'd make a village of tiny houses, all the while dreaming of what I'd become. Who would I be? I'd eventually make my way to the snag that stood big and proud on the outskirts of our family's national park, an enormous area my mom had declared would be just that someday - and an area we'd intermittently rake, move rocks, and clear paths, only to stand back and realize the work we'd just done amounted to roughly the size of a postage stamp. And it was on one of those days, when standing back looking at the postage stamp progress and feeling defeated, I noticed my snag. She was perfect. And I could fit inside, with room to spare. And inside my snag, It became my little home away from home, a place that I could make my own and play house. My brother carved me a sign that read "Reenie Beans" (my nickname) and colored the letters red with crayon. And we nailed it right over the door, which was a little hole I'd crawl through to get inside. And there I'd sit in the silence, dreaming once again. I wanted to be a baker, have my own little bakery someday and a secretary because I'd get to type on a fancy typewriter. Or an archeologist so I could discover wonderful things. But mostly, I wanted to be a mom and wife and have a happy life. And eventually my dreams came true and I'd get the happiest life. Better than my best dreams. But I never realized how hard it can sometimes be. To be a mom and a wife, trying to get everything just right. Because I want to raise wonderful children who do wonderful things. I want them to have the world and to love it too. And some days, I wonder, are we getting it right? Are we doing everything we can do? And I worry, like lots of moms do. Then one day, a few weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail, addressed to me at The Farm Chicks. From another mom to me, a letter that made me think that possibly, just possibly we are getting some things right. One postage stamp at a time. Lisa, although we've never met, I want you to know that your letter was like a letter from a friend and that it meant the world to me. It made me teary and it made Bongo smile, actually, beam. And for that little while, it was like a big gulp of the most refreshing water. You filled up my mom glass. Thank you.

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March 01, 2010

Clouds

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My love of clouds began as a little girl.  Since my childhood was so quiet and free of television, electricity, and electronics, I spent a lot of time outdoors.  And one of my favorite activities was to watch the clouds roll by and compare each to the shapes of everyday things, like a car, a cat, and so on.  And when we got our first dog, I named him what I knew and loved: Cloud.

Our cabin in the woods had an enormous window that looked out onto Mt. Shasta, where the clouds would gather and swirl around the mountain like cotton candy.  And my mom was always so fascinated by each one, calling them spaceships, as if Mt. Shasta were a planet they orbited.  It was all very fairy tale-like for a little girl.  Me.

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Clouds + me = love .

P.S. It's nearly spring here in the amazing Pacific Northwest, which means the clouds are more beautiful now than any other time of the year.  And our puffy magical clouds inspire me.  I'll be posting lots of cloud-inspired goodness here and there for a little bit.  I just can't help it.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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February 17, 2010

On Aging and Beet Sandwiches

I grew up slathering my face and hands with Oil of Olay.  One of those things you do without ever stopping to think about it because your mom always did.  I even kept a bottle in my desk at school.  Until that day in the sixth grade when John VandenHoogen notices my jar and mocks me saying, "Oooooooh!  Oil of Olay! It came make you look younger too! Goo Goo Ga Ga!"

And right then and there I suddenly wondered, "Why do I use this stuff anyway?!"

Well, it was the one beauty secret my mom had always imparted on me: Oil of Olay will keep your skin beautiful forever.  And she always looked naturally beautiful.  No makeup at all.

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But that day in sixth grade, I gave it up for good.  I didn't want to look like the baby John VandenHoogen said I'd become.

Twenty Seven years later, while strolling through Belltown in Seattle, I stopped at one of my favorite neighborhood cafes for a light lunch: A roasted beet, goat cheese and arugula sandwich and a Perrier. And it was delightful.

After lunch, I strolled around for several hours, shopping and enjoying the city before heading back to our home away from home.

And when I stepped into the bathroom to re-apply my lipstick, I noticed something wrong with my lips. Purple lines were shooting out from my lips all around.  What on earth was this?!  I scanned back through the day in my mind, wondering how on earth this could have happened to me.  The Beet Sandwich!  I shreaked.  It had revealed something I never knew I had.  Lip lines.  And I, and all of Seattle discovered I now had them.

Thankfully, I recovered from my initial shock of learning that I'm aging and have taken up moisturizer once again.  But I'll tell you what, it may be a while before I eat another Beet Sandwich.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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January 06, 2010

My Print, AD FC

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I have a love for beautiful art and I think it comes from years of watching my parents collecting old prints and paintings.  At some point in my teens, they fell in love with Architectural Digest and were so inspired by the homes they saw that they decided to paint our cabin's walls white, which was a huge ordeal because our walls were all wood.  In fact, much of the wood was hand-milled by my dad from trees on our property. And they did all of the painting with brushes, because a roller would never get into the slats.  And when they were finished, they loved it because all of their artwork really stood out against the white.  "That's so AD", they'd say (Architectural Digest) and would say that about most beautiful things after that.  And I'd mentally roll my eyes.

One day, they brought home a huge beautiful old print of a mother, father and child and squeezed it onto the wall above the wood stove.  "That's for you, Serena", they told me.  "It reminds us of when you were born". And I imagined it really did, since I was born in a tiny little cabin in the woods, delivered by my dad.

A few years ago, when my dad came to stay with us for a while, he brought my print and I was excited to hang it over my bed.  It was such a sweet and peaceful addition to the room.  But I kept thinking something wasn't just quite right, and eventually painted the walls all white - with a roller, not a brush. And when one of the boys saw the white walls and my print standing out like never before, he said, "That is so FC.  You know, Farm Chicky!"

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December 15, 2009

Reunited

6a010534adb750970b0120a7548b4a970b-200wi1This morning we awoke to our first snow of the season and I was reunited with the snowblower and my .50 cent church rummage sale winter boots.  These boots are so awesome I don'teven need to wear socks.  And I have to say, I think the snowblower is one of the greatest inventions ever.  It makes life so easy.

When I was a little girl, snow meant life was going to be a challenge for a while.  Our three mile long driveway cut a steady, steep path winding its way up the mountain to our little cabin at 4,000 feet.  And as winter rolled in and the snow piled up, access to civilization became harder and harder.  For a while, my dad would park the truck at the bottom of the road and we'd make the trek from our cabin to the truck and then dad would drive us to school.  He'd spend the day at the saw shop with his logging buddies and then return to school to pick us up at the end of the day. And we'd make the hike back home again.  But the snow would eventually get so deep that my little legs couldn't make the walk and we'd become officially snowed in.

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At first, we'd make the most of it - my siblings and me.  We even tried to learn to ski, but the skis were wooden and had no straps and the rope we used to tie our boots to the skis just stopped us in our tracks. (This is me feeling 12 year old optimistic and my 16 year old brother knowing it was hopeless.  Turns out, he was right).

So, we'd turn our attention to making igloos for snow bomb fights and make snow treats by drizzling maple syrup onto snow.  And then we'd head up the hill with our aluminum snow disks that we'd just heated up on the woodstove and covered in paraffin wax.  My sister would make the first run down the hill to designate the path, followed by my brother who would pack down the run and make it icy.  My job, as the youngest, was the official guinea pig.  And just after the above picture of my optimistic little self was taken, I sped down the hill on the "little sister test run" in my paraffin wax turbo blaster snow disk.  And in a blur of speed, I nailed the jump they'd made, unbeknownst to me, and became airborne.  I landed on my back and was knocked out cold.  And after my dad was summoned to carry me home, I spent the next several days laid out on the floor, unable to move.

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Eventually, when the snow eased up, we'd dig out the crummy (for some reason our cars always had nick-names), chain up the tires and make the terrifying trip on our unplowed road into town where I'd be reunited with my classmates.

This morning, as I was snow blowing, I glanced over to the window where Mr. Blue Sky was doing a happy dance.  And when I was all done, and came back inside, he met me with a huge smile on his face and camera in hand.  "You're amazing, mom!" he told me. "Thank you for taking care of the snow for us".  And then he told me to strike a pose.  "Work it girl!" he said.  So I did.

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Between posts on my website, I document my life on Instagram. You can follow along with me there.

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October 28, 2009

Princess Leia

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Growing up, we never had typical halloween costumes.  Maybe because we were a hippy family who stood out from the pack anyway.  No costumes required.  But I was a child of the Seventies and had seen Star Wars.  So, I donned my coolest paisley sundress, threw on my tennies, (my only pair of shoes) gave myself a pulled-up hair-do, and became Princess Leia.

And boy oh boy, did we ever look forward to trick or treating!  Our mom didn't often allow sugar or cocoa in our home, it was honey and carob for us.  So, Halloween was a very big deal.  One weekend, when we were in the process of moving from our rickety little house on the river to our new property in the mountains, my siblings and I went to stay with Little Larry.  Little Larry was one of a huge group of characters who were friends with our parents, and it was the hippy way to have some sort of a different name.  Names like Mangey Mountain Mike, Ishanovi, Snake, Cat, and my best friend who I grew up with, Shotgun.  Anyway, it was just before Halloween, and after picking us up, Little Larry announced that he was taking us to Thrifty to get a bag of candy each.  EACH!  After a huge amount of indecision, my brother chose Hersheys, my sister Butterfinger, and I chose Starbursts.  And we immediately set in on devouring our big bags.

Little Larry lived in a tiny little travel trailer on our property, with a little propane tank that, turns out, had a leak.  So, we spent the night gorging on candy and breathing propane-filled air.  When our parents came to pick us up, we were all incredibly sick.  "It's the refined sugar!" my mom exclaimed in despair and we believed her.  That stuff is terrible, I thought and swore off Starbursts forever.

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October 07, 2009

Pops

Whenever I get a stomach ache, I think back to my Pops and his big strong hands, rubbing the aches away.  He always made everything better, and I was sure he was some sort of superman.  Well, he was actually.  When I discovered a scorpion under my bed, he was there in an instant - and like a flash, his hand shot out and smashed it gone.  He taught me to skin logs of their bark, ride a motorcycle, and to dig ditches to divert the water on our 3 mile-long dirt road.  And I was stronger because of it.

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One afternoon, I heard my dad's truck pull up and I instantly knew something was wrong.  When he opened the door of his truck, his face was swollen and bloody and he was in a tremendous amount of pain.  "I took a tree in the face", he said.  And as I rushed him to the doctor, I knew I had to keep it together.  Be strong.  Be strong, I told myself.  Keep it together for Popsy.  And I did.

Although his jaw was broken and he'd lost several teeth, he never lost his smile.  Someday, I'm going to be just like him, I thought.  And over the years, through the good times and the bad, I've learned that it all turns out in the end, and just like him, I'll never lose my smile.

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September 27, 2009

Finding My Way

Over the last couple of weeks, I've received lots of emails and calls, checking in on me while I'm adjusting to my business as a solo venture.  One thing I've learned throughout my life, is that there are many twists and turns, opportunities, and adventures.  And even though I don't know what's around the next bend, I know that I'm enjoying the ride and I'm going to make the most of it.  I'm finding my way.

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In the spring of 1979, when I was nine years old, my parents put my sister and I on a Greyhound bus bound for San Francisco, to meet an Uncle I had only heard of a few times before.  And in those few weeks leading up to spring vacation, my sister and I made a point of learning everything we could about our Uncle, so that we were prepared.  We learned he was a wealthy pediatrician who lived in Pacific Heights, a well-to-do area of the city, that he collected fine art, and dined at only the fanciest restaurants.  And we were intimidated.  How do fancy people eat?  What do they wear?  Will we embarrass ourselves?  So, we made a plan.  We'd spend every day after school, at the library, learning everything we could about fancy people and proper etiquette.  Emily Post became our saving grace and we were ready.

The trip from our little town to the big city took all day and when we reached the San Francisco bus station, I had a pit in my stomach.  We made our way to the exit and searched around for our Uncle.  "There he is!", my sister exclaimed, and she leaned down to whisper, "and he's driving a MERCEDES!"  I had no idea what that meant.

Our Uncle spoke with a fancy accent, wore a beautiful suit, and spoke of exotic adventures in foreign lands.  His friend, the Financial Adviser to the King of Malaysia, was sending his son, Jommit, who was living in the city, to be our tour guide and shopping coordinator for the week.  We were out of our element.

His home on the hill felt like a museum, and of course, had modern amenities like a telephone, refrigerator, washing machine and dryer, and extras like an enormous television - all of which were things we had never lived with or really ever been around.  Our bed was a fluffy, comfy, down-covered wonder, and felt extravagant compared to the sleeping bag on a styrofoam-covered wooden platform I was accustomed to back home.  So comfy, in fact, that my sister and I spent lots of time on that bed, watching TV, snacking, and drinking 7-up.  Until I spilled a whole can on the fancy comforter.  And all alone in the house, we had no idea what to do.  Well, it's wet, we thought.  So, we set it in the dryer, for an hour on high heat, and went back to watching Batman.  When our Uncle returned, his home smelled of smoke, and he discovered the comforter in the dryer, with a huge black hole in the center, burned through from the heated sugar in the 7-up.  We learned there was a place called the dry-cleaner, where special things like comforters should be taken.

The week was a whirlwind of local landmarks, fancy restaurants (where we discovered things like fondue and veal), luscious bakeries, and shopping extravaganzas.  We took pictures of our food, limousines, pretty people, and window displays.  And I spent hours on the phone, for the first time in my life, talking to my friend, Nicky, back home, having no idea there were long-distance charges.  $400 to be exact.

When the week drew to a close, and our Uncle put us on the bus back home, I cried and cried.  My Uncle had become familiar, a full-fledged part of my family at long last, and I didn't want to lose him again.  "You've found your way here, Serena", he explained.  "And you'll find your way again".  And I did.  Every spring break for many years to come.  And I had the time of my life.

And as I'm making Farm Chicks plans, acting on long-held dreams, and moving forward, I understand that finding my way is a good thing, and I'm learning and growing all along the way.

P.S.  That's me on the steps of our family gypsy wagon.  After our family stopped traveling the country in the wagon, it became my room.  I'll make sure to tell you about it sometime.

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August 20, 2009

Mt. Hood

Colin, our younger boys and I visited Mt. Hood last week.  It's the first time I'd been back since I was a little girl, living on the mountain in our family gypsy wagon.  What started as a plan to live there for a few weeks, as a part of a commune, turned into a long winter when the gypsy wagon became snowed in.

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We played with old toy trucks and spent lots of time together - my brother, sister, and I.  And they doted on me because I was the baby.  We snacked on raw cloves of garlic, because our mom believed it made us stronger and resistant to sickness.  And we liked it.  My sister bit the head off a snake when it came too close.  Because she was a garlic eating super girl.  And after that, we called her Poomba Buckwheat - just because it sounded so cool.

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It was good to go back to the woods.

May 18, 2009

Haircut Day

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I'm giving the boys haircuts today, which makes me think about my grandpa (standing, second from right) and his barber shop.  After he closed down his shop and came to live with us, when I was a little girl, he brought the barber chairs, shown in the photo, with him.  My brother, sister and I would spend hours on end playing in the chairs, pumping them up to go higher, and then letting them down, and spinning round and round.  When our house burned down, I was so sad we lost those chairs.  At least we have the memories.

December 01, 2008

Thankful

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I had a moment this weekend, as I was loading the dishwasher for the third time that day, where I couldn't help but think about my childhood and how I grew up without modern conveniences.  Since I grew up with no electricity or technology of any kind (other than a radio), I was completely out of my element when I went to a friends house.
I had always heard of TV dinners and imagined it was an amazing meal prepared by your mom and served to you in front of the TV.  I was surprised to learn it was a tiny box pulled from a freezer, with food that didn't look so good.  I'm thankful I learned TV dinners are not yummy.
I loved dreaming about dishwashers and was envious that all my friends had one.  When I had the chance to use one for the first time, I was a junior in high school.  I had no idea there was such a thing as a special dishwasher powder, and flooded my friend's house after filling the bottom of the dishwasher with hand dish washing detergent.  I'm thankful my friend's mom didn't kill me.
We had no running water.  Of course, all of my friends did.  When I stayed over at a friend's house and took an hour long hot water shower, I learned that probably wasn't a good idea.  Especially when her dad needed to get ready for work.  Who knew there wasn't an endless supply?  I'm thankful for not getting into hot water with her parents.
Jell-o Jell-o Jell-o.  My friends talked about how great it was.  It was jiggly and sweet and everybody made it for Thanksgiving.  I had to get some and decided to buy a little package and surprise my family.  The only surprise was that it needed to be refrigerated, and putting it outside to chill on a cool afternoon only turned it into a cold sweet soup.  I'm thankful for pie.

October 23, 2008

Hi Friends! It's me, Serena.

6a010534adb750970b01053590244c970b-200wiAt the end of every school year, I'd say goodbye to all of my friends for the summer and head for home, which was deep in the mountains of Siskiyou County, California.  It was a lot like losing contact with the world for those few months.  When I'd return to school, I felt a lot like the new kid, like I needed to introduce myself to everyone once again.  And although I loved summer, reading for hours on end, wild strawberry picking, and the occasional visits to the swimming hole, I craved news from my best friend, Lisa.  Since we had no telephone, I had to rely on letters from her.  And each time one would arrive, it was the best thing I could ever imagine.  A gift in my mailbox.

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When my BFF Jordan (Okay, I don't actually even know her, but if I did, I know I'd love her) recently announced her Pretty Little Things Club, I had to sign up.  I have no idea what she'll be sending every month, but I know it will be lovely.  So, every month, I'll be waiting for my mail from Jordan.  It won't contain any news, just something sweet.  The best thing I could ever imagine.



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