Installing Windows in the Old Train Depot

The old train depot is finally coming along. Brett started cleaning it out recently after it sat empty for the winter after it was moved to our property. Here’s the inside:

The train depot windows

Last year my sister was upgrading the window in her house and we took all the old ones home to keep for a future project. We’ve had to cut them down and rework them a little but they’ll fit eventually. Here’s one on the side:


The plan is to make it a sweet little potting/garden shed/playhouse with a picket fenced garden surrounding it.  I’m not sure how far the garden will get this year but I think I could at least start experimenting with it!

Read more about the Old Depot Project here. 

Summer Sunsets: Infinity of Earth and Sky

“…as if the day in leaving had gathered all of the golden sunshine into one last lingering flame to burn away the weariness of the day – for twilight is a time of peace and tranquility – and the dusk is filled with memories as night is filled with stars – and they burn even more brightly as the darkness deepens – and this we share and understand – because we have so much in common.” – Letters of Chickadee Hill by Winston O. Abbott

Tonight the town was glowing with this pinkish light:

Sunset View of Bryson City, NC

Another sunset at Naber’s Drive-in by the Tuckasegee River:

Sunset View of the Tuckasegee River near Nabers Drive In

And another sunset reflected in the rails of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad:

Sunset View - Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

From Schoolhouse Hill:


From the Tuckasegee River near Darnell Farms:

Tuckasegee River at dusk

From the Hemlock Inn’s porch:


Not a sunset, but it still looks like infinity from above the clouds:

Cloudy view in  the Smokies

If anything, this:

“…perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that all aches and pains will vanish beneath the warmth of the summer sunshine – but I do know that there is a miraculous healing power available to all who will let the spirit become absorbed in the infinity of earth and sky – I have learned that the refreshing coolness of the rain can wash away the dusts of doubt that settle upon the spirit – and the summer breezes can dissipate the wisps of selfishness that often come between us and our better selves…” – Letters of Chickadee Hill by Winston O. Abbott


A good sunset can make me feel totally at home in this world. A gentle timekeeper. A dozen can go by sometimes without remembering to take notice.

This Guy

Happy birthday to this guy…


…my husband Brett who is always up for a little adventure…whether it’s a trek 3,000 miles or just a night of gold panning in the river nearby:


I get to watch him every day enjoy his work at Bryson City Outdoors, always giving back, and just being the sweet, loving guy he always is. Want to know what we got him for his birthday?  Sunflower seeds and chocolate peanuts. And he was so excited about them.

How to Tie Dye Shirts in a Heart Shape

Looking for a summer project idea? How about a rainbow of tie dye colors all in one box:

Hold a tie dye party #tiedyeyoursummer

The new Tulip kit above is enough dye for 6 people…or a lot of dye for one person to make rainbows with.

Have you ever wanted to know how to tie dye shapes? The project guide in the kit covers bulls eyes, swirls, squares and sunbursts. And I’ve got the heart shape covered:


Here’s how to tie-dye a heart shape:
How to tie-dye a heart shape

Tie-Dye Heart Steps
1. Fold the shirt in half and use a fabric disappearing ink pen to mark half of a heart.
2. Starting at the “V” of the heart begin scrunching the shirt up following the line.
3. Continue scrunching the shirt until you reach the bottom of the heart. Hold tightly!
4. Take a rubber band and wrap it several times around the area where the scrunched line.
5. Randomly scrunch and fold the rest of the shirt and secure with rubber bands.
6. Using your bottle apply the dye liberally around the “heart” rubber band.
7. Fill in your other areas with other colors of dye.
8. Follow the rest of the directions in your dye box for setting and washing!


Michaels knows how to kick off summer the right way – with the Tulip One-Step Tie Dye Party Kit. A few more things from Michaels:

  • You can throw a full tie dye birthday or pool party, tie dye t-shirts, or tie die your own creations – the full kit is available in stores and more tie dye product is available on
  • Create your very own tie dye party this summer and share it on social using #TieDyeYourSummer. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

See more of my collaborative projects as a Michaels Maker here! 




Thomas Wolfe

I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once. -Thomas Wolfe

I’ve been meaning to visit the Thomas Wolfe historical site for a while now. Yesterday Boo, my mother and I decided on a whim to make a stop. If you are ever in downtown Asheville it’s worth the stop, even if you’ve never read anything he’s written.

The historical site consists of a museum and his childhood home (which was a boarding house run by his mother):


You know I love typewriters so here is Wolfe’s (although he preferred writing longhand in ledger journals):


The house looks just as it did when he lived there as a child. He died at the young age of 37 and since he was already a well known author people would seek his home out and ask for a tour. His mother was a business woman, running a boarding house in a time when women really weren’t encouraged to be enterprising at all. And so she had a room that she showed visitors that was supposed to have been Wolfe’s childhood room. (it wasn’t…since he slept wherever there happened to be room each night). The most ironic thing about the Memorial being the boardinghouse is that Wolfe wanted nothing more when he was young to leave his childhood home and now it’s preserved forever.

Any literary fan would enjoy the fact that this room is the same room mentioned in Look Homeward, Angel:

“Eugene looked up with cold dry lips to the bleak front room upstairs, with its ugly Victorian bay-window.”


It’s also the room where his brother Ben died of Spanish Influenza in 1918, recounted in the punched-in-the-gut-ripped-your-heart-out scene of fictional Ben Gant in the book. If this house isn’t haunted it should be.

(A note about the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918: Approximately 20-40 million people died from it, making it probably the most devastating epidemic in the history of the world.  That’s what stands out the most in the old cemeteries I visit…the concentrations of deaths during 1918 and 1919, especially infants and elderly.)

A few things about Wolfe:

  • He was really tall. 6 foot 6.
  • He lived in a boarding house that his mother ran and slept in whatever bed wasn’t taken each night.
  • His editor was Maxwell Perkins who also worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
  • Most of the characters in Look Homeward, Angel were based on real citizens of Asheville. Wolfe changed the names but the detail of the stories made it easy to figure out who they were resulting in a lot of anger from those he wrote about.
  • Before he died he submitted a manuscript consisting of one million words in the first draft. (for comparison a Harry Potter book has about 75,000 words)
  • He died at the age of 37 of tuberculosis of the brain.

Sometimes I venture up to the cemetery above our small town, it has a beautiful view from there…especially at sunset. The angel on top of one of the tombstones has a literary connection to Wolfe because it’s thought to the be the angel statue from Thomas Wolfe’s book Look Homeward, Angel:


“While the author never said, many scholars believe that the statue described in Thomas Wolfe’ s “Look Homeward Angel” is the gravestone of Fanny Everett Clancy in the Bryson City hillside cemetery. Others believe Wolfe’s “angel” was a composite of two statues, the one in Bryson City and another in Hendersonville, NC. Both were imported from Carrara, Italy and sold at the Asheville tombstone shop owned by Thomas Wolfe’s father in the early 1900s. The Hendersonville angel has the smile and the foot of the angel described in the novel, while the Bryson City angel holds the lily that Wolfe described.”
(Source:  Great Smokies / Bryson City website


Thomas Wolfe books to read:

you can never go

You Can’t Go Home Again

This was the last novel that Wolfe wrote before he died at age 37.  It was published in 1940, two years after he died. It’s a story of a young writer who writes about his hometown which in turn angers his hometown. As an outcast he travels the world and eventually returns to America with a changed perspective of home.

“Whereon the pillars of this earth are founded, toward which the conscience of the world is tending—a wind is rising, and the rivers flow.'”


look homeward

Look Homeward, Angel

This was Wolfe’s first book, published in 1929. It’s largely based on his own life, so much so that in the intro he says: if the writer has used the clay of life to make his book, he has used what all men must, what none can keep from using.   

It’s a story about a young man’s wandering, burning desire to leave his small town in pursuit of a more intellectual life.  It’s been a while since I read it and I’m just starting to reread it again and the most exciting part is revisiting the rich language once again thinking THIS is writing. THIS is a master at work. 

I read the Thomas Wolfe would write close to 10,000 words a day. Where did all those words come from? Where is the source of that fountain? Such rich, succulent writing from a wandering spirit.

Click the image below for more about Thomas Wolfe and for information about visiting the home site in Asheville:

thomas wolfe memorial

The Living Room: Decorating a Home with Secondhand Decor

So, I think I’ve neglected any real update over the past few months about the house but now that we are full force into working on the outside I should probably start. When we decided last year that we would like to plant roots in Bryson City we realized that we didn’t really own anything anymore since we’d sold everything in California. We decided that we would only furnish our new home with secondhand, thrift or yard sale decor and it’s been a fun hunt to try and do that.

Below is our living room a while back, a messy state and we’ve made more progress since then, but these are the photos I have taken of the living room decor. Our friend George helped us build the book cases using the old cabinet wood in the garage….all reclaimed. The piano I found at a motel yard sale and the woman basically gave it away.  The table behind the house was found at Habitat Restore and the huge globe I also found at a thrift store. The couch and large vases are from my mother’s house:


A wall of art: Brett made the “Love” out of an old pallet, I made the milk sign, the landscape I painted a few years ago as well (tutorial here) as the horse pop art re-do I also featured in a tutorial. The embroidered lion-maned Jesus was from a thrift shop. My friend Alex painted the green Chevy in an art swap we did and the Coca-Cola was from The Crafty Cowboy.


Adding some small yard sale finds into the bookshelves….I paid $1.00 for all of these:


I found all of these great frames but I don’t think I have room for them. I’ve listed them all as a set on the blue label page.


Brett made this large box using salvaged wood to hold remotes and magazines:


More soon! I went in to hibernation for a while with the cold weather but excited to get restarted on the house again. All house on hospital hill posts can be found here. 

Be Aware of Wonder

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all:


-Robert Fulghum, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten 

A few days ago we were driving back from Asheville and I was reading Brett and Boo some pages from an old journal. After a few minutes of consistent laughter and a few “I can’t believe you wrote that down” comments, Boo said:

“Mommy, when you die I’m going to publish your diaries.”

For a brief moment a flash of horror went through my mind.

But then I thought: I’ll be dead.

And really so much of it will be out of context anyways. Maybe I should start going through journals and diaries and adding in footnotes and thought bubbles. Just for clarification purposes.

Like yesterday’s journal entry was just a random list of thoughts:

I’m 38 today. 
Can I buy sea glass online (since I don’t live near the sea)?
The succulents are growing babies. I haven’t killed them. 
Call the piano tuner asap before the broken key causes seizures.
Mr. Parton used dowsing rods today in the yard. Like real dowsing rods, well kind of, made from landscaping flags. But they still worked. I should make my own and see if there are any dead bodies or shallow graves nearby. No I shouldn’t. 
“Black gold, Texas tea”
“grist for the mill” origin

Yesterday was such a good day but you’d never really get it from what I wrote, even if I had added in more detail, you had to be there really. And some of it could really be taken the wrong way if you didn’t know me.

The one thing I hope my journals will show one day, way off in the future, is that I was aware of wonder. And that I was always looking, always seeing…as much as I could. I share a birthday with my friend Jodi’s young son and yesterday he told me: I can tell you how the world ends, the sun explodes. I forgot to write that down in my journal so I’m writing it down here. (I hope I get some advance notice on the sun explosion so I don’t workout, clean or go to the DMV on that day.) Really, if I just wrote down everything I overheard from kids each day I’d have the most interesting journals in the world.

I am 38 now. Boo wrote this little essay on life last year:


I only have 2 more years until my life gets a little less hard!

From one of my birthday cards:


P.S. In my letter last week I wrote about having to go in order to see.  That’s what the hashtag #ifyoudontgoyou dontsee refers to this month on Instagram, use it to share new places, new things. Alright….go!

P.P.S My succulent nursery…mother and babies doing just fine:




The Quilt from Gingercake

This was not just a coincidence. How could something like this be a coincidence? It definitely wasn’t coincidence.

A few months ago I was looking for a quilt for Boo’s room. I looked everywhere: thrift stores, eBay, Etsy.  Nothing caught my eye. Maybe I’m too picky. I don’t like solid patterns, or big patchwork pieces. I had a picture in my head of what I was looking for and the odds were that I would never find it. Then one day, browsing eBay, I found one:


Seriously it was the first one I’d found that I immediately said: Wow. I put it in my watch list but then forgot about it until the next day and missed the auction. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about. I usually don’t get worked up over things like missed auctions because I probably didn’t need whatever it was in the first place. But this quilt was different. I loved how intricate it was, and I loved the tiny details of all the feedsack and calicos, I loved that it was hand tied and I thought it would look fantastic in photo shoots. So I pursued it. I contacted the seller and asked if I could still buy it if it hadn’t sold. After a little bit of emailing back and forth we agreed on a price and a week later the quilt was mine:


To top off my excitement of getting such a wonderful quilt, in the box, accompanying it, was a nice handwritten note in the box listed a little bit of history:

“This is a truly unique quilt, handcrafted by the late Beth Schneider of Gingercake, NC. It’s just a small bit of this estate. Beth and her husband Claude collected antiques for 60 years. Claude and I are sorting, storing and selling a little at a time.”

I kept the note because I thought it was interesting to know a little of the history of the quilt. I would research more about it later. I could tell it was old, and that I’d probably stumbled upon something pretty valuable. I don’t know much about quilts in general, I didn’t even know what pattern it was, but I have a good eye for  handcrafted work. It was a conversation piece when friends stopped by. And it hung over the back of a chair in our living room for a few months so we could admire it. I’d never noticed the dark and light stripes until it was viewed from overhead:



Last month, for Mother’s Day, we decided at the last minute to drive up to Linville to visit my mother for the weekend. The next day we drove around and then went to the Hampton Grist Mill for BBQ. As we drove towards the old grist mill store it was still pretty early to eat lunch, and so my mother directed us around Linville proper for a little sightseeing. As we turned onto the first street we saw a sign for a yard sale…and I’m pretty sure the whole car rolled their eyes. I can never pass up a yard sale.

It was an old Linville house and we walked around a while looking over the items. There were a lot of neat little things to look at. I picked out a poetry book, an old drafting tool set and a few other things.  Boo picked out a few small items too. Brett talked to the woman whose sale it was and I could hear them talking about barn wood and places it could be found in western NC.

As we started to head back to the car the woman handed me her card. I looked at it and started to put it away but then I took a second look and something clicked in my head. I’d seen this card before.

Me: Wait a second…I know your name.
Woman: Oh?

And then instantly everything fit together.

Me: I think I bought a quilt from you a while back? Online? It was really old. And you wrote me a letter to accompany the quilt with the history of it.

She looked like she’d seen a ghost. And then suddenly she was in tears. I wasn’t quite sure what had just happened.  It took a few minutes before she could talk again. And then she explained:

“You have no idea the story behind that quilt. The man whose wife made it died just a month ago. And the quilt wasn’t supposed to be sold. It was a family heirloom, and the family has been frantically looking for it, and I wasn’t able to find your information.”

My heart sank a little at first because I knew that meant that they would want it back. And then I began to think about the odds of what had just transpired:

the odds of me keeping the handwritten note and business card that accompanied the quilt.
the odds of me purchasing something off of eBay and running into the seller at yard sale.
the odds of going to the yard sale.
the odds of ever meeting someone from a transaction on eBay!

the odds of the seller looking for me and me showing up at her front door by chance.
the odds of recognizing the business card and making the connection.
the odds of a family looking for a lost quilt and having it show back up again.

This was not just a coincidence. How could something like this be a coincidence? It definitely wasn’t coincidence.

I gave the woman my contact information and told her to just pass it along to the family and that I would work something out with them.

I didn’t hear from the family for a while, but last week I had a voicemail from the granddaughter. When I called her back she told me the story of how the quilt had gone missing and I think she was probably surprised at how quickly my answer was: well, if it’s your family’s quilt then you should have it back.

It was a quick answer because of course I’d had a few weeks to think about it, but really I had known  from the first moment I learned it was lost that I would have to return it. I’d prayed about it the same night and woke up knowing it wasn’t really my quilt anymore. As much as I loved that quilt, as much as I loved its detail, as much as I loved that it had come from a place called Gingercake, and as much as I thought it was the greatest treasure find I’d ever come across…I knew it wasn’t meant to stay with me.  It wasn’t meant to be my quilt.

At first Boo was a little upset about the idea of returning it. And really the same thoughts that went through her head had gone through mine too: I found it and bought it. I’ll never find another one like it. Finders keepers, right? But Boo and I talked about what it would be like for something we cared very much about to go missing. How it was just a thing to us. And how much the family would be comforted to get it back.

When we’d returned from Linville Boo was in the living room when I walked in to pick up the quilt. And when I was carefully folding it up, to set it aside in anticipation of the family eventually contacting us, she said:

I think the quilt should go back to its real family. 

And today it did.



Here Comes the Sun

Every time I think it just might be close to the end for this little guy he rallies. Diesel had his last three teeth pulled two weeks ago and he’s like a new dog. This year he’ll be 14 years old. The vet says that his cataracts are now quite advanced and he mostly just sees us as shadows. Brett has built him a little handicap ramp to help him get on and off the front step. Sometimes he uses the ramp but mostly he tries to jump, maybe to try and convince himself that he’s still young. And sometimes I’ll see him pause for a second, and I’ll say “hold on old man” and he’ll stand there and wait for me to pick him up. His arthritis has taken a toll and it takes a little longer to get up in the morning, but he gets up.


Back in his younger days:


One day I guess he’ll just let us know he’s ready to go. But he’s not ready yet. Today he ran outside to greet us and chased Max around the house a few times. He whines for his toys and tries to carry them around with no teeth. He steals Max’s bones and licks them over and over and over just so he can have the upper hand (because Max is too afraid to steal them back). Yes he might be small, but he has the heart of a big ole diesel engine. And when he gets up each morning we cheer for him, literally. Each morning that he gets up and walks outside to bask in the sun is a good day. Such a simple thing to take for granted. Were you able to get up and walk outside today to bask in the sun? Yes? Hooray.

Books on Wilderness, Wild, and Walks in the Woods

A few books on my shelf, books that make me want to go outdoors. Mostly memoir, all non-fiction. American wilderness, less traveled roads, wide open fields and miracles of nature. Breaking out of the box, embracing solitude, and seeing more.

Outdoor and Wilderness Memoirs and Nonfiction #wild #walkinthewoods


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
“It has always been a happy thought to me that the creek runs on all night, new every minute, whether I wish it or know it or care, as a closed book on a shelf continues to whisper to itself its own inexhaustible tale. So many things have been shown so to me on these banks, so much light has illumined me by reflection here where the water comes down, that I can hardly believe that this grace never flags, that the pouring from ever-renewable sources is endless, impartial, and free.”

Drinking in the Rain by  Alix Kates Shulman
“But now I find that solitude, far from being the price, is turning out to be the prize. Solitude its own reward! Instead of making me anxious, it seems to be sweeping away my anxieties, opening up possibilities, and as I walk from cabin to rocks to beach to cove to outhouse and shed and back again, I feel a composure I’ve never found before. At night I fall into bed weary instead of tense. My fingernails, bitten since childhood, are growing long.”

Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods by Thomas Raine Crowe
“Here in this solitude I am granted indulgences that are rarely, if ever, offered to those in the outside world: lying int he grass on the south side of the garden like a sleepy old dog, soaking up the afternoon rays of the sun, daydreaming, dashing clothes less through the woods to the outhouse in the morning – soles flying over the frost to keep the feet from freezing: sitting for long periods of times (maybe even hours) in the middle of a workday watching an anthill or a hive of wild bees; and, of course, talking to oneself.”

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
“But I got a great deal else from the experience. I learned to pitch a tent and sleep beneath the stars. For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for the wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of woods. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists. I made a friend. I came home.”

Drifting into Darien by Janisse Ray
“When I am dying, reevaluating my life, I would like to remember only these moments, those in which no clocks are ticking, in which I am aware of my excruciating and increasing vulnerability, in which I am so grateful for my lot in life that I could fall prone to the ground, overwhelmed with gratitude, moment by moment by moment. My life has been saved in moments.”

Dakota by Kathleen Norris
“For me, walking in a hard Dakota wind can be like staring at the ocean: humbled before its immensity, I also have a sense of being at home on this planet, my blood so like the sea in chemical composition, my every cell partaking of air. I live about as far from the sea as is possible in North America, yet I walk in a turbulent ocean. Maybe that child was right when he told me that the world is upside-down here, and this is where angels drown.”

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert
“People say that I don’t live in a real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life. Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box. Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.” 

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.  I am haunted by waters.” 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

Walden by Henry David Thoreau
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Faithful Travelers by James Dodson
“So much of our lives is spent waiting – for someone to finish a job or make a decision, for something to begin or end, a season to come or go, someone to be born or pass away. My truck was dead but a stranger assured me it would be reborn. The summer was over and school was beginning. The fish weren’t biting but the even gins had a hint of autumn’s coming refreshment in them. Sitting on the edge of my bed at the Hinton Motel, at loose ends, wondering when and if we’d ever get rolling again,, I picked up Maggie’s Magic Eightball from her Medicine Bag, gave it a shake, and consulted it for an answer.”

Blue Highways by William Heat Least Moon
“A car whipped past, the driver eating and a passenger clicking a camera. Moving without going anywhere, taking a trip instead of making one. I laughed at the absurdity of the photographs and then realized I, too, was rolling effortlessly along, turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still. That was the temptation of the American highway, of the American vacation (from the Latin vacare, “to be empty”).”