Happy Handmade Pioneer Day!

Yes, intrepid art lovers, this watercolor shepherdess is after William Bouguereau, my favorite artist. She reminds me of the brave settlers who tamed the wilderness and made the desert blossom as a rose. Among my family members, there were many who crossed oceans and plains to help establish Zion in the Rocky Mountains. This week we celebrate Pioneer Day in Utah, and this celebration is very different from last year.

For your entertainment, I am posting a few of my favorite Pioneer Day activities. If you need a fun learning experience for children, my Etsy shop features a digital download of activities of the Pioneer children that helped their families get established in the West.

For authentic fun – create your own pioneerwear. Simplicity, McCall and other pattern companies have patterns and directions for bonnets, pioneer dresses and menswear in the costume sections of their catalogs.

While you are at the fabric shop; pick up some material to start a quilt top or banner.

For knitters, you can quickly whip up a cross-body bag using scrap yarn. make a rectangle, fold it in half, stitch up the sides, add a braided handle, a button accent if desired and you are done!

Pioneers often spruced up their lodgings, no matter how humble. One took a dining table and chairs in her covered wagon for dining alfresco. a grapevine wreath from a craft store tied with bundles of fresh herbs and flowers makes a charming rustic accent.

Hit up your local blacksmith for classes in the basics. My son and his Dad invested in beginner classes and created these stunning hammers. My son’s blacksmith ancestors, the Webbs, would be proud.

Whip up a batch of Cream Cheese Nutmeg Beehive Bread.

Bean bag toss was a popular Pioneer Era game.

Get to know the neighbors. Brigham Young encouraged the pioneers to befriend their indigenous neighbors. He said it was better to feed them than to fight them. Creating pictographs helps children develop their creativity and visual language skills.

Lucky pioneer girls had handkerchief dolls to cuddles. Made out of a square of fabric and wrapped in another scrap, these soft babies gave comfort to their mommies on their 16 week hike.

A wooden button and a piece of string kept little guys entertained on the trail.

When your un-refrigerated food supply needs to last for weeks and weeks, beef jerky is a real treat.

Yeah, these were dressed up for Halloween, but they are so yummy during the summer!

We’re not much of a taffy-pulling clan, but we do love a good popcorn ball. Here’s our favorite recipe courtesy of Jiffy Time Popcorn.


1 cup Jolly Time Popcorn

Using your hands with fingers spread like a rake to remove unpopped kernels. Transfer popped corn to very large greased baking pan or mixing bowl and set aside.

            Combine in large heavy saucepan:

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

2/3 cup water

½ cup butter

1 tsp. salt

            Heat in  pan, stirring constantly. Cook to hard ball stage, remove from heat, add

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Food coloring, if desired

Stir in popped popcorn. Let cool for a few minutes. With buttered hands, form warm mixture into balls, place on waxed paper to cool. Wrap in cellophane or plastic wrap. Keeps up to 2 weeks. Makes 15 popcorn balls.

So bust out your enamel campware and head outside for a Pioneer Day celebration to remember.

Whether you find yourself back in the saddle (or not) this Pioneer Day, we wish you a joyous handmade family experience!

Independence Day!

Oh the times we live in. People throughout history could have only dreamed about the advances in health and comfort, industry, agriculture; heck, housing with indoor plumbing and hot and cold running water. Early settlers of the American colonies were battling just to remain alive. Famine, disease and indigenous peoples who didn’t like newcomers were a constant thereat to life and limb.

One fall we visited Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg in Virginia and were mesmerized by the beauty of nature there. They were at the edge of a land truly worth fighting for. This Independence Day we honor the lives, choices and sacrifice of pilgrims, patriots and those who gave us the “Land of the free and the home of the brave.”

We’re celebrating at our house in the West this year. we are in the midst of a historic heat wave and drought, everything is tinder-dry. No personal fireworks here!

While we continue to search for property to build on, we are living in a quaint 1940’s brick house in Salt Lake City, Utah. Most of my patriotic goodies are in storage but I managed to find a few pieces of Americana to celebrate the Spirit of America. Happy 4th!


Handmade ceramics and vintage style accessories
accent the kitchen nook.
Enamel bowls from my favorite thrift store- Deseret Industries. I wanted some enamel bowls for Mother’s Day but they were sold out at the retailer I visited. Checked my fav thrift and guess what I found for about $10? 6 vintage-looking enamel pieces. Not too shabby as my Granddaddy Roberts used to say.
Beach and vintage camp themes for summertime fun! What are your favorite games?
Summer reading list.

I’ll add more photos as they are available. Right now I’m heading to the pool! …That was refreshing.

I thought it would be fun to look back at other Independence Day celebrations.

My children and their cousins: Bill, Amanda, Alyssa, Laurel, Andrew, Eric, Emily and Heather ca. 1992-3 Oceanside, CA
Tim playing the part of Ronald Reagan in Kaiser Elementary School’s patriotic program in 2nd grade. He was about 6. Costa Mesa. CA
Fireworks in Peoria, we were in Illinois for the name and blessing of Max McMurtry. 2013
A centerpiece I created to welcome son Andrew, his wife Annie and Ender back from a 3-year military assignment overseas.

And one of my favorite patriot stories about American Revolutionary War heroes Samuel and Elizabeth Duncan Porter.

Elizabeth Porter: America: 1750-1845

As you look at the map above, trace a trail from western Virginia up to Detroit, then another from Detroit to Quebec, Canada. Now imagine a winter so cold that the harbor in New York has frozen over, making it impossible for ships to enter or depart. In this cold, cold Quebec winter try to picture a young mother in a prison camp working to keep her 2 young children alive and in the background you hear a newborn baby cry. Elizabeth has just given birth to a son, believing that her husband has been executed by the British in Detroit for his role in the revolution. This is herstory…


Elizabeth was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Duncan in Lancaster Pennsylvania in 1750. The Duncan parents were born in Scotland, moved to Ireland and then to the British colonies in America. They settled in Lancaster, which is known in modern times for an Amish community, lush green farms and hillsides.

Elizabeth enjoyed growing up in the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. In the spring she played with the lambs and picked flowers. But childhood ended early for Elizabeth; her father died when she was six years old and her help was needed for the farm and family. She grew to be a strong and lovely woman.

At twenty-five she met a man who would sweep her off her feet and she married her beloved Samuel Porter. He and his brothers had immigrated to the colonies from Ireland. As a member of  the Virginia militia, Samuel was one of the men responsible for patrolling the roads and trails to keep travelers safe from Indian raids. The British had enlisted the Indians to attack settlers on the western frontiers of the colonies.

The winds of war began to blow across America.

Samuel, Elizabeth, their two young children, her mother, brother and other family members had established a small village in the hills between Kentucky and Virginia. The entire town was captured by Indians  in 1780. It is thought that British soldiers were with them because they were not scalped. The attackers took all of their stock and possessions.

They were marched and carried over 600 miles to Detroit. Elizabeth had to work hard to keep her little children quiet so they would not be killed by their captors. She was pregnant with her third child. Sometimes when she was permitted to ride in a canoe, she sat with her feet in water for hours and hours. Samuel was sentenced to die. The other men were placed in stockades and pens and nearly starved to death.

Elizabeth was put to work cooking for the British officers. She saved scraps of bread and meat from the plates and smuggled them out when she took out the dishwater. As she placed the tub of water and food near Samuel’s prison, he was able to reach through the cracks in the barn to get the food. Her act of courage probably kept him alive.

Elizabeth who was still pregnant, her young children Margaret and Hugh and her mother were marched as a prisoners-of-war another 700 miles from Detroit to Quebec, Canada.

On January 7th, New York Harbor froze over. In the bitter cold of a winter that would become known as the “little Ice Age, ” far from her home, Elizabeth gave birth to baby Samuel. She was a captive of the British and Shawnee Indians because she believed in freedom.

Her husband Samuel suffered as well in the confinement of the prison camp. 8 of 10 American prisoners died in the hulls of British warships. He did not know what had become of Elizabeth, their unborn baby or the other two young children.

Many people sacrificed much for the cause of freedom. Some sacrificed everything.

Elizabeth took care of baby Samuel, little Margaret and Hugh the best she could. She sang to them the Celtic lullabies her mother had sung to her.

She told them the Bible stories she had learned as a child. Tales of Moses leading Israel to freedom, of brave Joseph and how Daniel’s life was spared.

She would have loved to have been home when spring came. She would have loved to have worked in her garden with her children and enjoyed outings with her family and friends. Because the cause of freedom had meant so much to Elizabeth and Samuel; she had no home to return to.

Samuel was a hard worker and as one of many brothers, he knew how to get along and be helpful. His execution was stayed by a British commander who took a liking to him.

The price of independence was very high. When the war ended and freedom was won,  Elizabeth, Samuel and the others were released and made their way back to Virginia and to each other.

Elizabeth and Samuel had three more children. In later years as Samuel and his sons were building a house, they were attacked again by natives. A pack of wild dogs appeared and chased away the braves. Another time as their daughters were fetching water, they were watched by another band of Indians. It is not known why, but they were left alone. As the family grew, their lives were filled with both joy and sorrow and their sacrifice blessed their family for generations.

Elizabeth lived 95 years. She died and was buried in Jackson County, Missouri where a marker and plaque were placed to honor the memory of this heroine of the American Revolutionary War.

Elizabeth’s legacy is celebrated today by the Daughters of the American Revolution and Sons of the American Revolution organizations with chapters that have been named for her.