Northfield, Here Comes ‘Cari Me’

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.’ ~ Goethe

Seems like simple and good advice.  On one of those full-moon, bright-idea evenings during the Christmas holiday season, the notion came into my head that it was time to do something ……bigger.

My sister-in-law, and friend, Cari, passed away a few years ago.  She had been pestering me to create one of my custom tote bags for her and I kept telling her she didn’t need it.  Well, she didn’t.  She was a shopper.   On that one particular evening I found myself thinking about Cari and what in the world I would have put on her bag if I had gotten it made for her.  The next big thought formed easily, as projects do when they choose you, ‘I’ll ask MakeItMinnesota to help me run a statewide photo contest and chose winners from around  Minnesota, fashion the winning photos into a traveling tote bag  exhibition, call it Cari Me and take donations for a worthy cause in each community that welcomes the project.’

Cari was always doing something nice for someone.  She would most surely smile about me being crazy enough to think about this and then  do it.   And thanks to Mr. Goethe for the good advice.  I think they both would be pleased with the resulting photo winners.

It’s become a blessing….meeting new people, watching great artist+business+community connections take shape, appreciating my local support team. I’ll share more soon.  The Cari Me exhibition opens tonight in beautiful downtown Northfield at Tandem Bagels. Amazing artists and new friends of the project already have  the Cari me photo tote bags  hanging in place!

              Amanda Pettis, SE regional winner and Greta Alms, SW regional winner



RedBarn Country-Girl Play

Life is full.    It’s still so important that we remember to play.  In this case play with my food.  And, play with one beautiful old board pulled from my son Charlie’s reclaimed wood pile.   Ah, that  playful idea of wanting to make a serving board?  That does take a little longer than pulling food from the refrigerator and white plates from the cupboard.    Good play sessions require that you remove all clocks from  view.   We did. That favorite man of mine has driven down the hill to do some ice fishing(play time) on Big Stone Lake with his friend Mike from Green Bay, WI.    A few delightful hours stolen and  here’s  a glimpse of what my grown-up-country-girl play looks like at the RedBarn.   Hope it inspires you to act on  an idea that has been hanging around in your head …….. begging to become a winter project!

Busy morning, clock is pushing toward noon and I mumble to myself,”There’s nothing good to eat in this house.”   Crazy me, look what I found by slowing down just a minute.  Jam from my friends at Abbey of the Hills.  French Brie from my local food    co-op store.  That gorgeous Tuscan from the Valley Queen Cheese Store.  The flavorful bacon/cheddar from my friend Bonnie at her precious local grocery store.   A few bonus leftovers to play with and whisper to my new hand made serving board about.  If you have good cheese on hand you’re always ready for drop in friends.  I learned that from my mama. 
The people I love all love old wood!  Me too.  Will you look at that gorgeous  nail hole and the wild its-ok-Becky sanding marks?  Magical thoughts while playing with the 1880’s  Prior Township granary board reclaimed just over the hill from the RedBarn; mill marks, square nails, homesteaders, old growth, yet another purpose for this local tree from long ago, gratitude for brave folks who built the early buildings with few tools and much labor.  
Let loose, happier if it’s not perfect, shoe lace for a hanger, I CAN run this drill by myself!  I’m falling in love with an old piece of granary board!!??  The RedBarn work room is a happy place to play while listening to the latest Carrie Underwood and the humming of the Festool sander.   Cheers to playful ideas on a winter day.

Authentic RedBarn Holiday Imperfections

“It is the heart always that sees before the head can see.”  -Thomas Carlyle-

Holiday hustle of gifts, music, decoration, creative adventures, family coming in the front door loaded down with presents, excited to stay the night.  Add in the amazing food that will be shared.   It’s tempting to paint the town red and live in the glory of Christmas all year-long.  Somewhere someone does that, don’t they?  The perfect Christmas!

No secret; the world is full with woe and friends I know well are fighting off sadness during this season of good cheer.   There is no ‘perfect Christmas celebration’ and it seems the best gift we can give each other is to acknowledge that.  Keep our hearts and heads open for whatever the days, and years, happen to bring our way and love one another through it all.

 My sister and I talked about just that topic last night on the phone.  I was stressing a little about recent visits with friends who find the holiday season to be a reminder of  ‘life not turning out how they wished it would have.’  She has faced down some hard situations and has had plenty of practice in learning how to  push onward.  I love how I can feel a big-sister story beginning to brew even before it comes into my ear.   One past year her husband(left in an orphanage at a young age) was moping and  expressing his disdain for any Christmas celebrating to be held in the home.    While she felt sympathetic, she also felt there was nothing to be gained by constantly reliving  the hurts of yesteryear and expecting all in the house to  do the same.  It was starting to look as if a sad sort of Christmas tradition had taken them over.   So what did she do?  When she had  heard enough she declared, “The kids and I are going out to buy a tree.  It’s up to you.  Should we set it in the corner of the living room or should we rent a hotel room and have our Christmas there?”   At moments like this I’m never sure what the moral of the story is.  Maybe we each must take our own.   I am sure that her big-sister lessons……. fill my heart with strength, give me  new perspective and always give me a chuckle!  Thanks, Sis!


 Here’s where we eat!  I’ve been making gift baskets, mixing a new batch of potpourri and writing cards.  This is table # 2….table #1 looks worse.


When they say “don’t believe everything you see on Facebook”…. believe that!  This caramel recipe turned out terrible and I completely wasted two hours of my time.  The cream cheese sugar cookies are really good though.  I’m thinking the cherry on top is as close as I’m going to get to serving fruitcake.  That makes who sad?


I have a few spots decorated half way and it’s OK.  A little greenery around the leftover jars of Crab Apple jelly from the fall batch.  Not a bad look.


And the angels appeared.  At my house one has a glued on wing, one is missing her wing  altogether and the other  surely must have something she could be sad about.   These girls have seen alot of years but somehow  keep showing up to smile and bless us through the season.


Every container in this whole house seems to end up holding some sort of creative project leftover.  Do I clean them out or cover with a Christmas plate?   These 3 cute little monkeys are coming to visit…..and bringing the fun with them.


Who put all of that stuff on top of the refrigerator?  Planning to read the new book my friend Liz is talking about.  Something about making your life better by tidying up and ‘getting rid of’.   She might have to come and help me get started.  How do I toss the cool ‘Voyageur Brewing Company growler from the August trip to Grand Marais?   The red tea-pot that I love and never use? The old ceramic hen?


The start to a holiday arrangement.  I can see the smile on the face of my granddaughter as she ran to hand me the found branch and knew I would love it.    We talked about adding more to the jar.   Today it feels quite complete just the way it is.

20151221_102103_resized Decorating the mantel and taking hold-steady-now greeting card worthy  shots for my card biz is way fun.   Another day.  In this little moment of ‘being RedBarn authentic’ it gives me great pleasure to reveal that I often must share this best place in the house to dry  gloves.


Does setting an owl under the tree distract from the fact that I only have 4 gifts wrapped?  If you are between 9 and 11 and love nail polish you know I’ve started with you this year.

20151127_204019_resizedI’ve always loved high fashion.  I’m not even kidding.  We do have our dress-up look that mostly hangs in the closet and I suppose we could have taken something off of the hanger for the Christmas photo.  We didn’t.  And feeling well, kind of ‘authentic’ with the whole matching husband and wife photo.   A long and lingering fall(now that’s a perfect gift in Minnesota)gave us some  no-place-like-home evening bonfires and extra time to get the RedBarn acreage tidied up before real winter set in.   It’s here…brrr.

Best wishes from the RedBarn:  ‘May you have a perfectly imperfect Christmas season and may you find that you like it that way.  No hotel rooms, please!  May you  find the will to grab onto the moments of authentic happiness amongst whatever else comes your way.  Or, may you write your own story and fill it with the good you find.”   Merry Christmas-2015!!   BRB


RedBarn Potpourri

We trimmed some low branches from the stately Black Walnut trees this fall.  The wood is so lovely, even in the trimmings, that I can not think to burn or waste it.  It’s been years since the old wooden bowl has held a curing batch of homemade potpourri.     You know the feeling you have with materials that you totally love and that truly stir your soul??   For me it’s the natural outdoor leftovers each fall; cones, nuts, twigs, rose hips.  Even corn cobs, a shed antler or a pile of old wood shingles can cause a stir.  Must be the farm-girl genes.  Making and packaging the natural, mostly(we’ve got to have some cinnamon sticks, folks) Minnesota Grown potpourri has been pure joy.

Sweet Drew and Livi, my twin granddaughters, wasted no time in climbing a tall tree to pick a few of these lovelies for me.  Thank you, girls!
Becky, how much do you like working from home?     Ahhhhhlot.
I’ll tell you a secret.  I will never take that little test to determine what my favorite color is because if it came out to be anything other than RED…..   I’ve been madly in love with red as far back as I can recall.  My friend, Ann, helped me snag a length of this special Minnesota fabric a few years ago and just this fall I managed to sew up a little bread basket cloth.  Do you love how it matches the RED of the pomegranate peels? (French Vanilla Latte scented 100% Minnesota Made Soy Candle)
I’m thinking of the story called the, “Giving Tree.”  All four of these chunky potpourri gifts given to me by the same generous tree!  I promise I won’t cut you down to a stump.
I have been sharing, and selling, so this is actually the 6th big batch the bowl has held.  It mingles with the essential oils of Balsam and Bergamot then mellows for a couple of weeks before being measured into bags.
Getting a little soulful and playing with the materials.  I know, I know.   Honey, what do you see on this plate?  Reply, “Hmmm, I see a piece of wood, a leaf and five raisins.”  Seriously?  Raisins?
Here let me help you a little…I’ll rearrange. He persists, “A piece of wood, a leaf and seven raisins?  So, what’s the right answer?”     It’s art-on-a-plate!   And have you never seen a rose hip????  Mars and Venus:)
It’s a big day in the mailbox at the RedBarn.  The very first issue of my new subscription to ‘Make It Minnesota’ has arrived.  That was fast….thank you, Leah and Benjamin!    Heavenly new read filled with creative ideas, people-stories and products made within the borders.  Celebrating the occasion by lighting up one of the luscious McIntosh scented holiday Minnesota Made soy candles.  Diving in….cover to cover.  Did you know there’s an awesome new shoe company making leather shoes in St. Paul?  Santa, a pair of these would do when I’m out walking among the cones, and nuts and twigs….just sayin’.
RedBarn shoppers.

RedBarn Art Meander Notes-2015

In the books….one more successful, 3-day art event out here on the western edge of the Minnesota prairie region.  We are tucked in along the Big Stone Lake Area; 26 mile long headwaters of the meandering Minnesota River Valley.   Each year brings something new and special.  As one who likes to take photos…..I seem to capture very little of it on film(digital)!!!!  Did I think I had a few other things to attend to?   My sweet Sony has  a few Meander remnants to share.

Big thanks to all who attended, volunteered, made art, covered the event, worked to make it happen.  Art is a great starting place for communities to grow, come together and welcome everyone in, don’t you think?   Whether  the art-journey takes you on a paved downtown city street or onto this gravel, little bit dusty, slow-down-over-the-bridge township road leading to the RedBarn, you are headed for something good.

RedBarn shoppers.
RedBarn shoppers.
So wonderful to have my sister and nieces stop by.
So wonderful to have my sister and nieces stop by.
More cuties in my tribe.
More cuties in my tribe.
Hmmm.  If your artist friend Kris sticks her tongue out at you as you press the button do you still publish it?  Ok.
Hmmm. If your artist friend Kris stuck her tongue out at you as you pressed the button would you still publish it?    Ok.       
One of my heavy lifters.  Grateful.
One of my heavy lifters. Grateful.
Raised nearly $700 on our 'take a pumpkin and leave a donation for art supplies that will benefit children in a Haitian mountain village' project.  This sweet one won the drawing for our great pumpkin and a few extras to liven up her yard.
Raised nearly $700 on our ‘take a pumpkin and leave a donation for art supplies that will benefit children in a Haitian mountain village’ project. This sweet one won the drawing for our great pumpkin, and a few extras, to liven up her yard.
A good time was had by all!
A good time was had by all!
My dear niece asked for a copy of something that fell out of a book as I was setting up for Meander.  Such important stuff that it simply did not feel like a coincidence.  It's something I'd like to share with everyone.  I hope you can pick your favorite line and think about it on this beautiful October day.  Blessings!
My dear niece asked for a copy of something that fell out of a book as I was setting up for Meander. Such important stuff (thank you Mr. Peale)that it simply did not feel like a coincidence. It’s something I’d like to share with everyone. I hope you have a minute to pick your favorite line out of these great thoughts  on this beautiful October day. Blessings!
The dumptruck planter made it through summer without getting dumped.  I'm in love with the new duck that arrived on the step this week.

RedBarn September Bliss

Very wisely, Nature limits the  allotment of these blissful days between seasons.  It’s hard to get serious about, well, serious things. I’ve got things to do, a chore list.  Savoring the lingering touches of summer and welcoming the autumn morning bite in the air with her burst of glorious sun-soaked color….not on my list.

I’m reminded how precious, fleeting and fragile this pause between seasons is.  If I had to get stuck somewhere on the calendar I’m pretty sure I’d pick this week.  A few tasks await to get ready for the tremendous 3 day art event,  ‘Meander‘, that my family is honored to host at the RedBarn.     Really, it’s great fun to get some autumn decorating done, gather up the pumpkins, make a few scarecrows, plan for family coming to stay with us.     First off, a stroll around the yard to breathe in this rhythm of life we call ‘the present’.

Summer is hanging on, fall has arrived and they both agreed to  share the last day of delicious September  with…. ah, me….and you if you’ve got a few minutes to step out side!

Sweet overachiever 'Dwarf Purple Alyssum'
Sweet overachiever ‘Dwarf Purple Alyssum’.  Take note for next spring planting.
Dear Rose, You have the honor of being 'thee last rose of summer'.
Dear Rose, “You have the honor of being ‘thee last rose of summer’ at the RedBarn.” Your friend,


The funkiest little Petunia ever gets to meet up with this cutie-warty pumpkin.
The funkiest little Petunia ever gets to meet up with this cutie-warty pumpkin during  summer-hands-baton-to-fall days.
Zinnia;hardy, beautiful, rugged, enduring.
Zinnia-hardy, beautiful, rugged, enduring, tireless, vibrant.  Remind you of a  girlfriend, your Mom, sister, daugter?  Me too.
The dumptruck planter made it through summer without getting dumped.  I'm in love with the new duck that arrived on the step this week.
The dump truck planter made it through summer without getting dumped.  Darling grandson Ben was quick to say, “I’ll share my dump truck with you, Grandma Becky.” BIG love for him!  So, how much do we like the stately duck who landed on my front step this week?  New thrift store in my neighborhood!  Hurray!
Daylily greens blowing in the breeze, Autumn Joy Sedums looking royal, a couple of yellow Marigolds, pumpkins picked and the  little picket fence guarding them all.
Day Lily  greens blowing in the breeze, Autumn Joy Sedums looking royal, a couple of yellow Marigolds peeking out, pumpkins picked and the little picket fence guarding them all on this lovely day.
A Phlox of any color is a thing of beauty.  One last little blast from this Periwinkle.
A Phlox of any color is a thing of beauty. One last little blast from this Periwinkle charmer.
Radiant, last-day-of-September sun falling on the one tiny RedBarn Oak.
Radiant, last-day-of-September sun falling on the one tiny RedBarn Oak tree.
Whoa!  There's a big Rausch Bros. granite truck by the RedBarn. Delivering the etched stone of Meander artist friend, Liz Rackl.  Oh joy!  Must be time to get back to work!
Whoa! There’s a big Rausch Bros. granite truck by the RedBarn. Delivering the etched stone of ‘Meander’ artist friend, Liz Rackl, I bet.  Better go find the chore list. 


An Ortonville Day-On-The-Town

Beautiful, happy people enjoying the Ortonville uptown scene!

Dearest Lila,  I adore your Uncle Henry carving! So good to see you.  Wasn’t it great fun being uptown in Ortonville for the little summer festival?  Shiny vintage cars lining the main street, artists set up showing their talents, businesses inviting us in for special drinks, food treats and conversation.  And the music….  I’d follow that Lee Kanten anywhere if he keeps singing those hot summer tunes to me.  Excited to see the new Lingonberry pastry shop opening up soon, aren’t you?  What a nice event that Miss Katie at the Big Stone Lake Area Chamber and her team put together!  I need a new camera.  Hubby gave me camera money for Christmas and I spent it on something else.  He says I always do this…don’t tell.  I better run.  You and John have a great trip to Norway this fall.                 Your friend,   Becky


Courtney snaps a fun photo for two of the adorable kids in town today.
How can one resist a tempting treat from these lovelies?  Hi Becky, Love Becky:)
Julie and Susie(longest tongue)looking pretty in uptown Ortonvile.
  Look at those old guys laughing…hopefully not at the old girl taking the picture.
The people, the visiting, the light-hearted laughter… part of any day!
Live music on the street corner….nice touch, Ortonville!
I’ve got this thing about taking photos of people taking photos.  Hi  Vicki!
Oh my gosh.  Heavenly!  Thanks for the invitation to visit uptown Ortonville.  It was sweet!

A ‘Shabulous’ Visit

I’ve started my summer shop-hop of special places to visit( and shop) in my own western Minnesota region.   First stop; an artist date with friend Bonnie Kleindl in her ‘Shabulous‘ shop on main street of Graceville.  Up the road and  3 country-songs-on-the-radio  away from the RedBarn.    Bonnie and I enjoy so many of the same decorating looks.  If it falls under ‘upcycled, repurposed, or banged back together’ most likely we could agree to love it.  Toss in some color, purpose and beauty for good measure!  Dear Bonnie set out some of my latest amazingly scented ‘Hillside Orchard’ Soy Woodwick candles for   her customers to try.  She’s already put out the new scent for fall…Pumpkin Pecan Pie!  All in a great, old cupboard that some lucky farmstyle-lovin’ girl is going to snap up and cherish in her home.  I’ll give you a little photo tour and share just a few of the items you might find at Bonnie’s always changing Shabulous Shop!

Bonnie look!  My sweetheart filled in the new-old chair that you gave me the really good deal on since the seat was missing.  My dish pan herb garden fits perfectly.
Loving my new patriotic  sign.  Just in time for July 4th celebrating!

20150610_151213_resized_1So excited to snap some photos that I left my purse and boxes right in the picture.  See, anyone can do this:) The new large and bright metal flowers are on my list for next shopping trip.   Graceville is a friendly town and look who stopped by(below) to say ‘hi’.  Nikki(left) works next door in her beauty shop and Jill(right) owns the local flower shop. Special delivery for lucky Bonnie!





What’s Been Happening at the RedBarn?

Friends ask that question often.  I don’t mind.  Life is full and rich with interests, pastimes, diversions, choices, companions.   It’s joy for me to know about the happenings in your life!  Each spring day in the Minnesota countryside brings pause for my soul to celebrate episodes of large and small abundance.   Sun shines, leaves emerge and life unfolds quickly with all to do this time of year on the RedBarn acreage.  Some of these things involve a shovel!

Recently, I was invited to attend a product event in celebration of Earth Day.  Each of our creative lives are enriched by the resources that come to surround us.  I need to listen close for direction.   Divinely led, we connect with the talents, ideas, personalities, family and friends and even the  ‘aha moments’ that enter our inner doorway.  It seems like such a tiny difference one could make to better care for our earth……. but if we each do….. it must add up.  Afterall, there are alot of us making small decisions every day on this spinning unit.

I was excited to show the  products that filled my table; apple pies baked from stored late fall apples grown within our chemical-free orchard,  cloth napkins crafted from vintage tablecloths and rescued fabrics, contemporary candles made from sustainable and clean-burning soy.

I promised I’d share on my blog for  special  friends out in the world who said they may need to get ahold of me.  It’s a full-heart-feeling when the things I share become a blessing, however small, in someone else’s home and life.    Needing a little break from rolling pie crust so, please, no more pie orders!  I could fly in and talk you through it if you really need me to.    Sewing with beautiful vintage fabrics is best described as way-fun and not like work.  Can’t wait to get back to it!    Beautiful, clean, sustainable candles are simply one of the little pleasures to brighten a home or space.

I’ll try to keep posting and feel free to let me know under comments or ‘contact’ if you need  to reach me, friends.

Wishing you abundance and joy in the ‘countryside of life’.

‘Sparkle’  is the perfect combination of floral and summer-fruity.
‘Clean’ sports the essence of clove and a hint of citrus.  
‘Summer Love’ is full-on -southern- belle honeysuckle.  Robin, in California, are you an Elvis fan too?
So excited to pack off ‘Fresh Coffee’ and ‘Spirit’ to arrive on one pretty doorstep in Arkansas!  Clean and even burning, sustainable 100 % soy, softly crackling, natural wood wick,reusable jar candles.

Valentine Notes

Something about this February week designed to celebrate love.  If you let your guard down even a little….it’ll get you!   I’m smiling this morning.  Time to mail off the Valentines that my lover-boy, now the Grandpa at the RedBarn, and I put together last night for the sweet children who have appeared in the homes of the babes we raised together back-in-the-day.

Do you ever take the time to write out a quote that touches your heart?  Something special about the feel of a wooden pencil in the hand.   And have you noticed how the words you write down keep reappearing and popping back into your life?   No rules; we don’t have to agree with everything that particular person says or feels.  Just the words we select.  Oh, the beauty of words!   It’s our life and we each  get to run it…all day long.  Aren’t we lucky for that?

In my cherished miscellaneous spot(yes, the junk drawer) near the address book, a small, crumpled, green paper found it’s way to the top this morning.  Surely, one random earthly-bliss moment in the past must have caused me to select these words for Valentine thoughts of today.     Ahhh, sweet Valentine’s week!  I hope it get’s you…right there in the heart!

“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, or how you love.  It matters only that you love.”     -John Lennon