Monthly Archives: June 2016




If you feel a certain zeal for Zentangle, then follow me along another winding path …

Image by LittleGretchen via Flickr

to the Spirograph!

You might recall this mesmerizing pastime from childhood, complete with little plastic gears and multi-colored pens.

With all of the recent buzz about adult coloring books and Zentangle, it’s no surprise that the Spirograph is finding its way back into fashion.

“The only toy I still have from growing up is a Super Spirograph,” shares Heather Holm of Spirographic Art. “I was already a teenager when I got it, so that would have been in the early 1970s. My sister had a regular Spirograph, and we both loved it, so when the Super Spirograph came out, I had to get one. It has survived many moves and a fire … now my son enjoys playing with it too. One day he observed, ‘Whoever invented this was a genius.’”

Heather is such a passionate proponent of the Spirograph and all of its gorgeous geometric possibility that she dedicated her entire website to the art—tutorials, tips, product reviews, and coloring pages.

A variety of Spirograph kits are available from vendors like Amazon, from travel sized sets to super deluxe versions with a dozen or more discs in different shapes and sizes. To get an idea of how hypnotically creative you can get with circles and spirals (stick with the video to the grand finale), watch:

And, of course, how sweet is this? Cookies with Spirographic icing designs …

Do you remember Spirographing? Do share …



Shasta, Glamperized!

If you’ve read my Glamping with MaryJane book, you might remember my little story about a Shasta trailer I fell in love with after seeing it for sale on craigslist. After all, my family had an almost identical one when I was growing up (that’s me in the tire swing at our deer hunting camp).

Butters-Family-Album-scan047So when I saw this craigslist ad …


… I couldn’t resist buying it sight unseen. So much for the “no disappointment” part. Here’s the tale of woe I told in my book:


“Let me be your example of why sight-unseen can be a problem. If you’re like me, you’re an optimist. You hope for the best. Plus, you’re short on time. When I talked to the owner of this Shasta (that I ended up buying sight-unseen for $2,500), he said there wasn’t any mold or water damage. (I asked twice.) And all the windows and outside lights had been recaulked. But he failed to mention a cheap caulk had been used that you can scrape off with your fingernail. Oh, and there was definitely mold and water damage. In addition, he didn’t mention the gaping holes in the side or rust in the fridge or the fact that the stove didn’t work OR that it had a shady history and had been stolen in a former life (revealed during the title transfer). When my farmhand pulled it into my driveway after a five-hour drive, I wrote the seller an e-mail expressing my dismay. To his credit, he said, “I would be happy to take it back and pay for the gas for the return trip.” Once I got the windows washed, I could see her potential. So I kept her, but I will never buy a trailer again without seeing it first.”



After reconsidering the extensive renovations it would need, I ended up selling it for the same price I bought it for to a woman from Boise, Idaho, who’d seen it in my book. When she asked if I knew of anyone in the Boise area who could help her glamperize and renovate her new baby, I posted that question on our Gampers on the Loose Facebook page, and was able to put her in touch with someone willing to renovate it. She recently wrote, “We are getting close to finished—just minor touchups and polish-it-to-a-mirror-shine and we’re good to go. It’s been a worthwhile journey that we couldn’t have done without help.”

Here she is all gussied up and ready to roll. All’s well that ends well.




Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Ruby Slider!!!

Ruby Slider (#1663) has received a certificate of achievement in Make it Easy for earning an Expert Level Carp-hen-try Merit Badge!

“I wanted to build a small chicken coop, but had no idea about designs. So after checking online, I came across the cutest small coop that also looked easy to clean/maintain. Armed with a photo, I began to duplicate it with my own modification. I repurposed some wood for a mini-deck to build on. The floor on the coop is waist high to me. I added a trap door in the floor for cleaning easily. The front wall is actually wire grid, small square holes, thick, and hard to bend (it was also repurposed, so I don’t know what the name of the product actually is). I added two small windows on each side right below the roof line, screened with the same product as the door. I wanted nest boxes that I could remove and scrub. I started with large plastic veggie bins, but later changed to small stackable bins. I inverted the top bin and wired to the bottom one and secured them with hooks to the back wall of the coop. That made them sturdy and easy to remove. The girls love them. I also added a roosting ladder. To the left, I made a small access door with a ramp. If the weather is bad, the front wall/door can remain closed and they can still come and go as they please. The coop has a tin roof with a 12” overhang. Hanging food and water sources and a heat lamp when needed were added. For additional safety, I lined the outer fence with additional tin.

I’ve remodeled and repaired just about everything, but starting from scratch was a new one for me. I’m very proud of how it turned out. Many thanks to whoever posted the pictures of his or her coop!! Thanks for the inspiration.”


Young Cultivators Merit Badge: I Am a Survivor, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,962 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—9,905 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Out There Kids/I Am A Survivor Intermediate Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I gathered my hiking supplies and my courage and volunteered to take Piper, Nora, and Andy, and all their respective siblings out on a hike in the wilderness.

photo by Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons

Well, ‘wilderness’ sounds more life-threatening than our hiking trail actually is, but still. Ever take a bunch of kids hiking? It’s pretty life-threatening. And sanity-threatening. I wasn’t sure we’d all make it down alive, to tell the truth.

Since Nora was my Beginner Level Badge earner from her handy dandy, super cool, Survivor Packs she made with me earlier, I let her be the Guide Assistant.

Unfortunately, the power went to her head.

Continue reading





Mom, I’m fine!

For all of you moms who’ve found yourselves perched in an empty nest,

Photo by Laura Hartog via Flickr

wondering what your kids are up to today …

(Insert wistful sigh here.)

Meet Jonathan Kubben Quiñonez from Brussels, a 27-year-old traveler who steadfastly keeps his mom in the loop, no matter where in the world he happens to land.

From the top of a pyramid in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula,

Photo courtesy of

to the sea floor of Colombia’s San Andrés Island,

Photo courtesy of

Jonathan lets his momma know he’s alive and well.

“Quiñonez quit his job, sold his car, and ventured out to see the world. However, after arriving in Cuba, the first stop on his round-the-world trip, he had a hard time getting in touch with his family,” reports Travelweek. “So the intrepid traveler came up with a genius—and heartwarming—way to let his loved ones back home know of his whereabouts: by starting up an Instagram account and posting photos of himself in new locations, holding up a sign that reads ‘MOM, I’M FINE.’”

Share Jonathan’s Instagram adventures with your kiddos and see if they catch the hint!

Photo courtesy of