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Last week the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe sponsored a drum making class for kids.  We were the first ones there and eager to get to work.  First Raven selected a round of deer hide which had been soaking and was soft and pliable.  Next he punched holes in a circle around the edge using a paper pattern.

Raven tapping

Raven tapping holes in the deer hide

raven gets help laying out the ddrum

The drum frames were wooden circles made of plywood.  He got help centering the drum frame on the hide and began stringing the the holes together.

He did a great job of stringing, the strings nice and tight.

weavingg the strings

Seneca worked at a different table.

Seneca gets help

And within a an hour or two they each had a drum.  However the deer hide needed to dry before the drum would make a sound.   That took three days.

Seneca is very proud of hers and was happy to show me.

Seneca finished

Ravemn's finished drumo

Raven was proud but shy

We are grateful to the tribe for making this experience possible.  They are set to join the Drum Group again this year.

Here they are on the first day of school.


Raven is turning out for football.

Seneca first day of school

Lucky aren’t we!!



a motor home

We pull our little blue car behind the motor home.

Vacation at last!  The State of Washington provides respite care for our foster children from time to time, so it was to be just Seneca, Raven, Ted and me.

We were headed for Maryhill, on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington.

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Beautiful blue Columbia River

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Maryhill from the bridge

The kids could hardly wait for swimming and they splashed in the river for hours.

a swimming

Swimming in a safe spot

a approching stonehange

Stonehenge in the distance

The next morning we drove a short distance to a replica of Stonehenge in England. Build by Sam Hill, it is dedicated to the World War I soldiers who were killed during the war.

a stonehenge full

Seeing Seneca and Raven you can tell how large this is.

a stonehenge close

It looks like the original

a S and R at stonhenge

Seneca and Raven lean against a pillar

Beautiful windmills sit on the hillside above Stonehenge and we drove up to get a closer look.

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From a distance they look like match sticks

a windmill up close

But you can tell how large they are by the stairway at the bottom. They lean from pressure from the wind.

a windy flats

Appropriately named!

The view was more desolate from up there and rocky on the way down.

a landscape

Miles of flat on top of this plateau

a rocky hillside

Cliff going down to the river.

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Sweet and juicy peaches

Back in camp, we visited the local orchard and began feasting on peaches, still warm from the trees.

a stones

Pretty stones

And one of my favorite activities is picking out pretty rocks from the river bank.

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Raven is a bit taller!

On the trip home we stopped for some shopping and I realized, walking behind them, that Raven is taller than Ted. When did that happen?

black fish song

Black Fish Song

Let me start by saying, I am aware that two of my photos are in sidewise this morning.   We are getting ready for a birthday party for one of our foster kids today and I don’t have time to figure out how to change them right now, sorry!!

I get excited when I hear the words “pow wow.” I picture the colorful dancing, drums and chanting. When it was announced that a group would be going from the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe to the spring pow wow at the University of Washington I was eager to go along. Seneca and Raven were to participate in the opening exercise with tribal members.

elwha entry

Elwha Entry

Elwha group singing

Elwha group singing


Since our group was first up, many of the other people were still gathering and getting ready.

This young lady was getting her hair braided.
hair braid
And these two boys were getting their feathers arranged. When not being worn, feathers and hung on stands to protect them from damage.


The costumes were amazing, so colorful.   At the beginning all dancers enter and dance around the floor, then the competitions begin. There were competitions for dancing, singing, best costumes and so on. The dancing and singing was to go on for two days.

more color
best far


Wendy prepared peanut butter and jam sandwiches for all of our group.

As we left that evening, after a full day of celebration, Raven asked, “Can we come back tomorrow?”

A few days later we attended the Blessing of the Canoe, which was held behind the Tribal Center. Prayers were said for safety for all who will travel in the tribal canoe. The ceremony concluded with a song done by the drum group.   I am happy our kids are having an opportunity to participate in these traditions.

blessing canoow

“Go for it” said Ted, and I knew he was right, the family could get along without me very nicely for five days.   Right?

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St. Andrews on Hood Canal


A chance to sew all day, get to know some new people and relax in a beautiful setting was too much to pass up.

Set at the foot of Hood Canal, the setting is magical. The log “mansion” called St. Andrew’s was built by a wealthy Seattle family who came here for the summer in the 1920’s and it was fun to think about that family with kids running up and down the stairs to the balcony and sitting in front of the fireplace. It was tempting to walk on the beach, but I was focused on sewing.

I decided to start in something new, fresh fabric from my stash and a new but simple pattern, something I could finish in a couple of days. Ted helped me cut the fabric before I left so when I got there I was ready to sew.

apples full

Apple quilt


apples up close

Apple quilt up close


I drew the lucky seat, the best view for sewing. There were beautiful views in every direction, however.

view from my seat

View from my sewing table


quilting room

The quilting room, this had been added to the original house.


The cook was amazing. He is a priest whose mission is to feed folks local, healthy and nutritious food, and that he did. Vegetables, herbs, cheese, ice cream, yoghurt, meat, and seafood were all grown or produced locally. He created his own salsa, granola, and special herb tea which he served cold. We feasted at every meal.

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Lining up for a wonderful meal


Our room was tucked under the rafters, set up with bunk beds, though there were only two of us so no one had to climb. Each bed was made with a homemade quilt, made by a previous quilter.

For fun, I made a cloth paper doll for each of the 13 other women attending and we had fun choosing outfits for each of them. Then they got creative and began making quilts for their dollies.

paper doll 4

Playing with paperdolls, this one was doing a dance


pd on sewing machine

This paper doll now decorates a sewing machine


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Brenda with her paper doll

I am an early riser and I enjoyed sitting by the fireplace and doing some hand sewing as folks assembled each morning.

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Early morning quilter


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A view of the fireplace


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An experiment

Many beautiful quilts were sewed during the week.

Each of us also made a “Joy Quilt” a small quilt to be wrapped around a stuffed animal and given to a child in a time of crisis. Some of our foster children have arrived with animals wrapped in “joy quilts” so this was a project I was committed to doing!

Joy quilts - Copy

Some of the cheerful joy quilts.


anna with joy quilt

A foster child received a stuffed elephant wrapped in a joy quilt.


The joy of sharing with other women, creating beautiful things while being fed tasty and healthy food, in a beautiful setting, it can hardly get better than that!


Raven's smile is hard to catch

Raven’s smile is hard to catch

Our son Raven is now 13. You’ll hardly ever see a photo of him as he hides from the camera. Yesterday I gave him a bowl of frosting to clean out and I had him!

He is not actually Klallam, but Tlingit. However he and Seneca participate in the activities of the tribe in order to learn more their Native heritage.

bowl of frosting

With the frosting bowl

Raven is active in the After School Program of the Klallam tribe where kids have a chance to learn about Klallam culture, music and language, as well as get help with their school work and participate in activities of the tribe. Raven attends every day after school.

Last week an amazing Culture Fair was held at the Long House at Peninsula College, with the after school group from the high school and Raven’s group from the middle school. The President Peninsula College, Luke Robbins welcomed everyone, as did Frances Charles, tribal chairperson.

. president

The displays presented by the students included posters telling the history of the tribes, about their music, medicine, language and native plants. posters baners over tables

There were many activities offered such  beading , and games such as tic tac toe played using the the Klallam language.



The Bone Game, a traditional gambling game, was demonstrated.

bone Raven

Gary and Raven play the bone game

merrily bone game

Sissy and Merrily play the bone game

And a traditional button blanket, make by the students was presented to the college.

eagle blanket

Eagle button blanket made and given by the students for the Long House

Klallam singers and drummers shared music.

Klallam singers and drummers

Klallam singers and drummers

Then small traditional gifts, made by the students, were given.

Gifts made by the students for the guests

Gifts made by the students for the guests

cedar roses

Small cedar roses

It was a great celebration and it gave the community a chance to learn more about this amazing culture.

Thea sweat shirt

Here are Thea and Knox. Thea is our 16 year old granddaughter and Knox is now a Seeing Eye dog through Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Thea volunteered to raise Knox from puppyhood until he was ready to be trained.

First she had to participate in a training program with is offered in her school.   She learned that puppy trainers provide love and socialization to the puppies. Each year Guide Dogs for the Blind dog produces about 900 puppies which are placed with caretakers in the Western States.   The puppies are born so that in June they have reached the age where they are ready to leave their mothers. Knox arrived at the Holcomb household ready to learn and the first thing he was taught was to relieve himself on demand. This is an important skill for a guide dog. Knox went to school with Thea in the fall, wearing his little harness. Thea met with other classmates and their dogs several times a week as training progressed.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is a non-profit organization based in California. About 500 of the 900 dogs raised each year will actually be found suitable to work as guide dogs. Other dogs will be trained in other services or will become pets.

Knox was an eager learner and his training progressed very well. Thea loved him, but knew that at the end of the year she would be faced with parting with him so that he could go on to actual guide dog training in California and eventually be assigned to a blind or visually impaired person.

It was a sad and happy day when Knox was put back on the puppy truck for his return. Thea said, “It was exciting to realize he would go to do something fantastic that would change someone’s life.”   Four months later he had received his training and it was time for him to graduate and to meet the person spend he would spend his life serving. Thea and her mother and sister flew to California for the graduation. After the ceremony they met this person, a visually impaired woman from Arizona.   She felt especially lucky to meet Thea and to thank her.

They went for a walk together and Thea was pleased to see Knox behave perfectly when guiding her across the street. Knox, of course, recognized Thea and was excited to see her but knew his duty was to assist his new partner.

thea capitol

Odette, the dog Thea is training now

Thea is considering a career in guide dog training. It requires a college degree and a three year apprenticeship. Was this a good experience?   Yes, it was, Thea and her family are now involved with training a second dog, Odette!


ted ping

Ten Ping, a tiny favorite



Dolls on display from our shop, Apple Tree Dolls and Bears


girls in booth

Young customers


My doll club held its annual doll show last weekend and Seneca enjoyed herself as usual. The doll show is the  place she can get new outfits for her dolls and she brought her American Girl doll along for fittings. She was right in line to have herdoll’s hair styled by one of our members.



She helped with our little foster girl who was gifted with a doll and another toy by some kind dealers.

seneca and anna

Seneca with our foster daughter, playing with new dolls


Seneca found a special doll she wanted and luckily she had enough money left from her birthday to make the purchase. On the way home she hugged her new doll along with her old favorite. I love it that she loves dolls!
new doll

A few weeks ago Seneca was talking about wanting to work on a cruise ship someday. She asked me if you must go to college to do such work. I suggested that she write to the cruise people and ask them. A few hours later she had created a very sweet letter to her favorite cruise line, Holland America, asking her question and throwing in a few details.  She mentioned that she has been  on four of their cruises and that she had a birthday coming.

holland america

Two weeks later a FedEx box came for Seneca and inside was a model of a Holland America ship along with a letter. She was advised to go to college if she could, and to apply on-line when she was ready to go to work. She was also wished a Happy Birthday. Nice to have a company with a heart, and the letter certainly created a lot of excitement at our house.


It is hard to find a good photo of Gramma, she liked to hide from the camera

My grandmother had many tips and quips about life and she loved to share them. Though she has been gone for more than 25 years, her words of wisdom come back to me.

Many of her “rules” came from her basic philosophy and had to do with what she believed and how she lived her life. She told me many times, that there are three important things that one should always have, even if finances are tight.

She believed that everyone should have good bedding. Quality bedding, sheets pulled tight and bed made every morning, were things I learned from her.

She believed that everyone should have plenty of good quality underwear. Our underwear generally comes from Penney’s but when it sags or tears, out it goes.

The third things she insisted was important was that we not eat from cracked or chipped dishes.   With a houseful of children we often chip dishes. But we couldn’t toss a whole set when a few became chipped.


Yes, some of the dishes were in very bad shape.

Recently we realized that many of our dishes were chipped in more than one spot and they needed replacing. However, the dish sets we found all contained cups and saucers as part of the set. We use coffee mugs rather than cups and saucers and didn’t want buy them when we wouldn’t need them. Finally we found an attractive set that came with only plates in two sizes, and bowls. They were so reasonably priced that we bought six sets. We will have plenty of replacement parts.


While going through the cupboard we sorted out the many many little dishes that had been collecting.l

Gramma was right, it does feel good to look at a nicely set table with no chipped dishes. And there is an great sense of satisfaction that paying attention to these three principles brings me.

New dishes neatly stacked.

New dishes neatly stacked!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.



If you asked any of our children what special Christmas food is their favorite, most would say, “Christmas bread.” I bake it each Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning we eat it while unwrapping the packages.

I was a little late getting going on it this year and about 3 o’clock on Christmas Eve I was ready to start. But I realized that if I started at three, it would be risen and ready to bake just as we were  to leave for church.  So, I decided to wait, start it a little later and let the dough rise while we were at church and bake it after church.


All went according to plan, when we got home from church the dough was perfectly risen and ready to roll out. I rolled the dough, filled it with cinnamon, raisins, walnuts and sugar and formed the bread rings.  Then I put them on pans to rise again before baking, which takes about a half hour.

I got busy doing the things a parent does on Christmas Eve and was ready to go to bed when I next thought of them, they had risen and risen until the little cell walls had burst and then fallen, almost flat. There was nothing to do but go ahead and bake them  though they came out rather flat.  I figured frosting and cherries would help hide the problem.

The Christmas bread was a hit as usual.   I am probably the only one who knew that it was less the perfect this year.   This morning our little foster boy had the last bite.  That little guy loves my cooking!!

And if you would like a copy of the Christmas bread recipe, send me an email!



Last to be added are the cherries.