Thursday, October 30, 2014

A pretty corner

On Monday evening, I found myself with twenty five minutes between writing time and cooking dinner time. What do I do, I wondered. I am giving myself permission to spend any and all spare 25-minute blocks on pleasure-- and that's admittedly an easy bargain to make once canning season is over. But still. I had 25 minutes to spend on pleasure, it was sunny, and I had been meaning to address a wilted vase of flowers for a week or so... the project announced itself.
With pruners and Del and Pete in tow, I walked up the rise to our back fence. 
I am learning how to use weeds. Last Christmas I had the best time picking and then spray-painting handfuls of dried weeds-- one of the best, easiest crafty projects ever. This time, no spray paint was required, just Siberian iris seed pods, yarrow, queen Anne's lace, milkweed, dried grasses, and poppy seed pods. I moved over a squash and two little pumpkins. And then, the next day I added three ferns in a green bottle, because ferns. I never realized hayscented ferns-- that's what those are-- essentially self-preserve after a frost. They're almost leathery, and oh my goodness, that movement. 
So satisfying.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting under way

Yesterday, I spent some really excellent minutes kneeling next to my sage plant, and then my parsley, snip snipping. It was a lovely day-- the last really warm one, probably, before winter sets in for good. Pete trotted over as he almost always does when I'm kneeling in the garden, acting like the whole day-- the sun, the warm breeze, the squirrels and birds and butterflies to chase-- was my idea, and wanting me to know how ever so happy! I've made him. On rainy days, of course, he sulks around blaming me for the cold, the wet.

Then I came inside with my basket of herbs and I made vinegar. I started steeping four different kinds: raspberry, lemon bay, herb, and garlic. And I minced up the sage I'd picked and made sage infused salt. It was satisfying.

I want to thank everyone who commented on Monday's post, and everyone who read it and thought good thoughts. I feel so much better. I feel directed. Or rather, direction-ed. I have a whole case of 4-oz glass jars en route to me, and about two tons of coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax too. I have friends telling me how great my shop is going to be. I have a friend who told me what I needed was to find joy (!!!) and that inspired me to spend a few minutes on Tuesday cutting and arranging dried weeds in a jar. Yes. I call the shots on what does or does not take up space in my life, and I need to remember that. The canning and crafting and writing have permission to be here. The molding, perhaps, does not. I haven't touched that nail gun in five days, and I feel great. 

Onward! I'm feeling so good I might start posting five times a week. No one would be opposed to that, would they?

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Monday, October 27, 2014

The Truth.

Hang on to your seats, it's going to be a long one.
Somehow, I've gotten off track here. Scary to admit, but true.
But I need to own it: somehow, I have managed to build a life here that takes all of my time and all of my energy and almost all of our money and keeps me from being able to enjoy what I, what we, really came here for. The slower pace, the ability to curate our whole existence right down to what kind of tiles we step out of the shower onto and what we see out our kitchen window, the self-sufficiency. 
Really, it all came down to Friday. Friday, I was trying to cut a piece of quarter round to fit between the kitchen and the dining room on the left-hand side of the doorway. It's a mitered piece, and I cut it wrong three times. Then I sort of had a meltdown. I have no idea why. The home improvement is supposed to be one of the things that's kind of fun-- something I can choose to spend a few hours doing here or there, for the empowerment of looking back at a freshly installed baseboard and feeling the satisfaction. It is not supposed to be THE thing I measure my whole life against-- which is kind of what it's begun to feel like. So, I melted down. I laid in the garden with Pete on my chest and cried. 
You know how we all have monsters lurking around the edges, and we all sing lullabies to said monsters to quiet them down? That day I think my voice was so hoarse from just singing singing singing those lullabies that they didn't work. The monsters flooded in. 
My writing income has been edging downward steadily for a a year or so, mostly because writing for other people is almost as enjoyable to me as cutting a piece of quarter-round wrong three times. Yup. As long as I'm here being honest, I should admit that THAT is the real monster here: a year in which we bought a new kitchen, a new (partial) roof, spent about $2,500 on our rust bucket cars, and are looking at buying a new furnace (ours is nearly 40 years old) and insulation, as well. And meanwhile, instead of looking for potentially better/more fulfilling writing clients, I've been ticking off tiling, house painting, shelving, trim. Canning. Swallow. 
All these expenses, and Nashville on the horizon, and my checking account looks like a limp, yellow piece of celery. Y'know, right before it grows mold and starts turning brown in the crisper? Ack! What the hell happened? I'm one fiscally smart chick! How did I not realize I was surrounding us with expensive inevitabilities as I planned out our year?
Okay. That is the explaining-my-malaise part of the story. The story of how I peeled myself off of the garden path, removed Pete from my chest, and figured out an exit strategy is better, I promise. 
Really, what I need is more interaction. Validation. The biggest problem with my latest writing client is that the coming-up-with-topics is my responsibility, and it's not easy, and I get a crumb of feedback from the editor about every two weeks. "Everything looks strong, thanks for all the work you're putting in" is about par for the course. I mean, I'm an introvert, but I need more than that. 
In the past year, I've started selling on eBay, and I've found that pretty enjoyable. I really like packing stuff, I like going to the post office. I absolutely love making up Christmas baskets for family gifts, and I absolutely love putting together gorgeous boxes of garden stuff to bring to my mother in law, my mom, my friend who has triplets. I made favors for my sister-in-law's bridal shower and had people asking if I sold that foot scrub as a business. You might be able to see where I'm going with this. 
Where I'm going, again, with trepidation, is Etsy. Trepidation because I had an Etsy store in 2009 and didn't sell a thing. But, back then, I was sewing stuff, putting it up totally haphazardly and without any direction or "brand." And my photos were bunk.
Now, my goodness: if I can say anything it's that I have a brand. Friends and acquaintances on Facebook want to see it, they want to be a part of it, they ask if they can move in with me when I tell them what I ate for lunch. That is what I'm really here for-- not to be envied, but because those minute little things like making lunch and walking the back fence with Del and hiking these hills are special. Magic. How did I get away from talking about that here, and from really feeling that specialness when I'm out there? 
I think that with an Etsy shop full of flavored vinegars, infused salts, scrubs, homemade lotions and maybe herbal teas, and a blog that's about not what I achieved or ticked off the list, but about the moments in between... about reveling in the little things... I could make this fly. Then picking up the camera and going to find something gorgeous would be part of my job, you know? It would be advertising. It's very much the model Alicia has set up, I think-- not sure if you read her blog, but she has the dreamiest fairy tale-esque life, and a crowd of readers who just want to gobble up her little girl and her flower-filled backyard and her days at the river and buy all her craft kits. 
I could be like that, only more rural, and more... herbal. What do you think? Sweetfern Handmade, the business? (One thing that surely doesn't have to change is the name!) 
And meanwhile, I'm going to keep writing, because I'm good at it, because I've worked hard to accrue a pretty nice-looking resume, and because winter is coming! 
Okay. That is my direction. Thanks for reading. There are going to be some serious changes around here in the next couple weeks, but hopefully they will be the positive kind. Hopefully you'll stick with me. I think I might have finally found something that I can work at as hard as I can, joyfully, until it succeeds. 

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Victory, kind of

The short version of this story is, the shelves are installed, and I got to spend a few hours yesterday filling them, and it was awesome. The kitchen finally looks like MY KITCHEN. I love everything about it. It was the best, most gratifying "step" in the process so far.

But oh, the long version. The long version is, I suppose, a lesson in improvisation. Sometimes it works and it's awesome, and sometimes... oh, sometimes.

You might notice the brackets. You might notice (or maybe not) that they are, in fact, builders' hardware angle ties. Like, the kind of steel bits folks use to attach studs to sills or headers. I liked their simplicity; I thought with a nice coat of glossy black paint they'd look awesomely industrial, understated, and chic. And they do. They're gorgeous. But... they wobble. And sway. The steel flexes under the weight of the dishes. In fact, you can the forward-tilt pretty clearly in the above photo. 

I feel totally confident that they aren't going to break, and they certainly aren't going to pull out of the wall (I used toggle bolts rated for 265 lbs, two per bracket). But... the sway. I spaced out the heavy stuff, but even so.

Suffice it to say that, even in spite of the time I got to spend playing with my new shelves, yesterday was not a good day. It was a day of realizing that much time and money had gone down the drain.

It's days like this I wonder how REAL DIY bloggers keep going/kept going. It can be sooo awesome so do something yourself, for small monies, and get it just the way you want it. BUT it can also be one of those experiences where you don't realize how in-over-your-head you are until... the shelves go up, and the bleeping things wobble. Quiet sob. 

I think my November plan is to give up home improvement! No, seriously. It'll be just like giving up drinking, only SO MUCH BETTER. I'll get a head start on Christmas gifts, maybe (just maybe) paint a window or two (the kitchen ones are a little dingy) maybe do some organizing.... yesss. I need to stop pushing myself so hard, even though I want to get crown molding installed in the dining room, replace a couple baseboards, and fix the laundry room ceiling before Christmas. Oh, man. This balance thing is so tricky to figure out sometimes. Wish me luck! 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Not quite.

Remember this cool thing?

Well. It sat all summer. I used the shelves in the pantry alcove area for my pots and pans (highly inconvenient). But then, this week, probably because the brackets I'm using to install the shelves upon are giving me a royally hard time, I found I had a minute to shout at my friend Jay, the sculptor, who offered to help make the small modifications this marvelous piece of junk needed to become a pot rack... four months ago. He was still game, as luck would have it. 

Twenty minutes of welding and grinding later and, voila. The main modification was installing that straight central piece, for stability.

After a few minutes of pacing and fretting to make sure I put the hooks into the ceiling in the right places, it took only about ten minutes to install. 

And, I LOVE it! The whole view from the first picture will look a lot better sans clutter. And, actually, now that I mention it, it does bother me a little that it seems to compete with the dining room lights. That might be one of those things that's way less noticeable in person, because I didn't notice it until looking at the picture. We'll see. 

And in other news, this is the state of the open (freaking) shelves, which I foolishly thought I'd have done by the end of last week. Pah. Silly human. Oh, sweet chaos of toggle bolts and heavy-duty anchors and tile-cutting drill bits and spade bits and knee pads...

Once the brackets are all set, though, it should be a ten-minute install. The boards are ready to go. And I can't WAIT to fill 'em with all kinds of fun stuff, some decor and some function and just... the perfect stuff to complete the farmhouse vibe. 

I do loves me some farmhouse vibe. We're getting there.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Philadelphia escape


These weekends in Philly are so excellent. After a big summer and fall of just going going going, of the digging and planting and cooking and weeding and raking... I need to uncork. Literally and figuratively. And that's just what I, what we, did. 

The drive wasn't bad. It was way better than taking the bus, which is what I did last time. Friday night there were tasty beers, including homebrew, and Chinese food, and Trivial Pursuit. I slept like a log on six inches of memory foam. 

Saturday, there was brunch at an excellent, excellent farm-to-table kinda place, and champagne. There was some driving around gawking at the attendees of the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter festival. Grown men in capes, I tell you.

Then Meghann and I headed to center city for... oh... girl stuff. We were like, have a drink... a little shoe shopping. Have a drink...

...go to Anthropologie. Have a drink...

...get a makeover. Yes, really. Then have a drink... a little guacamole.... catch the train home, for take-out Indian and more board games at the house.

Evidence of said makeover:

I wore eyeliner, people. Just terrifying.

Ahh. What a splendid weekend. 

It's SO nice to have a sister-in-law this awesome, who somehow thinks I am awesome, too. You don't get to choose your mate's family, and in a lot of ways it's a crapshoot-- but I have to say I just feel luckier and luckier as I go along. I'm already looking forward to next time. 

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall view

Yesterday was officially the last 70+ degree day of the year, I am pretty sure. It was tanktop weather. I canned 26 pints of applesauce, which took all day, and in between doing that I cut and installed ceiling trim in most of the kitchen, and overhauled and planted a couple of cold frames, and started mapping out next year's garden. I also flopped in the grass with Del and Pete, not realizing until afterwards that I was flopping directly on top of a rotten green tomato I'd lobbed towards the compost and missed. Swell! 

But then later I got to call my mom and flop into bed and watch my one weekly episode of Nashville, which I love so much. (Anyone else into that soapy, ridiculous show?) And today, after busting out a quick article, I am going to Philly. And in Philly it is going to be 70-ish and sunny all weekend, while it rains and threatens to snow (!) here. Good timing, that. Yep. Feeling generally pretty excellent about that. Ciao!

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