Wife, crafter, writer, gardener. Heaven is a light-filled room in a dusty old farmhouse, with a sewing machine, a notebook, or a frying pan by my side. This is where I share stories of my adventures: projects, small trips, sewn gifts, and home improvement.
So, instead of the magical, glowing Christmassy house pictures I intended to post today, I bring you... muddy carrots! It got warm and all our snow melted-- but more is forecast-- and really, those house pictures will be best with falling snow in the background, yes? So stay tuned.
I took advantage of the warmth and spent the afternoon outside, mostly doing unfun things (cleaning the chicken coop) but also hauling in another round of produce from the garden. There's still plenty of food out there-- a ton of carrots, some beets and parsnips and leeks, a cold frame full of spinach, and kale which could, I'm pretty sure, survive life on Mars.
There isn't much you can't do, with carrots and beets and parsnips and leeks and kale and spinach, and a cellar full of canned tomatoes and dried beans.
And a few big honking butternut squashes. We have those, too.
Most of these late season crops keep so well in the fridge, I can "stock up" from the garden on a warm day, stowing enough fresh veggies in the fridge to last until the next warm spell. We've been eating a lot of soup-- minestrone and black bean chili and curried butternut squash soup-- and a lot of eggs from those chickens, who just aren't slowing down. Last night was creamed kale, boiled potatoes (tried this technique, which was great!) and poached eggs. Pioneer food. Awesome.
My favorite part of yesterday was stepping into my shed, which is warm and dry in just about any weather, and full of the good musty scents of drying plants and dry soil. I have some bean vines and a whole bunch of arugula drying for next year's seed, some raspberry shoots (they make great tea), mint, sage, dill, and cilantro. And I have flower pots, twine, row cover, trellis poles, potting soil, and hand tools. It's a good place to be. Mostly I just love the smell of this sorta-tidy little room. In winter, it's like a piece of myself (the gardening piece) goes dormant, but I can come out here when I need to and rummage, and organize, and feel that connection.
For the past month, Patrick and I have been hosting a Tuesday night dinner for a few local folks. Pretty much since we've moved here, I've dreamed of having regular communal dinners, as a way to encourage and participate in fellowship, and we tried the monthly thing, at first-- and found it surprisingly hard to keep the momentum going from month to month. I wanted something more consistent, less of an EVENT, more of a constant. I also realized I had to set some limits on food, expectation, and guest list. That was hard, because we've met and have become friends with so many folks our parents' age in this village-- but what we wanted wasn't that. It's easy to be friends, but hard sometimes to have real fellowship, with people thirty years older. They're living such a different life from ours-- post-career, post-family, living these lives that are by and large figured out. At least, that's how they seem to me.
2013 brought some younger "stock" to Gilbertsville-- a post-MFA sculptor and his fiancee, a very ambitious couple who bought the ramshackle horse farm just north of the village, an amazing painter who converted a barn into a studio, and did not have a way of heating the place until the end of October-- and I was hot to get us all together in the same room, to troubleshoot each others' lives and socialize. I feel like it's folks our age-- sandwiched between a mortgage and figuring out a career and planning to start a family-- who need that kind of fellowship the most, and who have the hardest time finding it. It's so easy for us all to get trapped in our bubbles, our big houses, our separate spheres. And it's a shame. So I threw our hat into the ring and volunteered us to host the first four weeks.
And we're not even the type to keep a consistently clean house, at all, so that was honestly the toughest part. Cooking a giant pot of soup and my favorite bread machine bread every week was not the hard part. Sitting and sharing a few bottles of wine was not hard.
But it wasn't effortless-- and still isn't effortless-- that process of getting to know each other and getting used to each other. It feels like breaking in a new pair of boots. The first week was awesome, the second week was less awesome but still fun, the third was are we there yet, and last night was like-- hey, we're getting the hang of this! It's starting to take on its own character and spirit, this gathering, and people are figuring things out. Next week, the horse farm folks are up for hosting, and there is talk of Mexican food (James is from Arizona) and Twister.
I can feel my own structure shifting inside to accommodate, but mostly to cherish, this new part of our week. It's a good feeling.
I would definitely call Patrick and myself American history buffs-- and every fall we seem to find ourselves watching Ken Burns' The Civil War-- but the real reason we visit battlefields, is, I think, to feel like we've been transported back to 1860s America. There is something deeply satisfying about looking out over a landscape that hasn't changed in 150 years-- the gorgeous barns, the farms arrayed just so, the outbuildings, the big old trees. That is my happy place.
Last year we went to Antietam, as I mentioned, and the illusion of being back in time was actually greater there-- Gettysburg is BIG business, y'know-- the town has grown up right to the edges of the battlefield park, and modernity is in view just about everywhere. But. It was still really cool.
We did lots and lots of walking, climbed all the observation towers, climbed Big Round Top, thought a lot about all the farmers (150 years ago) coming back to their farms with piles of bodies everywhere and their gardens and fences destroyed. I can't relate to the experience of being in battle (happily), but I can imagine the feeling of coming back after the battle.
And at twilight, we headed south to Frederick, MD, for night. That town really deserves a post of its own-- it was awesome-- but I was too busy eating and drinking and eating more and shopping and taking in the history (a little) to take any pictures. Cool, cool town.
And now we're home, the tree is up, and there are three and a half weeks until Christmas. Yee haw!
I made eight log cabin squares and sashed them with hot pink linen and matching quilting cotton and sewed them into a boxy tote bag and that is my new favorite thing. My friend who is going to receive said tote bag shall remain nameless, so that she may have the pleasure of seeing this on my blog and wondering, wondering, if she will be the recipient.
I have been making variations on this tote bag since 2008, and I'm not sick of it yet. I like many things about it: that I don't have to cut any curves (cutting curves is my least favorite thing), that I have the dimensions memorized, that the handles can be long or short, fat or wide-- whatever kind of strips I have left over from the body construction can be turned into handles.
Combining all these features with another of my favorite things-- piecing log cabin squares-- made this sooo enjoyable. Log cabin squares are great. You rummage through your scraps, pick your favorites, iron them, cut them into strips, and start sewing around in a circle. It's the greatest. It's the bean soup of quilting. Throw in whatever and it turns out awesome.
I've been holing up in my studio a lot this week, watching it snow, making things.
(I might be letting the cat out of the bag, broadcasting this one. But I can't wait. Handmade gift reveals post-holidays are nice, but I want the inspiring pictures and the ideas in the moment, you know?)
And as soon as one thing is done, another begins... oooh yes, it's that time of year.
Tomorrow we're heading south to Maryland, as per tradition, and taking a day after T-day to visit Gettysburg. We did a similar thing last year-- went to Antietam-- and it was awesome. So, we go.
Hope everyone travels safe and has a warm, delicious, joyful Thanksgiving.
This was fun. Seven people, a roaring "fire," snow squalls all day, and a feast. I made stuffed mushrooms with sage, roast squash with lemon-tahini sauce, pear pie with red wine and rosemary, and a twist on lasagna made with homemade pasta and a spanakopita-inspired filling. That was the best thing. I have a pasta maker attachment for my stand mixer, and I don't use it nearly enough. But it's easy! No more complicated than making pie dough. From here on out, I'm telling myself, every time I make lasagna it's going to be from homemade noodles.
We drank six bottles of wine. And a good time was had by all!
My Nutcracker Suite Pandora station has been playing a little louder this week. It's about at the point where I don't want to do anything else but sew and craft and write Christmas cards-- and it truly seems early for that. But, I remind myself, I have a scant three weeks after Thanksgiving to get everything ready-- the house, the gifts, the meal-- and it will fly.
So I'm starting early. Patrick hasn't been out of the house much lately. Almost: he hasn't been out of the house enough. It's so ironic-- I spend all summer wishing him home home home, so we can have a campfire and yard beers and walk the Del-- and now I want him to disappear so I can tuck myself away in my office and play with glitter. Sigh.
Tomorrow, my parents and my aunt and Patrick's parents are all coming for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Since I don't usually get to spend Thanksgiving with my family, doing a big meal together before the holiday seems to be the best of both worlds. And I get to host it, but without all the pressure of mashed potatoes and stuffing and pie. I'm super excited about the menu.
Some scenes from this week. I'm not getting as much down time as I used to-- now that I've picked up some different, more demanding writing gigs-- so I'm squeezing in project time and sewing time where I can, around the edges. Yesterday I went to Binghamton to provision myself for holiday making; tonight I will be getting down with my kitchen, socking away our Christmas eve dinner main course in my freezer. It's a craaazy busy time of year, but fortunately most of the busy is stuff I embrace. Cooking, decorating, tidying, cozying. It's all right in my happy place.
House-wise, I've been finally getting around to painting the clearstory-- that extra-high, extra-scary part above our staircase. Yuh. Three coats and lots of caulking, and I'm just praying I don't have to paint it again for ten years or so. But what an improvement! It should be done by early next week, if all goes as planned.