Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year in Review

Dear 2010,

You were awesome. Seriously. I mean, 2006 was cool and all-- yeah, I met a pretty decent guy that year-- but you were better. This year I got to buy a house with that pretty decent guy, and go camping, and hear him introduce me as my wife, a writer, and we found a chicken in the snow!

You rock.

2010 dawned direction-less and a little desperate, truth be told. I was proud of (and have always been proud of) how we love and how we live. But the holy trinity of successful adult-hood is supposed to be: home, relationship, career. At least in this part of the world. This time last year, I was mired in indecision, trying to determine what on earth I wanted to be when I grew up. In 2008, I wanted to have a blockbuster Etsy shop. In 2009, I dabbled in starting a lettuce farm. And then early in 2010 I remembered--duh!-- that I've really always wanted to be a writer. How did that fact escape me?

The story of how I started writing--for money!-- for the first time in my life is wrapped up in the story of our new house. It was May when the offer we'd made was accepted, June when I spilled the beans about the place. In between, there were two weeks of rabidly trolling Gilbertsville job-boards, coming to the worrisome conclusion that there are approximately zero jobs I am qualified for/have opportunity for advancement in/actually like in the area. Corollary to that, pacing and fretting and nail-biting. I needed something I could do anywhere, that I was good at. And then I remembered that I could write.

And I immediately walked inside and checked out my favorite freelance writing job board, and 48 hours later I was a writer for a sustainability website.

It was a deliciously thrilling 48 hours.

The writing isn't paying any bills for the moment (at least not any major ones), but there is a future in it. What I've found is someone I work well with, a company I believe in, and work I enjoy doing. My fingers are pretty tightly crossed that by the end of 2011, it'll be paying bills for me, as well.

I also wrote an article for Edible Fingerlakes this year, and saw it published. I'd love to share it here, but for the time being if you'd like to read it you'll have to buy an issue. I'm going to have an article in the spring issue, as well.

All this has given me the temerity to say, Hello, World! I'm a writer now! It's the words I've been wanting to say my whole entire life.

Okay, I'm going to stop crowing now. I mean it.

2011 is going to be a year of work. Painting work and wiring work and plumbing work, garden work and yard work and kitchen work, writing work and more writing work. It is going to be a year of tight finances, but we are level to that task. It is also going to be a year of joy. We have arrived at the place, that place we've wanted since our beginning. Our place of community, for putting down roots. 2010 gave us direction, and from here it's forward, ho!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chicken update

Forgive me for failing to provide an update on our family's newest member. Now that Christmas and its attendant stampede of merriment has passed, we can remedy the situation. We named her Genevieve, and she's staying.

On the night of her arrival in our lives, we struggled a bit with how to provide for her. What sort of set up might two city-dwellers construct for a lone hen in the middle of winter? Wouldn't she freeze, in a pen in the garage, without the communal body heat of her feathered comrades? Then one of my Facebook friends sagely noted: "Basement + light on a timer + layer pellets = eggs." And that's exactly what we did.

I modified a potato crate I'd built a few years ago, adding a wire fencing wrap and a lid. It's far from ideal, but for now, it serves. New digs, courtesy of my father the cabinet-maker, are on their way. We have the light on 14 hours a day, from 6am to 8pm, and so far, so good. We don't really know what we're going for. I've read that keeping a light on constantly is bad for a chicken's endocrine system, and our basement never gets so cold that it'd be an issue of warmth, either. Chickens are hardy.

She was living on rolled oats for a few days (and LOVING it), before we headed to Central Tractor (!) and bought a 50 lb bag of feed. They didn't have anything smaller. We were hoping, you know, for a nice reasonable cat-food-sized bag, that'd last a few months. Nope. We still give her some oats, because she has a clear preference for them over the feed, as well as scraps from whatever's cooking. Shredded cabbage that fell on the floor. Carrot peels. Last night she ate a baked sweet potato skin with aplomb. If she'd had lips, I'm pretty sure she would've smacked them.

So the experiment seems to be going well. No eggs, yet, but she's not yet full-grown (we think), and also, after something as stressful as being pursued and trapped by a bare-handed human, she's going to take a little while to settle in. By and large she seems content to hold us in wary, skeptical regard, and fully engage her mental facilities (and I use the term loosely) with gobbling up whatever we feed her.

If she knew what she has coming to her, that someday she'll roam a grassy yard full of bugs and tasty weeds to sample, she might change her skeptical ways. If she knew of the untold delicacies, of the melon rinds and corn cobs and behemoth zucchini she will be gifted with, come summer, she might chortle with feathery joy. She's going to have a good life with us.

We're off to the Great White North tomorrow, for a New Years Eve gig and a hotel room and all the HGTV we can watch. Saranac Lake, here we come!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting serious

It's past Christmas, I can switch back to talking all-day-all-night about the new house, right? Right?

As we get closer to actually moving in to this gorgeous place, rooms are beginning to take shape. Decorating ideas are popping into my head at odd times. On my commute. In the shower. When I'm trying to fall asleep. I've become way more interested in reading design and decorating blogs, getting amped up for my own design and decorating decisions.

In preparation, I've added a House Tour to the blog. Look up there under the banner, you'll see it.

I've also decided to start talking about my decorating ideas. You don't mind, do you?

I am in love with this wallpaper. I have been matching paint chips to it for weeks. This has greatly interfered with my ability to wrap presents on our dining room table, but, I can't help myself.

My original idea was to put in a chair rail in this room:

... and have the wallpaper above the rail, and a solid paint color below (gray? beige? cream?). But then I did some pricing and learned that would be a $1600 job. Turns out the one wallpaper to speak to me from all the sample books was the extremely fussy French imported wallpaper. Of course. So, I bought a three-dollar sample of the paper, and put on my thinking cap.

The thing about me is, when I fall in love with something, I don't give up. My plan now is to copy the wallpaper onto the walls, by hand, with a paintbrush.

If you're thinking, Good lord, this girl is crazy. I mean, COME ON. With a paintbrush? you might have a point. But this is me. I do crazy things like re-upholster couches. I considered stenciling for a little while, (even CRAZIER) but then I found this page, and the whole thing suddenly seemed a lot more manageable. Turn the wallpaper into an overhead transparency, project it in place, and trace the lines? Okay. I can handle that. I'll turn my entire room into one giant paint-by-number.

Before I even met The Wallpaper, I'd had a palette in mind for our downstairs. I felt very put-together and self-assured, and enjoyed stringing along sentences like, "well, I've chosen a palette..." and "my palette has warm grays and creams with pops of amber," to my husband and my mother and anyone else who would listen without rolling their eyes.

And when I met the wallpaper, well, it was love at first sight. Those colors-- the warm grays and creams, pops of amber and green and blue-- those are going to carry throughout the entire first floor of our house.

I just love a plan.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Gilbertsville

There was no tinsel. No ornaments. No beautiful table covered in brocade and piled high with treats. There was a card table, camp chairs, and a plug-in tree perched on a milk crate. It was our first Christmas in our new house, and it was splendid.

This little evening get-together felt more special than Christmas has felt in quite awhile. I think "special" is something kids are so very gifted at, and with no kids in either family just yet, we grown-ups are left to flounder at "wonderment" and "glee." Holidays are supposed to be a lesson in gratitude, in gasping and feeling lucky. Counting and celebrating our blessings. Sitting with my husband and my parents, eating cheese and crackers in the warm and hope-filled shell of our new house, I was completely and eye-brimmingly grateful.

But the biggest blessing of all was being surrounded by the sort of people who enjoy a card-table Christmas, with a plug-in tree perched on a milk crate.

The next day, our heads cleared of drippy gratitude and hope, we settled back to work. Because hopin' ain't a-gonna get you nowhere, if you've got a house to fix.

We pulled a rug. I pulled tack strips and many staples (and many more to go). Patrick painted a room. We painted MORE TRIM. We got home yesterday evening, and sat with plates of salad at Ruby Tuesdays talking about our progress. Calculating goals. Deciding how to spend our shiny new Home Depot gift cards.

It was a really good Christmas.

Hope yours was as well, everyone.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas caramels

I'm going to suspend all talk of our new house until after the holidays, as an exercise in tuning in and paying attention to right now. The house is insanely exciting, and rewarding, and it'll completely take over my head if I let it. But there are more pressing things to focus on. Christmassing.

The cards are out, the packages are sent. The sea salt caramels are sitting in their jars, patiently waiting to greet their recipients.

These were a really fun little project. Each year, I scheme up small food gifts for our friends and neighbors. The gifts need to be unique and interesting, preferably with some sort of handmade aspect. Because, you know, that's how I roll. This year, I vowed to do something with the "pretty little jars" I'd been saving the last few years. You know, the artichoke heart and roasted red pepper jars, fancy mustard, that sort of thing. They were too pretty to recycle, and I knew they had a use waiting for them, somewhere. When I saw Laura's excellent scrap paper project, I knew what to do.

The caramels were easy to make, and so delicious! They look pretty stylish, I think, twisted up in green waxed paper and packed into jars. Tied with a little tag and a scrap of ribbon, (saved from our wedding! We're STILL using the stuff!) I'm pretty pleased with the end product.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The good kind of drama

We spent the weekend in Gilbertsville. Naturally. This was our main accomplishment:

Those are stairs. The ceiling closing them off from the world is gone, and they are usable once more. It was a terrific, interesting, rewarding project.

We began it last week, with the discovery of all the old railings and wainscoting, in a sealed cavity under the floor. This was where we stood Saturday morning.

I puttered around anxiously downstairs, awaiting the Big Moment, the Breakthrough. I could hear the wrenching of great squeaky nails and the stripping of long screws. And then.


Oh, how beautiful. How light, and airy, and full of character. I'd never realized how beautiful an old staircase could make a house.

It's going to take some doings, rebuilding and restoring and renewing this space. We've fitted the railings back into place upstairs, temporarily, to protect our blind dog (and us!) from a nasty plummet.

I love the old wallpaper scraps we uncovered. I would very much like to find a sheaf of that yellow-green one with the flowers.

I love the worn treads, and the chipped paint.

I love the way you can sit at the bottom step and look up, and feel reverent.

The little landing at the top is so cool. I've taken to calling it an inverse camelback. It's going to look SO COOL when it's all reassembled and refinished. Suffice to say, caulk will be involved.

Other Accomplishments
  • We painted more trim. The sitting room downstairs is ready for wall paint next weekend. The color is called Parmesan.
  • We loaded A TON of junk into Patrick's dad's full-size pickup, including two old dusty carpets (and pads), huge hunks of splintery plywood, a few rolls of tarpaper, and all this wallpaper. Dump fee? $6.25. Yes.
  • We made some really awesome baked beans in my slow cooker on Saturday afternoon.
  • I taped and painted this room. Now it is very, very green. It's going to be Patrick's music room, and the color is called Dill Pickle.

It's unbelievable that Christmas is only a few days away. Between now and then, I have to finish borders on a few tea towels, finish the binding on a table runner, decorate my snowflake cookies, deliver sea salt caramels to friends and neighbors, wrap presents, and turn 28. I can do all that, right?

We're heading back to Gilbertsville on Friday, and my parents will be joining us that evening. Wine, Pictionary, dinner out, and community caroling are on the docket. I can't wait. I'm so happy to be spending the holiday celebrating in our new home.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Tree Tour 2010

(I'm sorry, I have no idea what's up with my camera.)

This year I expanded the tree tour slightly, to include pictures of any sort of Christmas decorations. It's more inclusive that way, plus, though everyone probably has a Christmas tree, how many folks have Christmas snowflakes hanging from the ceiling? Holiday terrariums, anyone? Click the links below to view the splendor. And thanks, friends, for participating!

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