Monday, November 29, 2010

What it looked like

Thanksgiving 2010, check.

Things I learned:
Brussels sprouts are good not only on the plate, but also in the centerpiece
Smoked paprika and broccolini are a match made in heaven
The people I love are exceptionally good at spilling wine
Molly's lentil soup is a real crowd-pleaser
I love hosting. I re-learn that one every year.

Now it's time to sigh, inhale, exhale. And begin the joyous month-long landslide towards Christmas.

I hope your Thanksgivings were as full of warmth and happiness as mine!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude 2010

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, friends. I hope the day finds you happy and busy, as it will surely find me. I've made a list of 100 things I'm thankful for every year I've had this blog on the day before Thanksgiving. Check out my earlier lists: 2009, 2008.

This year has been very good to me. I have lots to be thankful for.

1. My sweet and easygoing husband
2. Brussels sprouts used as table decoration
3. Smashingly successful DIY projects
4. Black tea with milk and honey
5. Pomegranates
6. Aspiring writers and the editors who take chances on them
7. Trim rollers
9. Pretty boots
10. Diesel, getting by
11. Brown sugar pecan cupcakes
12. McCoy pottery
13. Marriage
14. Hardwood floors
15. My father-in-law
16. Maidenhair ferns
17. Success and happiness for my friends
18. Antique anything
19. Absinthe
20. Embroidery
21. Delicata squash
22. Small towns with quilt shops and great architecture
23. Patience
24. Patrick's ability to deal with bureaucracy while I stick my head in the sand
25. Garden lettuce
27. Lemon curd layer cake
28. Fresh picked blueberries
29. Fleece
30. Pandora
31. Craigslist
32. The Bean Trees
33. Big, grassy back yards
34. Babies
35. Amber
36. Beaded board
37. Salt Springs State Park
38. Down vests
39. Blog comments
40. Steam cleaners
41. Vintage linens
42. Bread knives
43. Peonies
44. Home.
45. Time off
46. Cyber Cafe
47. Rotary cutters
48. Suncatchers
49. Snap peas
50. Amelie
51. Google Chrome
52. Olive in the sunshine
53. Supportive family
54. Ceramic-top stoves
55. Good paintbrushes
56. Friendly neighbors
57. Butternuts beers
58. Homemade bread
59. Link exchanges
60. Linen tablecloths
61. Chest freezers
62. Hot chocolate
63. Latte foam, and the people who appreciate it
64. Sunflower fields
65. Red efts
66. Old jeans
67. Scarves
68. Cedars
69. Birthday cake ice cream
70. Fireflies
71. Patrick's Ultimate Veggie Burgers
72. Molly Wizenberg
73. Guests
74. Self-mixed paint colors
75. Old farmhouses
76. Wooden spoons
77. Asiago cream sauce
78. Songbirds
79. Homemade pickles
80. Strawberry jam
81. Split pea soup
82. Rosemary
83. Plaid tights
84. Maryjanes
85. This American Life
86. The Black Apple
87. Pete in the sunshine
88. Sweet potatoes
89. Parrots
90. Cake stands
91. Saffron
92. Peach salsa
93. Messenger bags
94. Fancy knobs
95. Birdhouses
96. Hammocks
97. Wicker
98. Pinto beans
99. Bushel baskets
100. Poppies

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We interrupt this blog to bring you...

... a realistic and true non-glossed-over look at my bare kitchen countertop:

Ready? One, two, three, EWWWWW. How did THAT happen? Usually the grimy part is covered with stuff: a utensil jar, a spice rack. And the grime just stays out of sight, and multiplies, apparently.

In my defense, my house HAS been a construction zone for over a month. Our new bathroom in Binghamton, which my sainted father-in-law has been doggedly working on, is almost done, and faultlessly beautiful. I will reveal it after Thanksgiving.

This week, I need to interrupt the all-Gilbertsville-all-the-time party that's consumed my head, and get it into the action. Thursday, we go to Maryland for Thanksgiving with Patrick's family. Friday, we drive back (four hours). Saturday, we host my family at our house, for an Official but Not-Actually-Official Thanksgiving meal.

The menu goes a little something like this:

White bean and Kale Stuffed Squash with Sage
Mom's Stuffing (which I am outsourcing this year; she makes it better than I ever could.)
Broccolini with Smoked Paprika and almonds
Brussels Sprout Slaw with glazed pecans
Scalloped Potatoes with Fennel
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Cranberry Chutney
Pumpkin Pie with Caramel-pecan topping
Brown Sugar Pecan Cupcakes

I'm starting to feel just a little bit gleeful about the whole thing. I love this day. I love hosting (something I haven't done since JUNE!) and I love cooking. I love following exciting new recipes, with their unexpected plot twists and ingredient combinations. Smoked paprika and almonds. Brussels sprouts and pecans. Oooo. Aaahhh. This is going to be fun.

What are your Thanksgiving plans this year? I'm happy to begin the joyous landslide toward Christmas. I'm happy for snow. It's a good season of life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It finally feels like progress.

To the right, we have Patrick, who's been painting the back room (formerly this) all morning. In the middle, we have a hallway wall-- trim painted, spackle sanded-- awaiting its first coat of paint. To the left, we have my craft room/office, drying. I am in love with the color, are you? Patrick is unsure. I say, how could you NOT love a color called Velvet Evening? Velvet. Ahhhh.

This weekend, it finally felt like we were starting to get somewhere. We painted two rooms. It feels SO GOOD to not be staring at white walls anymore! Patrick is a badass when it comes to freehand edging, which is just one of the many reasons I love him.

Saturday afternoon, we'd been painting ALL DAY. Everything was wet. A couple things were done. We still had time left before our journey back to Binghamton, and we needed a project. A non-paintbrush related project.

So clumped downstairs. Clump clump clump. We meandered around the downstairs, which we hadn't yet touched. All our work, up until Saturday afternoon, had been upstairs. The work upstairs was more pressing: get rid of Jungle Book exorcism colors, make it livable.

Downstairs, we had wallpaper to contend with. A million years ago, before I even had a blog (imagine!) Patrick and I had a wallpaper stripping adventure in Binghamton. We'd been dating less than a year. I had just moved in. I have to say, in retrospect, that embarking on a month-long home-improvement project is NOT the way to consummate a relationship. We survived, of course, and the room we stripped has been my favorite ever since. BUT. It was an enormous, onerous job. So you can understand our hesitation in stripping the paper in Gilbertsville.

We stood in the Purple Room. My back was to Patrick, and I was in the midst of saying something like, "Gee, I mean, it's purple, but this stuff really isn't that--" when I was interrupted by a giant Shrreeeeeeee-ipth! from across the room. I turned. Patrick had tugged errantly on a loose corner of the paper, and the entire sheet had come miraculously down.

No stripper chemicals required. No scrapers. No month-long chaos. I gleefully joined in the project, and we'd completely stripped all three rooms-- dining, kitchen, and Purple Room-- within forty-five minutes. We capped off the night by pulling the dining room rug, revealing some beautiful, warm, narrow-plank pine. The entire downstairs is ready to paint.

We definitely made headway this weekend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A project for the drive

Every Thanksgiving for the past (!) five, I've ridden down to Maryland to have Thanksgiving with Patrick's family. It only took me one hectic, nerve-racking, slightly-more-speedy-than-I'm-used-to trip to know what I needed. Confined to the passenger side of my level-headed though lead-footed and left-lane-loving husband's car, I found myself biting my nails, bracing a little as we zoomed up on the bumper of one pokey unsuspecting car after another, in pursuit of our destination.

(Patrick is a good driver, really. I just grew up with a very conservative, careful, patient driver... and Patrick is, to put it mildly, more assertive.)

What I needed was to be stitching. I needed something to busy my hands and detach my mind, something to give me some purpose and delight. Thus began an annual series, of sorts.

As ALL of you surely know, I am a gift-maker. Ever since that first Thanksgiving ride, I've planned my Christmas making with one good, sink-your-teeth-into-it handwork project, to bring with me on the road to Maryland. Last year, it was my sister-in-law's quilt. The year before, a bag for my mom. This year, my friend Kat has purchased a house. By herself. This fact calls for celebration, and so, I am making her a table runner.

It was the first Christmas project I began, back here in this post. The first step was turning all those squares into patches, with fusible interfacing, and pressing them down. Then I spent the better part of a month blind-stitching all the edges. Now I'm ready to quilt it together, and ready for the ride to Maryland. It should keep my hands busy, and my mind elsewhere.

What Christmas preparations have you begun?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Raising our glasses

As predicted, our parents came this weekend to stand in our freezing, empty construction-zone of a house, and eat plum cake off of paper plates. Except instead of standing inside eating, November gifted us with an entire weekend of sunny, 60-degree weather. I'm not sure what we were celebrating more, the weather or the house.

Oh, it had to be the house.

Mom #1 brought crostini and salad with dried cranberries. Mom #2 brought a hearty Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pie. We sat on the lawn in folding chairs, eating and drinking. We built an impromptu table from one of my moving crates and a cookie sheet. We built another impromptu table from a kerosene heater and something Patrick hauled out of the garage.

We are family. This is what we do. Together we knew this was only the beginning.

The beginning of the work, yes, that, too. But mostly the beginning of our lives here, gathering in this place to celebrate. To raise our glasses.

It was the perfect start to a legacy of fun family times in this place. Thanks, Moms and Dads, for your good-naturedness and your improvisation, and for remembering all the things that needed to be remembered. Like wine glasses. We love you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What I see when I close my eyes

This. White paint, white roller, white trim. We spent our Veterans' Day painting trim and priming walls in the entire upstairs. Two rooms are now ready for wall paint. One is close. That is the story.

Today my arms feel somewhat like jello. This weekend, our parents are coming to stand good-naturedly in our freezing, empty construction-zone shell of a house, and eat plum cake off of paper plates. That is what family is for.

Diesel has been accompanying us , of course. He's now completely blind, and getting used to the new house has been interesting. I'm pretty sure he thinks of Gilbertsville as "That House Where All the Walls are in the Wrong Places and I Keep Getting Paint on Me." He's a definite fan of the yard, though. So are we.

This is one of the views from my craft room. In a year's time, this view will contain a large and thoroughly fenced vegetable garden. We'll get to that, the fence-building and the garden-digging. Someday. After the painting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Domesticity break

As I wrote on Facebook last night, the new house is consuming my every waking moment (and some sleeping ones, too) with careful, considered, affectionate thoughts.

Light fixtures. Wallpaper. Flooring. Paint in all thirteen rooms. Every place I look, I see dollar signs, and I'm starting to get a tight little feeling, just under my ribs. A feeling, I'm sure, that's familiar to many of you. The realization that this is, in fact, a journey, and my perfect vision of our house will take awhile to articulate. And that's okay, because we'll have awhile to live in it, love it, make it ours.

But in the meantime. In the meantime, I'm carefully unraveling Binghamton's hold on my heart, one fragile little strand at a time. Thinking about all the things I'll miss-- our fireplace, our huge porches, our friends nearby, and our second home just around the corner.

Mostly, I do this thinking in the kitchen. I do this while walking back from my little garden-up-the-street as fat November raindrops pelt my head. I do this while turning a pan of roasted veggies in the oven, and reminiscing about all the terrific meals I've had and hosted in this house. This is the beginning of the transition, this time right here.

As ferociously as I'm looking forward to making our home in Gilbertsville, as starved for open spaces as I've sometimes felt in Binghamton, there's a lot of attachment here, a lot of memories. I'm going to take my time with them, like putting the Christmas ornaments away after the holidays are done.

This is where I moved into, from Ithaca, when I was twenty-three. With my boyfriend. This is the house we came home to, together, with a bottle of wine and a brand-new sparkly ring on my finger, to drink and celebrate by the fire. I had a last long soak in our (now removed) clawfoot tub, the day before our wedding, and earlier in that week we'd rolled up the rugs and I'd given Patrick a waltzing lesson in our living room, to practice for our first dance. This is where we came home from our honeymoon to, where I asked Patrick to carry me over the threshold. It's been just four short years, but it's seen so much living. So many life events.

Our timeline for making the move is pretty soft-- so much depends on jobs, you know-- but we're thinking it'll be in about six months, after we've addressed some of the house's quirks and made cosmetic changes. It's going to be a busy winter, to say the least. One filled with paint buckets and spackle knives, work clothes and long drives and a whole lot of firsts. Gilbertsville is an hour from Binghamton, and I expect we'll be wearing the treads clean off my tires with the trip.

All for the new place, for where our memories will be made for many years to come.

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