Monday, December 30, 2013

Tuxedo buffet

There's something... dapper about how the buffet came out. The white and dark wood almost feels tuxedo-ish, and the knobs are like cufflinks. Maybe I'm the only one with that take, but, well, suffice it to say that I'm quite pleased with this fellow.

Still needs knobs, of course. I had a few Anthropologie mercury glass ones from last year's Christmas stocking that I tried out, and liked, and so then I waited until the day after Christmas, and found, low and behold, some beach ball-striped mercury glass knobs marked down to $2.21 apiece. So, that meant I could get eight of 'em for $17-something instead of ninety-six damn dollars. Which is what they would've been not-on-sale. Cripes.

So, those will be on their way shortly, and then we can call this puppy done. As I mentioned before, I used Benjamin Moore's SmartPrime primer, and their Cabinet Coat paint in a color called Acadia White on the painted parts. I can't say enough good things about that combination-- so durable, with such a nice professional sheen. And it hides the grain really well, too, which is nice on painted pieces. 

I still have some rearranging to do on the wall behind the buffet, as I bought three giant, heavy mirrors for up there-- all antique, all varying degrees of shabby-- and neglected to provision myself with super heavy-duty hanging cable. My plan is for a mirror "collage" with all different shapes and sizes on that wall. Someday.

And now that this little project and holidays are over, I'm ready to sit still for just a minute, put all the decorations away, and officially launch myself (and our whole house) into the official Big Kahuna, the Epic Kitchen Renovation of 2014. The kitchen we (I) have planned and dreamed and envisioned since we bought this place. The kitchen that involves taking down a wall (oh goody), doing a ton of electrical work, laying ceramic tile, casting our own concrete countertops (I think) and sliding the cabinets into place one at a time, as my dad, who is doing the work pro bono (+ materials) can squeeze in the time to finish them between, y'know, actually taking real jobs from real customers that write checks. 

I am on the edge of my seat with excitement and terror. I am spending lots of time scrutinizing graph paper. I will be back here Friday with a run-down of our new floor plan, design, etc. In the meantime, I'm going to try to find a sink. Wish me luck!

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Friday, December 27, 2013

In the moment

Oh, it was wonderful. So good, and so wonderful. Last year, I think I was in some kind of PTSD blur-- we'd just put down Diesel, two days prior-- and I didn't pre-prep enough, and I'd barely slept in two days... so last year was a little frantic and forced, to be honest. 

But this year, there was free, clear, smooth sailing right into the teeth of the flurry-time. All month, I set aside a few hours Thursday nights (during Patrick's band rehearsal) to bake cookies, or make mushroom pastries, or make pumpkin garlic knot dough. I made cranberry sauce and chocolate cake on my birthday. The day of, I prepped carrots and parsnips to roast in the morning, and reheated soup for a light lunch, and assembled a big kale salad with craisins and apple and toasted pumpkin seeds, and then I handed the kitchen over to Patrick for two hours, and he made the mashed potatoes! I sat with my feet up and a glass of wine! I watched Delmer open his presents like a professional, on the living room rug! That was my favorite part-- the interlude between the madness and the madness, with the big meal and the long evening still ahead. 

Also: it snowed gently, beautifully, just about all day long. Magic.

That long evening. One of the best of the year. Delmer bogarting the best part of the couch, Pete commandeering a lap, me succeeding in scolding my mom to stop cleaning and sit down!, all of us just baking by the fire and sipping our preferred sips and relaxing. 

And then, it was morning. A beautiful, bright, cold cold cold Christmas morning. 

I got up early, early, foggy from wine but needing to be a good hostess, and was so glad I did. I lit the fireplace and sat on the couch with everyone for a few more long, sweet hours. The best times are when the hours slow down and there's room for reminiscing. Time for being in the moment, just for a little bit, for thinking of the good old days, and telling over the stories that have been told for longer than I've been alive. 

Ah. Such a good Christmas. I hope it was for you and yours as well! 

Back Monday, with a buffet run-down. I did manage to get it done in time, just barely.

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Friday, December 20, 2013


It's time for finishing touches-- on the house, the gift pile, the card list (there's always those two or three people who send you a card you didn't expect, notice that?) Finishing touches are my favorite part. Yesterday found me spray-painting weeds-- that's right-- and then playing with spray-painted weeds. Somehow it was one of my favorite things I've done this holiday season.

I was inspired by this gift-topper project, though I used actual dried weeds from my fields and garden, not natural floral stems. He-LLO, weeds are free. I used yarrow and Siberian iris seedpods and spirea and just plain old, regular runner-grass (not its technical name) plus some sprays of fake red berries I had, and some real multiflora rose hips, which I use just about every year. 

I made wreaths out of Virginia creeper vine I ripped from of the weeds, which was surprisingly easy. A new tradition, I think. 

When we lived in Binghamton, I used to gripe about how whenever you need something, in a city, the only option is to buy something. I hated that. I missed foraging, though I still managed to find spots to gather cedar and bittersweet and pinecones (on hikes!). But this is so much better. So much more space, more to explore, and lots and lots of natural resources-- weeds and twigs and vines and pinecones-- to create with.

Adding a little color, and a little sparkle, to those dead flowers and grasses was just the thing to make them a little more festive. I painted the iris pods gold, the yarrow silver, the spirea copper, and the grasses white. I brought in a little bit of white pine, too. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The baskets are all ready to go, packed with hot sauce and tomato sauce and peach salsa and pickles and homemade pasta and pesto and shortbread and chocolate-covered almonds. I had so much fun putting these together, and managed to stick, fairly faithfully, to my Plan for not buying much. That makes me super happy. Almost every year, Christmas gives me this great excuse to play with repurposed materials-- labels cut from catalog pages, secondhand baskets, 12-pack boxes covered with wrapping paper to serve as baskets when I couldn't find enough at the thrift store, ribbon and wrapping paper I save like a fiend. I'm still using up scraps of ribbon from our wedding, five years ago. It's such a fun, crafty holiday, and I'm glad I started bringing in more natural materials this year-- more colors and textures to add to my palette. Sad it's all going to be over soon-- SIGH-- but until Tuesday, I'm just going to slow down (and clean) and relax (and clean) and absorb as much cheer and brightness as I can. (And clean!) I hope you can afford to take a little time to do the same!

See you Monday...
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crunch time

What, you were thinking I would be done by now?! No way. I only got to primer yesterday, not even real paint, but it's a start. Before that, I had a very proud moment of ingenuity (I love proud moments of ingenuity) when I realized the bottom drawer wouldn't fit in the drawer-space not because it was warped, but because someone long ago had made a half-assed repair (I can only assume), nailing in that little upright piece that goes between the two doors. SO! I flipped the thing onto its head, wrenched out the (puny, smashed) nails, and drove in a nice big screw. Problem solved. Drawer fits. 

Sigh. It's the little things, isn't it? Anyway, today it will get coat 1 of paint, and tomorrow coat 2, and maybe Friday I'll decide it needs a coat of poly, and then that with be that. Then we will clean. We will clean as we've never cleaned before.

Yesterday, it snowed. I checked the forecast and realized, it's not going to snow again until after Christmas! and quickly decided to play hooky from writing work and spend the day finishing up a few gifts, wrapping, working on the buffet, and making another foray into the weeds to gather rosehips and white pine. A snowy day to work on Christmas things is so heavenly. Now all the Christmassing is done, save for a little bit of homey decor I want to undertake, and all that needs doing is the buffet, the cleaning, and the Feast. I can handle that. It's going to be a good Christmas.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Outside and in

We got over a foot of snow between Friday night and Sunday morning. I would be here telling you it was awesome, except I was driving home in it, from Ithaca, Saturday afternoon. That was emphatically not awesome, but coming down, down out of the hills west of the Unadilla valley and knowing there was naught but level roads between there and home was awesome. And pulling into the driveway was awesome. 

And Sunday, snowed in, was awesome. I sewed and made pasta and soup and pancakes, and in the afternoon we took Del for a frolic. The snow was so deep he could only move by bounding: these ridiculous, gleeful, high dog-leaps in the snow. We walked through the pines to the flat by the river; I gathered a bunch of white pine and rose hips and nannyberry twigs, to make things festive-r inside. It was great.

I had a good 24 hours in Ithaca: drinks with Kat and Mark, cold-cold-cold walking to a show with Kat, dancing 'til 1 am with Kat (something we have not done in a very very long time), Christmas shopping, lunch with my cousin. So full and good; definitely worth the scary drive home. 

It's crazy how close we are to Christmas. I'm in pretty good shape gift-wise and meal-wise, but the house is a mess. I am going to try, in between scrubbing the bathtub and swabbing cobwebs out of corners, to savor these last seven days before Christmas arrives proper. And these last seven days of being 30. Oh, what a year. Hard year. The year of the Del and of Nashville. Good year.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Come to stay

Not bad for $45, eh? It has a mirror, too, see?

I'm happy. Inevitably, though, "just a quick coat of paint" has turned into dealing with stripped screws + stuck drawers + wood putty + sanding, sanding, sanding. Such is the way of old furniture refurbishment. I spent most of the day yesterday steaming off the damaged top layer of veneer, with our iron.

And, of course, the clock is ticking. In less than two weeks, this room and this buffet need to be shiny, polished, and ready for their close-ups. We'll see. So far, I'm optimistic.

I do so love a last-minute project.

As for how I'm planning to dress this thing up, see here:

Not planning to go with pink, of course, but I am planning to paint the drawer and door-fronts, and the untaped part of the mirror. I have some really good cabinet primer (SmartPrime) and cabinet paint in a color called Acadia White left over from painting the laundry room cabinets, and I'm thinking it'll be just the thing. And for hardware, I'm imagining a whole slew of these, though that would run over a hundred dollars. But... when you've only put $45 into a project, and you're going to cover it with leftover paint, you can consider such extravagances.

Alrighty. I'm headed off to Ithaca for the weekend, for a little Christmas shopping and a lot of carousing, and, despite the snow forecast, I am looking forward to it.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013


It's modest, but makes me smile. Never had I done any exterior decorating-- save for a wreath on the door-- but, with the outside of our house finally looking one-quarter pretty, I wanted a string of lights.

In my heart of hearts, I want twenty strings of lights-- enough to do the whole roofline-- but... well... there's just no way. Man lift + snow? Sigh. 

Yesterday I braved a rather persistent snow squall to go to my Zumba class. But the real motivation was the antiques store not far from Zumba, and the love of "the hunt" and the thrill of Christmas coming. I finally have a plan for the dining room, and I can't wait to put it all in place. 

I'm pleased to say that after Saturday's bad luck antiquing, yesterday brought me better prospects. I found a beat up buffet for $60 that they said they'd let me have for $45-- their idea, not mine!-- and scurried down the road to pick up Patrick's dad's truck. Then I paid, and we loaded the thing, and I made the poor choice of driving the podunk backcountry hill road home rather than the longer and less-direct county road...

Whoever designed the F-150 was not from a northern clime. I spun all over the place trying to get up a series of hills, and stopped to wait, and tried not to freak out, and let a cinders truck pass me once, twice.... and backed down slowly, and fiiiinally made it up. I was The Steam Engine That Could. I was never so happy to see my own driveway than I was yesterday afternoon. Phew. This buffet and I already have a story together, and I can't wait to dress it up and put it in place.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Into the season

We had a good weekend. We went for a hike in the snow, and Del had a ball. The dog loves snow-- eats it, dances in it, frolics in it-- and just generally loves being out, too. So that's nice. Then we got home, and Patrick and I went antiquing, looking for a few things for the dining room, and came home surprisingly almost-empty-handed. Sometimes antiquing karma just isn't there when you want it to be. 

Sunday I made two batches of homemade pasta and a double recipe of mom's sugar cookies, and it took me the whole day. I always forget how long cookies take. I always make these big enormous snowflake cutouts, and I can only fit six per cookie sheet, so.... the whole process takes many many hours. BUT, they're done, the tree is up (that happened last weekend) and gift-making is coming along well. Almost done, actually. And I want to get done early so maybe I can focus on making a few more Christmassy things for the house, or maybe just cleaning. Eesh, the cleaning!

I did at least manage to find time for this Sunday, though.

His face! Slays me.

He is remarkably tolerant of the antlers, which is probably not so lucky for him. He just kind of blinks, and sighs, and wonders quietly why his head feels a little tight suddenly. Sweet pup. 

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Friday, December 6, 2013

December gardening

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.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013


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.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

An adventure

Gettysburg. It was nice to be back. 

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!

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