Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pre-vacation squealing, and gratitude

The only thing keeping me from crazed pre-vacation squealing is the fact that it's supposed to do THIS all day and Patrick went to work this morning. I took that picture maybe twenty minutes ago and already it's unrecognizable. We're in for it. 

Meanwhile, I have to finish sewing a bag for myself (because this vacation calls for a new bag!) and do some cleaning and list a few new things in the shop and write the last articles I will ever write... for two weeks... And then later on tonight there will be pimento cheese-making (because we make sandwiches for vacation lunches to save money, and what could be better than eating pimento cheese in Nashville?) and PACKING.

It's a weird hurry-up-and-wait sort of feeling, because we're not actually Nashville-bound until Friday, but all the crazy packing madness needs to happen now. In a way it's a good thing, because there will be more time to spend looking forward to the trip. But in a way it feels like a tease. 

Regardless, we are thisclose. From booking the damn hotel in March to right here, right now. Oh, mercy. This is going to be one for the record books, even if all we do is sit on barstools and drink PBR and listen to honky tonk music. 

I am so grateful we have made it, and that we are close. But I am also pushing myself to be grateful for those things that are challenging in our life, for our crazy demanding house and my garden and chickens that we chose, and it was a good choice, four years ago. I am grateful to be making a living, however narrowly, by working from home and being a writer. I am grateful for family, and for friends new and old. I am grateful for our marriage, for the thing that seems more and more like a well of sweet fresh water that never runs out even when everything around seems to be in drought. I feel like I learned more about marriage this year than in any other so far-- you learn more when things are tough. And I am thankful for the lessons. 

Ok. Wishing you and yours all the warmest things for tomorrow. A really good turkey. Some excellent pie. And that cranberry sauce that's always your favorite thing, even though people look at you funny when you make that statement. (It's always my favorite thing.) Cheers! Travel safe and be thankful.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Meanwhile, the making

You didn't think I hadn't started yet, had you? Oh no. I've begun. Somehow, in the midst of Etsying and entertaining and spackling the laundry room ceiling and making a packing list for our trip, I've managed to sew two lap quilts, a handbag, and put together materials for felt ornaments to be sewn in-car. Last year I made little owls out of felt, with button eyes, and those were great fun. This year, I found a simple round felt ornament decorated with little embroidered-on feather-shaped scraps of fabric, and fell in love with that. Wanted to show you that, but wouldn't you know, I can't find the idea now. But I remember. I filled a little tea tin with feather-shapes, drew some circles on the sleeve of a shrunken sweater that I cut off, and loaded up my embroidery hoop and spool of ribbon. 

Between sewing those and doing the hand-finished binding on the two quilts, I should be set for... 28 total hours in the car, yes? I hope so. What's the first thing to get crossed on your holiday list?

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Launch day, and one week til Nashville...

Hello! You might notice an Etsy shop applet on the right hand side. Please do not be alarmed. 

Yesterday was launch day. Er, make that Launch Day. I made stuff, I packaged stuff, I did keyword research, I ordered packaging materials... I wrote item descriptions, cackling merrily... and then I bit the bullet and and launched. Skeery.

I spent all day on pins and needles, checking my pageviews, googling my shop, doing a miniature happy dance whenever I got a new favoriter. Around about 4pm, I got an ORDER (!!!) from a friend (still an order. still counts!) That felt really good. 

Please check it out, if salty language and organic skin care are things that interest you. If not, no worries. I wish I could sell you all flavored salts and infused vinegars direct from Sweetfern Acres, but alas, NYS has this pesky law that makes it illegal for me to sell foodstuffs over the internet. 

Anyway, moving on.

In other news, Nashville is happening in ONE WEEK. Oh my goodness. I am trying really really hard not to be insufferable, not to go on Facebook like leaving in SEVEN DAYS!!!!! (because it's horrible, I know, when you have friends going on vacation and you are staying home. I mean, even if you love your life, not going on vacation is tough. So I am mainly just squealing to Patrick. And, er, you guys. SEVEN DAYS!!!)

We had such a good time last time. Really, we just walked into Robert's Western World, the one authentic honky tonk, and stayed most of the week. It was excellent. This time we want to see more of the city. This time, we have six days, where last time we had only four. 

We have reservations at Husk, we have tickets to see Jason Isbell and chef Sean Brock (from Husk) talk about Southern food at a bookstore on Wednesday night, we are going to get tickets to see a show at the Mercy Lounge and at the Bluebird... and none of this probably means anything to you, because Nashville is not your happy place. But nevertheless, I must get it out. I must crow, just a little. What a long year this has been, and how hard we have worked, and how much we have gotten done. And what an AWESOME freaking time we are going to have in our favoritest of cities.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday night with friends

We had our dinner. I suggested Thanksgiving for a theme, and someone brought a G-D turkey. There was green bean casserole and mashed potatoes and gravy and butternut squash soup and a whole chicken wrapped in bacon and baked in salt dough. And wine, and side-splitting laughter, and songs from Oklahoma, and time by the fire. It was the best.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For the record, a clean house

Yesterday, I was in Binghamton running errands. When Patrick and I got home, after cooking dinner in a flurry, we cleaned. We are having one of those wonderful Tuesday night gatherings tonight, so cleaning was important. And then, wouldn't you know, we woke up to a gorgeous incredibly cold snowy morning, and the light was streaming in onto those CLEAN floors, and I thought, well, this calls for documentation! 

It's been awhile since I showed any big indoor shots, I guess. Such is the way of the warm season. Now it's cold, and it's snowed, and we have no choice but to pretty-up the inside as best we can and hunker down. The upstairs is still a complete wreck, but downstairs, the crown molding is done and the tools are put away, and Patrick's dad came last week and found an ingenious way to steady those wobbly kitchen shelves. Now they are rock-solid. As in, maybe you could do a chin-up on them. (Not trying that.) He used pieces of thin metal rod which screw into the ceiling, which you can just see in the top photo. They work perfectly with the industrial thing I've got going, and installation was fairly simple, and Tom got to play with his tap and die set, so I'd say that's win-win-win. I love having a tinkerer for a father-in law. His middle name oughta be Edison, tellin' ya.

So, tonight, potluck with friends (that will invariably result in staying up too late for a school night and drinking too much wine); Saturday night, "feastival" with family. the new pre-Thanksgiving gathering I've decided should be an annual tradition. Both sets of parents, my aunt, and all the autumn feasty foods I so love to cook. I did it last year, with stuffed mushrooms and pear pie, and I'm doing it again with chicken thighs, biscuit-topped stew, and pumpkin pie. 

I do love this time. I'm getting less of it this year, because we'll be gone the week after Thanksgiving (Naaaashville!) so I'm soaking it up while it's here.

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Friday, November 14, 2014


So, I think I've figured it out. The cottage industry is going to be two-pronged. A sweet and homey local line of garden-inspired infused salts, vinegars, and the like. And an online, trucker-mouthed line of beauty products. I'm calling it Badgerface Beauty Supply, and I've spent a lot of time this past week designing labels, writing blurbs, arm wrestling with my printer to get it to print things...

Wednesday, I worked five hours mixing salts, filling jars, making some lotion bars, pouring vinegars (mostly for the Sweetfern local line, which a friend wants for her gallery's holiday gift shop in a few weeks). I did hand-stamped and hand-printed labels for those, something simple but still nice, I think. It was a good day. 

Yesterday was better, because after finally getting my printer to cooperate, I was able to package the first of the Badgerface things-- those lotion bars above. Squee! I'm so happy with how they look! I need to get a bunch more labels printed (professionally, because I got the wrong size and my printer's margins are too wide... long story) and then I can label up the jars of sugar scrub and milk bath I've made, photograph those bad boys, and then LAUNCH! I am so excited for that.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

When I have too many eggs

The chickens haven't slowed down their laying yet, which has me cheering. I've gotten into a happy groove of dealing with our eggs over the years, mostly by eating one for breakfast every single morning and working at least one egg dinner (like this tart, or this zucchini-crusted pizza, or rice and beans with a fried egg) into our weeks. I have two ceramic egg-holders in the fridge-- the front one is for fresh eggs, and in the back one, I "age" eggs in order to use them for hard-boiled applications. Because nothing, nothing is harder to peel than a fresh-from-the-chicken egg. They need a week at least, maybe two. Then it's egg salad wraps, deviled eggs, kale and potatoes with chopped hard-boiled egg (tonight!). But my favorite way to deal with extra eggs is to make pasta.

I've had a pasta-maker attachment for my stand mixer for... probably five years, and I think I only used it three times in its first three years. But lately it has been making infrequent but regular appearances on the counter, for those times when I need to kill a handful of eggs and I have the time to roll the pasta. Really it doesn't take much time. With a savvy eye for when the dough is not too dry and not too wet, kneading it, letting it rest, and rolling it out before slicing it and running it through the rollers takes not much time at all. And lasagna is an absolute snap.

Our eggs make meals where the only purchased ingredients are olive oil and salt. I like that a lot.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First freeze

We got our first killing freeze last night. My row of arugula very muchly resembles a pile of green rags. Sigh. I've been in denial about winter, partly because we're going south for that week after Thanksgiving. It will definitely be winter when we get back, but until then I can pretend it's still fall, right?

Today it is going to be 60. This will be the last time it is 60 until April at least. I am going to rake one last time, and put the heater in the chicken coop, and work on my Etsy shop.

Thanks to those who chimed in with feedback on Monday's post. I really appreciate it. I spent all yesterday designing labels, and I have to say, I feel this momentum behind the vulgar approach. It makes me cackle. Those who told me I was beautiful and talented and don't need to swear, well-- thank you so much, first of all, but most of the time I feel like the farthest thing from beautiful and talented, as I haul in muddy buckets of parsnips and struggle to patch together enough income as a writer to buy Christmas presents. This life is beautiful, but it's also really incredibly hard, and part of me just needs an outlet. Can you all who think this is a lousy, ugly idea put your reservations aside and still visit this space? I hope so. And I do thank you for being kind, and polite, in your comments.

And rest assured, this blog isn't going to be changing. The beauty needs an outlet, too, and this is where it goes.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Course correction

(Going through my head while taking that second shot? Definitely time for a vacation.)

I had a pacing spell Friday afternoon. I had charged myself with filling in the "about the seller" parts of my Etsy shop, so I started doing that, in earnest. And, as I've done many times already, I got nervous. I started looking around at all the other pretty Etsy stores, at their awesome labels, their unique business plans, their inventory of wildcrafted jams and naturally infused sea salts, and I felt two things. One, I felt I couldn't compete. Two, I felt a little nauseated by the sheer level of cutesy-perfect loveliness on display. Did I really want to do that? Did I even want to try with Etsy, in its over-saturated state of cutesy-perfect loveliness? Is this what I want to be about?

I started pacing. It started snowing. I thought, offhandedly, about having a line of bath and beauty products that's anti cutesy-perfect loveliness. I thought about how much I miss Regretsy. I thought about Thug Kitchen, the recipe blog succeeding through a potent mix of natural eating, irreverence, and profanity. I thought pretty hard about profanity. I thought about the needlepoint samplers emblazoned with the F-word that make me shoot tea out my nose. I thought, y'know, this business thing is going to be a lot of work. If it's going to work, for me, it needs to be fun. 

I thought, fleetingly, about my poor parents, who won't be able to tell any of their friends if their awesome daughter starts kicking ass with profane beauty products. I felt sad for a minute. Then it passed.

I did a little googling. I didn't find anyone out there selling natural bath and beauty products with insouciant irreverence and cursing. Aha, I thought. Empty niche. Vacant market share. Untapped potential. Maybe the women who buy profane needlepoint samplers will be interested in minty-ass foot scrub? Or something like that? I grew increasingly more delighted.

I chucked the idea of this blog as reflector for the Etsy shop. In order for that to work, I'd need way more traffic, and things would need to change. It'd need to be a job, and I don't want it to be a job. I started this because I thought it was going to take off, and I tried to get it to take off for awhile, but over the years I've realized that I love having it as an accessible record of our years, and that it makes me happy, and makes a lot of my friends and family happy, and that's enough.

I will link to the shop, I will talk about shop developments. But this isn't going to turn into a business blog.

Does anyone love this idea? Hate this idea? I'm feeling just a little bit twitterpated, but that could be the caffeine talking. Got a whole morning to burn, and labels to design. Oooh yeah. Gonna get to swear a whole lot. It's going to be so much fun.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Crowning achievement

It got cold, and then it got rainy. Yesterday, I furled myself up and worked on a quilt (!), and listened to three episodes of Death, Sex, and Money (I love it) and that felt really good. Today, I was able to tick off the last and easiest step of the crown molding project: the caulking and painting. That felt really good, too. The room looks polished. The joints we thought would be ugly and monstrous are barely noticeable (thanks, DAP painter's caulk!). The room is finished. The doggone kitchen is finished. Big exhale.

Nashville is happening in three weeks. I have been listening to Lightning 100, the indie Nashville station, while doing things such as caulking crown molding, and that has been thoroughly enjoyable. I've been finding out about shows in town and places we need to check out, and just generally dreaming while up on a ladder doing important stuff. Those things that let us dream while still doing important stuff are so lovely.

Meanwhile, I have a cold that hasn't managed to progress beyond easily-soothed-with-hot-tea-sore-throat for three days. I don't know what that means. Do I gird myself for the stuffy phase, or do I keep drinking hot tea?

Meanwhile, Patrick's band is opening for Donna the Buffalo this weekend. Meanwhile, I am spending spare hours mixing bath salts and the like. It is a good time.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

One more

As long as these afternoons continue to be sunny, I'm going to continue to capture them. Every time I think it's the last one, there's one more.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Late-autumn light, and trivia heroes

The finest thing about our new kitchen is... well, if I'm being honest, there's a new answer to that statement every day. But yesterday, the finest thing about our new kitchen was this sight right here. The way the late-November sun fills the back window and splashes against the subway tile and right on into the dining room. I don't even care that it illuminates the flour-filmed counters. I don't even care that this time of day lasts approximately twelve minutes, and then BOOM, it's dark, at 4:26 at night.

Last night, Patrick and I partook in Tuesday night team trivia in Norwich, as we often do. We have been trivia people for a long time. In Binghamton, we played so religiously that for years the only week we had missed was our honeymoon. We never won. It became almost part of our identity. Usually we were a team of two, the Wombats, and usually we managed to squeeze into the top tier of teams, even though everyone else around us was twice our size or more. The fate that spins the thread of life? Boom, Arachnae. A play on words that means to skip picking up garbage? Refuse refuse. The thing Keith Godchaux, Brent Mydland, and Vince Welnick have in common? All keyboardists for the Dead (thanks Patrick!). We knew it all, some weeks, only to be felled by a few measly sports questions.

Now we play in Norwich at the Blarney Stone Pub. We are not as religious as we once were, but still, these last few weeks we've made a good showing. We came in second by three points a few weeks ago. Last week we lost by a landslide, thanks to our shaky Addams Family knowledge. But then, last night, in the midst of a packed-to-the-gills trivia night with lots of newcomers, some divine light shone down on the Wombats. 

We played really well, but ended up trailing the leaders by 15 going into the final question. Who won TIME's Man of the Year three times? FDR, we guessed. A guy from another team sauntered over, after we'd handed everything in, and asked what we put down. They'd guessed Reagan. I figured that was probably it. I went to the bathroom.

The host always announces the winners from the bottom up, so to speak-- the teams who bet it all and lost go first. There was just one team ahead of us, and when I heard their name read mid-pack, I knew we'd won and immediately went running out to find Patrick. Imagine the Chariots of Fire theme playing right about here. The guy we'd talked to, and the rest of his team, was like, It's you guys! You guys got it! And the whole rest of the place was practically cheering for us, too.

I mean, seriously. It was like Sandlot meets Revenge of the Nerds.

I guess that's the awesome thing about being a two-person team. When you finally do manage to eke out a victory, you get everyone's shock and surprise and goodwill. 

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The best part of the day

This is the best part of the day. Those twenty minutes or so between the writing work wrapping up for the day and the dinner-making work beginning. Yesterday, it was sunny and warm, and I wandered around with my favorite guys (Del and Pete), noting, a little wistfully, how close the sun was to the horizon even at 3:30pm. Noting, a little wistfully, the last of the garden calendula filled with honeybees. Thinking already about next year. Watching with a head-shaking chuckle my neighbor putting up his Christmas lights. (His jack-o-lanterns are still up!)

A giant box of jars and bottles has taken up residence in our living room, and a giant box of coconut oil, milk power, beeswax, and shea butter is en route to join it. Four kinds of infused vinegar are brewing in the basement. Labels are on their way as well. Things are taking shape. It all feels pretty excellent.

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