Monday, December 31, 2012


If you are the sort to believe in Snow Gods, you would feel that absolutely every one is listening to kids' and skiers' wishes for more. We got eight or nine inches on the 26th, and then this past Saturday it snowed all day. Most thrillingly, the forecasted inches kept creeping up as the day progressed-- from 2-4, to 3-5, to 5-7.

Patrick and I made a valiant attempt to get to the state park, but failed in a haze of smoking tires and slush-skid. We came home. We put on our snowshoes anyway, and headed out into our great expanse of unofficial backyard-- a universe of farm fields, fencerows, swamp, and a pretty knoll crowned by white pines.

We've been out there a few times, though it seems there's always more to explore than last time.

I brought my camera, of course, and was so thrilled to be able to take pictures of falling snow. So many years I've wanted to do that.

We found a tree-squashed Kharmann Ghia, of all things, down in a swale where Patrick busied himself for several minutes where I fiddled with my zoom.

Eventually, cold toes compelled us towards home. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the greenhouse under its mantle of white before we went inside to dry off and drink hot liquids.

I love winter.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

New camera

WOW. Patrick knew I wanted a new camera for Christmas, and I'm not exactly a subtle hinter. My old Canon Powershot from 2008 was hanging in there, but showing more black than silver through on its housing, and suffering some weird image disintegration issues. What I wanted, what I thought it was practical to want, was a new Powershot. A sturdy workhorse replacement, no bells and whistles but perfectly serviceable.

What I got is a Nikon D3200, SLR. What the pros use. I am thrilled and seriously intimidated at the same time.

I haven't taken it out of automatic (point & shoot) mode yet, and I've been walking around taking pictures of random things. The hexagons I'm working on by the fire, for example.

And the little village church. When I posted about my snow village, weeks ago, the pictures were so godawful I almost didn't post them-- but what could I do? With the flash on things would've looked worse, any sort of artificial light made everything look fake, and the subtle daylight that room gets would just wash things out. Now I can do it justice.

This is our front door screen, festooned with snowflakes the night after Christmas.

The scene outside, that night.

Our neighbors' house in the blizzard.


And dinner too. 

I still need to properly figure out how to use the thing, but for now I'm just loving the thrill of making gorgeous photos again. That depth-of-field business-- the way everything in the background becomes a dreamy blur-- is especially exciting. 

I am thirty. I have a new camera and a bunch of other fun new things (wheelbarrow! shiny Anthropologie knobs! amber earrings! floor jack!) and a whole white, white, white winter to look forward to. Right now I am feeling acutely stitchy, and plan to spend the whole day doing just that. With breaks to eat leftover stuffing for lunch, of course. 

I hope your holidays were peaceful and lovely! And btw, whatever comment issue was tripping things up last week has been fixed. :)

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Friday, December 21, 2012

On thirty

I'm turning thirty on Sunday. I don't feel ready. I've been trying all month psych myself up for it, to remind myself of everything my twenties stand for-- good and especially bad-- and how glad I should be to move forward, how much I have to look forward to. 

And though I'm trying, it still feels like a tremendous hoodwink. Like, wait, WHAT? My twenties are ending? Usually on the eve (or pre-eve) of my birthday, I sigh and look around in a satisfied fashion, ready to embrace the responsibility of being whatever new age I'm about to turn. Not this time. There is such a tremendous divide between being a twentysomething and being thirty. The divide between footloose and fancy free, and, well, motherhood. I want both at the same time, in equal measures.

Partly, leaving my twenties is a grand relief. It's like I'm being granted permission to never think about ex-boyfriends again: that chapter has been written in ink, and now we get to turn the page. I feel that way about a lot of my twenties, actually: ridiculous crushes, bad living situations, rocky periods in friendships that have since ended or recovered. I feel jelled, now. I have worked hard, I've made bad decisions, but all that is behind me. It's snowing like crazy outside; the lawn is turning from green-brown to white, a blank slate to cover everything that came before.

But on the other hand... on the other hand I am digging in my heels. I adventured in my twenties. It's more than most people get to do, I would say, especially people with such a strong proclivity towards home as I have. I ate haggis and got drunk on New Years Eve, in Scotland, in 2001. I woke up to mourning doves outside my window in Puerto Rico, spring break, 2003. And I spent almost a whole month in Greece with Alexis, exploring desolate ruins and beachcombing and learning to drink ouzo with a straight face. I made up my mind that I wanted to marry Patrick on the plane home. 

That was a good chapter-- the adventuring. I'm not so keen on closing that book, but I'm not sure there are blank pages left to write in. I don't know. Thirty, you know? Isn't this the time when I stay home and tend my garden and my house and... shouldn't there be babies somewhere?

I don't always feel as restless as I sound. Actually, just now, standing and watching this glorious snow, I was chest-burstingly HAPPY-- this snow, this house, this beautiful town, Christmastime! I thought I was going to spend years searching for this sort of stability-- this kind of marriage, this kind of house, this kind of community. My "pre-baby" bucket list used to be a mile long. Now it's pretty short: redo a bathroom, redo a kitchen, sell our old house in Binghamton. It still feels like a mile. It feels too close and too far away at the same time.

Patrick and I are watching Ken Burns' The Civil War on Netflix right now. I have parts of it memorized, from childhood rainy afternoons when my dad would suggest, "Let's watch Gettysburg!" We'd recorded the entire series off PBS. Anyway. There was a general, forget which one, who found himself surrounded by enemy troops and told his men to charge both ways. I think that's what I need. I can't exactly charge forward into motherhood, (it takes two to tango, plus nine months!) so I'll charge the other way first. An adventure. Two round-trip tickets to New Mexico, maybe. Or Costa Rica.

That might be the best thing about having a big birthday-- you get to put your foot down, if that is your style, and do something a little bit grand.

Getting old is not the problem. Vanity is not the problem. Those "What I'm Wearing" posts tell a pretty story, but the truth is, on summer days I work outside in paint-splattered Adidas shorts and a shirt emblazoned with Have a Pheasant Plucking Day. On winter days I work inside in a pair of completely threadbare and equally paint-splattered corduroys, and my old Ithaca College sweatshirt. Twice a week I get to thumb through my "pretty clothes" and wear shoes whose primary purpose is form not function, and earrings, but other than that I don't really think about my face. I do flex sometimes (especially in June, month of solid biceps), in the mirror, and tell myself damn, but I can still be doing that when I'm sixty. (My mother-in-law is 63, and I envy her guns.)

I know most of you have already passed thirty, so tell me-- how did it go? What did you do? Tell me what made it easier, and don't say babies! I'm going to spend the next 36 hours thinking about New Mexico and Costa Rica, and Julia Child, and how knock-down drag-out amazing my garden is going to be in twenty years, and how babies will be worth it, when they come, but for now it's nice to have quiet in the house.

That's the best I can do on my own; on the actual day-of I know I'll have my sweetie to share a bottle with at a very tony place, and my friends' holiday party to enjoy. Christmas isn't really a bad time to have a birthday. The whole world gets itself gussied up, and snow blankets the yard, and thirty or not you can pretend that it's all for you.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A revamped lamp and other stories

I've lived with this lamp for almost a year and finally got around to finding a shade that fits, covering said shade, and putting the whole mess together for the final result of a finished (!) lamp in the corner of the dining room. 

The lamp is most definitely 50s, and though I think I'm pretty much alone here-- I love it. Patrick frowns and pictures pink feather trees, mom scowls and remembers some dusty corner of her great-aunt's post war ranch house, but I like it. It's real maple wood and ceramic, and it was a good bargain. 

Over the summer I found a shade for it, I thought, and covered it in something wretched. Actually, I did a wretched job covering the shade in something wretched-- lampshades can be SUCH a difficult project. That was take one. Now I've found a new shade, a better size, and covered it in something I love. I used a different technique to cover it, too. Instead of trying to cut the fabric to fit perfectly on the shade, I glued and cut the fabric as I went around, first securing the fabric around the bottom (larger) rim of the shade with binder clips and Elmer's glue, then working on the top rim the same way, cutting deep slits in the fabric at intervals, so I could pull it taut and get rid of wrinkles. You can see a progress photo in this post. Of course, this means the pattern on the fabric gets altered a little here and there, which I don't mind. With a busier print in a smaller format, it'd be even less noticeable. 

I think this guy looks pretty dapper keeping company with his shiny new Christmas tree friend, an early birthday present from my mother-in-law.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Hints and whispers

I worked Saturday evening and all through a long gray Sunday afternoon. It was delightful.

This Christmas, I've been able to rekindle my cozy crafty fires, and it feels so good. I haven't shared much of what I've been making, because, well. Surprises are important. But today I can share these things that are in-progress, or for people who don't see my blog. I have to share something. I'm having too much fun with glitter bottles and paper hexagons and paper mache.

And a funny little pinecone lion I've been fiddling with.

And this, in the works.

And a bulletin board I made from leftover tile from our downstairs bathroom. I cut hexagons from adhesive-backed cork tile, put painters tape over them, grouted them in place and peeled the tape off. Worked like the charm. The idea is the tiles can be used for dry-erase messages and the cork tiles can be used to pin notes up. I covered plain brass tacks with colored buttons, and sewed up a pouch to hold markers and an eraser.

Anyway, those are just a few of my favorites this year. What sort of wondrous things are happening in your studio/craft room/kitchen this season?

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Busy hands & hearts

I am so loving the long Christmas season this year. The only major thing left on my to-do list is CLEAN (and that's a big one), but most of the present-making is all done and ready to go, the decorating has happened (and is being enjoyed), and I've found myself with the time to tack on an ambitious eleventh-hour project involving paper piecing. Oy.

In between, there have been many hours logged in the studio, which looks pretty much like a bomb went off inside it: wrapping paper everywhere, a least four half-finished projects littering the floor and desk, and Nat King Cole going full blast. Tonight I'm staying home to do some pre-feast prep, for I'm hosting my family again for Christmas Eve. A white chocolate fig poundcake is on the agenda. I love this time of year.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eggs, finally

Our girls were, by all measures, seriously late bloomers. They were babies back in May, late May, which meant, we thought, that we could expect eggs by November. Well. October passed without event, and then most of November. We shut the chickens inside their coop when we went to Maryland for Thanksgiving, partly because we hadn't planned ahead to ask someone to take care of them, and partly because I had a hunch they might be laying someplace unsanctioned. Off in the bushes, perhaps. Never-the-less, when we returned home, we had an egg. A brown egg. Genevieve lays white ones, and she's been off laying for awhile anyway, going through a pretty significant molt.

Thus it began, slowly. One egg a day, then two, then three!

I've made deviled eggs, and this tart, and brought half-a-dozen beauties over to Jody across the street, whose spilled birdseed our chickens adore, and who likely has some serious Christmas cookiemaking to provision for.

Raising your own protein is so philosophically different from raising vegetables. I love carrying in baskets of beans and tomatoes and carrots, don't get be wrong. But eggs. Eggs. Rich and nourishing, full of good fats and so tasty with a quick sizzle and a sprinkle of salt. You hold a carrot in your hand, and you feel that you're not going to starve. But hold an egg, and you have a meal. You think, the world is going to end someday, and it's going to be fun. And delicious. Omelettes for everyone!

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Monday, December 10, 2012


Another chunk of readying to cross off the list, finally. Remember when I painted the walls and ceiling in back, back in October? No? Well, I'm not surprised. This was such a back-burner project-- all it was was painting, but it was painting everything, and it took me forever. Mostly, the floor took me forever. I painted it in sections, and each section took two coats, and I wanted to let the paint cure before walking or moving furniture again onto the freshly done parts. Floors are tough, man. They're the easiest thing in the world to paint, and fun-- I actually dumped puddles of paint directly onto the floor and spread them out with a roller on a pole-- but clearing everything away so the floor is accessible and clean is the rub.

Anyway, this room is pretty now, and I'm pleased. The darker floor really makes the wall color pop, and the rug-- formerly in our front room-- has found a happier home here. At some point I'm get around to hanging art and sewing up some new curtains. Maybe before next Christmas. For now, this room is done and ready for my parents to spend the night in... two weeks! Christmas cookies are in the freezer, and the last little bit of gift-making is on the agenda for this week. 

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas village

Oooooo. I've been wanting to do this for years. Almost exactly five, actually. I "discovered" the blog-o-sphere not long after Christmas (or was it before Christmas?) 2007, and one of the first blogs I started reading was Posy Gets Cozy. I fell in love. I started working backwards, and found Alicia's snow village post. Almost exactly five years ago. Ever since then, I've wanted one.

I loved our mantel in Binghamton, but it was nowhere near big enough-- maybe six inches deep and 36" long, not enough for village. Our mantel here is probably nine or ten inches deep, and longer, and there's even that extra shelf on top I plan on expanding into next year. It is a very, very ideal mantel for a snow village. Maybe the most ideal one ever.

I built my little village buildings in the early hours of this year, from some old gift boxes. The only things I purchased for this project were: a bag of different-sized bottlebrush trees at JoAnn's, for $20 (lots of trees!), a bottle of chunky glass glitter, and a bottle of charcoal gray craft paint for the roofs. 

I got the templates from here, and after building the house, the school, and the church, I branched out and copied a building from Gilbertsville's downtown. This is the Gilbert block, which holds an ice cream shop, a quilt/book shop, and a general store.

If I add more buildings to my village, they're going to be Gilbertsville replicas. Post office, grange, maybe a little teal house with a yellow front door and a cat on the porch?

So satisfying to see this come together. What Christmas preparations are taking shape at your house, friends?

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Back on the wagon

It's amazing how a blogging break can gain its own momentum. Sheesh! So much has happened, and not, since I was last here. Thanksgiving, for example. And the completion of this very pleasing (to me) curtain that separates our doorless laundry room from the rest of the upstairs. All I had to buy was a package of clip rings, which set me back a whopping $8.64. The solid brown pieces are cut from two worn-out pairs of Patrick's pants, and I have to say I really like how the two browns play with each other. The striped pieces were cut from an old pair of sheets. And the other pieces are bits of this or that gorgeous fabric that deserve to be showed off. AMH voile, for example. 

I used a tree branch for a curtain rod, because it was free, because I already had one sitting in the garage from some pruning undertaken this spring, and because it feels at home with the earthy tones in the curtain. I didn't photograph the back, but it's a nice big piece of brown linen with a viney cream-colored leaf print all over. 

Okay, then. I'm back, I'm happy, you're happy. It's December 3rd, decorations are going up. On with the show!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November hike


This weekend, inexplicably, it was sunny and mid-60s. Thank you, November, for a last parting shot at Indian summer before winter sets in for keeps.

I'm feeling in need of a little bloggy-break for maybe a week or so. I've been wanting for content lately-- it gets harder in fall and winter, with the early evenings and lack of green things outside. If any of ya'll have ideas for things I could write about-- or things you'd like to see more of-- please give me a shout! 

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