30 December 2015

December with the windows open

My husband went over the mountains to West Virginia to hunt a deer this afternoon and I, free of a reason to make dinner, got a wild idea to slip in and post one more time before the year is over. Yep, that makes twice this year. huu-ray! I took a few creative diversions, you might say, this year in my attempt to find balance. Some have been good, some I miss, and I'm glad to feel a bit refreshed and finding new energy again. I've already kicked in to the yearly clean-out / get-rid-of-everything mode, starting with clearing everything off the closet floor. Next the living room got my attention and I'm hoping this energy lasts on into the laundry room and ends with me unloading by the donation drop-off at the nearest thrift store. Dreaming lofty dreams again!
We had Christmas in Virginia this year since my husband put us on a every-other-year-we-go-to-your-folks rotation. I was feeling contrary and wondering who put YOU in charge anyway- oh right. Head of the household / breadwinner decided the cows must be fed. Fine. We'll stay home. And well, once I adjusted my mind to celebrating with just the two of us, it was very relaxing... even enjoyable. His immediate family is getting together this weekend so we still have that to look forward to and we were able to be together with some of them Christmas evening. We spent time with friends over the weekend, ice skating and sitting around the fireplace, and another night of too many oysters (and I'm not even sorry)... later on tonight there's family arriving from Florida. So much to be grateful for! And if we're lucky, a deer for the freezer.

Warmest thoughts and wishes to all.

14 January 2015


New year, new you! I see it everywhere right now, and it rolls off the tongue so easily but has that ever worked out for anyone? I always wonder, what about the new you from last year? What happened to that one?
I'm coming to terms with the fact that no hairdresser is ever going to give me a complete transformation, working out is a lifetime thing, and I might even like myself more some years then others. I saw a Gwyneth Paltrow interview while I was waiting at an airport last summer that has stayed with me. She suggested looking at health and well-being over the span of a lifetime, allowing for some ups and downs. Thinking that way helps me keep moving. Who knew, good advice from Hollywood!
We had almost a week in Florida for Christmas with my family, then back to Virginia, with an overnight stay in Charleston on the way. Patrick needed to get back to feed his cows and it was just in time to get together for the Showalter family Christmas on New Years' Day with oysters and a skeet shoot. So many of the cutest little nieces and nephews on both sides of our families these days. It makes holidays all the more wonderful.
I like to try to keep the Christmas bustle to a minimum, or at least sticking just with the things that are necessary and/or fun (it's all for the joy you know!) but even so, that first full week of January feels to me like a long exhale... deep breath and relax. A kind of deeper rhythm starts to settle in and all the little projects I always want to do come into focus. I've been wanting to learn to knit, and well, just make all kinds of things, but I am going to try to focus on sewing for now. Since I know how to do that already it seems like a better way to get the creative ball rolling.
I  have also been intentionally trying to measure the value of my days by something other then productivity, giving myself full liberty to spend days sitting in my chair reading or talking or maybe just thinking. I run on inspiration. It can be for better or worse and I'm always working at being more disciplined to just do what needs to be done. But when there's nothing urgent and pressing I so enjoy the leisure of puttering around the house or spending entire afternoons with friends over coffee. By the end of last week my puttering led me right into spontaneously organizing my pantry and cleaning corners that should have had attention a little while before. Some things just can't be forced.
That list of things to do is always there, yet somehow it always gets done.
This week I started cutting out a quilt, little by little, and have even been going out on walks in the snow. It feels so good to come inside and have another cup of tea by the fire. 
I'm not writing a long list of resolutions for this year, nor am I shooting for the best year ever. What I really want is to have eyes to see the things that really matter and a deeper, steadier contentment. 
Hope your January is warm and wonderful so far.

23 December 2014

December wreaths

So many wreaths this December! It all started quite unsuspectingly the day after Thanksgiving when my sis-in-law Heidi wanted to make one, then I started making them in my kitchen with Shelby (another SIL), and for a whole week I would work on them while cooking dinner or winding down before bed at night. There's something about having a work station set up where I'm living that allows creative multi-tasking. I finally cleaned up that mess and moved out to the front porch on warmer days to work in the sun. The wreath with the red berries and pine was prickly, my hands suffered for days after, but it was one of my favorites to make even so. I gave some away to neighbors and found doors and windows all around the Mill and the barn for the rest of them. It kept decorating for Christmas pretty simple this year! 
My friend Hope taught me to make them just last year, and it opened up a whole new world to me! Julia at FairviewFarm.com did a great post using the same method, but I am posting this from my phone and can't for the life of me figure out how to add a direct link. Till I get it figured out you can go to her blog Fairviewfarms.com and search under tutorials.
I'm gonna go ahead and add mobile blogging to my list of things to learn about in the coming year.
Or maybe I'll just make another wreath. Hope your Christmas week is off to a jolly start! 

12 December 2014

A kitchen renovation and a plan

|| I spent the early morning hours today drinking coffee on a stool in the barn while Patrick milked the cows, completely engaged by Marion Cunningham’s vivid descriptions in “The Breakfast Book”, of Apple & Cheese Toasts that, “if you get the notion,” can easily be made to carry back to bed to be enjoyed with coffee and something good to read.
"As one is softly propped up in bed the world falls away, and breakfast becomes what some poet called "a parenthesis in time".
I can’t really remember ever having breakfast in bed. But i have enjoyed my own versions of this idea almost daily and believe that it is the small moments, life at 7am on an ordinary Thursday in late October, that make up a happy existence. What is of value after all, if not the rituals that make up the vast chunk of time that is the customary day.
A perfect Autumn day, overcast with the sun peaking through occasionally in a display of glorious light to send a beaming spotlight on a dozen gold leaves still left clinging to the tree in the yard. I came in from the barn and immediately went to work making Coddled Eggs as Marion suggested. The trouble is, while i was waiting 10 min for them to sit in simmering water i started working on the weekend menu at the Inn and forgot to take them out at the proper time. So they turned out more like hard boiled eggs. Perhaps next time I’ll be more diligent. I liked them anyway with grilled steak leftover from the fridge with garlic hash brown potatoes. A perfectly ordinary autumn day it is. ||

This was written a few years ago on another blog I used to keep, the first year I lived here in Virginia. Reading it takes me back to a time and place that I probably would have forgotten about had I not written about it. I love that about writing, which is also what I love about keeping a blog; it helps me process and make discoveries about myself and the world around me that would otherwise stay hidden.
Double yoke! It's bound to be a great day.

As much as I love it, I have quite unintentionally fallen off the blogging bandwagon this year. Thinking about it now it's easy to see the reason has simply been a lack of intention, so I decided to change that by committing (out loud) to post here once a week. It may not be a lot by some standards but, considering my history, it's big a challenge and yet still quite doable I think. It's a bit of an experiment so I'm taking it at least to the end of March, and by that time I should be able to be in a good routine. If not, perhaps another reevaluation may be necessary.
It's taken me a little while to work through this. I've had a lot of different ideas. Since I mostly post on Instagram these days it often makes posting again here feel a little redundant. One day I heard an interview about a food blogger and I thought, "I should just be more disciplined and do that!" 45 minutes into that thought process I realized that would never work for me. As much as I love cooking I was SO relieved I wouldn't have to photograph everything I make and write a detailed recipe. It's just not how I think. 

The journey of self-discovery continues.

What I've realized is that I love to talk about food but I don't enjoy recipes that require me to translate what I'm making into something that someone can replicate. I may post a recipe occasionally but its the exception not the rule. I prefer to talk about it more in theory and technique.

I'm also not a DIY, or a tutorial blogger.

Sometimes it takes a lot of figuring out what you're not in order to find out what you really want to do.

I don't really want to do this to "make it big" where blogging is what I do. While I'm fascinated and find it really incredible that so many are able to do that these days, what I really want is to write and photograph about whatever it is that I do, which varies a lot from day to day.
It's been so helpful to realize that, it's what keeps me wanting to come back. So I'm here with renewed vision and a plan and I'm ready for a challenge.
"Throw back your heads, open up your hearts and sing along!" Timely advice coming from Bing Crosby through the scratchy speakers of my 7 year old laptop as I type.

Another thing that keeps me from posting is all the catching up I have to do. The best way I know to deal with that is just to start where we are today! We just started renovating a room that used to be a general store here at the Mill. We are turning it into a commercial kitchen for Hope and I to work from. We have been working together for the past few years on events and workshops. We have so many plans and projects that we want to work at but it always comes back to having a kitchen/studio to work from and stash all our stuff in a way that's organized and functional, without carrying mountains of food and dishes to and from our cars.

Looks pretty rough right now don't you think? There's lots of light and wood floors to work with though, as well as a talented crew of husbands! Where would we be without handy husbands.

Otherwise, there's still a lot of porch-sitting going on as you can see.

Amelia (above) lives in a cottage on the farm and we share many many cups of coffee, and as many ideas. She's gone for a few weeks over Christmas now and I sure will miss her.

Sometimes we spend the morning at my house and the afternoon at hers, or vise-versa.

 This was a photo from a construction project Patrick was working at on the farm. The light in the sky while the sun went down made the silos glow. Now there's a roof there.

Evenings lately have been long and leisurely, with a few nights of holiday festivities thrown in every now and then to draw us out of our cozy warm den. I'm like a bear, I like to hibernate in the winter so long nights don't bother me. I have lots of photo projects I'm working on this winter and I'm even hoping to start making a quilt soon with some fabric I've been saving. That is pretty ambitious for someone who's never made a quilt but why not shoot for the moon every now and then.
Hope you are getting lots of leisure mixed in to your holiday season!
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