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!

04 August 2014

Reason to celebrate

 On Saturday I went to an auction and came home with a stack of dishes and those pretty pink glasses. I had no intention to buy more dishes (I already have over 100 miss-matched china plates from our wedding) but I'm so glad I did. I admired them all this morning while I was washing them and just couldn't resist setting up the table to look at them. Fortunately I already had a few friends coming over this afternoon anyway, so we'll just make Monday afternoon on the 4th of August an occasion for celebration!
It's not a complete set; some are missing and some are chipped but that is exactly what makes them work in my house. I love to have even the simplest meals using dishes I love.
I really need a hutch and some bigger furniture to store things, like dishes and linens, but until I find the right one, I made do by stacking a bookcase on top of an old dresser I got from my mom's porch. I rearranged everything this morning to make room for these dishes and it's fun to see some new color in this little corner.
The arrow above is a sundial, another recent auction find that I really love. 
I've been making a big batch of blueberry muffins and Zucchini bread to have on hand for Airbnb guests that stay upstairs, and I'm just starting {slowly} into some canning. I've been enjoying the garden so much this year. It's still small and such a work in progress, but there is progress!
If all goes well perhaps I'll be back soon with a few photos of the garden. I'm off to make some cucumber sandwiches to serve on that china when the girls come over in a bit. :)

13 March 2014

I do my best gardening in the wintertime.

"I get pleasure from simple things. 
Home baked bread, homegrown vegetables and making things from what I find around me." 
-Alys Fowler

I used to think neighbors chatting about gardening was merely small talk but I've changed my mind. The fact that a tiny seed goes into the ground and becomes a plant that becomes a tomato is a miracle every time. Gardening is transforming to the spirit. To talk about it is to diminish it's meaning, and yet, it's completely impossible not to talk about it. To garden is to dream, or as someone said, "to believe in tomorrow".

Gardening gets me excited to go from the [relative] quiet of winter into the first bursts of spring. I am so new at it that I'm still amazed when anything grows successfully but every year it gets better and I have a bigger perspective for what's possible. I learn by watching my neighbors, asking my mother-in-laws advice and keeping an eye on who is plowing and who is planting. 
Last year there are a few things especially that I'm excited to do more of this year. The photo above is the most delightful salad that makes an effortless lunch. When things started coming along nicely I would put some oil, balsamic vinegar, salt pepper, avocado into a bowl then go out to the garden and pluck whatever looks nice to add... micro-greens, herbs, cucumber, whatever seems inspiring.. then toss it all together and eat it right there in the garden under the warm sunshine. 

"Heaven is a homegrown cucumber". -Alys Fowler

This photo, a bowl of peach salsa with the ingredients that I used to make it written on it, reminds me that I'd like to do that more often this year. It's such an easy way to keep track of sporadic combinations that I stir together and would otherwise forget.   

Mulching heavily is so helpful and seems to be one key to success for me. Not only is it good for weed control but it keeps more moisture in and also adds nutrients to the soil. One day I hope to establish a garden with a Back to Eden method of layering and composting. Follow the link and watch the documentary, so beautiful and inspiring, full of spiritual analogies. It's hard not to get overambitious but I've also learned to start slowly and try to keep it small. Being completely overwhelmed with weeds or an overabundance of vegetables and the pressure that you need to can and preserve everything is a good way to burn out quickly and then miss the joy of growing things. I like to do it for the joy. Alys Fowler has a wonderful series called The Edible Garden. I love to watch it in the winter and dream about the coming year. Her enthusiasm is absolutely contagious and she has a beautiful way of letting her garden grow "wild". It should be productive and beautiful, she says, and I agree. What could be more wonderful.

23 January 2014

// Below zero temps gave the kids a few good days of ice skating on Granddad Eldon's pond
// Working cattle and tea on the fire
// Molly Wizenberg's recipe for rice pudding. I've made it twice in the past week. Best ever. Truly.
// Butchering a hog with a group of  friends is an annual ritual; breakfasts of fresh eggs from the coop and smoked sausage ever since. No sugar and no flour for me right now but sorghum and buckwheat pancakes are so good I don't miss it.
// Snowy days when the cows get out on the wrong side of the fence.
// Coming in from the snow to a warm house and cup of hot cocoa with maple syrup.

Winter is one of my favorite seasons, maybe because I grew up in Florida and haven't had enough cold and snow to get tired of it yet. Or it could be because it's a bit more quiet on the farm. Whatever the reasons, I think the cold makes me appreciate and look for warmth and it makes everything so cozy.
This year though I've noticed I'm a little more emotionally challenged. I didn't think about it being related to the weather at all until I was talking about it to a friend and she said calmly, "Oh you've got a winter mood."
That's a thing?
I've somehow previously been exempt it seems. It really helped to identify it like that but still I wondered,
"Why is there not a relentlessness about my joy?"
I'm listening to this sermon for the third time today. He says if there is anything good about this day it is because of grace. I didn't realize that I have had a pattern of thinking that things should be good.
Why shouldn't they be good!?
Things aught to go right!
No, it's just starting to sink in... "If anything's good it's because God works it together...
Things fall apart. 
The world is burdened down by evil and decay. It's the nature of things to fall apart.
So do relationships... so do families... things do not come together, they do not work together.
[Christians] get rid of the saccharine sentimental idea that things aught to go right, that things do go right, that that's the norm. Modern western people believe, if things have gone wrong, I'm gonna sue! Why? Because things aught to go right! Christian's say, if today my health is in tact, it's God holding it together. If someone loves me and somebody cares about me today at all... in spite of my flaws, in spite of my selfishness... it's God doing that, it's God holding it together. If anything goes good it's a miracle of Grace!"
... These are all quotes smashed together from the sermon I'm writing out to let it all sink in.
I don't know about you but that is news that transforms my way of thinking completely.
Understanding what the promise really is in Romans 8:28 means that I don't need to be shocked when bad things happen and it causes me to practice routine praise for the ordinary things that I now realize I had formerly seen as things I was entitled to.
"God does not promise better life circumstances if you love Him, He promises you a better life... So that when you suffer, you become like Him". -Timothy Keller

10 December 2013

Kinfolk | Natural Home Holiday Workshop

|| Gather around a table filled with bundles of 
foraged greens, berries and natural elements to tie into festive holiday arrangements. 
|| Learn how to use nature's inspiration for wrapping gifts to give away. 

|| Come away with a little something to adorn your tree, a wreath to hang on your 
door and perhaps a garland or two that we created together during a continual flow 
of conversation, sweet treats and hot spiced cider. As the afternoon winds down, 
a spread of hearty savory offerings invite you to linger a little longer then planned...
Partnering with Kinfolk events has been one of the highlights of this year! Our 3rd, and last (for the year) is coming up this Saturday and there is still room left for you to join us. Hosted here at the Mill, along with The Pinwheel Collective, The Lady Jane Shop, and Hope Helmuth.  
For tickets and event details go here.

 Head on over to The Pinwheel Collective to see Amelia and Katie's documentation of the August Camp Cooking and Grilling Workshop hosted at Hope's River House.

Hope your December is warm and cozy so far, and full of every good thing!
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