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!

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.
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