Monday, November 23, 2015

Tune Up

The piano tuner is here today. He's been here for over 4 hours, striking each ivory key over and over and winding the copper strings with his tuning hammer. bing bing bing bing bing Two strings have broken, which made me almost cry because now the piano restoration guy has to come out and replace them and ouch! It's all expensive. But what a beautiful sound is coming from this old beauty already. Can't wait for carols at the spinet this Christmas.

This past week was insanely busy. One of those weeks where you realize, at dinner time, that you never got around to eating your (now soggy mush) cereal. I think we had pizza two or three nights last week. It was that non-stop. I've been looking forward to this Thanksgiving week for so long. It's time for a rest, folks. Let's take a rest.

Thank you... thank you so much... for all the Etsy orders last week. I had so much fun knitting things especially for y'all. My only regret was that the Thanksgiving cloths were so few; next year I'll do much better, I promise. And for Christmas this year, too. I'm going to be Mrs. Brinknitsalot this week. (Such a burden, right? Ha.) Last night, I made egg nog and some of my favorite cookies and watched the Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network and knitted. So relaxing! Looking forward to several similar nights this week.

How about you? Doing anything special for Thanksgiving? I hope wherever you are and whoever is around, you'll feel the peace and comfort that only God can bring. Special prayers this week for those who are missing someone. 

Sounds like the piano tuner is nearly done. Better get back in there. Have a wonderful Monday evening. -Brin

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

Come ye thankful people, come. Raise the song of harvest home. 
All is safely gathered in. Ere the winter storms begin. 
God, our Maker, doth provide.
-Henry Alford, 1844

God, our Maker, doth provide.

My heart has been humming this old tune for days. I want to tell you why. I want to tell you a story from my weekend.

On Saturday, a few folks and I stood under a huge oak tree in a downtown city park with 1,412 pairs of socks. It was the culmination of weeks of collecting socks for our city's homeless. We passed them out, pair by pair, to a steady stream of weary-looking faces. I shook hands and wrapped my arms around and looked in the eyes of as many as I could. It, like all the other times, broke my heart. 

I took a step back, mid-way through, to breathe and blink away a few tears. The last thing I wanted was for these precious people to see sadness- or worse, pity- on my face. I took a step back and looked across the park and noticed a tall, older man staring back at us. He stood, still as a statue, watching our little spectacle. I didn't know whether to be unnerved or wave. I turned back to my socks and my small crowd and quickly forgot about him.

I forgot all about him, actually, until I heard a strong, clear voice a little while later asking who was in charge. It was the tall man. He was directed toward me and suddenly, he was by my side. I'm Frank, he said softly. I'm with my grandkids in the park. We've seen what you are doing.

His voice didn't match the body it was coming out of. It was warm and melodic. He was a white-haired tower with angles and elbows. I looked up at him and nodded, and saw that he had the kindest face I've seen in a long time.

Here, he said, and pressed some wadded up bills into my hand. 

Thanks so much, but you don't have to, I replied.

We've seen what you're doing, he repeated. 

I thanked him, clumsily, and added something about the need and the people and... something. But he was already turning away, heading back up the hill to the spot where I saw him earlier. 

Again, I forgot all about Tall Man until I found the money in my pocket several hours later. I pulled it out and smoothed both crumpled bills... a large bill, and a one dollar bill. It was a strange amount to give, and I said so to Josh. He nodded. It was strange.

Only it didn't seem so strange when I added up, later, exactly what the sock drive had cost me, personally, that day. And when I circled the total and looked at those crumpled bills, I smiled. And then I began laughing. And then I began crying... was EXACTLY... rounded up to the nearest whole dollar... exactly the same amount I'd spent. 

God, our Maker, doth provide.

Money's been tight this year, what with the layoff and all. It's been incredible watching God provide... watch Him come through in a clutch... watch my account get down to $2.09 with the electric bill due and then, suddenly, a check in the mail. (Thank you, Nina.) It's been humbling and yet amazing to watch sales in my Etsy shop come through at just the right time. I think I've knit with more gratitude and hope this year than ever before.

This Thanksgiving season, there's a collage of the most beautiful pictures coming together in my brain: those tired, homeless faces. The Tall Man and his crumpled, exact gift. The piles of socks under that tree. The check in the mail. The piles of yarn that are getting knit into... provision. Beautiful provision. It isn't even Thanksgiving, and yet... it is. At my house, and in my heart, it already is.

I needed to announce my latest Thanksgiving cloths and let y'all know that there's a limited number in the shop today, but somehow I couldn't without telling you the story behind it all. The story about my weekend and my providing God. About the socks and the Tall Man. And I want you to know: I'm wishing the same for you today, and praying that the spirit of thanksgiving will find you and bless you this season, too. Whatever it looks like and whatever form it takes, I'm praying the same for you.

Thanks for being here.  -Brin

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Announcing the My Messy, Thrilling Life - Homemaker Academy!

Friends. I am so excited to blow the lid off a surprise I've been keeping for several weeks. In fact, I'm so excited that I am half off my seat right now. Have you heard?:

I am launching an online Homemaker Academy in January!

It's called the My Messy, Thrilling Life Homemaker Academy, and it's for anyone who wants to hang out and learn with me-- learn everything from how to make sourdough how brew your own how to start keeping how to grow the best tomatoes... to how to knit... to how to make evergreen wreaths... to how to make a quilt... etc. etc. I can't begin to convey how over-the-moon excited I am about it!

See, for years I've heard from you all about things I regularly post... like how to bake or how to knit a certain pattern. Some have questions. Some want help. And I've held in-person classes on several homekeeping-related subjects. But let's be real: if you weren't in Texas or didn't have a lot of time, you probably wouldn't ever be able to make a class.

Until now. Or... er... until January.

It will work like this: you see a course on Homemaker Academy that you're really interested in- say, making your own signature granola. You register for the course, and you go through it when you have time... at your own pace. I'm there when you need me. And together, we'll walk through things, talk options, and stick together as you learn and try new things. And the best part? I (electronically) come to you. You don't even have to leave your house! (Insert happy dance here.)

Details will be forthcoming in December, and then in January, Homemaker Academy will kick off. I can't wait to begin this journey along with y'all. I mean, just think of all the neat things we'll learn and fun things we'll get into!

We'll talk more about it soon. In the meantime, just wanted to hop over and spill the beans. (I was also just too excited to keep it to myself another minute!)

Ahem. So. Let's talk about you now. How are you? ...Hope you're having a great hump day. -Brin

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Queen of Poly and the Bird on a Dark and Nearly Storming Night

They call me the Queen of Poly. Well, okay, they don't. But they should. Because Lord have mercy, cans of polyurethane have become my most constant companions as of late.

This is a picture I took five minutes ago of the master bedroom's floor. I realize it is not a gorgeous picture. To me it is, but probably not to anyone else. You see, I spent two hours sanding this floor with a palm sander. I spent 2 hours sweeping, vacuuming, and tack clothing this floor, and another hour picking splinters out of the cracks. I spent 8.5 hours on my hands and knees staining every square inch of these 80+ year old oak floor boards. And then yesterday, I smeared coats of polyurethane over this floor until it was as smooth and shiny as a skating rink. It took all. day. Pretty picture? No. But am I showing it to you anyway? Heck yes I am.

Besides, I haven't told you the best part yet. 

It was a dark and stormy night.

Okay, fine. It was a dark and soon-to-be-stormy night. But it was really dark and the wind was picking up. And there I am, all alone in this big, empty room with my poly bucket and my poly stick. The lights are blazing in the room but outside it's night, so the huge, uncurtained windows are like black holes. They're kind of unnerving; people can see in, but I can't see out. It is quiet. I sink my poly pad into the poly bucket... pppppfffffffffttt... and watch as it soaks up poly. I try to ignore the big, black windows. I'm just about to move the poly pad to the floor and apply the final coat when suddenly...
...a bird flies at my head! I scream, throw the poly stick, and tear across that stained floor and past the black hole windows, my sock feet slipping and sliding the whole way. I run out into the hall and slam the door behind me. My heart is pounding. How in the world did a bird get in there? 

After a minute, I crack the door and peek in. I look around quickly and when I don't see the bird, I open the door wider. Maybe the blasted bird flew into the sun porch. That had to be it. Maybe if I can close the sun porch door, the bird will be trapped out there and at least I can finish my final coat of poly in here. I venture across the slick floor, eyes on the door. And I'll be danged if, halfway across the room, the bird doesn't swoop down out of nowhere and flap up beside me again!
I race back to the safety of the birdless hall. Again, I wait at the door, peeking in every few seconds to see where the blasted bird is. I crack open the door, it's on the floor in the corner. I crack the door again, moments later, and it's perched on the window sill. I crack the door yet again, and it's on the ceiling fan. And then... oh, my friends... and then, I heard it:


The bird messed all over my scarcely-dry-but-still-needing-a-final-coat of poly floor!

You all. That was almost it for me. That was almost the moment I decided to move back to Dallas, get a condo, and resume my former life. There I was in my dirty jeans, my chia pet shirt, and my slippery socks... hair wild, arms sore, and half-high on poly fumes... and a bird had just messed all over my beautiful floor. It was just too much.

Monday, November 2, 2015

My Messy, Thrilling Life Newsletter

How are you doing? Make it out of that weekend okay? Yeah, same here. Okay. Let's all just take a second, close our eyes, and take 5 deep breaths.

Better. You?

Whew. Okay. So, happy November! Can you believe it's that time again... already? If you're a subscriber to the shiny new My Messy, Thrilling Life Newsletter, than you got a LOT of me yesterday, including some never-before published photos, a November preview, a Hedge House update, some details on the new book, and a secret coupon code to the Etsy shop.

For you early subscribers, what did you think? For you folks who haven't joined us yet, please do now so you don't miss any holiday goodies! Click here to subscribe and join the party.

I have a lot on my plate today, but let's meet back here and make Perfect Pumpkin Bread tomorrow, shall we? See you then...

Y'all, it's November!  -Brin

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Nephew

My nephew is here! It's been a week of excitement and much, much joy. He's the first of the grandchildren in our family, so we all crowded the waiting room for 8 hours during his delivery. I'd do it again today. He's the most beautiful baby I think I've ever seen...

...then again, I am one biased, proud aunt.

I'm off to get some things done so I can hold a baby some more. Have a safe weekend.

Babies are such a nice way to start people.
-Don Herold

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Paths, Books, and the Glory of My Year

Press on though Summer waneth,
and falter not nor fear;
For God can make the Autumn
The glory of the year.
-Thomas E. Thoresby, 1877

Press on, you. I'll press on, too. Together we'll walk this winding path without faltering and without fearing, knowing God does have a way of making anything into a glorious thing.

How are you today? 

It's still drizzling here, and damp. Yesterday, I walked the paths of Hedge House and got completely lost in their leaf-littered beauty. (Did you catch the photos on Instagram or Facebook?) This weather is deeply, tangibly comforting to me. I brewed salted caramel tea and wound a scarf around my neck and shoulders and went for a stroll with my steaming mug. There's so much solace in autumn.

I've thought about it many times and considered it seriously before, but I am actually, finally, writing a book. Josh has been urging me to write since my industry took this devastating downturn, and I ran out of excuses. So what if no one reads it? I'm writing anyway. The words just fall onto the page; I think moving to Hedge House and the onset of autumn has completely done it for me. One day, nothing. The next day, the character drew her first breath and her voice filled my head. And that was it. They say if you don't know what to write, just write something you would like to read. And here it is. The leaves fall outside this study window and I write. And write. There's so much inspiration in autumn.

So I'm pressing on. I'm taking the risk. And I'm praying- really praying- that God will make this autumn the glory of my year.

Hope you're well and enjoy your Tuesday, friend. -Brin

Monday, October 26, 2015

Good Kind of Aches

My heart is drumming in my chest so hard it aches, but it's the good kind of ache, like the feeling you get on the first real day of autumn, when the air is crisp and the leaves are all flaring at the edges and the wind smells just vaguely of smoke - like the end and the beginning of something all at once. -Lauren Oliver, Delirium

We're now in the season of good kinds of aches, I think. Aches that remind us of home... of belonging... of people we've been assigned to and people we've chosen. 

These days are such a blessing, these crisp days that smell of smoke and decay. Don't you think? I look at autumn as the outer envelope of an invitation imploring me to come and participate in rest... and comfort... and (maybe a bit of) indulgence. I realize it's not that way for everyone, but for me, it is. Autumn says slow down, and curl up, and suspend your usual life while the world celebrates seasons and happenings that are bigger than we are. It's my favorite time of year, to borrow that bland phrase.

I'm watching leaves drift and fall today from the wide rocker on the creaky porch. It's cool, and raining. Another good ache. 

Hope today finds you well, and all your aches the kinds of ones that, although not necessarily pleasant, beat inside your chest as rhythmic reminders, saying: I'm living... I'm alive. I'm living... I'm alive....

Here's to the good ache of autumn and us being together yet another Monday. -Brin

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Study of Stuff

Decorations are slowly emerging from boxes and finding themselves nailed into the shiplap-backed walls and displayed on the heavy oak shelves. It's deeply satisfying. After I'd decorated these twin alcoves in the cavernous front room, I lit the candled votives and sat back and admired the familiar things. Isn't it strange how having our things around us is so comforting? It shouldn't be, but it is. It just is.

It doesn't take much, in my opinion, to decorate a space. It certainly doesn't take much money. The above is a collection of odd things: framed pictures from my siblings; a well-loved, limited edition run of Ethan Frome that I found in an antique store for three dollars; inherited candlesticks; old books from library sales; junk sale platters and candle holders from Target. It's a mish-mash, but it works for me.

I know my style wouldn't work for most everyone. I have friends who wouldn't be caught dead with a framed feather from one of their chickens... or my "moldy oldy" Plato books... on their shelves. But if you want to create a home that speaks to you... that greets you at the door with a solace hug each time you come home, try this:
  • Put away everything you aren't currently using or getting benefit from. Here's where to start to get a room you love: take everything out of it. Or, if that isn't do-able, take everything off a book shelf. Or off one wall. Then take a hard look at the stuff you've removed. That project you started two months ago but haven't gotten back to? Make a plan to finish it soon or chunk it. Seriously. Get it out of your room. It's dragging you down and giving you anxious/guilt trip-ish feelings every time you see it, right? Or how about that stack of mail? Same thing. Ugh. Sort, shred and file that mess. The endless coats/shoes/bags? Find a designated space to hang or store them when not in use, and get them where they belong. That picture you've never liked? Donate it. The chair that doesn't work anymore? Donate it, too. Think blank canvas- I don't care if you moved in last month or have lived there 30 years. Start by emptying the room of everything you don't like or need right now, then begin to...
  • Add things to your space that mean something and speak to you. Maybe it's a throw from your Grandma. Or a vase you found on your travels. Maybe it's a rug that makes your feet happy or a picture that reminds you of a time you loved. Corral the things you love right now. Once you have them- even if it's just a few things- begin displaying them where you can enjoy them. Get out the nice dishes. Frame the letters from your grandkids. Hang that picture you painted but are afraid no one will like. You can always take it down if it doesn't work for you. Put things out and really enjoy them.
  • Know that it's okay if your room isn't "finished" or others don't get it. Hint: good rooms are never finished, and some spaces are meant for only you. Don't feel pressured to hurry and decorate a space just because it's empty-ish, or people come over and ask when you're going to decorate. Shoot. This is your space... and home is meant to be sweet and solace- to you. If it looks empty and you like it, good. If it looks crazy and colorful and it brings you joy each moment you spend in there, perfect. If it's monochromatic but you find it soothing, stay with it. Don't rush the process of creating or updating a space to suit you, and certainly don't go with things (or keep them!) just because someone else thinks you should. You live there; they don't. Create spaces that mean something... and say something... to and about you.
Recently I got really wrapped-up in the book What Your Stuff Says About You, even reading parts out loud to a (very) disinterested Josh. Have you heard of the book? Completely fascinating. I think it would be mildly thrilling to have the author walk through Hedge House and tell me what he knows about me just from studying my things and how I have them out. Or maybe I wouldn't want to know. Apparently our stuff and how (and where) we place it is far more telling than we realize...

Anyhow. I still have the other twin alcove, to the left side of the front room fireplace, to decorate. I'm going for that solace hug here. It's beginning to get fun in the old house now, just in time for my favorite time of year! A tiny circle of light is visible from the end of the tunnel, finally.

Happy Friday. -Brin

This post contains affiliate links, which I include because it makes the books easy for you to investigate, and I receive a tiny commission on anything purchased from My Messy, Thrilling Life. But it's pennies, trust me, and pretty much covers the time it takes to create and post the links. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Granola Ladies

It's still here today, and cloudy- the kind of heavy, translucent-gray weather autumn trots out after pulling on her sweater. Inside, windows are open and there's deep, thick, honey-sounding cello music coming from the study. I hear it from the kitchen where I'm stirring batches of homemade granola.

Back when I had my bakery, granola was a top seller. There's one granola customer in particular I remember. She came in a couple of times a week wearing this shawl you could tell was handmade and carrying a dog-eared copy of someone's poetry- Dickinson's or Oliver's or Millay's. She would tuck her book under her shawl-wrapped arm and, after squinting for what seemed like ages at the huge glass jars of granola, she would always request the same thing: "blueberry and almond, 5 scoops, to go". That was it. No conversation aside from that. The poetry would stay wedged under her shawl arm while she slid cash across the counter, clutched her paper bag of granola, and left without saying another word. I always wondered about her and what sort of place she ate her 5 scoops of blueberry almond granola in.

I'm not making blueberry almond today, though. Instead I'm doing an almond and golden raisin for Josh, who enjoys things like raisins and coconut and fruit. And I'm doing a pecan and dark chocolate kind for me, who enjoys things like dark chocolate and milk chocolate and white chocolate. Ha. Yes. We know who the healthy one is in this house.

What sort of things do you like in your granola? These are things I wonder about sometimes. To me, you're kind of like the blueberry almond lady... showing up, yet wrapped in an internet shawl and seldom saying a word. I wonder about the kind of things you like and what sort of place you're reading in. I wonder if, ever given the chance, we could sit and talk for hours about how life brought us here and what our life looks like once we leave.

But most of all, I wonder if we know how our quiet, ordinary-seeming selves impact those watching. I wonder if the blueberry almond granola lady will ever know that sometimes I made it just in case she came in that day. I wonder if she knew that sometimes I put extra scoops in her bag. And I wish I had the chance to tell you what I never told her: I'll bet you're fascinating. And I think you're more beautiful and interesting than you know. And whatever your life looks like once you leave my world, I hope you know it matters. 

I hope you know you matter.

Headed back to my still, gray day and my granola now....