Friday, July 24, 2015

House Helper Giveaway!

It's Giveaway Day! Also known as Friday in parts of the world. I don't care what you call it, it's here and I'm excited!

First off, I want to thank you... yep, you... for showing up here. For reading. For sharing my messy home and heart. It's hard to say just what you all have meant to me... checking in, reading, commenting, encouraging. Some days it's been my lifeline. I know there are many of you out there who have never said hello, and that's okay, too. I know you're here, and we have a bond. That's all that matters. Thank you.

And now for the Giveaway from my shop, Balm and Honey! If the randomizer thingy didn't pick your name this time, don't lose heart. I will be giving House Helpers away regularly through the end of the year, so hang in and soon I bet you'll be the one finding a package from me on your doorstep.

So, without further ado, this time's House Helper Giveaway winner is Patricia, who said:

My favorite hand made item in my home... a 3ft by 6ft hand-crocheted rag rug. I made it about 25 years ago when my babies were still little. It has lasted and lasted. Machine washable and line has faded over time; but still it keeps my feet warm. It is versatile too- I've used it in the kitchen, the bathroom, the mudroom, near the hearth... 
I love that rug! 

Congrats, Patricia! As you may know, we dig handmade rugs around here, so I can completely understand rug lovin'. I hope you'll enjoy your new handknit cloth just as much!

If you want some knitted goodness of your own, don't forget that the 15% off coupon code SWEETSUMMER15 is good through midnight tonight. Head over to the shop now before they're temporarily sold out!

Again, thank you for being here. I appreciate you. Have a great weekend, okay? See you next week. -Brin

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Simple Human Gift

...What a rare and beautiful treasure
Is the simple human gift of joy.
-Giles Andreae

We can't lose it- this rare and simple human gift of joy. We can't. No matter what comes, no matter what we see, no matter what fills our newsfeeds or our sleepless nights, we can't lose joy.

I was thinking about this awhile ago while unpacking my dishes and stacking them in the built-in hutch in the dining room. (Some women loves shoes. Or lipsticks. Or purses. I'm a dishes girl. I have a mix of white dishes I use for every day, but I love my different sets. I think I have 7 different ones.) Setting a table, making dinner, inviting over friends... family... new faces... gives me joy. It's simple, but it's real. Joy. 

The news is beyond scary lately. It's only in the past few weeks that I've been thankful I'm not a reporter anymore. But the scarier the news gets, the more confident I become in a good God... an attentive God... and a God with purposes and promises that will all make sense in the end.

So I unpack my dishes and pray my prayers and keep on trusting. Trusting... and looking for moments of that simple human gift-- joy.

Don't forget about The House Helper Giveaway! -Brin

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

House Helper GiveAway!

If you've been around My Messy, Thrilling Life any time at all, you know: folks around here adore handmade. 

One of the things that's stayed consistent throughout the 10 years of this blog is the popularity of the handknit cloth. We can't get enough! (I'm secretly afraid that the one thing I'll be remembered for after I die is handknit dish cloths. Really. *sheepish grin*) No matter the color, shape, or style, we just can't seem to get our hands on enough of these handmade goodies.

That's one reason I'm excitedly happy to announce that my beloved shop, Balm and Honey, has reopened! I have many cloths already knitted... and piles of yarn ready to knit... into these special cloths that have made dish washing, bathing, and chores so much more pleasant.

If you haven't had the pleasure of using these beauties around the house, I want to give you a chance to see what the fan craze is about. On Friday, I'll give one lucky reader a cloth of their choice from my shop. Simply comment below and tell me your favorite handmade item in your house, and you'll be entered to win! Tweet, Pin, or Instagram this post, and comment again to have your name entered twice.

Don't want to wait, or see a cloth you want before it's gone? Bring home some of this happy knitting for yourself by clicking here and entering promo code SWEETSUMMER15 for 15% off your purchase through the end of the week.

 I appreciate your readership and presence here more than I can say. Thank you for meeting here, for sharing my life, and supporting this home renovation. 

Thanks, and happy shopping. Good luck! -Brin

Monday, July 20, 2015


The rewards for those who persevere 
far exceed the pain that must precede the victory.
-Ted Engstrom

So when I said that refinishing the floors in this lumbering, wooden house was bordering on in(sand)ity, I meant it. 

Look at that. Would you look at it? Y'all. I didn't think I would ever get all that grit and dust out of here! But slowly, it came out... and as it did, my sanity slowly returned. Ha. Yes. It returned, that is, until the day I realized that I had to hand stain each individual 9 inch piece of flooring. Thousands of squares. On all fours. With a sock. Why? Because the floor is actually a puzzle of 80+ year old red oak, hickory and pine, and it was laid as parquet in the front formal rooms of the house.

After the sanding and sweeping, this was my life for 2 1/2 days:

But I finished!

Just as I was wrapping up, my Dad came over to lend a helping hand. The first thing that caught his attention? The huge iron furnace grate installed right smack-dab in the center of the floor between the front room and the dining room. He and Josh pulled the grate, built in the resulting hole, and painstakingly patched the parquet flooring, one square at a time. The only (slight) problem was that the flooring available today is red oak, and it stained much differently than the 80+ year old mixed woods.

Ah well. I'm going to make it match if it's the last thing I do! You can see the patch, and an early stain attempt, here:

But oh! What a relief to get this floor nearly finished! Except for that patch- which I intend to complete this weekend- this place is looking better than she has in years.

My sister and I are headed to Dallas tomorrow, Lord willing, for drapes and kitchen countertops. That means the paper can come off the windows and the kitchen cabinets and sink can go in this weekend! There aren't enough exclamation points in the world for that!

Elsewhere around the place, the POD we parked out front to store all our furniture until the floors were done was hauled off today. I was so excited I jumped up and down. It's feeling more like a home (instead of a construction site) every day. 

I've decided that once we're up and running, I want to host classes here and open up a few rooms for overnight class guests. Knitting, bread baking, beginning beekeeping, herb gardening, and sewing are just a few of the classes I want to offer. Wouldn't that be fun? I think about it all throughout the day. It makes me smile.

So does having all the sand out of here!

Don't miss the House Helper giveaway tomorrow! See you back here then. -Brin

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Hot, Honeyed Hive

My child, eat honey, for it is good, 
and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste.
-Proverbs 24:13

This is a hive inspection weekend. Time to check on these brilliant, never-resting girls.

It was a sweltering 100 degrees yesterday. Too hot and humid to be taking apart a hive of overheated bees, really. But it was past time to check the honey flow and install a feeder in my hive so the bees can make enough honey for winter. So I stuffed my sweaty self into my bee suit, a pair of thick cowhide gloves, and a veil, and went out to the hive. (My Dad came, too, and he took the next few pictures of me working my hive. Thanks, Dad.)

Before getting up to the hive I heard it: that strained- yet somehow contented- hum of thousands of bees. If you've never heard that sound, you need to. You need to. Your soul can feel it, and it's baffling how calming it is. In spite of the therapeutic hum, though, I found them "bearded" on the front of the hive, trying to cool down and regulate the temperature inside their hot, honeyed hive.

I feel you, girls. I feel you.

 Holding hundreds of bees. Don't sneeze!

As hot as we all were, I was eager to take a look inside. With the first frame removed, I had room to lift each heavy, buzzing frame and inspect both sides. In these frames, the bees are putting honey alongside sealed brood that will, in several days, be young worker bees.

Did you know that worker bees are all female, and these girls only live a few weeks during the summer? (They live longer in the winter when there's no honey flow.) They literally work themselves to death. Scientists say it takes around 1,152 of these brilliant beauties to make 16 ounces of honey.

And making honey they are! Take a look at this honey they've capped off below:


It was a great inspection and everything looked ideal: obvious signs of the queen staying busy, no pests, and lots of brood and honey in various stages. I mean, take a look at this golden gorgeousness!:

Keeping bees is such a dream come true. 

I am eagerly awaiting the days of selling honey and wax-based goods at my local farmer's market and online in my little shop, Balm and Honey. Cannot wait. Agh! For now, I'm stocking the shop with my favorite handknit cloths. I'll be listing some 20+ cloths in the next few days! For a little handknit sweetness in your house, too, enter SWEETSUMMER15 at checkout for 15% off your order. Just my little way of saying thank you for sticking around.

Check back Tuesday for a handknit House Helper give away and an update on the house. Until then, hope you have a sweet weekend, despite the heat. -Brin

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Insan(d)ity Of It All

I swore I would never do this again. Never, ever, I said. Do you remember it?

We discussed it, fleetingly, a dozen or so times: should we re-do the hardwood floors now, or wait? I'd settled firmly in the WAIT camp; Josh was for going ahead. You have no idea what a nightmare the process is, I told him. Nightmare.

He made the executive decision to go ahead, so we did. It is easier, after all, to get it done before the furniture crowds the place. So the sanding commenced.

First, we had to remove four layers of linoleum in the kitchen floor. And then, glue. Glue everywhere. We scraped and sanded and scraped and sanded. We used shovels and scrapers and fingernails and hammers and drum sanders and hand sanders...

On Sunday, I stood in the dining room, tears streaming down my dusty face, and yelled for 10 straight minutes that I hated every minute of it. Hated it. I think I said the word "hate" 200 times. I was so angry and dirty and tired. It wasn't pretty, you guys.

Two and a half days into the process, Josh's stomach got upset and he retired to the air mattress for the day while I hand-stained, on hands and knees, the entire floor. The next day, when he returned to work, I began sealing it. And look! Look at that same kitchen floor now:

Unbelievable. I still look at these pictures in amazement. Hard to believe those original hardwoods were under there the entire time... and in such good condition!

I applied four coats of polyurethane to the three large rooms and prayed (Tuesday) that it would be enough. Now that the obligatory 24 hour dry time is up, it's obvious that four coats won't be enough for the parquet floors in the front and the dining room. Y'all. Instead of moving in these rooms this weekend, it looks as if we'll still be applying poly and waiting for it to dry. I'm disappointed, but determined to keep my chin up.

In light of the news, I feel such an urgency to get this place liveable. Such an urgency. But it will get done, and it will be worth it, the insan(d)ity of it all. Won't it? Please nod. Yes. Yes, it will.

We'll get through this, y'all. We will. We're all going to get through this.

Hang in, and happy July 4th. May God's mercy triumph over His judgment in America this Independence Day. -Brin

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dressing Room Dreaming, Or: How To Dress A Room

What is it about imagining... or re-imagining... the spaces in our homes that excites us? I think, for me, it's the allure of realized possibilities. There's something so fulfilling about seeing a room in my mind and then later walking into that room with my feet. You know, after all the planning and dreaming and working.

I've had so much fun these last few weeks thinking up uses and decor for high-ceiling rooms in this house. Hours have ticked by as I've sat online browsing, pinning, and shopping. What could be more fun, right? So I was thrilled when reached out and asked me to take part in their Mix n Match Design Challenge, Shabby Chic Style. The goal: to pull from Chairish's drool-worthy Shabby Chic offerings and put together a room that shines.

I'm not sure about you, but lately I've had dressing rooms on my mind. These days, we're in such a rush to get out the door that I think we've lost the essential (and calming) ritual of dressing with care. We no longer have beautifully laid out dressing tables, we have tangled straighter cords and jumbled makeup bags. And who here puts perfume on in the car? Yeah. I say it's time for a dressing room/ dressing area / dressing closet revival.

Here's my dream: a small space with a glittering chandelier and a tall antique mirror. I want a rug I can paint my nails on and somewhere comfy to sit as I pull off my heels. I'd love a big dresser for organizing underthings and a wide bowl on top for jewelry. And to top it off, I want great lighting, some fluffy pillows, and a silver dressing set like my Great Grandmother, Mary, used to have. So after a few moments of dream-and-click on Chairish, this room presented itself. I give you, the dressing room:

Oh, but there are so many gorgeous spaces you could create with a little paint and some gorgeous Chairish items! Here's what I loved instantly:

The older I get, the more I find myself being absolutely fearless when it comes to incorporating different styles, periods, and colors/textures in my rooms. Fearless. For example, above I mixed vintage pieces with modern accessories. I put a resin bowl on a French dresser and a European shabby chic settee over an Oushak rug. The key to dressing our rooms is simple: go with what speaks to you. Pay attention to scale, color, and texture, and only bring home what you love. In the end, the mix-match of a space is what makes it home anyway. It's what speaks to who you are and where you've been.

All this room/home talk reminds me: I have to get back to work. The hardwoods get refinished tomorrow! I'd like to thank Chairish for the opportunity to participate in the Design Challenge, and each of you for hanging in with me during this chaotic move in. Here's to all of us as we dream up beautiful spaces and create homes that shine! -Brin

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Study

A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, 
because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves
and staying up late reading them.
-Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Works continues, morning and evening. It never stops. I don't either, usually, until late evening, when all I want to do is take a cold shower to knock off the dirt and grime and sweat before falling between cool sheets and sleeping beside the roar of a fan.

Ah, summer in Texas in an old house.

Big progress has been made this week in the Study, where dark, moody, gray/green paint has been rolled onto walls and woodwork has been sanded. (The picture above is after the paint but just before the sanding.) It's a race to get it all done before we bring in the giant floor sanders this weekend and prepare for the floor-to-ceiling bookcase. I can't wait.

I told a friend yesterday that, in lieu of a vacation, all I want to do this summer is read. Just... read. Curl up in a huge chair with a glass of something cold and read until it's too dark to see. I want to stay in this new room and take books off shelves until late. I want to be the somebody that's in it and messing it up and keeping the dust away. Summer for me, as a child, always meant a few things: endless reading, ice cream or fresh melon, and the sound of cicadas. And the occasional trip to the lake to swim. My hope is that after the Fourth of July weekend, the house will be ready "enough" for us to move in some furniture and let the reading and ice cream and listening to the cicadas' song begin.

It's a lofty goal, but we're getting there.

In the meantime, I've started making decisions about the kitchen and rolling Westhighland White by Sherwin-Williams on the walls. It looks so much more clean and airy in there now. After the floor is sanded and sealed this weekend, it'll be time for base cabinets, a sink, and the appliances. It can't come soon enough! 

Speaking of decisions, I've been thinking about finding glass cabinet pulls for the drawers and doors to match the originals that survived elsewhere in the house. Every single door here has the original glass knob and skeleton key locks. The hutch has its original glass pulls. So does the bathroom cabinet. The hardware on the cabinets we had to replace weren't original; someone had attached cheap, retro-looking pulls at some point. They weren't worth saving. So... glass again? I'm thinking it over....

So there's a quick update and here's a promise: once things calm down next week, we'll go back and go over this, slowly, and tell more stories.

Until then, happy start to your summer! -Brin

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Ruins We Toil To Rear

Our works decay and disappear
but God's gentlest works stay looking down
on the ruins we toil to rear.
-Walter Smith

In researching this old place, I recently came across this aerial photo. It's undated, but I can tell it's from several years back: trees are smaller or stand in places they no longer stand... the house is a different color... landscaping is different. I intend to show this photo to longtime neighbors and get their best guesses on the year it was taken. But look! The path! There it is, uncovered. I'm glad, for some reason, that we found the path before the photo. The discovery is half the fun.

Speaking of fun discoveries, a worker found an old, beautifully written pie recipe in the kitchen wall. I intend to frame and display it. The recipe was found as we removed the kitchen cabinets and gutted the room to reveal the original floor plan (and original hardwood plank floor!). That 3 AM leak the night before we moved in uncovered a history of water damage, corroded pipes, and compromised lower cabinets. As it turns out, some were rotted. Others were nailed shut. One had a petrified rat in the back. (I wasn't in the room for that one, but I heard the grown man scream when he found it. Ugh. It makes me shudder even now.) We stood and discussed only for as long as it took to determine that most of the cabinets would need to be rebuilt or reinforced, and at that, I made the call to pull them. We saved what we could for other areas/projects.

As disconcerting as it was at first, the total kitchen gut has made me excited about the prospect of incorporating an attic find into the rebuilt/restored kitchen. While snooping around upstairs, we found heavy, carved wooden pieces. Huge. Heavy. The carvings and shape match the original carved pieces of molding above the front door and that hutch built into the corner of the dining room. I'm excited to discover their original purpose (window cornices, maybe?) and find a place for them in the house once again. 

I'm still working in the library/study today, and hope to have the painting finished tomorrow. I'll show you soon. Ah, the ruins we toil to rear. For as long as ever, I've wanted a dark, brooding, leather and book sitting room/library to curl up and read in... or to send the men off to once dinner is over and the women want to chat in private. This little room off the dining room is perfect for both. Pictures tell me that the room hasn't been used as a bedroom, at least not in recent days, and the previous owners used it for storage. I can't wait to see it become usable living space again, especially as a European-looking study!

I need to stop typing and start painting. Guess I'll get back on the ladder now. Enjoy your day, and we'll talk soon.  -Brin

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Stone Path

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.
-J. R. R. Tolkien

We have discovered a stone path.

It seems obvious now, being cleared and all. But two weeks ago it wasn't. I was headed back to the house from the little shop when suddenly, I saw them: the corners of two square stones, touching as if they meant to. I thought it was odd... why would there be two half-sunk stones in the middle of a yard?

Ah. But there weren't just two, there were hundreds. The path is cleared now. How long has it been, I wonder, since it last was?

My sister came for a visit yesterday and was astonished to see it. When did y'all have the time to lay this? she asked. I smiled. We walked it from the corner of the shop all the way to the steps of the long, glassed-in sun room and inside.

I have plans for three small gardens here: an ivy + rose garden with a gazebo on the north side, a vegetable garden on the east/south, and herbs and trailing things in beds and corners all around. This past weekend, some chives, mint, sage and homemade butter-colored lantanas went into the ground next to the steps off the path. They're flanked by butterfly bushes. I'll wait and see how they fill in and then edit from there.

As you may have heard, Tropical Storm Bill is lumbering through. It's raining now- hard- onto ground that was at saturation point weeks ago. This is stranger than any summer I remember. After the rain clears and the heat lets up, we will begin garden plans in earnest.

Until then, we wait.

I'm painting the library/study today and am so wishing it was already done so I could curl up in there and read until dozing off. For now, the lamp light is cozy and rain drums at the windows...

From my rain-soaked path to you, take care today.  -Brin