Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Day

 We will open the book. Its pages are blank.  
We are going to put words on them ourselves.  
The book is called Opportunity 
and its first chapter is New Year's Day.
- Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Here's to us. To open books. To blank pages. To the words we'll find, string together like twinkle lights, and light up the world.  Here's to Opportunity.

Happy New Year's Day. -Brin

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coming Soon! Magic: Turning Milk to Mozzarella

If you've been around for awhile, you may remember last year when I fell hard for homemade cheese. Hard. Remember this white farmhouse cheddar? Oh my goodness. To die for!

That's one reason why I'm excited to say that the kind and talented folks over at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. have asked me to be a guest blogger on their site as I chronicle my adventures making cheese at home. We're going to be conjuring up some fantastic mozzarella, and I'd love if you'd join me!

Stay tuned as details are soon to follow. Oh what fun, huh? -Brin

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Chickens Get New Digs

Although I'm a few weeks away from settling into the cabin, my chickens have settled into their new space nicely. Even the new chicks. (I ended up with 10- not the seven I originally thought- when a "missing" hen walked up one day with her three chicks in tow. It was thrilling.)

They've been such a joy to watch. There's nothing more relaxing than sitting out here in the evening with some tea and seeing them playing, scratching, and chasing bugs. So far it appears they like the new digs.

A few of them are apart of the family, now, and have been named... mostly the outlandish-looking ones. This beautiful brown, black, gray, and copper-colored fella is Benn Gleck (haha!), seen above on the left and below on the right. It's my favorite, followed by Bethsaida, Beulah, Beatrix, Beauregard and Baby Haskins.

 The fuzzy white one is Baby Haskins, the obvious offspring of Haskins, this rooster below who follows me around like a puppy but flies at all my visitors if they get too close. (Which I secretly love. Pet attack rooster? Oh heck yes!)

After all, you can't have too many bodyguards. Or friends. Even they're 10 inches tall and have feathers. A girl who lives in a cabin in the woods needs all the help she can get, eh?

Happy Monday, from Millicent, Miss Marple, the chickens and me. -Brin

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finally, A Home

She woke each morning with a glow of hope,
not because a new dream had been born,
but knowing the one she carried
inside her heart would last.
-Jodi Hills, An Imperfect Life

The cottage-cabin. It arrived early Friday morning, before the fog settled and the sun chased the drizzle away. The days I've hoped on for so long are here. It's time to turn this tiny, shell-of-a-building into a special little home.

I'm showing you the before because we will hardly recognize this little wooden thing when we're through. It will have heavy paned windows, reclaimed trim, a screen door, a porch, some paint, stone steps and walkway, fireplaces, and a garden with a very special front garden gate. Don't forget lots and lots of trailing roses and delicate herbs and sweetly-scented flowers. Just you wait. It's going to be a dream...

No. Wait. 

It already was.

Are you ready to get busy? We have a lot to do here! First off: the inside, and how to fit it all in. I've just downsized from 1,500 square feet to 356 square feet, after all. We're going to have to get creative if we're going to fit all our books, yarn, dishes, clothes, paintings, furniture, and animals in there!

Here's to the dreams we carry, lasting. -Brin

Monday, November 26, 2012

Delivery Date

I spoke with Mr. Cabin Guy today. The little wooden home is scheduled to be delivered December 17th! I drove away and smiled as I swatted at tears. Good, happy news. What a Christmas!

Time to get back to simplifying and packing. You wouldn't believe the scaling down that's happening over this way in the last few/next few days as I make room for new memories in a new home.

Are y'all ready for another house adventure? We'll have a lot of work to do!  -Brin

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Seeds of Promise

One of my goals for this year was to buy a plant forever. By that I mean, buy or grow a plant once, and begin saving seeds in earnest. No more buying the same plants, year after year.

I got my dried, seeded herbs in their seed packets yesterday, all ready for spring planting. It was satisfying, somehow; a reminder that life will go on, despite what we're facing as a nation... and as a people who love God.

I am thankful, this year, that we have the promise of a hope and a future. A firm footing. A rock, an anchor, and a sure place. Those are seeds of promise I can save in my heart, at Thanksgiving and always.

Happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving. I hope yours is full of rest and contentment. -Brin


Just a note to say that all my hand-knitted House Helper cloths are on sale for 20% OFF through Friday. Enter the coupon code THANKFUL at checkout for your savings. Thank you!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Perfect Spot for a Cottage-Cabin

Think I've decided on just the spot for the cabin:

What do you think? 

-   -   -   -   -

Can you believe it's almost Thanksgiving?!  -Brin

Friday, November 16, 2012

Closed Doors and Beautiful Windows

                                                                      Source: via Brin on Pinterest

I think about my little cabin/shed all the time. Although this is a tough time across the nations, and not an easy time to birth a dream, I remain hopeful. Perhaps closed doors will bring beautiful, open windows. 

Today I online shopped heirloom roses and plump love seats, dreaming of having both nearby. I can hardly wait for a place of my own again. I've felt so anchor-less since Freeman House, you know? Just thinking of owning a place again, however small and humble, brings such excitement and contentment to my heart.

(Stuff aside, we will see Your goodness in the land of the living, God.  Cabins, couches and roses are sweet, but Your love sustains and lasts. Thanks for understanding our need for a forever home... our need for constant beauty. Until You bring both, our hearts yearn....)

I guess where some find their home and their strength in people - loved ones, I suppose- mine has always come from a sense of place. I told God just now that I'm sorry, and need help driving the tent pegs of my heart at the feet of the unchangeable Man instead of changeable circumstances. I'm working on it. It's a process.

Over this past and coming week, I'm packing up the small house and awaiting the time I can call for the cabin. I'm still a few dollars short from paying the delivery fee, but am scheming and selling with the best of desperate girls everywhere. Where there's a will, there is always a way.

Here's to those closed doors, and our hope for beautiful windows instead. Love- Brin

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving In the Air!

Thanksgiving is almost here. I can feel it in the air! Is there any better time of year? 

My apologies for being away so long. Life showed up, claimed my time, and is only now easing up. But listen to this news: I'm happy to say that I am about 3 weeks away from beginning renovations on a cabin! The dream of my heart for so long is about to happen. You'll come with me, won't you? You'll help and advise from there as we take a shell of a cottage and turn it into a cozy, little home, right?

I hope so. It's about time we tackle another home together, isn't it? 

You should know: I'm going all bargains and estate finds and creative on this venture. While a shopping spree at Restoration Hardware would be incredible, it's simply not in the budget. Matter of fact, this weekend I scored a heavy kitchen sink off Craigslist for $10. TEN DOLLARS! I'm using it, too. I'm a girl on a budget, so we're going to be putting in this cabin and starting the gardens off our sheer ingenuity, creativity, and elbow grease. Oh, I'm just so excited! 

In the meantime, I have a few recipes to send your way shortly. And a how-to on my new paperless paper towels. And I'm looking to dip some candles. Does anyone know a great way to get started in that?

And oh yes. My shop, Balm and Honey, is updated with goodies from my latest knitting kick. Hurry to claim yours before the shop is picked clean! (I think my favorite is the Lemon Tea. Those I want to keep...) And thanks, as ever, for your support. Could not do this next phase of my life without your encouragement and help. :)

There are some interesting days ahead. Glad we have each other, aren't you?  

Happy November. -Brin

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Seven Chicks

I ended up with seven chicks: 2 brown, 2 white, one gray, one with brown/black stripes, and one black. And oh! So fluffy and adorable! Especially that lone little black one there. I'll take better pictures soon, but for now I'm trying to leave them under that warm, red bulb and close to their adoptive Mama. They come out from under her wings only to peck at food, crowd around the water, and play. Then it's back under Mama.

It was a wonderful weekend, taking cocoa to the hen house and watching the chicks. It was calming... oddly soothing, somehow... and I became engrossed in watching the new life, watching them waddle and peck and flap their tiny wings for the first time. I wish everyone- children, especially- could have that moment, too.

Today I'm working at finishing this quilt... finally!... and putting together another round of knitted goodies for my online shop. That, and baking bread and putting together a chicken spaghetti. I think some hot comfort food is in order to keep this cozy magic about the place.

Hope your day is cozy. -Brin

Shabby Apple Giveaway Winner!

Good morning, you!

Just popping in to say that we have a winner for last week's Shabby Apple $50 Gift Card Giveaway: it's Timber

Big thanks to all who entered. We'll have to do another Giveaway soon! In the meantime, Shabby Apple is offering an additional 10% off all sale items... just use the code FALLSALE at checkout.

Thanks again! Hoping something happy finds you today. -Brin

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Unto Us A Chick Is Born...

It was early. Chilly. The coldest morning we've had in months, in fact. I hadn't had coffee.

I was in my pajama pants, trying to move quietly toward the hen house but still making a ruckus- crunchy leaves have blown into my little barn, pine shavings have littered out, a tin bucket had fallen from a nail and gotten in my path. So I couldn't hear that little cheep cheep cheep coming from under Hephzibah's feathers.

Wow, was it chilly. I filled the chicken feeder, checked on everyone, tossed them handfuls of grass, and went back in.

But today is the day. It takes chicken eggs 21 days to hatch, give or take how ambitious the chick is. And today is Day 21. Eight eggs... three weeks... and today's the day.
Millie and I went back out to check a little while later. And to my amazement, in the back of the nesting box, a miracle: a tiny, already fluffed-out chick!

I screeched, jumped up and down, and went into a flurry of action: Mama, unhatched eggs, and chick went from the nesting box into my make-shift brooder. Although I've heard not to handle chicks as the Mama won't want them with your smell all over them- I took a chance. I dipped the little one's beak in the electrolyte water and pecked at the chick mash so it would take note.

Four hours later, the little one is already eating chick mash and playing on Hephzibah. And the countdown for the remaining little ones is on. 

From our cozy little place to yours, have a great weekend! -Brin

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Egg Empress

I had rather be on my farm
than be emperor of the world. 
-George Washington

It's egg delivery day, today is. Every shop in town is out of cartons, so I loaded eggs into grass nests in sacks. Necessity, and all. 

A friend down the road is raising meat rabbits, and we were discussing a fair trade of our goods. A deal was struck, so I guess I'm going to be learning to make rabbit stew this fall. Isn't it strange how tough times are forcing life to come full-circle? As badly as I want to return to Dallas some days, I can't imagine it, really. 

I'd rather be in my little wooden house with my garden patch and chickens than be empress of the world...

(Oh! Don't forget: you still have time to enter the Shabby Apple Gift Card Giveaway! Would hate for you to miss out! -Brin) 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shabby Apple Giveaway!

I've been watching one of my favorite movies- Charlotte Gray- and dreaming of a new fall dress this week. What is it about the change of seasons that has us ladies wanting something pretty and different to wear?

And boy do I ever have good news on that front!

Shabby Apple is offering you, my dear reader, a chance to win a $50 Gift Card good for anything on their beautiful site. Hmmm... what will you get? A vintage dress, maybe? Or a casual dress? How about a lacy dress or a retro dress?

Or maybe not a dress at all. Maybe you've been wanting a special occasion blouse. Or bag. Or jewelry. Whatever you've been wishing for and denying yourself, here's your chance to bring it home and step out in something new this fall!

So how does this work? Simple as pumpkin pie:

Visit and pick your favorite item.
Come back here and tell me about it in the comments. That's it!
-  For additional chances to win, you can also:
         -  Like Shabby Apple on Facebook
         -  Tweet about the giveaway with the hashtag:
         -  Post about this giveaway on your blog 

If you do Facebook, tweet, or post this giveaway, be sure to come back and tell us in the comments so you'll have your name in the hat a few extra times! Everyone can have a total of 4 possible entries. And you must have a USA shipping address to be eligible to win. 

So what are you waiting for? Go on over to Shabby Apple now, pick your pleasure, and come back and tell me about it! Thank you for entering! This Giveaway is now closed.

Good luck!  ;)  -Brin

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Win at Winter Gardening

I went to the Feed Store today. It's my retail therapy. Some women go to the mall, or the shoe store, or Sephora. I go to the old barn by the railroad tracks where they've sold feed- and roasted peanuts- for 100 years. My Dad started taking me there when I was nine. It's my happy place.

That, and the yarn shop. But that's another post entirely.

While doing a bit of online seed shopping recently, I came across a "new" type of broccoli and ordered the seeds. I'd hoped to start them today, but they aren't in yet, so I got impatient and went into town for some coffee and look-see at the Feed Store. Is it too early for broccoli sets? Wasn't sure.

I grow broccoli every spring. Trouble is, the springs here in Texas have been getting so warm so quickly that the broccoli, lettuce, kale, peas, onions... all those cool weather crops... burn to a crisp before we get them out of the ground. So we're all getting smart and adapting to our environment, I suppose you could say: this year, our winter gardens are enormous.

Which is a joke in itself. Winter? Texas?? Cue the belly laughs.

I lay awake last night thinking, if we're all going to garden in the winter now, why doesn't someone put out onion sets like they do in the spring? We have to think differently if we expect different results, after all. So after losing sleep last night over onion sets, I nearly shouted when I turned a corner and saw these tucked between an old shelf and the Feed Store's moaning side gate. Onion sets! For winter! We'll have onions, after all!

For just a moment, I was Laura Ingalls Wilder and onion sets were butter.

It's a good thing, too. The onion seeds I started are looking a little... floppy. And this winter, I desperately wanted a win...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Golden, Fading Colors

It's a slow one, today is. I scattered grain for the chickens, collected eggs, and then wandered around the place, pulling at dried-up herbs and swatting at tangled webs holding nothing but leaves.

So glad it's autumn now. It's my favorite season. Time for pumpkins and cocoa and raking and spices and golden, fading colors.

Happy fall to you, wherever today finds you.  -Brin

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Summer Shop Sale...

It's incredible the amount of yarn and tea a girl can go through in the summer. I've stopped many times these past three months and noticed either a glass of iced tea or a tightly-wound ball of yarn close by. It's made me smile.

The end result is that my shop Balm and Honey is stocked with the fruits of my summer labor. Color, shapes, and texture like you wouldn't believe. It's been so fun!

And I'd even like to offer you 10% off... just enter the code GOODBYESUMMER and you'll save instantly.

Happy looking! ...My thanks and best, always. -Brin

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What I Recognize As Belonging

An expectation is a future object, 
recognized as belonging to me.
-Samuel Alexander

A summer storm blew a limb onto the power line yesterday. The chickens were terrified and ran to the coop as the power company came with their chain saws and bucket-in-the-sky truck to cut it all down. I watched from the kitchen window as wood fell, heavy and splintered.

The kitchen in the little red house is dated and cramped. Folks ask for pictures of the house, but it's not much. Honest. If I weren't so focused on saving and preparing for my future cabin, I'd fuss with it. As it is, I put out my stuff and wipe counters and move along.

And of course put out candles and plants. Candles, plants, and good soap. Always.

In the meantime, while I'm here, I visit my Cabin board on Pinterest to plan and dream. I focus not on this house, but on the expectation of my future object- a place I've long recognized as belonging to me...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ten Things

1. I'm glad it's August. Having done July well, I'm eager to see "AUGUST" written across the top of the calendar page. Fall, and relief from the 100+ degree heat, is on the way!

2. I'm making homemade frozen pizzas. Why have I never done this before? Anything to save money on the grocery bill.

3. Speaking of pizza... and saving money... has anyone down South planted tomatoes seeds in August to grow a fall crop? I'm going to try it and see what happens.

4. I'm kicking myself for cutting up beautiful fabric to start a new quilt, then changing my mind on the pattern. Dang it! ;)

5. Time off coming this month- from work and from the Prayer Room. I'm busy 6 days a week, 15+ hours a day, so this is exciting stuff!

6. Chickens are laying!! Love these fresh, brown eggs!

7. This is the most gorgeous music. It's on repeat. 

8. I'm wanting to reread The Forgotten Garden. If you haven't sat down with this one yet, you're missing out!

9. I'm itching to redecorate my living room. Since that's not in the budget, maybe new throw pillows and some flowers will do?

10. Ice cream. Wouldn't it be great if the two of us could sit down with a cone and chat for a few? 

Happy August!  -Brin

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Prayer Room

There's a little about what I'm up to today in my hometown paper. Hope you're having one of those weeks that isn't "one of those weeks", you know?  -Brin

Sunday, July 8, 2012

 Anything for a quiet life. 
-Thomas Middleton
Cloudy morning. Dark, quiet kitchen. Herbs dry above the sink. Plants stand up for the light.

I make iced coffee, then a zucchini dish- one to keep and one to share. The only sounds I hear are of the scrape of grating green, and the flapping of chickens outside the window.

I think I'll read a book today and listen to violin music.
Anything for a quiet life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Would You Look At This!

See this house? This old farmhouse with shiplap walls and original wood floors? 

It reminds me so much of Freeman House. And... it's mine if I want it. A nice lady wants to give me this house. For free. All I have to do is hire someone to move it 3 hours east, and then come up with a suitcase full of cash to pay them.

Insert hopeful/dare-I-dream/get real/never-gonna-happen/can you believe this?/this-stuff- only-yet-doesn't-happen-to-me sentiments here...

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Garden Gives Me Tomato Sauce.

In the winter, when you're straining your eyes seeing seeds into soil, breaking your back planting garlic, and freezing your fingers poking onions in the ground, you dream of this day: tomato sauce day.

Homemade, homegrown pizza-and-pasta sauce day.

I have the magic bubbling on the stove now. Fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes... onions I planted in long rows... garlic I ordered as cloves from Missouri... basil grown from seed- all of it went into my scuffed, black pot this morning. It's been puft puft puft-ing contentedly since. I'll eat what I can and freeze the rest for later.

Ever since Deb debuted her tomato sauce recipe, I've been messing with it. I add onions, a touch of olive oil, and herbs to mine, though. It tastes heavenly. (If you make it, don't skip the butter.) Totally worth all the work to make it happen. And so affordable when you grow it all yourself!

Here's to summer, hardworking girls everywhere, and the sweet taste of success, huh? -Brin

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If you know somethin' well...

If you know somethin' well, you can always paint it 
but people would be better off buyin' chickens.
-Grandma Moses

I found my diary from 2002 the other day. I scarcely recognized the girl I read about in those pages. Brin from 2002 had this amazingly glitz life: reporting career in Dallas... dinner in high-rise restaurants... handsome boyfriend... fancy shoes... condo decorated by a professional... appointments for facials... concert tickets. Man. Brin from 2012 has an amazingly messy life: tutoring English and writing at a local college... dinner from a crockpot... ugh, men... rubber boots with caked-on manure... a little red house... appointments at the vet... and rodeo tickets. My, how time changes everything.

The other night, as I was feeding the chickens, I told them a little about my old life. Colonel Heaven, the keeper of the flock, stood quietly and listened. I was telling him about people, places and things I missed: the old boyfriend, the Granada, riding DART to get facials. And then I told him how ridiculous I felt, standing in the dirt telling a chicken about the good old days like some prattling old lady who stands alone in a pasture talking to hay bales. I laughed and he crowed.

A dear lady wrote me last weekend and asked why I haven't published anything yet. I told her it's because I have to revisit that old life to tell my story, and for now I'm only ready to tell the entire thing to a flock of feathers. (I'm sure the lady now thinks I'm crazy.) But maybe I could paint it- a dark and clashing collection of colors bleeding across many canvases. After all, If you know somethin' well, you can always paint it...

...but people would be better off buyin' chickens.

(Oh! And if you're on Pinterest, help me add to my 'Chicken Littles' board, would you? :)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Little Red House

I live in a little red house at the top of a small hill. Have I said? She sits, solemn and weathered, under two oak trees. Her red wooden boards and aging white trim are nailed on, the nail heads rusted in place. When it's windy you can hear her sigh. But she's a strong, resolute little house, and I feel safe inside her walls. I've been here going on two years.

Beside the house sits a little carport. It's leaning slightly and reminds me of an old country barn. At the back is the chicken coop with its heavy beams and old tin nesting boxes. My chicken feeder- a hand-me-down from the man who cuts grass for the local school- hangs from a thick, rusty chain. I like it in there- in the carport/barn and coop. One day I'll organize and show you.

I tried growing organic garlic again this year. I know it isn't time to harvest yet, but I had to pull most of it. The chickens discovered it and, hearing that garlic and chicken don't mix until dinner time, I had to get it out of the ground. Well, all except for a few spare cloves I sunk into soil last fall alongside the little red house. They're mixing well with cherry tomatoes now, and I hope they do well enough to provide me with seed garlic this fall. (It's all getting so expensive now, isn't it?)

Over the next few weeks I'll do my best to show you a few pictures of life around the little red house. Meanwhile, I have towels on the clothesline and cookies in the oven and some scrubbing to do. Talk soon, right?

Love from my little house to yours. -Brin

P.S. I'm trying to get in touch with a Shelly from WI who emailed me last week. Shelly, if you're reading this, my reply to you is bouncing back. Could you please write again? :)