Monday, December 21, 2015

Come, Christmas

I'm not sure about you, but this Christmas elf is ready to hang her stockings and enjoy the holiday!


I have been nonstop sewing/crafting/baking/knitting and making for a week. Hats, scarves, rose petal bath soak, herb salts, handmade soaps (like the oat and raw honey, above), cookies, breads, needlepoint gifts and photo coasters. Yesterday I had three projects working, and would toss one aside when I get stuck or frustrated or sick of looking at it, only to pick up another project and resume it. (Does anyone else do this?) But I'm beginning to see an end in sight. Everything MUST be wrapped by Christmas Eve morning, so the race is on. Oooof.

Not to be outdone, each of the three nonprofits I either run (or am an officer of) decided that this week would be a great week to meet. Do what? I feel like a magic Christmas ninja suddenly. Need an Excel treasurer's report for the beekeeper's association? Sure! Passing out 150 hats and gloves and blankets to the homeless? Absolutely! Want me to file nonprofit corp articles for a state I don't live in by Christmas? No problem. 

Come, Christmas. Come with your sit down-ed-ness and peace and hot chocolate and twinkly lights and food and... chairs. I've never needed you as badly as I do this year. Come, Christmas, come.

Wishing you rest and peace this week, friends. -Brin

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Roses in December

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.
- James M. Barrie

The roses are blooming here at Hedge House. In December. Such a strange year. Yesterday, I snipped several frothy flowers from the spring-like bushes and brought them in to admire. Roses in December. I'll take them.

I think all but three of the gifts wrapped under my tree this year are handmade. I'll show them to you later this week. I made milk and honey soaps- several scents- with the fall honey from my hive. They're gorgeous! I'm pairing those with handsewn dish towels and... presto gift-o! Whew. And since the roses were so prolific this year, I'm making Rose and Lavender Potpourri and little muslin bags of Rose Bath Tea. Pair those with handknit cloths and we have a simple but sweet gift. And of course, I'm baking: breads with side jars of homemade honey butter (again, from the hive), along with cookies and cakes. Yum! Last, but not least, are the knitted offerings: hats, blankets, and pillows. Oooof. Bring on the last minute Christmas crafting!

Speaking of handknit cloths, there are several Christmas cloths left in the shop that are perfect for last minute giving and stocking stuffers. Order by Thursday and both of us will rest easy that your gift will arrive in time for Christmas. Here's the link. (The Sugarplum Fairy cloths are my favorite this year!) 

Are you making any gifts for Christmas this year? What does your holiday present list look like? Feel free to share. 

Have a cozy Tuesday. -Brin

Friday, December 11, 2015

#ChristmasCares

Many of you responded to the last post with words I didn't expect. Truly. I've gotten emails and messages through Facebook and, with different voices, we all said the same thing: this Christmas is different, somehow.

I was thinking about it last night as I got up from the piano and stood in the middle of the front room and stared at the (still half undecorated) tree. Usually I have presents piled underneath it by this time in the season. But this year, on December 10, I can still see the Christmas tree skirt. And then it hit me: many of us are spending our days in the silent company of loss this Christmas. Just raw, consuming loss. 

It's true. Some are grieving the loss of someone they dearly loved who is now painfully absent from holiday activities and plans. Stockings are missing. A chair will be empty. A holiday will never again be the same... Some are mourning the loss of a job, a career, a sense of stability. Meals will get skipped. Parties and trips will be put off or avoided. Presents won't be exchanged. (There's just no money.)... Others are mourning the loss of a future they were once confident in. A country that held promise and opportunity. Now, the world is unraveling, and there's talk of dreadful, unspeakable things on the horizon... And still others are suffering through a loss of health and wellness. They'll be there, sure, but their family won't know- they can't let the children/grandchildren see- the agony they feel in their bones. The worry of whether this will be their last Christmas. The fear and grief of knowing time is running out and their days are numbered.

Loss is everywhere this Christmas. We're seeing it on each other's faces and feeling it in our own hearts. Times have changed. Life is different.

But oh, grieving and desperate hearts, Hope is coming, and soon we will see Him with our very own eyes.

Because of Jesus- my Hope whose birth was declared by a star... my Hope whose body hung on a tree- I have assurance that this life will one day be nothing more than a memory. I have hope that one day every tear will be wiped away, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. I am convinced that whatever loss we suffer here we'll someday see with perspective and understanding. I believe we'll be the first to admit these days were "light, momentary afflictions". (Can  you imagine? A day when your heart will be so full- and so joyful- that you'll say that without reserve?)

This year, I dragged in the biggest Christmas tree I could find. And I'm decorating it with all the stars I had and can make. Not because I feel merry and holly and jolly this Christmas. I don't. Not amid all the suffering and fear and loss. I did it because this year, because of Calvary's tree, I have hope. I did it because, just as it did 2,000 years ago, a "star" unthinkably appeared in the skies again, declaring that a King is alive and Hope is on its way.

In light of all this- the afflictions... the star... the Hope that this season declares, I'm doing something new this Christmas. I'm wrapping a box of "Christmas cares"- concerns and prayers and griefs and hopes- and putting I'm it at the foot of the tree. The Bible invites us to cast our cares on God, after all, so I'm wrapping them up for Him. And all season long, I'm going to let my cares sit there, at the foot of the tree, underneath the light and the stars, and I'm going to rest in the knowledge that we, too, are secure in the same place- between the cross of Jesus and His glorious coming. Between the gift of His love and the joy of His presence. Between the darkness of death and the light of life.

Wrap your cares, too, if you want. Wrap up a memory. A picture. A letter. A list. Put your concerns or prayers or grief or hopes in a box and wrap them up for Him. And then put it under your tree if you have one... or near a candle if you don't. Take a picture, if you want, of your Christmas cares, and comment here. Or post it online and hashtag it #Christmascares. Together, our silent cares might encourage each other and tell of our assurance in Christ, our reason for celebrating in such a time as this, and our hope that He's coming again to make everything right. Together we can celebrate Christmas this year with tears in our eyes, longing in our souls, and hope in our hearts.

I wish you a Hopeful Christmas this year. -Brin

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Absences and the Wistful Christmas

Finally! Er... hello, you! Anyone out there? Please allow me to apologize profusely for my absence. Blogger decided (for over a week) that I didn't exist anymore, at least until I was able to convince them to the contrary. Login credential issues are finally fixed. Blah. Okay. We're back. And just in time for Christmas!


Ah, yes. Christmas. This one feels so strange to me. Anyone else feeling that, too? It seems like it's showing up this year as if it's uninvited. It's wistful, nearly. Subdued. As if it knows it was included at the last minute, so it's going to stand in the corner and quietly sip a drink and not make eye contact. Or maybe it's just me after the year we've had. Hello, Christmas 2015. Come on in, by all means. Let me give you a hug and introduce you around and make you comfortable so you'll stay awhile longer.

In spite of this being a financially tight year for us, I'm determined to make our first Christmas at Hedge House a calm and memorable one. So yesterday I played Christmas music and sat on the front porch and clipped branches and boxwood. Piles of branches and boxwood. Then I wired them onto a 30" wreath form and ended up with a beautiful, full wreath. For around four dollars. Hello there, wistful, budget Christmas! You look beautiful.


Today I'm baking breads (pumpkin, banana and white wheat) and playing more Christmas music and finishing up a gift for my sister and gluing clothespin ornaments. (Have you seen these? I'm all about how simple and affordable they are!) I'm being forever slow with decorating this year, but plan to have it all up and clean on Friday. Then Christmas and I can sit down catch up...

...as I hope we can, too. Thanks for sticking around and being patient in my absence.

Happy Christmastime! -Brin

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...

...it 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 bread...to how brew your own kombucha...to how to start keeping bees...to 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:

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! 

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....

-Brin

Friday, October 16, 2015

Finally Fall

Finally, it's here: the day that promises to blow summer on its way and escort autumn in- beautiful, umber colored, spicy scented autumn. Welcome, fall. So glad you've come for another visit.

The afternoon high here yesterday reached about 95 degrees. Today, though, autumn is finally here... and with her, relief. And leaves. And curly-vine pumpkins. And a cool, settled feeling in the air. I look forward to this day every year, this Finally Fall day.

And now it's finally here. It's finally time for blanket scarves and hot, spiced drinks and walks through the autumn woods and thick, woolly socks. It's finally time for simmering soups all day and leaving the screen door open and lighting the fire pit. It's finally time to catch our breath again, and exhale the breath we didn't even know we were holding. It's finally fall, and I couldn't be more content.

Wishing you a beautiful autumn, wherever you are and however it looks for you today.
 
 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Knitting for Nephew

I got word yesterday that my first niece/nephew could arrive any moment now. My youngest brother and his wife are expecting a little boy... the first grandchild of the family. Excited isn't even the word. Thrilled isn't even the word. Already, this baby boy is well loved.

Following a popular design on Pinterest, I sewed the little one some burp cloths. They were great fun to stitch and turned out sturdy and sweet, I thought. Once those were gifted, I set about knitting. The first soft and squishy thing off my needles was this little hat: simple, standard, no frills. My brother is adamant about the no-frills bit for his son... and my sister-in-law is a fan of anything orange, so this seemed appropriate.

I've also recently gotten my hands and eyes on a copy of Knitting Gifts for Baby. Oh. These designs are completely wonderful. I'm actually off to the yarn store here in a bit to find some yarn for a little jacket... and a rattle... and maybe that blanket.... ... There just isn't enough yarn or time in the world, you know? 

Speaking of time, can you believe it's already mid-October? It's alarming how quickly these days are slipping by!

Hope today finds you well, friend. Happy Wednesday! -Brin

P.S. This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, but I'm not connected in any way to the author/publisher and my love for this book (and resulting recommendation) is my own, of course, and given without any compensation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Modest Fall Harvest

There is nothing in this world like tasting the first spoonful of honey from your very own beehive. Nothing can compare to that heavy, golden sweetness of your own personal, local, raw honey. It's an experience I wish everyone could have... similar to biting into the first vegetable you ever grew or wearing the first dress you ever made. There's just something- otherworldly- about these moments. To me, they're everything that's authentic and real and lovely in this life.

This weekend was my first fall honey harvest. Wanting to leave my bees every advantage this winter, I left them all but one bulging frame of honey. They'll live off those honey stores until the earth begins blooming again in the spring, so my "harvest" was modest, to say the least.








But oh, the quality of that harvest! I used the (old fashioned) crush and strain method to extract that gorgeous honey (also called the jar to jar method), and yielded over 2 pints of honey from that single frame. Two pints! The goal here was to filter the raw honey without heating it, thereby keeping it in its purest, most unadulterated form. This morning, I rendered the beeswax so I can begin making balms. Oh man. The quality of this honey and wax is... like nothing I've ever tasted or seen. This is real. This is authentic. This is pure

I'm hooked for life.

If you've ever wanted to get into beekeeping, I encourage you: do it. Don't put it off! If bees aren't your thing, please, I encourage you: support your local beekeeper. Plant bee friendly plants. Buy local, raw honey. 

Here's to many more fall honey harvests! Wishing you a sweet Monday. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Laundry, Food and TV Day

With the exception of a lunchtime meeting, it's a quiet, laundry and day-in-the-kitchen sort of day today. The sort of day when you just keep feeding clothes into the washer and food into the oven: a cake, some rolls, a quiche. (Into the oven. Not the washer. I'm not putting quiche into the washer, obviously. Ugh. I could go back and revise that sentence, but I'm not.) Anyway. Lately I've been all about making meals ahead and doubling recipes so I don't have to cook as often. I'm extraordinarily grateful for this leisure time to get things done today!

 

Speaking of leisure time, have you seen The Time In Between on Netflix? I stumbled upon it this week and am entranced with the setting, the dresses, the characters. (I also want to pull out my sewing machine big time. Apparently I'm not alone in that, because sewing machine sales are up 197% in Spain since this show debuted!) But most everything I watch these days is a period drama: Downton Abbey, Foyle's War, Poirot, Call the Midwife, Land Girls, The Bletchley Circle, Bomb Girls. So just know this recommendation is coming from a girl who wants to be anywhere, in any time period, except America 2015. (Surely we were born here and for such a time as this, though?)

Also. Friends are telling me to give Dancing on the Edge and Velvet a go. And I'm hearing that Indian Summers is the new Downton Abbey. Does anyone have an opinion on this?

Apparently it's a fold socks and cook and talk TV day. I'm okay with that. We need these times every now and then, right?

Enjoy your Thursday! -Brin 

P.S. All of these series are on Netflix, I believe, except Indian Summers on PBS.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I'd Like You to Meet...

   
If you have a moment, I'd like to introduce you to the old place today. Everyone, meet Hedge House- a rambling, resolute old wooden house surrounded by lines of creeping shrubs.


When I first heard a neighbor refer to the place as the hedge house, I thought they were saying "The Edge House". I loved it. The house is nothing but edges and corners and angles. Its hallway juts out with a sharp-edged turn. This room in the north corner (pictured below) has a strange interior configuration of corners and edges. So I was a bit disappointed when I realized the place is, in fact, identified by its "hedges"... not "edges". Edge House sounded very Agatha Christie. Hedge House sounded very bland and nondescript. Hedge House. Maybe that's what it's known as, but I wasn't feeling it. It's why I hesitated for so long to introduce you two.

And then it happened. I was listening to this song recently- a song I've become attached to since seeing Audra play live in 2010- and suddenly remembered it was one of the first songs I ever played in this house. As in, I recall this music echoing through the empty rooms when I was alone here that first day. The song draws from Psalms 139, which says:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And You are acquainted with all my ways....
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me. 
 
You have hedged me... Hedge... You have hedged me behind and before... Hedge House. Suddenly, it all fit:
Hedge 
[hej]

noun
- A row of bushes or small trees planted close together
- Any barrier or boundary

verb (used with object), hedged, hedging
- To enclose or separate
- To surround and confine 
- To protect with qualifications that allow for unstated contingencies 
- To mitigate a possible loss by counterbalancing
Hedge House.

Maybe the house has been recognized by its untamed hedges for years, but I don't think that's why I ended up here, of all houses. I think it's because Hedge House has a purpose: to enclose, to surround, and to protect me and all who stay here. I think it's a physical representation of a spiritual reality. We are being hedged in, literally, in Hedge House.

You have hedged me behind and before...

It makes me tear up... and kinda give me chills... just to write it down for you. I recall how the years at Freeman House seemed, prophetically, almost, to revolve around just that: freedom. And it makes me wonder if my life at Hedge House will mimic the same, you know?

Anyway. Everyone, meet Hedge House. I'm excited to show you so much more in the coming days. There are even plans to open the place up and let folks stay in a suite and hang out, eat, and get acquainted. Wouldn't that be fun? I'd love for you to have the chance to fall for this place as much as I am.

Welcome to a new adventure, y'all. Welcome to Hedge House.  -Brin

Monday, October 5, 2015

Life

Please accept my apologies for dropping off the face of the blog planet last week. My best laid plans were shoved aside when we got a call Tuesday that Josh's teenage niece was in the hospital and the prognosis wasn't good. We drove to New Orleans on Wednesday and she died in the night Friday. I can't imagine what it would be to lose a teenage child... even if that child had been ill from birth. I'm sure the Baker family would appreciate a quick prayer if you could spare one.
So I wasn't able to get as much done on the house as I'd planned last week. Except one thing. Yesterday evening, Josh helped me tackle one of the huge eyesores on the south side of the house: the dreaded flower bed.

Oh y'all. This thing was terrible. I searched (in vain) for a picture that captured the grown-up-edness of this side of the house and came up empty. About all I have is that circled area in the picture above. (Yeah. Not much.) But it was bad. Thorny vines, bushes, small oak trees, weeds and trash choked this long stretch of ground underneath the south side's sun porch. It took us weeks of dodged effort to get it all out; we would hack and pull and let the sun beat down on exposed roots/stems and wither them... then we'd pull them out. It would have gone much faster with equipment, I'm sure, but we managed with a shovel, a pick axe and a rake. Oooooof. But yesterday, finally, we got it all cleared.

Then came the fun part: moving the ancient concrete edgers from the four corners of the property back to where they sat originally. Then we laid (biodegradable) cardboard on top of the weeded ground... and piles of raked leaves over the cardboard. And then, finally, the wood chip mulch. We finished just as the sun was setting:

Finally. Finally, that bed is put back in order. We have to chain saw out that random bush and then I'm going to let it sit all fall and winter. In the spring, I'll get some landscaping and herb planting done. But progress! Progress makes my heart happy.

Speaking of progress, I think the old place finally has a name. Like Freeman House, it's the name everyone calls it, so it's obvious. But it's taken me awhile to warm up to it. It's just too simple and too... plain. I don't know. But it fits. Come back tomorrow and I'll introduce you two properly.

Monday! We are blessed to see you again. Thank you, God, for life... and please be with those who are mourning its loss today.... -Brin

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A September Sale!!

I have been knitting. Knitting, knitting, knitting. Ball after ball of yarn has been unraveled and transformed into all manner of the [greatly] beloved House Helpers. And now they're on sale! For the rest of September, find my handmade, 100% USA cotton House Helper cloths discounted at my shop. Then enter coupon code SAVESEPTEMBER for an additional 10% off!

I'm making room for a line of unique, handmade goodies for the holidays (shopping totes out of vintage pillowcases!... bread bags out of vintage linens!, etc.) and need to clear some space to make room for everything. Yay! No better excuse for a sale. *wink*

Run on over and get yours before they're gone by clicking here! And thanks... ever so much thanks... for supporting handmade. -Brin

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Hard Thing About Prayers

I got a series of Facebook messages this weekend from a man old enough to be my father. He has, he told me, lost his faith. His words were raw and real and hard to read. I woke up in the middle of the night Sunday thinking of them. All I could do was pray.

The more I thought about his God complaints and accusations, the more his words faded into this blurry canvas of dark, deep hurt. Hurt that felt unacknowledged. Prayers that seem unanswered. At the crux, he doesn't feel God has been listening, and if God has, well, His unresponsiveness is cruel. 

But there's one thing I'm learning from this constant stream of people- all ages and genders, friends and perfect strangers- who reach out to me: they come to me for reassurance that God cares. Why else would someone who's "lost their faith" reach out to a person of faith, as opposed to an unbeliever? To me it's obvious: we want someone to convince us that God hears us and that God loves us.

Friday, September 25, 2015

What We're Doing To Our Bibles

If you're a print Bible reading sort of person, you may be aware of the Bible journaling phase that's sweeping the print-Bible-reading-sort of-person nation. If you're new to this mad fad, I encourage you to take a second to Google or Pinterest search this. It's insane.

This is my Bible. Inspiration courtesy of genius on Tumblr.
For real, go search. In fact, I'm going to, too, because it's new and strange and you won't believe how talented some of these pages are.

....

Anyway. I am a print Bible reading sort of person, so I watched from the sidelines as these brave and careless people began writing, doodling, coloring, and doing all sorts of artsy things within the pages of their holy book. I wanted to dive in to this particular Bible weirdness, but I was raised Baptist. (Baptists don't dance, don't drink, and certainly don't color in their adult Bibles.) But then one day, I could stand it no longer. I have a study Bible that I would never draw in, but I have another that was a gift... more for casual reading. I picked up some colored pencils and began sketching something similar to a picture I saw on Tumblr. 

It was freeing. Like, kid drawing on the wall with nail polish, kind of freeing. It felt so rebellious and yet again, so right. Instantly, I was converted. 

Do you read the Bible? Do you ever write (journal, color, go crazy) in yours? This fall, I feel a renewed inspiration to spend time with my Bible, specifically in Genesis, Psalms, Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelations. I see much drama coming forth from- and on- these thin, delicate pages.

Speaking of thin and delicate, I picked up a few supplies to go with my underlining/highlighting/doodling/writing in the Bible phase. It should be noted that you can't begin "personalizing" your Bible with just any old rough, heavy pens and markers. So far, these color pencils are fantastic. Ditto for these no-bleed-through Bible highlighters. And don't try this for yourself without getting a hold of Micron's Bible Study Kit. What? I write with them for everything now. Love Micron pens.

Are you in on this Bible journaling and art thing? Would you rather walk the center aisle naked before you'd ever draw in your Bible? Tell me about it and we'll discuss. 

Happy Friday and weekend! -Brin

This post includes affiliate links. Because bloggers cannot live on Bread alone. (Haha. Bible joke.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Luxury of Common Threads

In the tapestry of childhood, 
what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trips to Disneyland 
but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: 
the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, 
Saturday morning pancakes.
-Kim John Payne

It occurs to me that, elsewhere, most are not living a life with common threads. There are no family dinners around the table. No bedtime stories. No Saturday morning pancakes.

Today I am painfully aware of my blessings... and my routine refusal to recognize them and be thankful.

Enjoying the luxury of common threads today, and thanking God for His graciousness. Even in hard times, we have so much to be thankful for....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The New (Growing!) Recipe Index

Just in case you wanted to kick off fall with a big... eating fest, now you have help! I'm so excited to announce that my indexed recipes are now available without the hassle of digging through archives or searching the entire blog!

 Texas Sweet Tea anyone?

 Or maybe some light and scrumptious Cheddar Crisps?

 Maybe Texas Loaded Queso Dip is more of your thing. It is football season, after all!

 
Or maybe you're feeling that Fall Apple Cake in honor of the first day of fall? Whatever you're in the mood for- whatever recipe I've featured here over the past 11 years- can now be had by clicking that handy dandy Recipe tab above. So much more convenient, right?

New recipes will be added weekly, but I'm sure you'll see a few old favorites already.

Happy cooking! -Brin