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