Friday, August 29, 2008

The Adventurer Begins Another...

She's been a pilot. A hunter. A TV announcer. A small business owner. An ice fisherman. She's a sportswoman, a former beauty queen, a governor and a mother. She's a brash, beautiful, ambitious woman who wants to make a difference. She's Sarah Palin, and she's the kind of "every man" woman I dreamed of being when I was a girl.

I swore to myself that I wouldn't get political on my blog, even though as a former Sumners Scholar and reporter, politics is in my blood. But today I just had to say, I am shocked and enthralled by McCain's selection of Palin as a running mate.

No matter where you fall politically, this is an astounding and interesting election. I can hardly wait for November. -Brin

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wind and Wattle

I know I mentioned Saturday... among all the blathering about pumpkins and how I adore fall... that it was storming violently. And when I said violently, I meant, there was violence. The wind and beating rain enacted a force of meanness on the trees the likes of which I'd never seen.

Here's how it happened: I was sitting in the library, trying to finish an awful book I wished I'd never bought, when suddenly I heard a boom. Then a craaaaack. Then the sound of a thousand heavy leaves falling. All was silent for a second, then came a thud. The house trembled. Millie jumped and I screamed and together we raced through the library, across the entry and into the dining room.

We stayed there, beside lit candles and pumpkins, while the wind blew. And wouldn't you know, within several moments history repeated itself: boom... craaaaack... falling... thud... tremble. (Note: it takes more than your average bear to frighten me. I was scared to death.)

Turns out the parts of two trees, a cottonwood and a pecan, had fallen from the sky to the house to the ground. One branch - the one by the kitchen - landed on the kitchen steps. I know it doesn't seem so alarming from the picture above, but that branch is 13 inches across and over 20 feet long.

So, when the wind gives you branches what do you make? Wattle. You make wattle. A sort of wattle fence, that is. A non-willow, Texified version. Ever since Saturday I have determined to become an expert Texas wattler, making wattle the likes of which no one has ever seen. Wattle that will impress my friends and astonish my neighbors.

You're laughing? I hear you laughing. It's okay. I'm cracking up, too. I'm laughing all the way to my new wattle fencing. For where there's a windy will, there's a windy way. Where there's wind, there's wattle.

At least that's what I always say. (laugh)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Morning Glories

The morning and evening
should be alike calm and cheerful.
-Thomas Arnold

Do you have a favorite time of day? I do. Two, actually: morning and late evening. I'm sure those of you with kids or hectic days are frowning and rolling your eyes... no doubt your mornings and evenings nearly kill you coming and going. I'm sorry. Here it isn't that way. Here the mornings and evenings are beautiful and peaceful, complete with tea or coffee, flowers, and church bells in the distance.

But the flowers. You should see them. There are roses. Pink, yellow, red, lavender and white roses. There's a group of hydrangeas and hostas... of daffodils and tulips. But someone before me (was it Ms. Freeman?) adored blue Morning Glories. I mean, loved them. I did, too, until I bought this old place. A rambling, clinging vine with trumpet-shaped blue flowers that opened, like clockwork, only to greet the sun? Magical, I thought. Something only God... in His clever, gorgeous way... could pull off.

And then the rambling, yawning-blue-to-the-sun vines began to creep, climb, and conquer.

They twisted up tomato cages, over sunflowers, alongside runner beans and down pumpkin stems. They united in a brazen plot to cover and choke my garden, one heart-shaped leaf and spring-loaded bloom at a time. And while I was away... while I lived in the mountains... the Morning Glories claimed the place, one petal, leaf, and stem at a time.

There are certain parts of the garden I'm avoiding, for now, until the weather turns cool enough to deal with the Morning Glories. Until then, I'm enjoying my early days and early nights elsewhere.

But I do love those times, troublesome flowers notwithstanding. I love the anticipation and reflection of dawn and dusk. My goal is to take time, at least once a day, to breathe those moments in... to not lose them forever. And at Freeman House you can. Time here seems different than everywhere else. I wonder how that is?

Wishing you a wonderful day, regardless of your favorite part and despite your own Morning Glories. -Brin

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Fair, A House Helper Collection

I adore these pretties. House Helpers is what I call them. They're handknit cloths... the softest, most durable, most absorbent ones to ever grace a sink, cleaning bucket, bag or car. Stop by Freeman House and I guarantee you'll find them peeking out of all sorts of corners: kitchen corners, bathroom corners, laundry corners, cleaning corners, Millie corners. I keep... and use... them everywhere.

And now you can, too. I have seven sets up for grabs at the Freeman House Shop on etsy, just in time for wrapping up our summers and getting cozy for fall. They make great hostess gifts, friend gifts, or "I'm having a bad day and I need this" gifts. And all the proceeds go to save this historic house, so you can feel even better about snatching a few up. (wink)

Happy shopping! -Brin

**Update: Wow! Those went quickly! I'll have five additional sets up for grabs next week, so if you missed out yesterday, stay tuned. And thanks, lucky House Helper grabbers, for the support!**

Monday Moment: Sunset

When I admire the wonders of a sunset...
my soul expands in the worship of the creator.
-Mohandas Gandhi

Sunset, viewed from behind a pot of scorched rosemary. Pink sky. Long blue shadows. Sunset.

Sometimes I cry as I watch dusk fall. Makes me think of someone I love very much. Someone who isn't here... who won't ever be. I miss him. I never wanted to see all these days slip into darkness without him.

A trusted friend slipped me a book... oh, months ago. The Language of Letting Go. I read it often and pray my prayers and hope on a new day... on the thought that joy comes with the morning. And with each sunset I find peace and promise. Some more than others, but always a little peace and always a bit of promise.

Isn't it encouraging to know that God is eternal? I see a sunset and think of the millions that have come before and the ones that I am allowed to glimpse and my heart feels heavy with awe. He is lovely. He is good. And my hopeless hopes, no matter how scorched... no matter how over... pale in comparison to the beauty He has waiting for me. To the glory I'll one day behold in Him.

When I admire the colors, the shadows, the streaks, and the fading of a sunset, my own soul expands in thanks and worship of the Creator.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
But joy comes with the morning.
-Psalms 30:5

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stormy Saturday (With Pumpkins)

I planted pumpkins this morning. It was time. There's only three months until Thanksgiving, and the pumpkins I adore take 60-90 days to mature. Millie dug while I pulled weeds and together we managed to clear out enough of the decaying summer garden to make room for a fall harvest.

The recipe for a cozy Saturday? Come in after planting seeds the shape of rain drops, take a hot shower, towel off and sit in the library until it's time to make a grilled cheese sandwich, tomato soup and tea. Then pick out a new book, settle in, and watch as it begins to drip outside the library window.

When it begins to storm - violently - leave the library for the warm glow of a mantle-side chair in the dining room. Get as comfortable as you can, what with a brown puppy in your lap, and read until it stops thundering.

So cozy. I'm so pleased with the dining room at Freeman House. It's painted a Martha Stewart color called Malted, and it glows and radiates this other-worldly warmth in natural, candle, or lamp light. Even during a very dark Saturday afternoon when the wind and rain blows just beyond that wall.

(The pumpkins, by the way, are from my [spring] test run patch, grown from my own saved organic seed. They're of the Long Island Cheese variety, and they're the ones you want when making pumpkin pies, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin butter, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin soup... you get the idea. If you're local, be sure to buy a few from the Freeman House patch this year. If you're not from around these parts, shop around until you find some of these beauties. You'll be glad.)

More on pumpkins and gardening this week. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Quiet Friday Night

It's turning fall here. Or it feels as though it is. It's been rainy and dark and I've only had to turn on the air conditioner once. Amazing for Texas in August.

If you've read this blog awhile, you know autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the ciders and the hot chocolates. The sight of burnt-colored leaves hurrying by billowing, quilted throws on the line. I adore football and Autumn in New York. I like the chilly evenings and the warm fires. There's something magical about pumpkins and Indian corn and hay rides. And I appreciate the excuse to turn on the oven and cook things long and slowly. You can have summer; fall is my time.

In the bottom of a knitting basket I found two skeins of orange yarn. It was reason enough: I'm taking tonight off, staying home, cooking dinner, watching the Cowboys and knitting a scarf for fall.

And playing with the puppy. Hasn't she grown? My ever-by-my-side, rosemary-thieving Millie. She's glad to be home, I think, running about and kicking up leaves that are already falling outside the kitchen door. This dog has the sweetest temperament. She's parked beside me now as I type, chewing her bone and looking up at me every so often. Soon she'll be ready to go out again. Perhaps it will stop raining long enough for a walk.

We'll hope so.

If you need us tonight, we'll be here, camped out by the windows in the library, watching the rain and eating Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding and knitting.

Happy weekend. -Brin

P.S. If you love fall as I do, treat yourself to this book. You'll treasure it more every year. Simply titled, Autumn is a heart-warming collection of quotes, recipes, and ideas to settle yourself in for a beautiful fall.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sneaking Home... And A Kitchen Question

I'm back.

Really back. As in, the telephone company is coming Thursday to turn on the phone service at Freeman House. I hope to be home for good. I'm praying I'm home for good.

What does this mean? It means very exciting things. This means I can actually be here to tend a garden. It means work will begin (again) on the old place. It means lunches will soon be served out of the house. It means I can be home to share autumn with you.

It's wonderful. Isn't it? It's a proud day.

I celebrated this afternoon by climbing atop a ladder and taking a stab at removing the cheesecloth wallpaper still clinging to the wooden walls in the kitchen. The walls are over 120 years old. They're solid, tongue-and-groove wood. Cedar, I think. The floors are pine. (Back in 2005, a builder from New Orleans offered me good money to let him tear the house down so he could sell the wood. I think I told him to take a hike.)

So, question: suppose Freeman House was yours. Would you cover the wooden walls in the kitchen with sheet rock or plaster? Or would you clean them, polish them, and leave the 120+ year old plank walls for all the world to see?

Think on it, would you? I'd be grateful. In the meantime, I'm going to unpack and make a pot of stew and some Chocolate Bread Pudding for dinner....

Hello again. Glad to see you. It's good to be home.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dreaming, Living and Stomping

Dream as if you'll live forever.
Live as if you'll die today.
-James Dean

One of my dreams: to go grape stomping before I turned thirty. Grape stomping was the thing, Delaney Vineyards was the place, and today was the day.

It was a perfect day. I loved the colors best. The sky sat a heavy, muted shade of gray. The vines unfurled an emerald green. And the grapes? They blushed a blueberry blue. Piles and piles of blueberry blue.

I wanted to take them all home and spill them from baskets and just look at them.

You couldn't, of course. It was harvest day at the vineyards and buckets and bins of grapes sat around waiting for their turn in the tumbler, a machine that separated the grapes from their stems. Men with large plastic shovels stood on top of the machine and scooped grapes into the hopper. I thought of those two scoops of raisins commercials and laughed.

I'm not sure what kind of grapes they use for raisins, but these weren't them. The grapes my friend and I saw today were headed for Delaney's wooden barrels, to ferment and age and become Merlot and Chardonnay wines.

After they were stomped, of course.

Stepping into a vat of mushed grapes is unlike any other feeling I've ever felt. Slushy and gritty, the mixture also ran fluid and slippery. Feeling that purple soup churn around my ankles reminded me of something one would experience in a spa. It was comforting, somehow. Almost therapeutic. I could have squished and stirred those grapes all day.

But I didn't. I lifted one foot out, then the other, and breathed a happy sigh. I did it. Under a stormy gray sky alongside twisting, emerald vines, I stomped grapes. Before I turned thirty. And it was as wonderful as I'd envisioned.

I'll drink (a wine sample) to that.

So here's to us. Here's to dreaming a little and living even more. -Brin

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bundles, Bags and Grape Stomping

In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.
-Albert Camus

It's so good to turn away from the world on occasion. Especially us. Especially now, in this day and time when we're all so busy we have to stop to remember which way we were facing to begin with. Whew.

To say that I've enjoyed my time away is an understatement of the highest order. I'm really only popping in now to say that, yes, I'm fine. (No need to send any more frantic, worried emails and such demanding to know my condition or whereabouts. I assure you: I didn't fall off a plane or die of whooping cough or anything.) Nope, I've just been around - here and there - doing the things I must and a few of the things I enjoy. Like today.

Today is a day for pouring deep, icy glasses of tea, putting a pan of brownies in the oven, plopping onto the couch, watching movies, and sewing up prototypes of the handbag I'm hoping to make as Christmas gifts for girly friends and family. I got one of Alicia's Precious Bundles for inspiration and decided to piece these by hand. (I'm going for something like this, only a little more vintage/country summer afternoon feeling.) I love sewing by hand. It forces me to slow down; I always try to breathe very deeply and sit calmly when I sew. Very therapeutic, especially when you're doing something as simple as sewing two squares together.

I sit calmly today because the rest of the week I fly about like the batted ball in a pinball machine. Among the many things on the agenda this week? Grape stomping. Yep, grape stomping. As in, go to a vineyard and squish vats of grapes with your bare feet. Weird, I know. But on my list of "Thirty Things To Do Before I'm Thirty"... the list I made four years ago... number 17 reads: "Go grape stomping". Don't know why except that it just always seemed silly and messy and romantic. Not a bit like me, you understand. (Ha.)

So there's your update. I'm good. I'm keeping busy with bundles, bags, brownies and grape stomping. If you were wondering what I'm up to, now you (sort of) know.

Hope this finds you awfully well and enjoying the fading summer. -Brin