Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the Peas

My tangle of peas in the garden is doing so well. As clouds huddled and thunder growled overhead, I worked the damp rows Saturday pulling weeds, spreading compost, checking for signs of trouble.

I love listening to nature's music as I work in the garden. Birds. Butterfly wings. Wind mimicking waves as it sails through leaves of nearby oaks. I close my eyes and listen and breathe until I feel my heart slow... feel my shoulders shrug off the load I forgot I carry.

In the garden, at the piano, and near my stove I feel tethered to something real again. I feel whole. I feel as if everything's going to be okay.

Amazing how a patch of dirt and tangled vines can do that...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Content Call Out

Usually this stuff blows right by me. But today it's under my skin. I'm talking about stealing content. Copying and pasting others' work and words and pretending as if it's yours when it's obviously not. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, smashing and grabbing content and selling it off as your own isn't. It's a bit thoughtless, I think. A bit thoughtless and a lot rude.

It's been happening so often with my blog lately that I finally decided to mention it. Hey, we all make mistakes. No one's a perfect blogger or completely original thinker. But if you lift words or images from this site, please attribute content or link back to this blog.

I appreciate your understanding.  -Brin

A Farm for the Future

I am a gardener. But for a living, I own a small oil and gas consulting/brokerage business. Needless to say, I am fascinated by topics such as energy and agriculture, peak oil, sustainable food supply, and even permaculture.

(You guessed it. I'm not the kind of gal you take to a funny movie. All my "Recommended For You" suggestions on Netflix fall in their "cerebral" category. Boring, right? ;)

But this isn't. If you're a gardener, a farmer, a homesteader, or anyone interested in the future of our food production, you may be as fascinated by A Farm for the Future as I was.

Or maybe not. But it was worth a shot.


Happy weekend. -Brin

Thursday, April 28, 2011

...How much piecing a quilt's like living a life...
The Lord sends us the pieces, but we can cut 'em out
 and put 'em together pretty much to suit ourselves...
-Eliza Calvert Hall, Aunt Jane of Kentucky

I started piecing this quilt four years ago, I think. I needed some bright spots, some lightness to my life. Some sunshine. Some open spaces.

Think I'll finish it these next two weeks. I think I'll sit under that apple tree in the sunshine and stitch the layers together. And I think I'll attach a special tag on the back with the above quote stitched to it.

There's so much on my heart this week. So much I want to say. But something isn't quite right so I delete it all and wander back to my basket of half-realized quilt.

Here's to pieces and the hope that they will one day come together...

. . . . .

Oh yes. If you're not familiar with Project Gutenberg, you might want to be. Digital copies of thousands of ebooks and manuals- free for the greedy taking.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How To Make Your Own Deodorant


In about five minutes.

With five ingredients.

All natural.  No aluminum chlorohydrate, aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, or aluminum compounds.  :)

For way cheaper than you can buy it.

Same consistency as the deodorant you're used to.

And it works.

Okay, I won't bore those who aren't interested with the details. If you're into this and would like my recipe, all the information's over at the My Messy, Thrilling Life Community page here. Scroll down and there you are!

Bring on summer, eh?  :)   -Brin

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wild Honeysuckle Throat and Cough Syrup

The wild honeysuckle is blooming. We were standing in the garden over Easter weekend, my Dad and I, when the wind picked up. You can sure smell the honeysuckle today, he said.

I'm not sure why, but that moment was so comforting to me, somehow.

It turns out, honeysuckle in itself is very comforting. Its sweetly-scented blossoms are antibacterial weapons in disguise. One herb reference I read said they're useful for treating bacterial infections and dysentery, as well as urinary tract disorders. They also go to work on freeing your body of toxins and do a number on colds, flu, asthma, coughs, sore throat, congestion (chest) and laryngitis. Externally, honeysuckle can be applied to infected wounds, boils, swellings and rheumatism.

Point is, honeysuckle is herbal remedy gold. I spent part of the weekend gathering a bucket full of blooms and leaves. (All part of the plant is useful except for the berries. They're toxic. Don't pick those. You don't want those.)

 The first blend I concocted was a Wild Honeysuckle Throat and Cough Syrup.  I can't believe how simple and quick it was, and how soothing it's been. I've tried it for three days now, not because I'm sick, but because I figured with allergy season upon me it wouldn't hurt. And you know what? I think there's something to this syrup. I think I'll keep it around always.

If you don't have honeysuckle growing wild around your little house, you can always use dried honeysuckle. I'm sure it can be found at herb shops online. The first step is just taking the plunge, trying an herbal remedy, and finding what works for you. And I'm not sure about you, but I'd rather put all-natural medicinal cures in my body anyday than lab-manufactured drugs with a book of side effects.

For more on my Wild Honeysuckle Syrup, including the recipe, click here and scroll down.

(Please know that I'm not a health professional or certified herbalist and my recommendations should not be taken as medical advice and obviously have not been approved by the FDA. You should consult your doctor and carefully study any herbal remedy before taking a swig. There. Had to put my law education to work. ;)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grace sat with me
until I could walk in it again.
-Jodi Hills, An Imperfect Life

This quote resonates through the deepest part of me. Only if I had penned it, my line would be that Grace sat with me until I could walk with Him again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Big Girl World, Being Small, Stories and a Sale

She knew it was a big girl world,
but sometimes it felt really good
when she allowed herself some of the simple pleasures
of just being small.
-Jodi Hills, An Imperfect Life

Do any of you ever feel that way: small in a big girl world? I do. Heaven knows I do.

Some days, though, I embrace it... the enormity of the world and how I am, in reality, a small girl.  I have so many unanswered questions. So much I'm curious about. So many things I have yet to see. And you know what? I'm okay with that. We are all, in some ways, small girls (or boys), looking at the world in wonder.

Being small and living in place of fascination is one of my simple pleasures...

. . . . .

I am taken with stories. You probably know that. I think one of my greatest faults is looking at people as stories, and not as people. Does that make sense? Who are you? I wonder as I meet people. Where did you come from? Where are you going?  I've been guilty of labeling people as protagonists or antagonists, as meaningful characters or troublesome characters or supporting characters, when really we are all precious in the Author's sight. We all have our own "voice". Sometimes I get lost in my story and relegate people to the role I believe they play in mine, forgetting they are their own eternal character in their own eternal story. A story that never runs out of pages. A story without a final chapter or a "The End".

. . . . .

Today, in honor of big girl worlds, being small, and our individual stories, I'm offering my Story Marker Sets at Etsy for a storybook song... with free shipping. :)  I hope, as you journey through your personal story, that you'll see them and remember that you're here for a reason... that your story matters... and that this season is just one chapter of the beautiful story of your eternal existence.  -Brin

. . . . .

Staying on the story theme, over in the My Messy, Thrilling Life Community, please stop by and Tell Us: What Book Changed You?

. . . . .

(This week I'm featuring quotes from my favorite little book of all time. It's called An Imperfect Life by Jodi Hills. It sings, and its song will make your heart dance and cry. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Understanding that heavy things can't fly,
she let go of what was weighing on her heart,
the things she could no more control than carry,
and she gave herself a chance,

a chance to reach into the unassuming blue,
to embrace the possibility of an open sky,
with an open heart.
She gave herself a chance to soar.
-Jodi Hills, An Imperfect Life

. . . . .

(This week I'm featuring quotes from my favorite little book of all time. It's called An Imperfect Life by Jodi Hills. It sings, and its song will make your heart dance and cry. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dreams We Carry

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

There's so much on my heart today- so many questions. My morning news read felt like an ambush; surreal headlines jumped out at me from everywhere. There's a storm coming and some days I feel the weight of it. ...

But. But I also awake with that "glow of hope" that something Better is coming, and the dream I've carried in my heart all this time will last. No matter what.

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

(This week I'm featuring quotes from my favorite little book of all time. It's called An Imperfect Life by Jodi Hills. It sings, and its song will make your heart dance and cry. :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Radish Raising

Radishes, though often eaten, are miserable things.
William Andrus Alcott, The Young House-keeper, 1846

Really? I would have to disagree.

Last evening in the garden, I couldn't resist. Although the radishes are a week or two away from salad perfection, there they were: poking their crimson and cream colors out of the soil. So I pulled them. Just one each. One Cherry Belle and one White Icicle. Then I lay on my back in the garden and held them up and studied them. They're works of art, really, and gardeners are nothing if not fascinated with the least little artwork to come from the ground.

Did you know: you can eat the green tops of radishes? Here in the South, people are over the moon for "greens", or the leafy tops of turnips. I'm not an adoring fan, but the old timers are. (Sorry, Dad.) People get wind of greens on a restaurant menu and there they go, boots kicking up the Texas dust to be the first to get a seat and a plate. Knowing this, I have half a mind to harvest and can radish greens this spring. Why not? Looks as if there will be plenty.

Also did you know: radishes, if left alone, will produce bean pods? Okay, maybe they aren't beans, but they're close. And delicious. (But don't take my word for it.) So technically you can eat the radish itself, its green tops, and let it go and get "beans" from it. What's so miserable about that?

If you're a beginner gardener or looking to get your kids interested in growing vegetables, try radishes this spring. They grow so easily and quickly from seed and are a delight...

A delight, not a misery.  :)  -Brin

P.S. There's a new garden forum over at the My Messy, Thrilling Life Community. Get advice... tell us about your garden... upload photos... or just browse and dream!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Herbal Remedies and Medicine: Let the Learning Begin!

...their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.
-Ezekiel 47:12

Herbs. So many folks I talk to these days are interested in growing them. Cooking them. Using them. I'll admit: I'm one of those people. Herbs thrill me. This spring, here's what I have working:

Lemon Balm
Cinnamon Basil
Garlic Chives
Greek Oregano

In other words, fairly standard culinary herbs. Nothing much to see there. But here... oh!... here's what I want to add:


At least. That's my working list. 

Here is my ultimate goal: herbal remedies. Eleven years ago, I read one of my favorite books in the history of books. It's called A Still Small Voice. And ever since I read that book, I've wanted to be an herbalist. Not as a profession, necessarily, but as a skilled and knowledgeable woman learned in God's creation and dedicated to applying it to health and wholeness.
Thus far I've mastered an anti-itch tonic using thyme. (Get my "recipe" here.) But there's so much more I'm eager to learn! I want to whip up salves and lotions, set herbal soaps, take herbal teas and tinctures,  and bottle herbal syrups. Am I alone in this? I don't think I'm alone in this.

In asking around, I  heard this is an excellent book to begin with: Herbal Recipes for Whole Health. I also found that The Herbal Home Remedy Book is perfect for beginners:

I say we learn this. Together!  I'm so curious to hear from all of you regarding homemade, natural and herbal beauty products, cleaners, medicines and concoctions. Please join me over at the Messy, Thrilling Life Community and let's talk Herbal Remedies and Medicines. Let the Learning Begin! If you're looking for or have tips, recipes, methods, or herbal wisdom to share, please come over.  Hope to see you there! (Scroll down once you click the link above; I've shared my anti-itch "recipe" there, too, in case you're interested.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Do Country Anywhere

I have this longing to get back to the country. Back to the fields of clover and wild blackberries where I grew up. My family lives on 50-something acres. Down the hill it's thick with pine and oak "forests" and there's a small brook that wanders until it spills into a pond. On the other side of the hill is open pasture, dotted only with an old horse barn, a strung-out fence, and a centuries-old well. There's also a cedar tree with an axe head embedded deep in the bark.

Everything grows there. Wildflowers. Holly. Plum trees. Daffodils. Whenever I think "happy place", I imagine I'm ten again and right back there. In my wildest dreams, I come into money and am able to buy the place and keep it in the family. Since my Grandfather died it's been for sale.

For now, I faithfully ready myself to move to land I did buy- 5 acres to the north with its own brook and trees. But it's on the far side of a forgotten town with a long-passed economy. There are no jobs there. So I wait and work and hope...

... and I try to do my country thing anywhere.

Isn't it exciting to hear all the reports of folks beginning to try things themselves again? Growing a pot of herbs. Learning to sew. Or quilt. Or knit. Planting a balcony garden. Making soap. Keeping chickens. Dipping candles. I find it fascinating. And the most entralling part?

We can do country anywhere!

I'm curious: are there any other girls who long for country/farm life out there? Girls stuck in dumb jobs or boring apartments or stuffy cities who inwardly cry for wide open space and the chance to live your dream?

If so... if that's you... come over!  Let's dish and dream together.  You'll find the new forum How To Do Country Anywhere by clicking here.  -Brin

Also... would the Jessica who anonymously commented last night please email me at letters(at) I don't have a way to contact you but want to get you an answer and would like to chat!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Introducing the 'My Messy, Thrilling Life' Community

This blog's been here for almost six years now. It's about time we all have a place to get connected. Get real. Get to know each other. Don't you think?

Me too.

I'm excited to invite you, my dear favorites, to join me over on the My Messy, Thrilling Life Community hosted by blogfrog. (You can get there by clicking the blue link or finding the latest postings on the sidebar to the right.) Do you have something you've always wanted to ask me? Need advice on a craft, recipe, or venture? Reading a great book you want to discuss or tell everyone about? Curious to meet some of the other folks who hang out here? Want to get or share advice on home and homesteading-related things? Let's get together and dish!

Feel free to join us and participate in an existing discussion. Or start one of your own! This is a place for us Messy, Thrilling folks, so anything goes!

Hope to meet you over there soon. Until then, hope you have a sweet tea kinda day. -Brin

Kindness, I've discovered,
 is everything in life.
-Isaac Bashevis Singer

Thank you for the wonderful birthday wishes you've sent my way this past week. I had a memorable birthday thanks to the kindness of friends, family, and beautiful people who share my life, at a distance, from theirs.

All my thanks. -Brin

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sneak Surprises

I wasn't going to introduce my new Etsy shop until April 15, when I roll out my new spring apron and... vintage slip dresses! collections. :) But today The Handmade Movement noticed that I've been quietly adding sweet things to the shop and picked me for their infamous Sneak Attack. Then one of my favorite new shop items was featured in the Etsy Treasury Set "For Book Lovers". Wow!

That was surprising and thrilling!

So... today, Friday, my birthday, I pre-introduce you to my brand new shop, Balm and Honey. The phrase Balm and Honey is from the Biblical Old Testament- Genesis 43:11- and thrills my heart each time I read it. What you see in my shop, then, is a just a few of the little things that add a little balm and a little honey to my life and home. I'm honored to share them with you.

April 15 is still the official opening day of the shop- the cat got out of that handmade bag a little too soon!- and I look forward to the handmade aprons, slip dresses, organic soaps, and wunderful goodies you'll find there.
Welcome to my new little place online! -Brin

Spring Morning

It's one of those mornings: cloudy, windy, heavy. Through the waving grass and knocking branches, bird songs come, carried on the wind. Moss creeps down stone steps. Hydrangeas, awake after their long sleep, yawn and stretch out leaves. Herbs sway. And in the strawberry patch, the first berry ripens- a perfect, storybook kind of berry, almost too perfect to be real.

Welcome, spring. It's good to see you at last.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I celebrate and shout because You are kind.
You saw all my suffering, and You cared for me.
-Psalm 31:7 CEV

God sees what you're going through and He cares for you. Take heart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Party Puffery, A Tutorial

With my birthday this week, I'm in hit-and-miss party planning mode. I know it's... unconventional... throwing your own party, but I love baking, unusual themes, seeing smiles, and knowing loved ones are there, stress-free, having a good time. To me, that's a gift.

But this year my budget is really tight. As in, virtually nonexistent. But it's okay, the challenge has forced me to get creative and transform things around the house.

For instance, would you believe the handmade puffs above were made from these humble offerings? Here, look:

Old packing paper from moving. Coffee filters. Straight sewing pins. Styrofoam balls.

I have tons of crinkled-up paper and tissue from moving. I had a trash bag full of paper that had been wound around glasses and crumbled in corners of boxes and wrapped around breakables. As I was about to toss it in the car last week, headed for the recycling drop, I scolded myself: find a way to use it for the party, then recycle it.

And a puffery craze was born. Here's what I did:

 Find paper or tissue around the house. It can be anything: newpaper, old paperback books, magazines, catalogues, packing paper, grocery/fast food paper sacks, old lists, term papers, drawings... anything so long as it's clean. Cut the pieces into uniform circles in any size you like. I traced around a flattened out coffee filter (8-12 cup size) for my puffs.

Grab your paper or coffee filter- just one now- and pinch together in the middle as in the picture above. Give it a good little twist at the base of your pinch.

Pin it on your styrofoam ball. Just jab the pin right in. (The size of your balls will determine the overall dimension of your puffs, of course. I used grapefruit-sized balls for these, but am on the lookout for a few bowling ball-sized ones, too. Your preference.)

 Continue pinching and pinning your circles. The closer you can get them, the fuller- and better!- the puff.  Here's my packing paper puff with the top completed:

 I estimated that I could pinch and pin a puff (say that fast five times) in ten minutes. Or a bit longer, if you were horsing around with your sister and jamming out to that song from the Subaru commercial during the process.

And certainly, you could spray paint these. Or use colored tissue. Or dye your coffee filters. Or use colorful scrap paper. Your imagination's the limit! I think I'm going to try a few with water-logged, vintage book pages and old Anthropologie catalogues.

Once they're done, secure a hanging ribbon using a touch of hot glue. Then hang to your heart's delight!

Truth be told, I think this will be my most favorite party yet. :)  -Brin

Monday, April 4, 2011

Photos, Blogger, and Chick Flick Auctions

It seems as though I awoke from my picture-taking slumber. I've been snapping photos of everything again: apple blossoms, pressure canners, raspberry breakfasts, creeping thyme, knitting projects. But alas, blogger isn't letting me upload photos! A red flag's been waved and I've no doubt made them crazy with my questions.

As they resolve this issue, here's a quick note to say that I'm selling a Chick Flick collection of DVDs and other snazzy things on eBay this week. (You know I'm just now unpacking Freeman House boxes? It's been fun and puzzling. Fun to rediscover "lost" belongings. Puzzling to realize I had some of this stuff in the first place! Ha.) Anyhow, click here if you've been looking to treat yourself for cheap, run on over and take a gander at what I've got up for grabs.

Can you believe it's Monday already? I think we're in for a good week. -Brin

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Woman Like Elizabeth

A whole stack of memories
never equal one little hope.
-Charles M. Schulz

When my Great Grandmother Elizabeth's things were doled out after she left for heaven, I was in the height of my reporting career. As I remember it, the Iraq war was at a fever pitch; it was the week Saddam's statue toppled in Baghdad. CBS wasn't letting anyone off for anything. Participating in the packing of Elizabeth's things was not an option.

It's not as if I was the only, or even a remarkable, great-grandchild anyway. I wasn't local, or a namesake, or the oldest or the baby. So my parents carted home a few odds and ends for me that no one wanted: handsewn table cloths, meticulously cared for and worn with use. Linen napkins, mismatched, in odd numbers, and handmade. And odd sets of flatware, tarnished and incomplete.

I love them.

It's such a shame, isn't it, that we only know our grand and great-grandparents when we're young. If then. There are a million questions I'd like to ask Elizabeth now. There are a thousand things I'd like to learn from her. Things such as, How do you make your caramel pie? How'd you get your garden tomatoes so big? How do you sew on a treadle machine? What's the secret to your chicken and dumplings? How'd you keep such an unwavering faith through loss and war? Will you teach me to quilt?

Is it strange that I feel her absence more today than I did a decade ago?

Today, I flip through my stack of memories and momentos from her honest and handmade life, and hold onto my one little hope: that oneday I grow up to be a woman like Elizabeth.