Monday, August 31, 2015

Keep Going

Because you know that 
the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
-James 1:3

Keep going.

Don't give up now. Not now.

Not now, even when it seems there's no way out.

Not even tomorrow, when you feel like things will never get better.

Not even later, when you just don't see how you can do one more day.

Just keep going.

Keep blinking. Keep getting out of bed. Keep walking out that door. Keep breathing.

Keep holding tightly to the hope you have, because He who promised is faithful.

Keeping holding on to whatever faith you still have, because these are the days that stubborn, beautiful perseverance will take root in your heart and ground you in faith. And one day, that thickly and deeply-rooted perseverance will bloom, and even you will marvel at its beauty.

You're not alone. Keep going.
Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next time!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Brain

My Must-Do List this week is getting me down. Especially because I woke up with a monster awful sore throat and aches. Ain't nobody got time for that!

There's so much I want to say this week about the stock market, the deal with Iran, and what this fall has in store for us. It surprises people, I think, when they meet me and realize I'm not all gardens and homemade bread and refinished floors. I bore people to death with documentaries on Netflix and random YouTube videos. In real life, I'm a pretty intense person. (Or so I'm told.) As a former reporter, I live and breathe news. And stock market reports. And economic collapse blogs. And weather model forecasting. But here, none of that. Here, I'm sink-shining Brin with a long Must-Do List.

We're okay with that, right? 

I think of all the things I have to tackle this week, getting back into bread making is what I'm least dreading. Fresh bread! There's something everyone can agree on. My banana bread recipe is an old favorite on this blog. (You can find it here.) In addition to having some banana bread tucked in the freezer, I also want to have bread dough I can pull out and bake in a flash. Omgosh, have you seen that they came out with a NEW Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day?! I'm so excited. I have the first (old) copy and the master recipe for the Boule (the artisan free-form loaf) is my favorite, favorite bread ever. It's ridiculously easy, even if you don't bake.

So. The kitchen. We've had a brief hold up in there. It's me. I can't decide what to do with the countertops, so everything's come to a stand still. I'll show you tomorrow and maybe we can come up with something workable.

In the meantime, happy Monday! And happy back to school to all those headed back today. May God keep you all! -Brin

Friday, August 21, 2015

Week Of Tips I Love: Tip #3- How to Keep a Sparkling Kitchen Sink

I should have called this: How To Fake Having a Live-In Housekeeper. Because with tips like this, we could so pull that off!

Okay. So last year, I did something I've never done in my life: I hired a housekeeper. A lady from our church- a lady who owns a housekeeping business- was going through a lot, and a mutual friend suggested she could really use a few additional houses to clean. So I hired her. Instantly, we were friends. She taught me so much about keeping house... things that my southern housekeeping extraordinaire mother didn't even teach me! Clearly, my new friend knows how to keep a house.

One of my favorite things about coming home to a professionally cleaned house was the sparkling sinks. How did she get everything so beautifully... perfect? Before our time together ended (sigh), I asked her. Oh...that?, she said, shrugging. It's just baby oil.

Low and behold, ladies. It truly is the secret to shiny stainless steel sinks and the silencing of every southern wagging dirty-sink tongue out there: Baby oil your sink.

 Here's how:
  •  First, empty and clean that sink. I like using baking soda. Just sprinkle in a little baking soda, scrub it around, and rinse the sink well. If your sink was gross... or if you're really going for it... splash some vinegar on a towel and rub the sink down and rinse well again. That will really clean her up.
  • Now, get your baby oil. Just regular old baby oil. I picked some up on clearance at Target; brand doesn't matter. Saturate a soft cloth or towel with a good glug of the baby oil and begin wiping down your sink: bowls, faucets, drain holes, everything.
  • Finally, using another clean cloth (or paper towels), quickly wipe down the sink again, being sure to buff it and remove any streaks or water marks. There. You did it. That's all there is to it!

The best part of going to the trouble of doing this, besides walking into your kitchen and having that The housekeeper just left feeling, is the fact that your sink will stay looking this shiny-gorgeous for a few days. (Depending on what kind of life your sink lives.) Be sure to repeat the process for a perpetually sparkling sink.

Because apparently, having clean sinks, faucets, and floors is the secret to faking a clean house. That's according to my housekeeping genius friend. Next time you're expecting company, give the ole baby oil tip a try on your sink and faucets. Just have something ready for when folks ask for the name of your housekeeper. *wink*  -Brin

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Week of Tips I Love: Tip #2- Homemade Foaming Hand Soap

Fact 1: I nerd out on soap. Full-on nerd out. The baskets of beautifully wrapped soap at Anthropologie? I'm a gonner. The aisle of cool soap at Target? Forget it. Prunella Soap being on vacation forever? Saddening. I love soap.

Fact 2: Soap is expensive. There, I said it. Soap is getting really pricey. Why is it so expensive these days?

Fact 3: As my health remains precarious, I'm getting more selective about what I put on (and in) my body. All these chemicals? Not good. They're not good at all. I'm becoming more proactive about what I use and what I buy.

Add all these together and you get why I've started making all of our hand soap around here. And it's so easy! Today I show you how I do it, and if you're so inclined, maybe you'll find a method (and a new soap!) that works for you, too!

Okay, first off: there are a hundred bazillion "recipes" out there for making hand soap. I've adapted this one from several methods, changing it up until I found a soap I liked. Adapt it to your preferences, by all means.

What You Need to Make Foaming Hand Soap:
  •  A foaming soap dispenser such as this one or this glass one. I have glass ones in the bathrooms but am reusing a plastic dispenser in the kitchen. Any dispenser will do, but if you plan to make a citrus-based scented soap, glass would be best.
  • 2 Tablespoons castile soap. I like Dr. Bronner's Magic unscented soap. It's pricey up front, but it lasts for ages and is gentle enough for everyday use and delicate skin.
  • 1-2 teaspoons coconut oil. After purchasing this from the grocery store for awhile, I now go with doTerra's fractionated coconut oil. This is the renewing part of the soap. It nourishes my skin without leaving a greasy or gummy residue. Like the castile soap, this also lasts forever... and it has no odor and doesn't stain.
  • 5 drops tea tree oil (Melaleuca). This is the purifying part of the soap. You can skip if you'd like, but Melaleuca is a known cleansing super star, so I add it... and even more during cold and flu season.
  • 5-10 drops essential oils. Here's where you make it yours. Lavender, Wild Orange, Rose, Grapefruit, Lemon... there are hundreds of single oils or oil blends to choose from! I'm using doTerra's Lavender now, but will likely change it up next month for fall, etc. I'm new on my essential oil journey, but I'm astounded by how oils have improved our lives so dramatically already! 
 How To Make Foaming Hand Soap:  
  1.  Add castile soap and coconut oil to your soap dispenser. Gently swish to combine.
  2.  Use a dropper (or carefully pour) essential oils in. Again, swish to combine.
  3.  Fill container with clean water (filtered or purified, if you'd like).
  4.  Gently shake to mix.
That's all there is to it! This method makes 9-11 fl. oz. of soap, but if your container is larger, simply up the soap and oils proportionately.

By my best math guesstimations, a dispenser of this soap costs me roughly $2.11 to make. Since a bottle lasts about 3 weeks around here, that comes to around 10 cents a day per bottle. Not bad!

You should know: when friends and family come over and use this soap, they will ask about it. And, if they're anything like my people, they will ask for it! I've discovered that with a handmade dish cloth or nail brush, etc., a pretty dispenser of this soap makes thoughtful gift. Actually, it would make a fantastic friend or teacher gift, wouldn't it?

Here's to improving our health and our homes, one pump of soap at a time! Hope you enjoy. -Brin

(By the way, this post contains some affiliate links to Amazon. I add these because they directly and easily connect you to the products I like and use, and Amazon gives me a tiny percentage of any sales that may result from this post. Links like these make my blogging possible... if only so I can prove to my husband that photographing soap dispensers is not a waste of time. Heehee.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Week of Tips I Love: Tip #1- Herb Bombs... Or, How to Use Fresh Herbs All Year

Hey there! Welcome to a week full of tips I love... little things that make my life easier and better! This week I'll be featuring some of my favorite quick, simple projects anyone can do to make baby steps to improve our homes and our health. (Also this week, a kitchen update. Promise!) But first up: Tip I Love #1: Herb Bombs.

Here's the goal: to preserve fresh herbs we grow or buy so we can use them hassle-free all year long. In order to accomplish this, I started freezing these bite-size herb portions so I could toss them in all kinds of recipes: soups, stews, breads, sauces, pasta... there are so many options! The best part? The herbs are already clean, chopped, and ready to use. If you're someone who uses fresh herbs- or wants to start- these are for you.

And plus, I did say quick and easy, right? Let's get started...

First, get some herbs.  Since we moved this summer, I grew this basil and these chives in pots. Super simple. If you're not the growing kind, hit up the farmers market or produce section of your local store. Look for herbs that are vibrant green and strong on their stems... i.e. not wilted, curled, or damaged. Then get your herbs into the kitchen, rinse gently in a sink of cool water, and lay out on a clean towel to dry.

Then start chopping. I began with my chives, and chopped them up into 1/4 inch long pieces. For the basil, I tore the leaves into small pieces. Then I put roughly 1 Tablespoon of herbs into wells in a freezable tray:

This is my Herb Freezing Tray Set from Pampered Chef, which I lurrrrve. I got these because I make and cook with a lot of these herb bombs, and these trays make them super easy! If you want one, holler at me and I can get you hooked up. BUT. Ice trays work great. Don't feel like you have to go out and get a fancy little set when your regular ice tray will also do the trick. Your call.

Anyway. The goal is to get about 1 Tablespoon of chopped herbs into each little well. Once you've done that, fill your tray with enough water to cover the herbs. Check to make sure that most of the herbs are covered with water, then pop in the freezer for several hours (over overnight) to let them set up.

Once your tray of herb bombs is frozen, pop those beauties out, seal in a freezer bag, label it, and stash it in the freezer until you're ready to cook. That's all there is to it! Next time your recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of herbs, you'll be ready! Simply thaw your herb bomb cube (if you don't want the water in your recipe), or throw the cubes in whole. Yes. Wow. So much easier than washing and chopping herbs every time you need them!

I make herb bombs with all my favorite herbs: basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. I even do blends: my Italian herb bomb has basil, oregano, and parsley. I add it to pasta dishes and sauces. My standard Soup herb bomb has chives, rosemary and thyme and it goes into most of my soups. So good!

If you want to be totally adventurous, take the herb bomb further and freeze your herbs with extra goodies like minced garlic, chopped onion, or freshly cracked pepper. Or freeze them in olive oil. Yum! Or... try mixing chives and parsley in softened butter, spooning into your tray, and refrigerating until firm. I try to keep Butter Herb Bombs on hand for baked potatoes and bread. (They never stay around long. Ever. Can't keep those in stock!)

So. To review, we can have it all: fresh herbs, all year long, ready to cook when we are. Try today's tip and let me know how it works in your kitchen. I trust you'll start loving these as much as we do!  -Brin

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Houses are like people - 
some you like and some you don't like -
and once in a while there is one you love.
-L. M. Montgomery 

It's true: houses are like people. Some we adore and could live with- live in- forever.

Others we're happy to visit but glad to leave.

And yet others we'd just rather not go around at all. Houses are like people. And every now and again, you fall in love.

This house is really growing on me.

There's a hole in the ceiling above the dining room table. It was there when we bought the place, but I know from touring the house with the realtor that there was a gargantuan palm tree light fixture hanging there before. After spending hours online and at local flea markets, I got discouraged: the chandelier of my dreams is way out of my price range. Way out. We're talking seared duck on a corndog budget here. 

And then so serendipitously, a box appeared in the attic. Confirmed: the original dining room chandelier has been located! It was here all the time!

I took it out of the box yesterday and examined it closely. Was I in love? No. But could we do lunch every day? Definitely. There's a lot to like here! I'm pretty sure it will need to be rewired, though. And restored. The glass shade thingys are gone. (What are they called? It's escaped me.) It seems like some of the crystals are missing and/or broken, so I'll need to figure that out, too. But part of loving an old home is keeping what you can, so I am thrilled to keep and rehang this chandelier once again... even if it isn't the one I've dreamed of.

(The more I'm discovering about the original look of the place, the more I'm uncovering glass and mirrors. Lots of glass and mirrors. Glass knobs, glass-fronted cabinets, mirrors and windows. Glass, glass, sparkly glass. So it's becoming a theme.)

I'm off to get some buffing cream and then get to work. It will be fun to see how this old girl shines once again!

Enjoy your Thursday. -Brin

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Historic Home Inspiration: The House of the Seasons

Historic houses. I can't get enough of them.

I've been meaning to show you inside the legendary House of the Seasons in Jefferson, Texas, for some time. While going through some old photos (for inspiration) today, I found these. I stayed at this 1872 gem while traveling, and I'll forever love the place.

Just look at some of these spaces:

I'm agonizingly traditional in my room arrangements. My family calls me "Monk". My mother-in-law calls me "uptight". Ugh. I'm going to try to stray a little from my love of symmetry and balance, though, in this new house. I truly am.

But look at that sitting area by the fireplace! It works for me. Definitely want to do something similar in the large Front Room....

And I'm sure the manager of historic estates like this one are a bit Monk-ish and uptight, don't you think? 

Anyway. Did you get a load of all those beds? Stunning. 
If I were the estate cat, I'd definitely nap in this alcove, too.
If you ever find yourself in Northeast Texas, definitely stop by the magical House of the Seasons. Especially for the stained glass cupola high above all three floors of the mansion. Each window you look through makes the outside world look as if it's a different season- the blue glass window makes the scenery look like winter, the red makes it look like the height of summer, etc. Not to be missed!

Here's to historic inspiration, one-of-a-kind details, and the courage to make our spaces our own! -Brin

Monday, August 10, 2015

Moving On to the Master

Work began yesterday on the master bedroom- the boxy, soaring-ceilinged (that's an actual word) room that juts out from the southeast corner of the house. I was so excited to see ladders and work lights and sanders and the shop vac beginning to litter the floor. Progress! Got to love real progress!

Here's what we're working with: badly abused original wood floors. Once covered with carpet, they're bare again now, meaning there are hundreds of nail holes, stains and uneven places. 

But it only begins with the floor. Moving up the wall, the trim is missing in places and in need of care in others. Two windows require new glass; one is cracked, the other was cut in half to accommodate an air conditioner at some point. Either I find an old, wavy-paned window to replace it with, or we're going to have to get our carpentry tools out and build a new one. We'll get there.
There are four doors in this room: one to the bathroom, another to a closet, one opening to the crooked hall, and the last to the glassed-in sun porch. The closet is tiny. Teeny tiny. As in, three feet wide and a few feet deep tiny. But since the closet shares a wall with the half bath, my plan is to knock out the closet wall, join the two spaces, and make it into a full master bath. A small (but serviceable) master bath. Then we'll frame in a large closet on the full wall to the left of the bathroom door- that's the door in the left of the photo above- and have it all: large master, large closet, and a full, private bath.

All we'll winners need then is a chicken dinner. Ha. Ahem. Okay...
After some holes are patched in the wall and we caulk the place until it resembles an iced cake, painting will begin. I want to do a very creamy, soft gray in this room. I want to, but we still have gallons of the other paint left and to save money, maybe we'll stick with that in here, too. For now. Or maybe I'll sneak on down to Sherwin-Williams and see if I can find a deal on what I really want. Let's be real: it will all depend on whether I'm feeling thrifty or hormonal the day before the painting begins. (Lord, help me, I pray.)

For such a bright, open, good-sized bedroom space for an old home- it's about 20' x 18'- it's perfect for tucking a small reading/sitting area in by a window, I think. I'm excited about that. I love homes... and gardens... with lots of small sitting spaces for reading or quiet chats. This old place has those nooks everywhere. Makes my heart happy.

As for furnishings, I'm a little spare in that department. I still feel pain- real, actual pain- when I think of the pieces I sold off after Freeman House. I could kick myself for it. I have kicked myself for it. So many times. But all I can do now is begin again. It's time to hit up some antique stores and roadside sales and Salvation Army and see what we can drag home and spruce up and love....

This evening, sanding and patching continues. It will be so much fun to see how the space evolves. I'll show you every step of the way, I promise!

What would you envision for a master space like this? Please, feel free to share. -Brin

(Oh! And don't forget that we're talking over on Facebook, too. Head over, like the page, share it with a friend or two, and let me know what you'd do if this space were yours to make over!)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Facebook Official

Sure. It was only 11 years in the making. Eleven years. (Ahem.) But I give. All of you who have been emailing, commenting, and even Etsy convo'ing me for a Facebook site... today's your day!

My Messy, Thrilling Life and I are now on Facebook. If that's your thing, come over and introduce yourself.

You can find a link under "Connect" on the blog sidebar on the left here, or you'll probably end up in the right place by clicking here.

Let's be Facebook official. :) -Brin

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Steal Worthy

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? 

Maybe. Only it doesn't feel that way when you hop on Facebook and see that a popular site has ripped and posted your writing. Of course, it is the most amazingly easy candy recipe on my blog. Really, it's steal worthy. But while the recipe is in the public domain now, my writing is not.

It happens often enough, but this is sad. How hard is it to attribute/link up?

You're better than this, Crock Pot Moms. 

See the original (and while you're there, make some candy!) by clicking here. -Brin

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Everything is waning here. Draining color. Bowing in defeat. It's as if nature itself is surrendering to the heat.

Temperatures have been holding steady between 100 and 105 F each day. It's the kind of weather in which you hang jeans out to dry and go check them 2 hours later and there they are, stiff as a board. The streets are quiet between 10 am and 7 pm. Who would dare risk a heat stroke during those hours?

There's so much to do outside, but in we sit, sweating by the fan and wearing as few layers as possible. I need to settle my blueberries and strawberries into permanent beds, but it's just too hot. Even the bees are out of the hive, hanging from the entrances and buzzing their frustration. It's too hot. It's just too hot.

The other day it was cloudy and I put on a CD of rain/relaxation music... the kind of CDs you see in those displays in Target that you can listen to before you buy. I put it on and turned it up... then I played instrumental Christmas music from my iHome. Yes. Yes, I did. In my world, it was a rainy December day. Outside, it was hot as blazes August. Folks came over and I apologized and went around turning off the thunder soundtrack and the O Come, All Ye Faithful.

We do what we can to survive.

I am eagerly awaiting your arrival, Autumn. Please hurry. -Brin

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


That's the thing with handmade items. 
They still have the person's mark on them, 
and when you hold them, you feel less alone. 
-Aimee Bender

Those words. They're perfect. They resonate strongly with me. It's the reason, I think, that I drag home old furniture. The reason I search out pillow cases with wobbly stitches at thrift stores. It's why cakes from bake sales taste better than the store's... why cuttings from a neighbor's yard take root as nursery plants wither... and why uneven, thick bars of hand-poured soap clean better than bargain brands.

It's why I like to keep knitted and sewn and stitched and carved and painted things around me: they are real. Someone made them. They have a life that other things don't have. When you turn them over in your hands, you see soul. Not MADE IN CHINA.
I live in a community where handmade hasn't quite taken hold. There are no CSAs here. No one's going off grid or urban gardening or championing the small guys. The big box stores are crowding in by the dozens and folks are thrilled. And yet, the undercurrent of real still grabs some of us and pulls us down into the vast, deeply connected world where people make, grow and create.

Pull, current, pull. 

There are more handknit dish cloths in my shop today. For those who have purchased lately, thank you. Thank you for your patronage and kindness. For those looking for a small way to support the handmade movement, here's a discount for you: enter code HANDMADE at checkout for 10% off your order, and bonus savings for additional Balm and Honey purchases. 

Here's to handmade. Here's to all who create, and to all who support those who do. Here's to filling our lives and home and hearts with things that are real. -Brin

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Moment: Rest

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength...
-Isaiah 30:14

I'm working on a quilt for one of the guest rooms- a quilt of skinny scraps of yellows, blues and greens. It's light and cool and reminds me of summer in the country. At first, I had a mind to tie it, and started pulling blue yarn through all the layers. Then I stopped and began pulling it all out. I dislike tied quilts, so I decided to put in the effort to machine quilt it. Going all out on this one! Can't wait until it's finished.

The word "rest" has been showing up in my devotionals and conversations and music. A lot. Rest. It sounds unattainable. Archaic, even. Who rests anymore? The coolest people are the busiest. Resting is for the lazy and unambitious, right? But the more I read, the more I see God calling out to us to... rest. Not be apathetic or neglectful, just to quit striving. Rest. 

It's my heart's desire to see this house become a place of quietness and rest. A refuge house, even. I think about it all the time. I'm looking for ways to introduce that atmosphere into this place.

Do you have any ideas? I think I'm going to compile a list. What, to you, says quietness and rest?

We should discuss....