Thursday, July 31, 2008

Does this happen to you?

Am I the only one who can have swimsuits soaking in the sink and all three kids will come along, brush their teeth, spit in the sink, go curl up in bed and not a single one of them reminds me about the swimsuits?

Little zombie robots they are at 8:30 at night. I'm tellin' you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Early morning shots

I awoke at 6:45 this morning to the sound of Kevin starting up the tractor with the loud whir of the big mowing deck. On an spur of the moment day off, I thought he'd be off somewhere with a boat and fishing pole, but instead he'll be working around here. I like it when that happens. Not because of how much he can accomplish in a day (which is alot) but it's just nice to have him around.

I think the only way to truly out myself on the degree of garden neglect is to show you a picture. I'm so embarassed I could only manage a partial one. The overgrown clump of barely recognizable tomato plants to the left up there would be the top of the garden. John goes out to hunt for tomatoes and it's like unearthing buried treasure. The knitting has really taken over my would be spare time.

The porch redo is coming right along. Here I sit, still in my nightgown on the threshold of the kitchen door.

He'll be putting on the floor joists later today. And in other exciting news, it looks like I might be upgrading my camera. The one I use was a mother's day gift just a year ago, but Kevin's fishing camera is our originial digital one with a whopping 3.0 mp. He says it's time has expired and graciously offered to take mine and allow me the new one. How much it will help with my shop photos goes without saying. Pam, you just did all the research, what kind do I need? If anyone else has any suggestions I'm all ears.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Knishing again

You may or may not remember the first time I wrote about knishing, when Kevin and I enjoy a boat ride, he fishes and I knit (of course), so I'll go ahead and post about it again. Today we had the kids with us and weren't in the canoe (it'd be a little squished), but the biggest boat and this time on the lower James River. It's been so dry here that it's rather impossible to access the upper James where it's less crowded, less defiled and prettier in my opinion, unless you have a jet boat and we do not. What we did today is perhaps more aptly named knoating, because of the kids and the midday heat and the need to move frequently to catch a cooling breeze when they got restless.

I managed to finish some booties and a hat, and the kids and I had a nice little education about where our electricity comes from. Meet the behemoth, Dominion Power.

As we were driving past it on our way to the boat ramp Kevin made sure the kids saw the mountain of coal it takes to run the huge generators in the plant. But really, there was no way we could miss it. The kids accurately described it, "It's not a mountain, Dad, it's an island!" It made me wish we were in the canoe and under our own power. Yeah I know, gas and electricity are different things, but you get the gist.

We left early due to some thunderstorms that popped up, but it was probably just at the right time where the kids were concerned. We're reluctant to get in the water around there, although so many people are and they were just too hot. But before leaving I couldn't help myself to snap a shot of the estate of famed sausage king, Jimmy Dean.

Come on now, you would have too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

the Cure

While I love the band and nothing will get me dancing around the kitchen faster than their song, "Just Like Heaven", that's not really what I'm talking about when I say "cure". What I mean is, when it's been a tough week, when Allie's on ear infection #2, when I'm feeling stressed, it sure is calming to walk into a beautiful, serene yarn shop with smiling, helpful (but not pushy) salespeople. I'm definitely not suggesting retail therapy to cure emotional ills, but it sure was fun to come home with a bag full of pretty yarn that I needed for the business anyway. The green and variegated yellow are Lamb's Pride worsted and the brown is O-wool balance which is an organic merino/cotton blend. I must say it was heavenly to knit with.

I'm thinking of carrying an all organic baby line in the shop. I frequently have people asking me if I carry organic options. So, I think I will. And that green? It's intended for a custom felted purse order for someone from the market. I love the color and just hope she does too. Speaking of the market, yes, I'll be there tomorrow!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sailing away

Yesterday I really felt like sailing away. It was just one of those days where nothing seemed to be going right, all compounded by the fact that Allie and I had very little sleep. I never realized until after I was a mother what a difference a good night's sleep will make. Anyway, Allie's on summer cold #2 and was up a couple of times in the night saying she was scared and couldn't sleep. I'd been tossing and turning up until that point and when she came and woke me up I was awake pretty much the rest of the night. I wasn't feeling too great physically either, maybe a little touch of the bug that's going around so I'm sure I was a big ball of fun.

Kevin walked in the house after work and immediately said, "What's wrong? You look all jacked up." Ahhh, just what I wanted to hear. But after 10 years of marriage I know that I'd better fess up right then and there or things won't go so well. So I spilled it, all the little things that had snowballed into one yucky mood and afterward felt much better. Always do.

To top it off, a package arrived in the mail, a book from a good friend entitled, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Maybe you've heard of it, I know I'm out of the loop. It was written in the 50's by a woman who must have been seriously ahead of her time. It was the perfect gift at the perfect time. Thanks, AM. An exerpt from the back of the book reads:

Anne Morrow Lindbergh reflects on a world totally changed in two decades-but a world unchanged in the profound need in women for self-realization; the need for each learn and relearn the painful lesson that "woman must come of age by herself-she must find her true center alone."

Was her timing perfect or what? Now for an explanation of the pictures. The first is a new hat style I hope to have in the shop very soon. The second is an annual flower that was given to me by Kevin's grandmother 4 years ago and it continues to come up in the same spot each year. I know it can reseed itself, but to come up in the exact same spot? Seems to be a special plant. I think she called it a trumpet flower, someone can let me know if that's wrong. It's so cool, the flowers are huge, probably 8-10" wide I'd guess, and only bloom at night so if you want to see them you've got to catch them early in the morning. It makes for a very serene early morning garden picture. And then they're gone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jericho and the giant vegetables

The walls came tumbling yesterday, despite the 100 degree heat and unbearable humidity. He'd stopped working early because it was, "getting hard to breathe" and yet did this when he got home. His reasoning? "I might as well do it while I'm still dirty." Yes, he's one of those. Like the lab that won't stop fetching, it's hard to get him to quit.

Then last night he posed a huge question. "Do you want a porch or should I just go ahead and plan an addition?"

me: "I'll have to think about that. That's a big decision. You mean insulation, HVAC, the works?" (as I envision the little knitting studio of my dreams)

Kev: "Yeah. You know, it means electrical, windows, doors, siding. Basically the difference between a few hundred dollars and several thousand."

me: "Well then it's settled. A porch it will be!"

While it would be so wonderful to have a studio, I'm fond of my little corner office space and feel completely capable of doing what I need to do in it. Time will tell if that's in our future, and that time is definitely not now.

Garden update: Here's what happens when you neglect the garden and don't check it for a couple of days.

You get giant vegetables. That zucchini on top is 16" long! Someone (me) said she had the garden covered this year. I'm seriously eating my words. I like to keep the big zucchini anyway because they make great bread. Every summer except for this one I've made about 4 loaves a week, the family just loves it so much and we freeze it and give it away. But this summer I haven't made a single one. For someone who wants to enjoy the little things and stop and smell the roses, I'm making myself work way too much. Yeeesh.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

beauty and the beast

My loot from the market. The flowers and honey are from Halsey and Ross of Hickory Green Farm, the tomatoes are from Pleasant Fields Farm, cucumbers from Greenwood Farm, rosemary foccacia from Manakintowne Specialty Growers, and million dollar pound cake from the Dutch Oven Bakery. It's all for grandma and grandpa's birthday dinner tonight, should be a great start. I always wish I had more time to shop for us at the market, but I can usually manage to scoop up the last of some good things around noon each Saturday.

Now for the beast.

That's our house there, suspended in mid-air. Missing is the big beam supporting the house where that big hole is, but as you can see below,

the beam had to go. I still don't know how Kevin replaces beams under the house without it falling down, but of course that's why he's the expert and I am NOT.

Basically, this sums up my feelings on the renovation project:

labor cost of tearing up old porch, getting rid of skunk den and rebuilding: zero dollars.
material cost of replacing termite eaten beam under the kitchen: thirty dollars.
value of a husband who can fix anything: priceless.

And I leave you with this shot (no pun intended).

Just two of MANY bottles like them that we've found during all stages of gutting, repairing and renovating this 1930's farmhouse. The glass is raised into letters on the sides of the bottles that reads, "Pain King". Gee, I wonder what was in those?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On the table

On the table there now sits a copy of "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" by Deepak Chopra. It was a gift given to me by my in-laws several years ago, but I didn't read it. I don't think my brain was ready to accept or process what it has to say until now.

Here's just a quote I thought I'd share. It's one that's been resonating with me for the past few days.

The more you give, the more you will receive, because you will keep the abundance of the universe circulating in your life. In fact, anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given. That which doesn't multiply through giving is neither worth giving nor worth receiving. If, through the act of giving, you feel you have lost something, then the gift is not truly given and will not cause increase. If you give grudgingly, there is no energy behind that giving.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Cobbler's kids

So much to write, so little time. I can't believe what a huge internal change the office move has made. Going to sleep at night not feeling the pressure of my knitting falling off the shelves on me and taking up half the room is beyond relaxing it's pure peace. Magically, reorganizing the girls has given them a room with nothing on the floor--imagine that! And the new drawing space means never coming home to a mountain of crafting carnage all over the floor as well. Again, why did it take me so long to figure all this out?

You might wonder what this has to do with the cobbler and some booties. Well, the booties are just the latest color in the chocolate dipped line in the shop. They're shoes. I'm stretching here just to say that the unfinished porch for us is like the cobbler's kids never having shoes. You see, Kevin knows how to build and fix lots and lots of things. It's how he makes a living and yet if you were to step out of our kitchen door, you'd fall into a dirt pit about 2 1/2 feet down. I won't complain. It will be finished and if you saw the way he walked in the door every evening and watched him spend hours and hours mowing probably 5 acres of grass and fix the cars, the air conditioning, the well pump, etc. etc., you wouldn't pester him either.

Monday, July 14, 2008

going to the dump

One of our neighbors likens the process of cleaning out and going to the dump to a great spiritual experience, far better than going to church. Yesterday it became clear to me exactly what he means by that. All afternoon I was on fire. A woman on a mission. Determined to reorganize, clear out, put things away and create my new office/work space. I realized finally how ineffective our current system was and couldn't stand it a minute longer. All the while wondering why it had taken me so long to figure that out.

I guess what had prevented me was cost. I had assumed that I'd have to spend a ton of money to reorganize which wasn't at all the case. I did spend some, but not nearly what I thought and with some creative planning the girls obtained my two sets of shelves, their drawing/crafting space is more defined, pared down and easier for them to keep straight and I now have my work space in the room where the woodstove is. You know how much I'm going to love that come winter.

Here it is, unglamorous, unremarkable, unfinished, but my "new" corner nonetheless.

Now that I look at the picture, I contemplate the point that I've merely traded one corner for another and you might wonder what's the good in that? But, it's up off the floor, it OUT of the bedroom and much more organized. Also behind me in the other corner of the room is a large set of old shelves (all thrift store purchases--gotta love that) which everything fits on. Upstairs there are still three large bins that house all my fabric, but they're used less often and can stay there till I find a better place for them. Now all that's missing are some shelves above the desk and maybe a chalkboard or calendar.

Do you see that little collage behind the computer too? A little gift from my friend Halsey at the market. It has the pictures from Skirt Magazine and my Etsy shop but the best part is the little picture of a skunk she cut out. Just so I don't forget about it, right Halsey?

Friday, July 11, 2008

the Squirrel Hunter

There he is, the lucky man who won my baby bootie/hat set and handmade hemp basket in last week's raffle at the market. I knew as I donated the items that perhaps they would go to the most unlikely of winners. I was not dissappointed. As he pondered aloud what he might do with them, he decided that the basket would be good for carrying home the dead squirrels he so likes to hunt. The guys selling orchids next to me thought that was an all out riot and didn't let me forget it the rest of the morning. But as my squirrel hunter walked away he mentioned something about having a wife. In fact, I think she's the soap vendor, and so I said, "Please give them to your wife, she'll know what to do with them!"

Now I ask you, if you knew that my items were in the raffle along with a necklace from another vendor, and you were a big, burly squirrel hunter, would you have bought a ticket?? Oh well, I suppose he's just showing his market support.

If you're in the area, come see me tomorrow. Here's the link to the market page showing the full vendor lineup. I have a new tent as I seem to have broken the other one. It's blue.

In other exciting news, the wheels in my head have really been turning about carving out a little workspace of my own and it's actually coming to fruition. After coninuing to read "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck, M.D. I've come to the conclusion that shoving myself in a disorganized corner of our bedroom is not demonstrating good self-care. It in fact is sending the message to me and everyone else that I don't deserve to take up space. On the contrary, I know full well that that's not how Kevin or anyone else views my business, it's my own battle in my head I've got to overcome. And in turn, my lack of organization and self care negatively impacts the family in small and insidious ways when that are not at all my intention. The tides are turning.

So the plan is in place. I reorganized yesterday, cleared out a set of shelves (gifted from an attic Kevin was tearing off someone's house) and moved them into the girls room which they desperately needed. I spotted a $50 old kitchen farm table at my favorite thrift/antique store which is going to be perfect as a table for my computer, filing, jewelry-making. I'm planning on rearranging more furniture in the fireplace room which has little traffic this time of year, and will bring some of it up to our bedroom which once and for all may actually be a normal bedroom, sans business and computer. My work table will go in the fireplace room and I'll use a chair that's already in there. I'll have to figure out different shelving for that room for my knitting stuff and the second set of old shelves I clear off will also go to the girls. They'll get an organized, picked up room and have a greater chance of keeping it that way as a result.

But for now, I have alot of loose ends to tie up before tomorrow and some wonderful kids to take swimming. You should see that bright pink cast in the pool--it's like a beacon, I can see her coming from a mile away! Okay, maybe not a mile.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


When I need inspiration and when the funds allow, I try to go to my favorite antique/thrift shop and piddle for an hour, or as much time as the kids can handle. Yesterday I took the girls who tend to be more patient shoppers than the boy. I was really looking for old buttons and creative ways to display my items at the market. I came up empty on those but found the cute cabinet above which is a useful way to contain Kevin's massive pile of hats and it matches the old hand-me-down crocheted rug from one of the kids preschool teachers. They sit in the mudroom/enclosed back porch.

I also found these fun hooks and a black Windsor-like chair to go in the dining room.

I really like the fact that our house is old and informal, that I can find singular and often colorful pieces that fit right in with the mostly hand-me-down furniture. Some of my favorite things have come from my mother-in-law who has given us an old farm kitchen table that I use as a sideboard in the dining room, an old Victorian radio cabinet that had a top added to it and was used as Kevin's baby changing table, and the changing table for our three as well. She also gave us a very old treadle sewing machine that Kevin's great-grandma used, some old mission furninture and now that I think of it, so many other things.

Unfortunately, the trip also started me thinking about how I could possibly find a way to create a more suitable studio/table space in the house. I really need to be able to put the computer on a table, rather than my lap or the floor, and I'm hoping the same table could be a place for paperwork and jewelry making as I do these on the floor as well. An addition is not in the cards and so I'll have to get creative and find a corner to steal away as my own, preferably not in our bedroom where my stuff is currently spilling out all over.

On the flip side, an added perk from such a trip is usually some inspiration for new things. Here are some new bracelet styles for the market Saturday. I'm not sure if I can part with the greenish one, or maybe I just need to make another.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I'm really trying

As I navigate the unfamiliar waters of a happy family and home life, I continually assess and second guess myself as a parent and a mother. I wonder what tragic and soul-damaging complaints my kids will come to me with when they're teenagers. I wonder what it is that I could be doing to screw them up. Hopefully not much. Hopefully by trying to right the wrongs of the past I'm on the right track, on middle ground, not overly mothering and smothering, but on an even keel where they feel free to explore the world and themselves, knowing all the time that home is a constant place of warmth, safety and support.

Every few years I pick up my well-worn copy of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D. for parenting advice. It's what I've been reading at the breakfast table the past few days and at just the right time too. After 12 hours of wearing her bright pink cast, Lauren woke up this morning quite sure that she was done with it and really didn't want it on any more. Dr. Peck addresses this well. He writes:

"In taking the time to observe and to think about their children's needs, loving parents will frequently agonize over the decisions to be made, and will, in a very real sense, suffer along with their children. The children are not blind to this. They perceive it when their parents are willing to suffer with them, and although they may not respond with immediate gratitude, they will learn also to suffer. 'If my parents are willing to suffer with me,' they will tell themselves, 'then suffering must not be so bad, and I should be willing to suffer with myself.' This is the beginning of self-discipline."

He describes self-discipline as self-caring and that caring for one's self, or the "feeling of being essential to mental health..." So I'm remembering to be empathetic while at the same time showing Lauren that she's capable of taking her own heavy dinner plate to the kitchen by balancing it on her cast, and that she really can pull on her shorts and brush her hair/teeth one-handed. And as I try to give our kids time, and open ear, a non-judgemental heart, calm reassurance, freedom to laugh, I imagine that I'm giving myself these things at the same time, slowly filling my heart with what it's been needing for so long.

Monday, July 7, 2008

To top it all off

As if the skunk battle and porch demolition wasn't enough, we also paid our first visit to the pediatric ER yesterday afternoon. Seems Lauren (my six year old) was walking in the backyard, tripped on the edge of the sandbox, fell at ground level on the grass and broke her arm. We're headed today for a pink cast, or maybe blue...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Battle Skunk

Desperate times call for desperate measures and as you can see by the looks of our side porch, that's just what we took.

To make a very long story short, it became clear that after two weeks the skunk-under-the-house smell was not dissipating, not one little bit. Kevin pinpointed the area as coming from under the concrete porch that couldn't be accessed any way but from up top. So we demolished it, located a dead, rotted skunk, not intact, in its den, and the most horrendous, gut wrenching smell I've ever experienced in my lifetime. We hauled that away along with two pickup loads of concrete,

and are now on our way to rebuilding. That is, after Kevin replaces yet another original, termite bitten beam under the house and seals off that side of the house so no more critters can invade. All this was done on the 4th of July, all by hand, all by yours truly and the best husband I ever could have asked for.

Stay tuned for the rebuild.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

15 Seconds

It happened. It really happened, just like she said it would. Those are my booties up there pictured in this month's installment of Skirt! magazine in Richmond. YAY! A HUGE thank you to Constance and Jennifer at Skirt for their generosity.

I'm so excited and thankful to have the publicity but the thought does cross my what? And the answer is simply more of the same.

I see clearly how much hard work it takes for people to become aware of my products and what I do in my "spare" time. I've never considered myself a salesperson at all and think it's funny that I ended up here. In fact, after my first few sales I had the strange feeling that I should give the money back and I had to close my mouth to keep myself from uttering, "Are you sure you want to give me money for that? Wouldn't you rather spend it on something else?" Used car salesman I ain't.

Luckily, that phase passed and I realize how much some people really value and enjoy things that are made lovingly by hand. I also know full well that the addage is true, if you want to be in business for yourself, you need to love what you do. There are so many long hours involved that if I didn't really love what I'm doing and it wasn't fulfilling in the deepest sense, then my products wouldn't be all that appealing and I wouldn't be having any fun.

The other thing that surprised me about starting this business, and this was a big one, was that it took all the courage I had (and even some I didn't) to lug my things out into the public that first day and have them sit on display for people to look at. I'm quite a private person, happy behind the scenes and not the center of attention. So to be out there TO be looked at was very uncomfortable indeed. Thankfully, that's another hurdle behind me. I believe in what I'm selling and I'm emotionally attached to it so much so that I'm now happy to show people what I do.

In fact, it's as if I've opened the first page of the book about me that I never knew existed. So exciting.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Who's got the...


I never knew a group of quilters, introduced to me by a friend at the market would be such a fantastic source of old, old buttons. Nor did I ever think I'd be so fascinated by them and eager to make them into new jewelry pieces.

After working at the hospital two days in a row, I've planted myself on the floor, spread out all my buttons and beads and am trying to get down to business. The most time-consuming factor for me by far (when making jewelry) is the design process. So many of my pieces are one of a kind and so there's no pattern to follow, only a feeling about how they should look. So it goes much slower than you would think or I would like, but the results are usually rewarding so I stick with my methods.

The kids are remarkably calm and each into their own thing. Meanwhile, there's no background music today, instead I'm watching a favorite summer indulgence. Wimbledon. It always reminds me of summer, my birthday, and a week later, the 4th of July. I remember watching it every summer as a kid on the snowy screen of a rabbit-eared TV at our summer house back in the midwest. We'd watch in the morning and then go swim and play tennis later in the day. I still remember being glued to Chris Everett, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, a very young, long-haired Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, the list goes on and on.

What takes you back and reminds you of summers past?