Sunday, January 29, 2012

Embracing late winter...

After the bright Christmas season winter looms long and dark here in Maine. I have learned ways to make the months pleasant. I find myself visiting my favorite local green house often, breathing in the warm, oddly tropical air and the scent of dirt and growing things; basking in the warmth from the sun and the wood-fired heater. A trip there sends my brain tripping along to gardening dreams, and reminds me that spring is coming. I also bring flowers in the house. They are a splurge that borders on a soul necessity for me. An orchid delights on the table in the front room, paper white narcissus are blooming in an antique tureen on the kitchen table, and tulips glow under the oil painting of my daughter as a toddler. I pour over gardening catalogs, plotting what we will try to grow when the ground thaws, and study the hatchery web pages, gleefully choosing what variety of baby chicks to order for April delivery. Meanwhile I cook hearty winter foods like beef stew and creamy soups, enjoy the dancing flames in the glass fronted wood stove,and indulge in projects around the house. Sometimes I get into the winter groove so deeply I grow a bit nostalgic when the first signs of spring show up in bird song and bud swells. But I get over that!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things that make me laugh...

Monday is traditionally my "writing day." I work on articles for magazines, presentations for public speaking and creative stuff. I am prone to huddling up in my bedroom office with classical music, a stash of cold Diet Coke, a pile of dogs snoring on the bed and (in winter!) a space heater making the place sauna hot. My family knows to leave me alone. My daughter is 22 and an amusing little minx. Today she was in extreme HELPFUL mode. While I wrote I could hear her doing dishes, running the vacuum, tidying up. I smelled floor cleaner and knew she was mopping, heard her toss in laundry and busy herself with chores that I consider to be "mine." I was grateful to my core. Then... I heard giggles. I am attracted to giggles with a magnetic-like force. I love many things, and a good laugh is very high on my list of favorites. So I got up from my desk and went to investigate. And I found... a chicken in the house. The dogs looked puzzled. The chicken looked entranced. What could I do but join in the laughs and grab my camera? Adventure Chicken was ousted after she made a deposit on the freshly washed kitchen floor. She had the last laugh!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Old stuff...

Years and years ago my sister and I took our young daughters and went "junkin'." This is a time-honored family tradition, passed down from our mother and our paternal grandmother, as well. There is something in our blood that makes us love poking around in antique stores and flea markets, yard sales and rummage bins. My niece, Aimee, was only about 16 at the time. She saw a funky old baking cabinet and plunked down her baby sitting cash. I thought it was adorable and felt a little jealous that the piece was hers. Fast forward and it seems my niece no longer had a place for the cabinet in her life. We worked out a trade and I hauled the old thing home. My husband and daughter looked at me as if I'd lost my mind when they helped me unload it from my truck. The expressions on their faces clearly said, "What a mess!"
I sanded the top, trying to erase years of damage and water stains. Then I wiped a light coating of stain over the thirsty wood.
After the stain dried I rubbed the top with wax, buffed it off and repeated. I lined the drawers and the whole thing looked much improved. Then I placed the top piece on, gave it a swipe and a polish and neatly arranged all my baking supplies.
I could feel my mother with me as I worked. She loved little more than rearranging furniture and sprucing things up. It was from her that I learned the term, "rob Peter to pay Paul." She'd put her capable hands on her hips and tip her head to one side, going from room to room and swapping out furniture from one part of the house to place in another. We kids would be enlisted, shoving sofas, rolling up rugs and taking paintings off one wall to put on another. Much chaos was created in the process, but soon order would reign and everything would look fresh and bright and clean. She also taught me how to do rudimentary furniture refinishing... nothing fancy, but enough to make old and crummy look... old and wonderful. And that is my decorating style in a nutshell; old stuff and "junk," things with a past that fit just right in my present.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Pantry Project...

I love the lay out of our little house. It is old, (built in 1907) and quirky, but generally very livable. There is a small space off the living room that we turned into my husbands "office" when we moved in. He put 4 large book cases in there, a huge "L" shaped desk, file cabinet, and other office type items. And he painted in dark red. I am a white paint kind of person, and the red hurt my feelings every time I looked at it. The office became a clutter catch all, and when my husband got a laptop and sent his desk top computer off to the Goodwill store, he did most of his work at the dining room table. For several years I've kept the door shut on this room and tried to pretend it wasn't there. I won't post a "before" photo, it was too awful. Then my husband and I decided it would be wonderfully nice to have a pantry. We both love to cook, and enjoy the feeling of having a good bit of food put up so we always have what we want or need on hand. We decided the funny little room would make a dandy pantry. Little by little my sweet husband has been whittling away at his office, moving things out, thinning down his stuff and tossing a lot of it. This weekend my sweet, SWEET sister came to "visit." Sunday morning we were up bright and early. We pulled out the remaining items from the room, washed the walls, and went to work with paint brushes and rollers. We gave the ceiling a nice fresh coat of paint, then freshened up the white trim work and with great glee painted over the offensive red. After we got one coat on everything we took a little break and popped into a local antique shop, had a bite to eat and then came back and attacked the room with a second coat. Once that was done we put all our tools away, and scrubbed the floor on our hands and knees, getting up the paint splatters. We are NOT tidy painters! While the floor dried we assembled a wonderful wire shelf, then with a measuring tape in hand wandered the house looking to find what other items would be handy to have in a pantry. My husband and daughter had seen the look of determination in our eyes and had scurried off to a movie before they could be roped into helping. They are smart! Next we moved in the storage shelves and then carefully organized canned goods, flour, rice, corn meal, oil, squash, onions, etc. We moved kitchen tools that are not used every day out of my poor, crowded cabinets and arranged them neatly. China and glassware and spare flatware all found new homes. At the end of the day we were tired but imbued with the feeling of a job very well done. There is room to put our spare refrigerator and our huge chest freezer in here, so those will get moved soon. Now when I look in the room and see the neatness and order I feel so very happy.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adventure Chicken Rides Again...

My chickens have nice lives. They have access to almost 2 acres of fenced yard to wander in, scratch around and explore. They have a custom made coop that is bright and clean, insulated and cozy. Plenty of food and a lovely electrified water bowl to insure they have a nice drink on even the coldest of days. Most of them appear to be more than content with this set up. Then there is Adventure Chicken. This chicken has a restless spirit. For the longest time she'd hop the fence every day to explore the front yard, scratch in the herb garden, and if possible duck into the messy garage to lay her egg somewhere we'd never find it. My husband found this vexing and spent a good bit of time plotting ways to keep this bird where she belonged. On the other hand, I found her antics totally charming. I admired her pluck. This fall she stopped her wanderings and stayed with the rest of the flock. It made me a little sad. Then a few days ago my husband called to me, "Look at my car!" I glanced outside and saw my wayward hen perched on the hood of his Subaru, checking things out. Adventure chicken rides again! She has been nipping away from the other birds all week, going places she shouldn't and making me smile.

Friday, January 6, 2012

On my day off, I did a little cleaning and decorating.
Made some very nice roasted squash and pumpkin soup.
Took the dogs out for a romp.
And bid a sad but fond farewell to Tiger Lilly, the bad, bad boxer who has been with us for 14 years. She was a 9th birthday gift to our daughter. Smarter than the average dog she will live on in the stories we tell of her escapades; stealing a bag of flour and shaking it all over the back yard, destroying FIVE cast iron skillets, opening the oven to steal a huge pan full of BBQ'd pork ribs and opening a door by twisting the knob to get into trash- on more occasions than we can count. She has also been a faithful companion, staunch guardian, snuggle buddy and good friend. She was bossy, opinionated, food driven and delightful. We will all miss her, a lot.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Oh the excitement of my life! It is probably a bit more than you can imagine, but I simply must share. Today the mail lady brought me... worms!
250 of them, in fact. They were cold. And hungry and thirsty. But I tucked them into the wonderful Vermicomposter that I got for Christmas from co-worker Cassie. (It was JUST what I wanted!) I had plenty of food in there for them, and snugged their new home near enough to the wood stove that it was cozy. Well, as cozy as a bin full of damp, shredded newspaper and sphagnum moss and partially rotted vegetables can be. I gave them a drink, as instructed, and covered them up under some damp newspaper. After a while they began to stretch and wiggle. They looked... happier, somehow. I keep peeking. If all goes well the happy worms will eat up much of our kitchen waste... carrot peels, old potatoes, celery leaves and such. And they'll turn it all into marvelous compost for my garden. It's going to be great. So, now you can see why I was SO very excited today when the mail lady gave me worms.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Warm gift...

Friends Scott and Marion came over last night for a New Years Eve supper. They brought a wonderful, creative gift... two huge buckets, one filled with carefully cut kindling wood, and the other filled with bundles of dry pine twigs and a pine cone, artfully tied with baling twine. This morning I used a bundle and some kindling to get the wood stove going in no time flat. This is the sort of creative gift that just tickles me.